Understanding IBM software licensing metrics

8 Mar 2016 | Datacentre, SAM/SLO

With more than 20,000 products and over 250 different licensing metrics, IBM software licensing is one of the most complex tasks in the market today. With so many licensing metrics it is impossible to give a full understanding of the task in one short article. So here we have outlined what are probably the main two – capacity and user-based licensing metrics that are needed to achieve IBM software optimization.


The Processor Value Unit (PVU) license metric is the most common license type for IBM server products. It is a unit of measure used to differentiate licensing of software on distributed processor technologies (defined by processor vendor, brand, type and model number). IBM continues to define a processor, for purposes of PVU-based licensing, to be each processor core on a chip (socket). Each software Program has a unique price per PVU. You can see the latest PVU look-up table.

Of course, it doesn’t stop there. Virtualization has allowed a “portion” of the physical server resources to be used by a virtual server, for example, half the capacity of a processor. IBM will allow this sub-capacity based licensing to occur so long as there are tools in place to measure over time how much capacity has been utilized by a virtual server and which of the 20,000 plus products were installed (both current and historical).


There are a number of user-based metrics but the most common type is the Authorized User metric. Users are defined as people who access the software in any manner. Once a user is assigned as an “authorized user”, the license may not be reassigned to another user, unless the original user is being replaced on a long-term or permanent basis.

Other user-based metrics include:

  • Concurrent user – allows a certain number of users to access a program simultaneously
  • Floating user – these typically require license keys to be installed on a central server. Each user then needs to borrow a license key to start using the software
  • User Value Units (UVU) – similar to authorized users, this is used to allow for tier-based volume licensing

Ensuring license compliance with so many metrics can be tricky so the use of a good SAM tool is recommended. If you would like to find out more about how our products can help you with this take a look at our IBM software asset management tool.

Or, if you have any questions on IBM licensing, please fill get in touch.