Microsoft's ongoing quest to fight global software piracy using legal means may be on its last leg. The software giant's latest attempt to quell piracy of its OS and application software suites enlists the help of US state's attorneys. It will be the job of the state's attorney to seek out and sue global companies operating within his or her state that knowingly pirate software.
While a novel approach at eliminating an illegal competitive advantage, state-driven lawsuits will be a monumental battle, and one that likely will take years to gain traction. Instead, a more efficient way to solve Microsoft and other software publishers' piracy problems may be to put all applications inside the relative safety of the cloud.
In fact, software piracy is actually an invisible force, partly responsible for the popularity of architectures like software as a service (SaaS). If you want to do your part to fight against software piracy, you may want to think about moving to cloud services in your organization.
When we think about what propels software innovation, most of us think that momentum is primarily driven by a customer perspective. While it's true that software companies may listen customer needs, that's often not their primary driver. There are even times when a software vendor steers customers toward a particular product or service that may not be in their best interests. Often this is because the product or service provides a higher rate of return. In other cases, it's to ensure that the vendor stays relevant.
A traditional method of staying relevant in the IT industry involved the practice of vendor lock-in through the use of proprietary hardware or software. But, as is the case with Microsoft and many other software publishers, the migration of customers onto tightly controlled SaaS architectures is a more appealing way to maintain relevancy while combatting mass piracy at the same time. SaaS and other cloud models might be the only real way to eradicate piracy for good. If you can control software and keep it protected inside the cloud, users can access it only when it's been paid for.
SaaS architectures also make self-installed and managed software feel antiquated and less appealing. If a company can use a cloud-based service at or below the price of managing software on its own, it no longer makes sense to manage it in-house. In addition, cloud models offer huge flexibility and elasticity benefits. As organizations expand and contract, so do their software needs. SaaS models can conform to meet the needs of any organization in an instant, without the high costs of hardware purchases and rearchitectures.
The same level of agility cannot be said of software running locally on PCs or within private datacenters. Once IT realizes that cloud models provide superior application deployment, it will abandon any desire to use privately managed software. As the cloud-service market continues to grow and mature, so will the added benefits of migrating.
Pirated software is everyone's problem, even if it's not happening in your organization. Piracy creates an uneven playing field in which competitors don't have to foot the cost of licensing. While the use of the legal system often works within a single nation, using it is proving to be an ineffective way to combat global piracy. Therefore, it's in everyone's interest to look at moving to cloud-service models like SaaS.
Find out how a government program is putting cloud computing on the fast track to better security. Also in the Cloud Security issue of InformationWeek Government: Defense CIO Teri Takai on why FedRAMP helps everyone.