It's a just in case purchase...
But now because of all the redundancies, buy a few less licenses employ a few more people.
The government's recent end of first year ICT strategy report revealed that in the 12 months from April 2011 to April 2012, the total number of software licences held in the government's assets and services register was 18.4 million. But the total number used was around 12 million, suggesting that 6 million software licences are …
35% is certainly on the high side, but anyone who's undertaken asset investigation in large organisations without central purchasing of hardware and software will have encountered this type of result. People buying devices with licences included is one obvious cause of problems.
NB the price that gov.uk pays for MS licences is not what you pay at Staples. I'd guess about £15 for an Office licence. Still, if you multiply that by a few million, you end up with a significant figure.
1 in 3 software licences not used? sounds pretty good to me - if you count the assorted OEM copies of Office 97, Win 2K etc that litter my office, they are a model of lean efficiency - and then its a lot easier to inventory the nice shiny new software licence, than it is to remember that you haven't used the stupid package in 5 years. As long as you aren't paying an annual maintenance charge - then who cares?
I bet of those licences represent software detritus built up over the last 20 odd years. Software which is obsolete or superseded. A more telling figure is how many licences represent software which is current and simply not used. It also seems sensible that governments should stick some kind of licence buy back clause into their contracts so that if they have surplus they can claw back a bit of money from vendors providing they seek reimbursement within some timeframe.
Government doesn't have the hefty grunt to force a buy back clause (if you buy, you buy, and it comes under the same restrictions as any other business).
But, you're essentially correct in that most of those licenses are outdated software (NT4, Windows 2000, and now Windows 2003 is being phased out, along with desktop licenses for Windows 95, 2000 and XP).
The cost to purchase "upgrade protection" and then the upgrade later on doesn't work well with the way budgets are set, so in general, it works out more effective to buy a license, knowing it'll last for about 8 years, then be deprecated.
This does,however, lead to headlines like this, where there are x% of the licenses unused. I daresay in 20 years, there'll be the headline "90% of public sector software licenses are unused" and a lot of wrath from people who don't actually get that this is due to natural deprecation (software stays on the books as an asset).
The licenses that are current and unused will be very small.. I know we're hurting for them here at the mo..
So presumably what they should be counting is the value of those licenses, not the number? E.g. a Windows 95 license has a value of nearly zero, a Windows 7 license is still worth what you'd pay for one now. These figures should be obtainable otherwise they'd be telling porkies about the value of their assets by pretending the software doesn't lose value over time.
Heavy use of TS / Citrix / VDI /roaming users in public sector is going to bork the stats too. A lot of stuff is going to be bought on an honour basis - i.e buy a license per user if it is actually going to be used.. However that may not strictly be understood by laptop user mindset of 'a box on desk = one user'. Many others are worse than MS for this though.
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