Sunday, March 22, 2015

Software Licensing

"I'm not inclined to make grand pronouncements about the future of software, but if anything kills off commercial software, let me tell you, it won't be open source software. They needn't bother. Commercial software will gleefully strangle itself to death on its own licensing terms." Jeff Atwood

Recently we went through an exercise at work in which we tracked down every use of the Oracle database for licensing audit purposes. In particular when I found out that a web app must now be tied directly to an end user I was incredulous. Why? On the back end we had a licensed "service account" accessing Oracle. We were in a sense simply providing a report view to whomever came along to use the application. Seemed reasonable to me, but I was very naive.

So I second guessed IT management as I so very often do and looked into the issue myself. Unfortunately I found out that management has a right to be concerned. Even our company with its in-house lawyers was right to bring in high paid consultants to navigate Oracle's licensing. Suddenly all the Microsoft SQL Server fans were gloating. Gloating that is until they found out that Microsoft was moving in the same direction as Oracle and our existing licensing would expire at the end of the year.

So, I agree with Mr. Atwood: licensing could kill commercial software. It made me glad that my prejudice for personal projects has always been in the direction of free and open software development tools.

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