Memo to potential grid users: You may face big software bills. The cost of commercial software licenses--many of which are pegged to the number of users or CPUs on which the software runs--can balloon even in current grid environments, which make use of many machines for a short time. Some companies are starting to guard against that. Johnson & Johnson's pharmaceuticals research-and-development unit is negotiating grid-computing provisions into license agreements it has with scientific software vendors, which let it add software to machines companywide under a flat fee. The company also recently expanded its license with grid vendor United Devices Inc. from 500 machines to 3,000, at $40 per PC.
But David Neilson, director of drug-discovery information management, says he has had software vendors try to multiply their standard per-CPU fee--the number of machines on a grid--in one case, by 250. "They're dreaming if they think there's going to be a 250-fold increase in license fees," he says. Grid computing "raises lots of questions about licensing." And if software vendors don't pitch affordable licensing plans, companies are likely to internalize that budget money to write their own algorithms or hire universities that will.
More software vendors are making their apps grid-compatible, including business-intelligence vendor Cognos, computational-fluid-dynamics applications maker Fluent, and drug-discovery software company Accelrys. But licensing plans are still evolving, IT managers say.
Robert Ortega, VP of architecting and engineering at Wachovia Securities, which uses DataSynapse Inc.'s GridServer technology, said at the GlobusWorld conference this month that licensing models must become more flexible as grid computing becomes more prevalent. If a company already accesses transaction reporting or authentication software through a grid, it shouldn't pay twice to buy those same functions in a packaged product.
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