CAs MCL Bundles Up Storage Fees

Opinion: Licensing plan helps stop shelfware and eases virtualization-but it could potentially lead to vendor lock-in.

Computer Associates has made some mistakes during the last few years, losing customers and revenue along the way. Now, in attempt to win back some of those customers and regain market share, CA is betting on Managed Capacity Licensing.

MCL is basically a bundle in which license fees are determined by the amount of storage managed, not by the number of products used or the number of servers managed. (Details on what you get with MCL can be found here.)

Under this type of licensing, an IT staff with 10TB of data to manage would pay the same amount of money for storage management software, regardless of whether it is trying to manage 10 servers or 100.

MCL pricing starts at $12,000 per terabyte, with the minimum buy-in set at 2TB.

Off the shelf

When CA took a long, hard look at its business practices, it found that shelfware—unused software that was purchased but not implemented—was one of the biggest pain points for customers.

Reasons for shelfware accumulation at client sites can range from simple things like not having time to install and implement a solution (a common occurrence, given the declining head count in many IT departments) to more complex problems like platform shifts.

MCL gives IT managers unprecedented freedom to shift platforms and fire off new software at will, which will likely make it extremely attractive for IT managers grappling with server virtualization deployments.

/zimages/7/28571.gifMCI launches its automated and on-demand Utility Storage Service featuring allocation-based billing. Click here to read more.

Lets say a site has a standard four-way server that IT wants to split into four virtual servers. Under a conventional purchase plan, if the site only had one backup license for the four-way server, it would have to acquire four more backup licenses to protect the four new virtual machines (with the original license still assigned to the host operating system).

Making matters worse, if you wanted specialized application backup for Microsoft SQL Server, MS Exchange or Oracle, you would have to purchase a license for each application.

Using CAs MCL scheme, by contrast, IT managers would only need to keep tabs on the amount of storage managed, and would not have to worry about licenses for any new apps or servers, virtual or otherwise. Even if you shift from Novell to Microsoft to Linux, you dont need to refresh your licenses at every shift.

MCL pricing is calculated once a year by CA, and the license is repriced at the end of the year based on storage growth. In other words, companies that start with 2TB of data and grow to 20TB during the year will pay the same license fee until the end of the year.

At that point, IT managers would probably know whether they wanted to stick with CAs MCL plan or move to a different storage management platform.

The downside to plans like MCL is the potential for vendor lock-in. After spawning a sea of server agents, IT managers might find that they dont want to go back to the days of writing a check every time they make major server or platform changes.

IT managers should also be aware that MCL is measured as raw capacity, so if you have a 1TB mirror, the MCL will be calculated at 2TB. As a result, IT managers should factor in a higher license fee if their storage hardware is running large amounts of RAID 10 as opposed to RAID 5.

As much as I would want to see shelfware and pay-by-the-agent licensing gone, I think it remains to be seen if this pricing model can become effective in the storage management world. And Im sure most vendors will be watching CA closely.

eWEEK Labs Senior Analyst Henry Baltazar can be reached at

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