The ITAM Review

News, reviews and resources for worldwide ITAM, SAM and Licensing professionals.

Datacentre vs Desktop Savings


17113521620_2f42ed2d53_zMaking savings on software licenses are one of the key selling points for any organisations implementing SAM. Savings on software licenses can, in essence, pay for the implementation of SAM (including all of the resources) and then some if done correctly.

There is no right or wrong environment to start making cost savings in, and some organisations may have no choice in the matter (thanks to audits, senior management strategy, or internal capabilities). However, we are often asked which environment has the quickest wins, and which environment organisations should focus on first when they want to make cost savings.

Desktop Savings

The desktop environment is usually the ‘go-to’ environment for organisations that want to start making cost savings within their SAM/software licensing estate. Some people would argue that this is where the ‘quick wins’ are to be had, and that it is the easier environment to address. Whilst we agree, the software-licensing models are less complicated than the datacentre environment; we would argue the case against ‘quick wins’. Experience shows that you can save thousands of pounds within the desktop environment, and remove large quantities of unused or software that isn’t licensed. However, the savings made over a time period of one or three months would not match the savings that can be made in the datacentre environment.

Another reason why organisations like to focus on the desktop environment is because a number of ITAM/SAM tools have the desktop environment nailed. They can provide organisations with all the data they need for managing their desktop software, and can also provide usage stats highlighting users that are not using the software as much as they should, or who are not using the software at all. Some SAM tools can then actually help the organisation recoup those licenses through automatic uninstalls, thus theoretically saving the cost of a new license.

Positives Negatives
Easier license matrix’s Cheaper software
Sophisticated tools to help with software savings Organisations biggest risks may be in datacentre
Instant savings
Easier to identify risks
Sophisticated usage stats help identify inactive software

Datacentre Savings Organisations have to consider the time spent on software licensing savings and expectations on the financial values on how much they want to be saved. For example, if they set a three month target for saving as much money as possible within the desktop environment, the organisation may remove or recycle hundreds of licenses, making actual and theoretical savings of tens, maybe thousands of pounds.

However, if you spent the same amount of time within the datacentre environment, the organisation may remove significantly less licenses, but because datacentre software is expensive they may actually save significantly more.

Seen as the more complicated or complex environment, the datacentre is usually the environment organisations ‘put off’ addressing. The likes of Oracle, SAP, IBM and Microsoft within the datacentre environment have complicated licensing models that are really hard to manage and maintain. It is a challenge for any SAM or licensing professional to effectively manage and maintain license compliancy within the datacentre environment, due to the complex nature of the licenses and the fact that there is no ‘silver bullet’ tool that will help manage all of the datacentre vendors and applications.

Datacentre software is also extremely expensive software compared to desktop software, with some instances of software costing hundreds of thousands of pounds/euro’s/dollars etc. for a single license. Despite the complexities and different license models (such as user, core, processor, transaction etc.) the fact that the software is expensive means this is the environment where the largest savings are to be made.

Expensive software results in large savings. If you just save 5 datacentre licenses that are in the thousands of pounds each, compared to hundreds of desktop licenses that are tens or hundreds of pounds, then time spent identifying those 5 licenses will result in bigger savings, despite the lower quantity. Due to the price and complexities of the licensing models, the datacentre environment is also where organisations biggest risks can be, and also the first environment most auditors will go to in the event of an audit.

Positives Negatives
Software is more expensive, this means bigger savings License models more complicated
Big audit risks in this environment May take more time
In theory, once the datacentre environment has been addressed the desktop environment will follow SAM tool in place may not be sophisticated in the datacentre environment
Big compliancy risks, so addressing any issues will enhance ‘audit readiness’

It will take more time to address the issues within the datacentre, and make significant cost savings. However, would an organisation rather spend three months saving hundreds of pounds within the desktop environment, or would you rather save hundreds of thousands in datacentre software in the same time period?Addressing issues in the datacentre environment can be daunting and a big challenge for any organisation, but it is well worth addressing these issues first. Experience shows that once you have the correct processes and procedures in place for managing datacentre software licenses effectively, then you can replicate these for the less complex desktop environment.

Future saving possibilities (Cloud)

The future of software licensing is subscription, cloud based licenses. The amount of money that can be saved within the cloud-based environment will be considerably less than the current device or user based licensing. There are a number of reasons for this:

  • No option to ‘true-down’
  • Recycling licenses are far stricter, as there are user accounts to take into consideration, and also issues with assigning recycled licenses to new users
  • The purpose of cloud-based licenses is to help combat piracy and maintain revenue streams. Non-compliancy or over-complicacy issues will end up being less of an issue

There will still be vendors who offer perpetual software licenses, so software savings will still be a key part of software asset management. However, with cloud and subscription licenses, license utilization and management will end up being the key issues and key selling points for software asset management professionals and for implementing SAM in general.


So, as we’ve highlighted there are no right or wrongs when wanting to save money on software assets. However, for the biggest cost savings we would recommend organisations look to address the datacentre environment first. Whilst the licensing in this environment is more complicated to understand and manage, as we’ve mentioned the software licenses are far more expensive than the desktop environment. That means, that whilst you may not be removing large quantities of software, but removing one license will equate to tens or hundreds of thousands of pounds/euro’s/dollars in savings, whereas removing one license within the desktop environment would equate to tens or hundreds of pounds.

We’d love to know your opinion, so please get in contact. If you had a clean slate, and only had to save money on software licenses, what environment would you start with? Leave a comment below and have your say!


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About David Foxen

David Foxen is a Software Asset Management expert and enthusiast. He had a vast experience of successfully implementing SAM, SAM tools and also made huge cost savings. A member of the ISO Standards WG21, David is a massive ITAM geek, so uses any opportunity to talk about the subject to who-ever will listen. He believes that the industry needs to share its knowledge and success stories to help the SAM industry mature and become more effective. Always willing to help, his primary goal is to make a difference to organisations and the SAM industry so everyone will know how epic SAM is!

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