What’s the difference between Software Asset Management and Software License Management?

Through all the years I’ve been in the technology field, I’ve started to notice something – technology, and even the widespread adoption of it, changes before the language we use to describe it does. For example, the term “SaaS.” Experts have recently declared it dead … but that’s not because the technology is dead – quite the opposite. Instead, everything is SaaS now – so why even use a special term to describe it? Or “multicloud” – what was (for a short time) a way to describe how companies operated in or on more than one cloud platform has again become the norm. If you’re working in the cloud (and come on … you are), you’re operating in the multi-cloud. These technologies become ubiquitous before their descriptors catch up. So you might hear some jargon and consider it over your head … until you realize you’re already using it, every day.



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When we recently wrote a post about Software License Management, it might have been the first time you heard the term. But that doesn’t mean you’re unfamiliar with it. Software License Management, or SLM, is simply the updated terminology for Software Asset Management, or SAM, a principle and technology that’s been widespread for more than a decade.


The Information Technology InfrastructureLibrary (ITIL), defined SAM as “…all of the infrastructure and processes necessary for the effective management, control and protection of the software assets…throughout all stages of their lifecycle.” When taken from that broad of a view, SAM sounds just like SLM – what Applogie does.


So what’s the difference between Software Asset Management and Software License Management? Software Asset Management applied to software that was purchased once, through a perpetual license, deployed on-premises, and owned forever. Software License Management applies to cloud-based software (including SaaS, IaaS and PaaS) that is purchased on a subscription basis and scalable to your organization.


Historically, SAM was defined by the Software Asset Management lifecycle, which goes something like this:

  1. Planning and Acquisition
  2. Deployment
  3. Management
  4. Retirement
  5. Repeat

You would choose a software, buy it, own it, and use it until your organization outgrew it or something better came along. At its surface, that lifecycle is still solid. But when you really think about it, the cloud has changed every stage. Here’s how:


Stage 1: Planning and Acquisition


Generally, SAM was for enterprises. SaaS, and the SLM that accompanies it, is available to all businesses, regardless of size. Because you’re buying a subscription, the upfront cost is lower, which means the planning and acquisition take on a lower level of importance to leadership. Any employee can buy a subscription online with his or her corporate credit card or P-card, with minimal oversight or influence.


Stage 2: Deployment


Many organizations consider the deployment of cloud-based software to be one of its main differentiators. Rather than waiting for an internal or external IT team to individually deploy newly-purchased software to each individual machine, SaaS deployment and use can happen within minutes of purchase. This ease of installation also contributes to a lack of oversight.


Stage 3: Management


Because of where modern software “lives,” everything is subscription-based, meaning you lease it rather than buy it outright. This paradigm change has a few implications. First, since you’re not paying once and owning forever, your costs could vary month-to-month or year-over-year, depending on the size of your enterprise, the number of licenses you need (or think you need), and the functionality you require. Second, contracts have become much more standardized. There’s no drawn-out negotiation process … you pay based on what you need. And third, your internal IT department no longer needs to “own” the software – which means it has fewer challenges, but also potentially less control.


Stage 4: Retirement


There’s no waiting for a three-year contract to end with today’s SaaS subscriptions – as long as you renew your subscription monthly or annually per your agreement, you retain the license. On the flip side, if you are still using your subscription, there’s nobody to urge you to renegotiate after a period of time, so you may be missing out on savings.


Stage 5: Repeat


Because SaaS is usually so scalable, there’s usually no official or planned “sundowning” of a software – if you need something more from it, you just buy more licenses or purchase another subscription with the additional functionality. But is that the most cost-effective and productive way to manage your tech? We don’t think so.


That’s where Software License Management comes in. It’s Software Asset Management, only more complex, more intuitive, and more automated – just like the software it manages.


Want to find out more? Check out our blog post on Software License Management, learn more about how Applogie works, or reach out to us for a product demo.