When IBM sold a portion of its software portfolio to HCL back in 2018, many IBM customers found themselves wondering what operational impacts the transaction would have. Now, years removed from the purchase, companies using Digital Experience (popularly known as DX; the successor to IBM® WebSphere Portal and IBM® Web Content Manager) have at least one major change to contend with: All v8.5 and v9.0 DX products will be moved to end of support (EOS) status by mid-2025. That includes a move away from the perpetual licensing terms many DX customers have enjoyed since they implemented some version of the platform.
This article will take a high-level look at the licensing and technical considerations that will come with the move and offer Digital Experience 8.5 and 9.0 EOS strategies companies can deploy to head off trouble before they lose out on current licensing terms.
Active development and investment are no longer the goal for most of today’s HCL DX users. Instead, organizations typically rely on it to continue serving up the content their implementation has already handled for several years, such as a large government office or healthcare provider making user-facing portals that contain certain employee or customer information.
At this point in the product’s lifecycle, its financial and technical impacts (as well as its potential downsides) are well-known to stakeholders and relatively easy to keep in check with the right expertise in place. While there is no need for these companies to suffer a disruptive version upgrade when the current platform works perfectly well, stakeholders likely also don’t wish to make serious material improvements to the portals and digital properties they manage using their current version of DX.
This hasn’t stopped HCL from trying to make their software investment an attractive option for current and potential customers with newer digital experience needs. The release of DX 9.5, which comes with new, Kubernetes-based functionalities, consumption-based term/subscription licensing models, and a distinct focus on cloud-based operation, was rolled out in 2019, with 9.6 rumored to hit the market at some point later. Although several years later, customers are still waiting for that release to materialize.
On paper, this sort of progress is a good thing. It’s always better when customers of software megavendors have multiple options to choose from. But the 2023 announcement that versions 8.5 and 9.0 would move to EOS status does the exact opposite. It removes options from customers by forcing them to upgrade to a version they might not be ready, willing, or ultimately able to integrate, simply because the OEM claims it’s time to move on.
Historically, companies using IBM® WebSphere Portal/Web Content Manager and HCL® Digital Experience have enjoyed perpetual, processor value unit-based (PVU-based) licensing terms. That trend carried over with the HCL purchase at first but will change going forward. Customers who use cloud and/or on-premises versions of Digital Experience 9.5 will be moved to a subscription- and consumption-based pricing model that HCL claims will lower the platform’s total cost of ownership (TCO). TCO was one of the major complaints levied against the platform even back in its IBM days.
However, it appears that HCL might only be considering their idealized customer in that statement. Only those with the funds, technical infrastructure, and wherewithal to continue actively investing in the platform will get the most from a potential changeover.
For the many customers keeping the software in a low-impact, low-investment usage pattern, doing away with a perpetual license and the largely predictable costs of PVU-based pricing is a questionable move at best. Looking at the situation logically, customers who are happy with their current implementation and have little desire to move to 9.5 would also have no reason to shoulder more pricing and technical uncertainty just to recapture the same functionality they currently have.
Licensing terms are just one part of the discussion. Despite HCL’s attempts to calm nerves via social videos and blog posts, there is a lasting perception that, from a purely technical perspective, moving from HCL DX v8.5 or v9.0 to DX v9.5 will require significant prework and upkeep to maintain the same level of functionality.
For companies still committed to the platform and who are actively investing in it (in terms of dollars and development resources), the change might be worth breaking a sweat over. But many companies simply don’t have that relationship with the product or with HCL. They don’t want to lead the charge to bring their legacy digital experiences to Kubernetes, especially when there’s not a valid reason to make the switch.
Maintaining active OEM support for DX is going to become more difficult the closer you get to Digital Experience’s EOS date. When a product goes to EOS status – as with IBM® EOS software – it no longer qualifies for support, updates, or other improvements from the OEM. In turn, that development will leave some DX customers thinking a pricey, technically intense upgrade is the only way to maintain the software.
Some customers might have the option to purchase Extended Support for their v9.0 implementations, depending on when they purchased the software and when the associated coverage lapses. After the short added period of coverage, companies will find themselves once again forced to decide whether they should run legacy implementations unsupported, or switch to a version they don’t need just to keep a low-investment product properly maintained.
Remember extended support is primarily defect-based. Typically, no material improvements or updates to the software beyond potential security patches will be offered in the associated agreement.
Undergoing the technical challenges and risks of a software upgrade simply to maintain support when the vendor’s primary goals and policies are engineered to move you to a new version isn’t the best business decision. Once the Extended Support window closes, provided it was ever an option following the Digital Experience EOS announcement, your only official choice will be to move to a version that stops working when the subscription payments do.
Fortunately, there are other IBM® and HCL® software support options that go well beyond what the OEM offers.
You don’t have to upgrade your DX version to 9.5 or enter a pricey, diminishing-value Extended Support arrangement to overcome your Digital Experience EOS worries. Third-party software maintenance (TPSM) providers offer a compelling new option that allows you to keep your existing product entitlements indefinitely.
Like WebSphere Portal and Web Content Manager before it, support for DX is mostly used to keep crucial legacy digital experiences for employees and customers stable and reliable. Instead of locking into a term license and upgrading to new software to keep that basic capability going, TPSM providers bring expert platform knowledge – by people who have been working with DX since the early IBM days – and ultra-responsive support that puts your business’s desired outcomes first.
The move from IBM to HCL left many DX customers (then WebSphere Portal and Web Content Manager customers) uncertain about where the future would take them. The upcoming move to DX 9.5 illustrates the tactics OEMs will deploy to get those same customers locked into agreement terms that backslide in terms of reliability and consistency.
HCL’s changes remove the freedom to manage your implementations in a way that fits your needs and strategic direction. Engaging a TPSM provider can bring back that freedom of choice, offer better maintenance and support, and help you save up to 50% off your current support renewal in the process.
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