Can big software vendors audit their way through the downturn?

Big software companies are looking for money in the pockets of existing customers through software audits, which should give CIOs one more reason to buy open source.

In December I wrote about Microsoft and the possibility that proprietary software vendors would seek to audit customers in 2009 to scare up revenue.

Fast forward a few months, and CMS Watch suggests that EMC is attempting to do that:

...[I]n the last couple of quarters we have started to see EMC in particular launch audits, with seemingly no [particular cause]. In what comes off as a coordinated, US-wide effort, many customers are currently being audited or under threat of audit by EMC -- or to be specific: Documentum buyers and EMC's proxy KPMG -- and as you can imagine, customers are not happy.

What we know for sure is that the rush to audit started in the late Q3 to early Q4. We also know that the audits all seem to fit a rough pattern. Two targets:

  • Larger enterprise buyers that have not spent much money with the firm in awhile.
  • Buyers who may be moving from cpu-based pricing to user-based pricing.

Software piracy is emphatically wrong, but you have to wonder why these big software vendors have to resort to wringing cash from their existing customers rather than selling value to new customers. But maybe I struggle to understand such behavior when open-source software vendors are thriving in the economic downturn.

Software audits are a nasty way to engage with customers. Perhaps those customers would do better to try open-source software next time. A software audit is not inimical to open source, but I've never heard of an open-source vendor conducting one and, given the way open source is sold, it seems highly unlikely that we'll see one anytime soon.

One more reason to buy open source, in case you needed one more.

Follow me on Twitter @mjasay.