Get to Know IBM Application-Specific Licensing

Every day I help partners sell their products and solutions using an IBM program called Application-Specific Licensing (ASL). Unfortunately, the ASL program and its benefits are sometimes overlooked. Partners often tell me, “We had no idea this option even existed.” And even partners that are aware of ASL tend to say, “But that [ASL] doesn’t apply to us.”

So let’s make this simple.

If you sell or require an IBM software license as part of what you do, you should consider Application-Specific Licensing.


The ASL program works very well for independent software vendors that embed or build on IBM software. For example a product requires an application server or database. It also applies to partners that act as managed service providers (MSP).

It usually does not apply to partners that resell licenses. For example partners engaged in services focused on IBM software deployment and customization. Again, ASL is specific to the partner’s product rather than general purpose usage of IBM software. But as a reseller refines and repeats their solution, it could possibly be bundled into a product and qualify for ASL.

The ASL process is simple.

  • We describe your product’s value-add components.
  • We identify the IBM software that’s included in your product.
  • We assign fixed pricing during the term of the agreement.
  • We start sales and technical enablement to get your product to market.

What are some of the reasons partners choose ASL?

  • Increased margin when compared to other procurement methods
  • Ownership of the sales cycle; fixed pricing means no IBM quoting or special biding
  • A global contract, sell anywhere in the world

Having worked in the IBM Lotus/ICS/ESS brand for over a decade, helping partners get to market is a personal process. I focus on selling and demonstrating, knowing product capabilities that enhance partner solutions, and even writing a bit of code to bring it all together.

And to give you an idea of some successful partnerships, consider:

  • IBM Forms for data entry and processing in insurance, healthcare, financial, and legal services
  • WebSphere Portal and IBM Web Content Manager for B2B, B2C, and B2E websites and intranets
  • Focused collaboration in vertical markets using IBM Connections
  • IBM Domino applications – new and legacy – that include workflow, security, mail, and web for mid-market customers

Feel free to reach out via LinkedIn or Twitter if you’d like to know more.

Portal Express Licensing Explained

If you’re here, you’re wondering what’s the difference between Portal Express, Portal Server, and Web Content Manager (WCM). This post is meant to act as a guide on usage of Portal Express – it does not replace working with your IBM sales and technical contacts.

Portal Express is intended as a small to medium sized business (SMB) deployment. It is not an enterprise deployment, which typically has staging, pre-production, and production. The application code (i.e. Portal and WCM) is the same between Express and the enterprise editions.  The difference is that the Express installation manager will automatically install and configure DB2 for Workgroup as well as Web Content Manager. In the enterprise editions, WCM is a separate package and DB2 is not automatically installed.

So if the code is not different, what is? Licensing and entitlements. Express places limitations and allowances on how the software can be deployed and configured. To understand, review the Portal Express 8.5 License Information Document.

First, notice the Supporting Programs. As the definition states, these are the programs that may be used with Portal Express.

The following are Supporting Programs licensed with the Program:
IBM WebSphere Portal Personalization V8.5
IBM WebSphere Portal Search V8.5
IBM WebSphere Application Server Network Deployment V8.5.5
IBM DB2 Workgroup Server Edition ("IBM DB2") V10.5
IBM Web Content Manager V8.5
IBM Connections Content Manager V4.5
IBM Connections V4.5
IBM Tivoli Directory Integrator Identity Edition V7.1
IBM Security Directory Server V6.3
IBM Web Experience Factory Designer V8.5
IBM Web Experience Factory V8.5
IBM Sametime Limited Use V9.0
IBM Sametime Proxy Server V9.0
IBM Sametime System Console V9.0
IBM Sametime SDK V9.0

This is simply inventory, what software is packaged with the offering. There are restrictions on what you can do with the software. This is found in the Supporting Program Details section.  It begins with the software name, usage restriction, and deployment ratios. I’ll copy a few to illustrate.

Supporting Programs Details
WebSphere Application Server Network Deployment 
- Entitlement: Ratio 1/1 
- Use Limitations: Use by Principal Program
IBM Web Content Manager
- Entitlement: Ratio 1/1
IBM Sametime Proxy Server
- Entitlement Ratio 1/1 
- Use Limitations: Use by Principal Program

In the above, WebSphere Application Server ND is allowed to be used with Portal Express and only Portal Express (i.e. Principal Program). Web Content Manager and Sametime Proxy Server is likewise allowed in a 1:1 ratio. Meaning if you bought 280 PVUs of Portal Express, the machine where Sametime Proxy Server is installed must not exceed 280 PVUs.

There’s more. Review the Permitted Components section and the Prohibited Components section. This will go into more detail on what you can and can not do with the Supporting Programs. For example – and this one is important in the Prohibited section:

- Syndication of Web Content Manager content (of IBM Web Content Manager) with any other
production or authoring server except Web Content Manager Standard Edition.

You may not syndicate from Express to any other environment. You can however syndicate from Web Content Manager Standard Edition (SE) to Portal Express. WCM SE in this example is referred to as the authoring server.

And finally there are Program-unique Terms – specifically Entitlement Limitations.

For any Authorized User entitlements acquired by Licensee, no more than 1000 Users may be
given access to the Program running on any single virtual or physical machine. 

For any PVU entitlements acquired by Licensee, the total PVU rating for the activated
processor cores made available to or managed by the Program on any single virtual or
physical machine cannot exceed 480 PVUs. 
The Program may not be used in either a cloned configuration or in a clustered
configuration except when implementing for purposes of failover. In an Idle Standby
configuration, copy of the program may reside for backup purposes on a machine and is 
started, but is "idling", and is not doing any work of any kind . A server is considered 
"idle" if it is used exclusively for administrative actions that assist in failover

For any Install entitlements acquired by Licensee, Licensee is authorized to use the
Program in an Idle Standby configuration only for the purposes of failover.

There are two ceilings. If you are licensed based on users, no more than 1000 are allowed. If you are licensed based on capacity, no more than 480 PVUs, which is generally 6 processor cores.

I often hear the phrase, “but you can’t cluster Portal Express.”  You can. This is the idle standby part. It is a separate license charge, but it allows us to cluster a primary and standby node for failover purposes. You may not load balance between the two, and you may not route traffic over to the standby node for any purpose other than failover (i.e. maintenance).

Of course, a picture is worth a thousand words. Below is the typical Portal Express deployment that includes support for failover and an authoring server.

Portal Express Architecture