Ask, well, almost anyone, and they will tell you that software charging mechanisms are badly in need of a thorough overhaul. As Jonathan Schwartz, the chief operating officer of Sun Microsystems pointed out recently, there are at least ten different ways to charge for software (see chart below).
"Software pricing is one of the most opaque things you can imagine. It's a full time employment charter for the legal industry," he said, noting that many methods now require an audit.
Does Schwartz have the answer? Yes, he does – he says. The way to charge for software is by the number of full-time employees employed, he told the recent Veritas Vision conference in San Francisco. That way, he said, you avoid arguments and audits. Really? Immediately afterwards, several delegates began to sceptically pull out the various anomalies with the method.
For users of the ‘grid' pay-as-you-go service, Sun is attempting to set down an even clearer rate – to start with, $1 per CPU hour and $1 per gigabyte stored per month. For further details of the software licensing conundrum facing IT decision makers see the forthcoming feature in the July 2005 edition of Information Age.