IBM licensing jargon-buster

Continuing our ‘Jargon Buster’ series of blogs, looking at some of the complex and potential confusing technology and software licensing terms used by different software publishers, today we’re investigating one of the biggest of them all, IBM.

Continuing our ‘Jargon Buster’ series of blogs, looking at some of the complex and potential confusing technology and software licensing terms used by different software publishers, today we’re investigating one of the biggest of them all, IBM.

With IBM software more prevalent in the datacenter than anywhere else, it is perhaps not surprising that is has some of the most complex software licensing metrics and compliance requirements. Here’s just a quick sample of some of the key terms that anyone charged with managing IBM software needs to know:

1. PVU – Processor Value Unit: This IBM licensing metric gives a weight to the underlying processor technology where the IBM software is installed. The PVU values, available in IBM’s PVU table and ranging from 30 to 120 PVUs per Core, need to be multiplied with the number of Processor Cores available to the application being licensed. The calculation can be done in both full-capacity and sub-capacity conditions. Full-capacity relates to the available Processor Cores in the physical environment; sub-capacity licensing relates to the Virtual Cores available to the product, as long as the sum of the sub-capacity PVU values does not exceed the corresponding full-capacity calculation per machine. For sub-capacity licensing to be an option, it requires an eligible product, eligible virtualization technology and eligible processor technology; but most importantly the deployment of the IBM License Metric Tool (or TAD4D – Tivoli Asset Discovery for Distributed).

2. ILMT – IBM License Metric Tool: This software discovery tool, designed specifically by IBM for sub-capacity pricing purposes, is an IBM requirement to be sub-capacity eligible (exceptions exist but these typically don’t apply). Through agent installs, ILMT is able to collect hardware and software details of installed IBM PVU (Processor Value Unit) and RVU (Resource Value Unit) products in order to calculate the corresponding license requirements. IBM customers are required to generate ILMT reports at least once per quarter for a period of not less than two years. According to IBM, ILMT needs to be installed and configured within 90 days of the first eligible sub-capacity product deployment. In Snow License Manager 7, a methodology has been created to automatically import PVU values from ILMT into the license management console. ILMT reports can be automatically picked-up by Snow and the values are associated to the respective machines, per product and per version. PVU deployments across the datacenter can then be mapped to IBM license entitlements to quickly identify compliance risks and opportunities to save costs.

3. LPAR – Logical Partition: This is IBM’s version of Virtual Machines. A logical partition (LPAR) is the division of a computer’s processors, memory and storage into multiple sets of resources, so that each set of resources can be operated independently with its own operating system instance and applications. Each partition can communicate with the other partitions as if the other partition is in a separate machine. Logical partitioning was first studied by IBM in 1976. From a licensing perspective LPARs bring an additional level of complexity since they can have dedicated or shared resources and are often grouped into Shared Pools. This brings an additional level of license capping into play and has an impact on the license calculation methodology for many IBM and Oracle products.

4. IPAA – International Passport Advantage Agreement: Passport Advantage is IBM’s program for combined software license acquisition, Software Subscription and Support, IBM Appliances and IBM SaaS subscriptions. It is designed for larger enterprises that may have multiple sites and relates to the RSVP level (Relationship Suggested Volume Price). It also entails the different obligations and rights that are agreed, impacting the purchased software and relating conditions, restrictions, exceptions and obligations. For smaller organizations, IBM offers Passport Advantage Express.

5. IPLA – International Program License Agreement: This is the standard agreement that IBM customers accept when they download, install, or purchase any IBM product, and applies to warranted IBM programs. You can find a list of IBM’s IPLA family of license agreements and program license information documents here: This page contains the License Information for virtually each IBM product and the many specifics that even deviate per version. It can be considered as the bible for any Software Asset Manager requiring insight into specific IBM product licensing conditions.

Snow License Manager 7 helps organizations both identify the exact flavor and version of installed IBM products as well as recognize bundles and highlight potential upgrade and downgrade paths. In addition, virtually all existing IBM metrics and products can be tailored through custom compare values in order to ensure that the IBM software portfolio is fully managed in one single solution and compared against software entitlements. On the surface, IBM’s software licensing might appear complex, but the principles are not so difficult to grasp. The real difficulty comes in applying the licensing theory in the real world – where you need to understand the exact PVU of a given device and be able to calculate the licensing requirement (and cost) for a particular application. For most people, this involves no small amount of skill and a good deal of manual calculation.

Thankfully solutions like Snow License Manager 7 make life easier by offering the ability to import PVU values (among many other audit metrics) from the ILMT solution (see above). Managing license requirements for IBM sub-capacity in Snow License Manager 7 not only speeds up the process of calculating the Effective Licensing Position (ELP), it also consolidates the SAM process into a single console, so that IBM licensing can be managed alongside other vendors such as Microsoft, Adobe, Oracle etc.

To learn more about Snow License Manager, visit our product page.