Friday, 30 June 2017 00:38

'Crucial' advice on reducing software licence costs with VMs, DRAM and SSDs

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Memory and storage maker Crucial is proffering profitable advice on lowering software licence costs by making better use of your hardware, upgraded if needed, for long-term savings.

Naturally, a company that sells memory and SSDs wants to give customers genuine reasons to look at their current hardware, and whether that hardware can be relatively inexpensively upgraded to deliver customers genuine ongoing cost savings.

That’s called creating a win-win situation, and given that Crucial has put together a nifty list of reasons on how businesses can truly maximise their hardware and save money on software licenses, I’m happy to pass the info on so you can make your own decision.

And yes, switched on IT admins will already be doing all of this, and can now click on some other article, but presumably in an infinite universe of possibility, there must be a lot of people who aren’t yet implementing these strategies, so for all those people, this information is for you - please read on!

Of course, the advice stands whether you buy Crucial’s brand of memory and/or SSDs or that of a different vendor, but that doesn’t make the information any less valuable, so let’s get on with it.

What Crucial is doing is to reveal how you can “save money by reducing software licence costs,” and how you achieve this magical fewer licences requirement by “fuelling processor cores with DRAM and SSDs".

The pitch Crucial starts off making is that, every year, “server software licence costs consume more and more of your IT budget, which is increasingly stretched thin".

So, given that we live in the modern era of “software-defined everything”, Crucial says that “licensing costs are often thought of as fixed costs” but that “they don’t have to be".

Now, the short answer is that businesses can “save tens of thousands of dollars by fully utilising your CPU cores and using fewer licences across your deployment”, and of course, the company goes into more detail on how this happens, stating that “cutting licences is a proven way to maximise your IT budget".

Pointing to the “Gartner worldwide IT spending forecast for 2017-2018”, Crucial says it notes that “enterprise software spend is projected to grow 7% versus an overall IT growth rate of just 2.6%".

The company also notes that, “for many IT departments, enterprise software spending is the fastest-growing line item in the budget, which makes containing licence costs more important than ever".

Here’s where Crucial points to the first bit of good news, stating that “fortunately, this is easy to do because software licences are attached to CPU cores, which are fed by memory and storage. The more performance you get out of each processing core, the fewer licences you need, the lower your costs will be, and the more performance you’ll get out of the apps you’re licensing".

The next snippet of info looks at how to virtualise enterprise applications and beat the core cost game.

Here, Crucial states that “Microsoft, Oracle, and others use a core-based licensing model, which enables you to create an unlimited number of virtual machines (VMs) on each CPU you’re licensing. It’s great, but you have to take advantage of it – if you don’t create as many VMs as possible, your money isn’t going as far.”

Now, obviously, despite what Crucial says, you can’t create an “unlimited” number of VMs. There’s a limit to how many VMs a processor can support, no matter how much memory or SSDs you have attached to your server.

That said, if you don’t have enough memory or fast SSD storage, you can’t run as many VMs as you otherwise could, without affecting performance.

What Crucial does next is to explain "how memory fuels VMs".

The explanation is that, “in order to create more VMs, you need more memory because each VM draws upon the same pool of available memory and the virtualisation software itself needs RAM to run. On top of that, the apps you’re likely virtualising are memory-dependent, meaning they’re reliant on active data that lives in memory".

Then comes the SSD connection, which in this case is about “how enterprise SSDs turbocharge VM performance.”

Crucial notes that “effective virtualisation also requires fast storage because virtualised apps often run out of memory, which triggers the naturally slower performance of storage.

“The usual drop off doesn’t have to hurt though if you use enterprise SSDs, which allow you to access, load, and save data almost instantly – even when you run out of memory. By accelerating expensive virtualised applications, enterprise SSDs help get the most out of your software investment.”

So, here’s where Crucial wants us to compare the costs of software licences vs. the hardware that powers them.

Crucial crunches the numbers, and notes that: “Since all cores running an app must be licensed, the best way to save money is to fully utilise each and every CPU core. If you only use your licensed CPU cores 50% of the time, you’re significantly overpaying for your software (unless low CPU utilisation is driven by your workload).

“Since hardware is the bottleneck for most IT departments, there’s an easy way to save: Fully utilise your cores because they’re what you’re paying for. This is one of the hidden keys to modernising your data centre and cutting costs while also increasing efficiency.”

The advice continues, with Crucial stating you should “Ensure your CPUs run 24/7 by fuelling them with more RAM and fast I/O by swapping out existing hard drives for enterprise SAS SSDs and/or filling PCIe slots with NVMe drives.”

In addition, “when you look at hardware versus software costs, it’s important to remember that licences hit your budget every year as an operating expense, whereas a hardware upgrade is a one-time, multi-year investment that benefits you for the life of the drive or module.”

So, we finally get to the bottom line that Crucial hopes you’ll crucially consider, and that’s “a hardware upgrade pays for itself.”

Crucial concludes by stating that “software licences aren’t optional, but they don’t have to be treated as fixed costs".

You’re advised that by “investing a fraction of your budget into Crucial server memory and Micron SAS and NVMe enterprise SSDs to fuel the applications you’re licensing, you can immediately start saving and improve performance. Spend a little now to save a lot every year through increased CPU utilisation – and fewer recurring licences".

Crucial adds the caveats that this is “assuming you maintain the base number of licences needed to be able to reduce your total number of licences,” and that savings are “compared to the cost of fully licensing 12 processor cores in a 2-socket server for one year".

More information at Crucial here.

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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