Many enemies of FLOSS trumpet the fact that end-users are not aware of software freedom and take for granted their computing environment. Their conclusion is that FLOSS cannot thrive because the bulk of the IT industry does not really care about using, examining, modifying and distributing code. They also scoff at mechanisms for paying for FLOSS, but that is another matter until VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) comes around.
Intel, which wants to sell lots of powerful processors, wants VDI to fail. They helpfully point out that the licensing model of “commercial”/non-free software depends on recipes for charging for use of software. That becomes impossible in a complex VDI system. In the thick client era, one licence could apply to one copy of one piece of software on a hard drive somewhere. In the VDI situation, servers and clients may be virtual and uncountable. For instance, depending on what an end-user is doing, a client PC may be used to access one local app on one local OS or an unlimited number of apps on local and non-local OS running in virtual machines all over a plant. That is, “use” can no longer be well defined and countable. Software could have meters built in but there is no standard way of doing that. The businesses buying all the licences could just accept a bill from suppliers of software according to their meters but be unable to verify the cost/benefit from their end.
Enter FLOSS to the rescue. If you know that the cost of each of your licences is $0, then you know your total costs of licensing software is also $0. FLOSS may not be a complete solution to the problem as support costs may still be related to installations, instances, processes, processors, users, or whatever, but suppliers will be more flexible with support because copyright is not a part of it. It is simpler and easier to charge for support according to “billable hours”, per user, per client or per server or per virtual machine… No need to define use at all as support involves making something available, not use.
The idea that FLOSS is irrelevant in licensing collapses under its own weight when the complexity of IT systems makes the valuation of licences impossible. VDI does that. It expands the problem that already existed with virtual machines on servers and compounds it. One does not need a licensing regime as complex as one’s IT system. FLOSS rationalizes the problem of accounting for licences by trumping complexity with four simple freedoms: use, openness, modification and copying. Use FLOSS.