IBM Software Licensing Compliance – a term that can (and should) scare the living daylights out of companies far and wide. And for good reason. Non-compliance can result in unpleasant shocks, both emotional and monetary, and should be avoided as much as humanly possible.

IBM’s licensing models can be confusing, especially with the proliferation of virtualization, and we will discuss some of them in a bit more detail.

There are 3 basic models that IBM uses to licence their software (There are other models, but for the purposes of this discussion, we will only cover the most common ones)

  • Session / User
  • Processor Value Units (PVU)
  • Sub-Capacity

Each of these has specific requirements attached to it, and we’ll attempt to clear up the confusion around the differences.

Session and User Based Licensing Model

When your software is licensed per “Session” or per “User”, each instance of one of those will require a license. With Sessions, this typically refers to “Concurrent” sessions, while with “User”, it typically refers to “Defined”. There are variations, and to get the exact terms of your license, please refer to your IBM Proof Of Entitlement (PoE) document which is issued on purchase or renewal of your Software License. Additionally, speak to your IBM Business Partner for more clarification around your specific licensing model.

Processor Value Unit (PVU) (aka Full Capacity Licensing)

First, let’s discuss some terminology. (Taken from IBM’s Passport Advantage Website)

  • CORE – A functional unit within a computing device that interprets and executes software instructions.
  • CHIP– electronic circuitry, containing but not limited to at least one core, on a silicon wafer.
  • SOCKET– the mount that secures a chip to a motherboard.
  • PROCESSOR– There is currently disagreement in the computer industry over the definition of a processor. IBM defines a processor as the core. For example, a dual-core chip has two processor cores

Now things get a bit more complicated. Each CPU type, for a particular make and model of hardware, attracts a certain number of “Processor Value Units” (PVUs). These typically range from 50 to 120 PVU per CORE. For example, let’s take a HP DL380 G8, populated with 2 sockets, with an INTEL ZEON E7-2870 processor chip in each socket. Each of these chips would provide 10 cores, meaning that there are 20 cores in total. Each CORE attracts 70 PVU, thus, to license this machine you will require 1,400 PVUs to be compliant. If you want to work out your own machine’s PVU requirements for IBM software, IBM has a PVU Calculator

With this model, the FULL CAPACITY of the MACHINE needs to be licensed, and although a simple model, this can result in very high licensing costs. Especially if you do not need all the processing power of the machine for the software in question. For such a situation, you would use the Sub-Capacity Licensing model.

Sub-Capacity Licensing

Not all IBM Software is eligible for Sub-Capacity Licensing, so before utilizing this model, check with your IBM Business Partner.

Now we have one more definition to add – vCPU – being a Virtual Processor (or Core) that you allocate to the Virtual Machine (VM) you create.

To calculate the number of PVU’s required for your VM, you must know the underlying hardware, ie: Make, Model and Processor Type as these influence the PVU count for each vCPU.

So, how do you use the Sub-Capacity model and save on licensing costs? Well, let’s use the machine above, running IBM MQ – and you have pre-determined that you only require 2 x cores to handle the processing load. You would create a VM with 2 vCPU, desired RAM and storage. This VM would attract 140 PVU (2 x 70). That will in turn save you 90% of your potential licensing costs versus having to license the full capacity of the machine.

The Caveat – Yes there is a catch for Sub-Capacity Licensing

From IBM’s Passport Advantage IPAA Doc (IBM Passport Advantage Agreement) – we quote

There are several requirements provided in the IPAA for sub-capacity licensing qualification. You must

  1. install and configure the IBM License Metric Tool (“ILMT”) within 90 days of your first use of an eligible sub-capacity product in an eligible virtualization environment (or comply with the manual usage tracking requirements if you qualify for such an exception); and
  2. produce, on a quarterly basis, the required reports, retain such reports for at least two years, and make them available to IBM upon IBM’s request.

So, what is this IBM License Metric Tool (ILMT)?

ILMT is a free tool, designed to help you maintain an inventory of the PVU based software installed on either your full capacity or your sub-capacity environment. For FULL CAPACITY, it is optional, for SUB-CAPACITY it is MANDATORY.

There are some exceptions to this:

  1. when ILMT does not yet provide support for the Eligible Virtualization Environment (For a full list, download the PDF from IBM’s Website)
  2. if your company has fewer than 1,000 employees and contractors worldwide, you are not a Service Provider, and you have not contracted with a Service Provider to manage your Eligible Virtualization Environment
  3. if total physical capacity of your servers with an Eligible Virtualization Environment, measured on a Full Capacity basis, but licensed using sub-capacity terms is less than 1,000 PVUs.

In the case of #1, you are required to license the entire capacity of the machine.

However, in the case of meeting the conditions of both #2 & #3, i.e.: you have less than a 1,000 employees AND the total PVU count of the FULL CAPACITY of your machines is less than 1,000 PVU, the you can manually track the consumption with an excel spreadsheet. (download it here do FileàSave As) The same rules still apply in that you must maintain this quarterly, and keep the records for a least 2 years.

What are the consequences of non-compliance?

The largest of the consequences is financial. Second is the experience of such a non-compliant audit, and they are not pleasant. It is after all, your hard earned money that is being used to pay the bill!

So, what’s involved in using the IBM License Metric Tool (ILMT)?

In order to use the ILMT, you will need to provision a Linux or Windows machine with at least 4 cores and 8GB RAM, however we recommend 8 cores, 16GB of RAM and approximately 100GB of free disk space. It is HIGHLY recommended that this machine be dedicated to running the ILMT and nothing else. Everything the tool needs to operate will be installed on that machine. Additional requirements are that agents are installed on all machines running IBM software, a domain admin user, with access to all machines, and to the ROOT of each host, and full access to the internet to download updates, catalogues and patches.

Once installed, configured, tested and reports verified, there are maintenance actions to be done each month in order to keep the various tables and databases up to date so that your reports are accurately representing your consumption – leading to a confidence that you are compliant with the IBM Licensing rules.

If you have capacity in your IT department to assign this task to resources to install, configure, test and maintain it, as well as the structures in place to ensure that the reports are done timeously and continually, and saved correctly, then you can download the ILMT tool from your Passport Advantage site.

How can we Help You?

However, if you do not have the capacity, processes, or desire to install, configure, test (takes about 2 – 3 weeks in total depending on the size of your deployment) and maintain (about 2 days a month) such a system, CommerceQuest South Africa (Pty) Limited (CQSA) can help. Anywhere from just getting it up and running for you with your first reports verified, to full maintenance of the system monthly for you, we can assist – removing the need for your staff to stay current on the software, catalogues, patches and reports.

If you need help with ILMT in anyway, please contact us on or call 011 447 4701 and ask for Alex Steyn.