Three Department Of Defense ELAs That Worked Out -- And One That Didn't

VMware's September 2013 enterprise licensing agreement with the U.S. Army has led to larger-than-expected bills for some subordinate commands, but some Department of Defense ELAs have worked out well.

The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) -- the Pentagon branch in charge of IT purchasing -- has been pursuing joint enterprise licensing agreements (JELAs) that cover multiple DoD agencies. In the past two years, DISA has done JELAs with Microsoft, Cisco Systems and Adobe, all of which seem to be going smoothly.

DISA sees JELAs as a way to get a handle on the sprawl of software licenses and contracts its agencies have generated over the years, and to cut down on the number of staff needed to manage them.

[Related: Army ELA: Weapon Of Mass Confusion?]

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"There's a noble reason why these contracts are in place. DISA and others want to ensure enterprise consistency, standardization and want to ensure that they're getting fair and reasonable pricing," said Tony Colangelo, managing member of Minburn Technology Group, a Great Falls, Va.-based Microsoft government reseller partner.

When DISA inked its three-year, $617 million JELA with Microsoft in 2013 -- which covered some 2 million users in the Army, Air Force and DISA -- it claimed the deal would result in $100 million in cost savings over the life of the contract.

Jennifer Carter, chief of acquisitions for DISA, said last August that the DoD expects to save "tens of millions of dollars over a three-year period" from its Adobe JELA, according to a report from C4ISR & Networks.

So far, DISA's JELAs with Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft, and Cisco and Adobe, both based in San Jose, Calif., appear to be yielding the desired results. Microsoft and Cisco spokesmen declined to comment on the specifics of their JELAs. Adobe didn't respond to a request for comment.

VMware's proposed $1.6 billion JELA was canceled by DISA in March after four rival vendors protested. But in light of problems the Army is experiencing from its September 2013 ELA with VMware, this may be a blessing in disguise.

The Army also ran into problems with a Symantec ELA it signed in 2013, which -- like the VMware ELA -- was a maintenance agreement that also allowed for unlimited software license downloads.

The Symantec ELA was set up as a three-year, $70.8 million deal, but the Army opted out after the first year and signed a maintenance-only agreement with Symantec, according to documents on the Army's CHESS (Computer Hardware, Enterprise Software and Solutions) portal.

Sources told CRN that some Army commands received bigger-than-expected bills from the Army CIO/G-6 office stemming from the Symantec ELA.

"Maintenance renewals on that deal were very high," said one source familiar with the matter, who didn't want to be identified.

A Symantec spokesman declined to comment on the Army ELA, referring CRN's questions to the Army's CIO/G-6 office. "The U.S. Army continues to be a valued Symantec customer," said the spokesman.

Andrew Plato, president of Anitian, a Beaverton, Ore.-based IT security consultancy, said he hasn't heard about the situation with Symantec's Army ELA, but has heard customers complain about Symantec's hitting them up for maintenance revenue on products.

"Software licensing is a dark art. Nobody understands it, and it constantly changes," said Plato. "I would not be surprised if a company or government agency signed an agreement and did not fully understand the implications."