SAP—the Poster Child for Indirect Access Licensing

By Chris Hughes

In the last few years, SAP has been the target of criticism regarding their software licensing practices in relation to indirect access. (See this blog post: Quantifying Indirect Access Software License
Liabilities on the topic). This got me thinking about why SAP has become the poster child for this issue while other vendors with similar license models seemingly get a free pass.

The Named User Plus license model used by Oracle Database and most Oracle infrastructure and middleware products is another model where indirect access is applicable. Oracle’s documentation describes the license requirements as follows:

Named User Plus: is defined as an individual authorized by you to use the programs […] If multiplexing hardware or software (e.g., a TP monitor or a web server product) is used, this number must be measured at the multiplexing front end. Automated batching of data from computer to computer is permitted. […]

The saving grace for Oracle Named User Plus might be that this model is rarely used in scenarios with a significant indirect usage liability. This is because Oracle technical products can be licensed using either Named User Plus or Oracle Processor license models and the normal convention is to use Named User Plus in development and test environments with a small number of users. Conversely, the Oracle Processor license model is typically used in production and internet-facing applications where the number of users is either large or not known.

In relation to SAP named user licenses, indirect access has become a pain point for a number of reasons. There is a perception that SAP has changed their software auditing practices; customers who haven’t altered their SAP environments in years and have previously completed successful true-ups and audits are now being penalized for longstanding indirect access use cases. Whether this is a conscious decision from SAP or the result of a vocal minority of dissatisfied customers, indirect access is now positioned front and centre of SAP licensing.

Other issues that have been raised relate to whether SAP’s definition of indirect access is reasonable and fair, and whether the outcome places too many restrictions on how an organization’s own data can be used without significant SAP licensing cost implications. SAP’s licensing guide includes the following:

The user metric is defined as the individual using the software. As defined in the customer’s end-user license agreement, “use” means to activate the processing functionality of the software; load, execute, or access the software; or display information resulting from such capabilities. […]

The SAP software license is based on the utilization of software functionality, which is independent of the technical interface used to access software functions and data. […] includes access to SAP software directly and through any intermediary technology layer.

This definition is very broad and taken literally requires every person who views their organization’s own data in an SAP system to be licensed as an SAP named user. Consequently, the inability of SAP customers to quantify their indirect access liabilities ahead of an audit or software contract negotiation means this topic will remain a key challenge for SAP license management in the foreseeable future.

To learn more about SAP license management, please view our on-demand webinar: SAP License Management Challenges and Opportunities



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