software pricing models must adapt
By relling on Aug 18, 2004
A very interesting and important change to software pricing models occurs because of the huge advances in the manufacturing of CPUs. Software pricing models must change too. In the bad old days, software companies tried to use all sorts of clever schemes to try to prevent copying disks. It took many years and the ubiquity of the internet to finally get them to forget about it (yet the RIAA hasn't realized yet that music is software... go figure). Many software companies then moved onto per-node or per-user licensing enforced with distributed license managers. This worked for a while, even though we could always spoof the license manager. When Sun introduced SMPs, and they became widely available to the mass market, the software vendors tried to implement per-CPU pricing, which is still common today. But even that scheme is broken. Almost all of the major CPU manufacturers are now putting more than one CPU core on a single die. And it is even further complicated by multi-threading where we use one CPU core to run two different threads (I'll identify these by process counter) simultaneously. The upshot is that the traditional definition of CPU used by the software vendors no longer makes any sense. Occasionally, they will try to use some sort of horsepower basis for pricing, charging more money for more powerful processors, but that also doesn't work well for a highly scalable product line such as SPARC where the same binary can run on a wide variety of cost and performance targets. The upshot is that the software vendors are going to have to adapt again and find some other way to account for and justify charging different prices for different classes of customers. At Sun, this constantly drives us nuts because a customer often makes purchase decisions based on the total cost of the system: hardware and software. Today, a minor increase or decrease in the hardware cost may have a dramatic affect, sometimes in the counter-intuitive direction, on the software cost. Alas, as a hardware vendor supporting 3rd party software vendors, we are pretty much powerless to change their pricing policies. It is up to our customers to do so. Put pressure on your software vendors for a sane pricing method. I'm not advocating that everyone adopt the JES pricing model, but find something that makes sense as we continue to build innovative hardware platforms. And that something can't be based on copy-protection or CPU counts.
 there is no free lunch.