Cloud is still software, or it is the infrastructure that runs software. Either way, there is software that needs to be properly licensed and the procurement of it needs to be centrally managed.
So anti-piracy lobby group the Business Software Alliance (BSA) is right: this is where software asset management (SAM) offerings are still relevant. The cloud is simply a different infrastructure in which SAM processes need to operate.
Looking at IaaS and PaaS in particular, arguably the most common cloud deployments, the flexibility to scale virtual resources far more quickly than ever before can let organisations miss their compliance targets.
Previously a new server deployment could take a few days, allowing plenty of time to find and allocate the associated software licences. However, the ability to commission and decommission servers at the flick of a switch in line with fluctuations in demand means SAM must be more embedded and flexible than ever before.
Then you have SaaS, often cited as evidence SAM is irrelevant in the cloud. After all, you can't accidentally find yourself under-licenced when using SaaS since use of the software is granted only if you have paid.
It is difficult not to comply with licencing issues when using SaaS, but good procurement practices are important too – more so than ever under SaaS.
Without central management and control of software procurement there is nothing to stop five different departments buying the same SaaS product, as often happens.
Software procurement needs to be centrally managed to avoid software duplication or paying over the odds for it by not exploiting economies of scale. Obviously, this is where SAM offerings can help, providing visibility of the software used.
So why the confusion? I would argue this is due to the general confusion about cloud computing, which can happen with any new trend.
It can often be difficult to see how mature and established technology can be mapped to new and evolving environments. SAM has simply been caught in the middle of this confusion.
Cloud computing is widely understood as an umbrella term for IaaS, PaaS, SaaS and everything in between. Yet a few years ago even this was unclear. IaaS, PaaS and SaaS are all different and SAM applies to them differently, yet they are all cloud based.
No wonder people are confused. We hope the BSA's report may address some of this uncertainty.
Sean Robinson is managing director of License Dashboard
Highlander MD Steve Brown tells CRN about the skills he learned on the pitch and brought to the boardroom
Reports suggest Dell is pursuing a straightforward IPO, contradicting existing plans to buy out tracking stock holders
Analysts predict upturn in PC market next year, but 2018 to remain plagued by components shortages
Neil Sawyer claims he has 'never seen so many conversations about a new method of investing in workplace technology'