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Rethinking backup licenses

Users have long railed against the software licensing practices of large backup vendors. Much of their ire has been directed at Veritas (now Symantec) for its confusing, complex licensing practices (see, but other backup vendors' licensing plans also seem out of step with the way IT shops do business. Symantec has promised to unveil improvements to its licensing scheme in the first half of 2006, but some backup vendors are experimenting with new capacity-based license models.

Computer Associates (CA) began selling its BrightStor data protection and storage resource management suites with an optional Managed Capacity license last summer. Initially offered to sites with 10TB or more of data under management, the license is now available to sites with as little as 2TB, and is available through CA's channel partners.

Under the terms of the program, CA charges based on the amount of capacity under management—not by server, processor, agent, platform, number of slots in the library or any other metric. The amount of data in the environment is re-evaluated yearly, according to Eric Pitcher, VP of product management for BrightStor. "We don't charge you for what you used in the past, just what you'll use going forward," Pitcher promises.

Arkeia, another backup software provider well known in Linux circles for its Smart Backup and Network Backup, offers a pricing plan that charges based on the amount of data written. Arkeia Smart Backup is free for data sets up to 50GB in size, $99 for up to 100GB and another $99 for every 100GB thereafter.

According to Brian Babineau, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group, Milford, MA, the major backup vendors are exploring new, simpler licensing models, but it's extremely difficult for an entrenched player to change licensing policies without ruffling partners' feathers or decreasing revenue, he says. "You want to be easy to do business with, but not at the expense of the bottom line."

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