Is Network License Becoming Predatory? A Lot of Networkers Seem to Think So

I recently threw this poll out on Twitter for 24 hours. I purposefully avoided defining “predatory” to let those responding apply the concept as they saw fit. Sure, it’s only Twitter, and arguably an informal poll. Those responding are assumed to be networkers in my circle of reach.

Two hundred and sixty-four people chose to reply, and of those, 93% think that at least certain vendors are becoming predatory in their licensing methods. 48% say that the networking industry in general is becoming predatory. Only 7%, or 18 out of 264 respondents, do not see networking licensing becoming predatory.

My Take
I cannot speak for anyone else, but can share my own opinion based on over 20 years in the networking industry- mostly on the customer side but with enough time spent as an analyst and provider to have perhaps a more well-rounded opinion on the topic. Let’s start with a dictionary definition that I have in mind: to be predatory is to seek to exploit or oppress others. And to me, I would vote YES on that Twitter poll.
I’m assuming many factors influence how people answer a question like this. Again, I can only speak for myself. Longevity in the field means more opportunities to have felt exploited- like way back when I attempted to buy my first thin-AP network management system. I ordered it based on a quote provided by the vendor’s sales person (around $20K for a site license), and waited. And waited. And then queried about when we should expect it. The answer? “Sorry, we’re discontinuing that, now you have pay per access point and you are bigtime into six figures (like really bigtime)”. The fact that I ordered well ahead of the switch to the new paradigm meant nothing to the vendor, nor did our long-running history together. Pay up and shut up. That would be the start of almost two decades of FEELING exploited by vendors on occasion. Locked in. They say it, we pay it. A long history of this stuff makes you more sensitive to just how bad it’s getting today.
(I get that younger customers, and the just out-of-college fresh-faced vendor product manager sitting in my conference room may be oblivious to my personal history of feeling screwed over. Yet that history is relevant.)
The bigger your environment and the longer you’ve been with a specific vendor, the tighter the “vendor lock” can be, BTW.
OK, so those of us who have been around longer have seen more of the evolution of licensing, with each incarnation bringing more advantage to the vendor while said vendor masterfully spins tales of how the new model somehow works in the customer’s favor. Sounds great, until it doesn’t 30 seconds into the conversation. I’ll skip over a lot of the individual milestones on my own timeline of licensing frustration, but will report that NOTHING happens in licensing that isn’t meant to separate the customer from more of their budget dollars while frequently getting mostly buzzwords,...