A confluence of factors could double the cost of software licensing for end users within two years, industry experts have warned.
According to Gartner, the increasing use of dual core processors, server virtualisation and computing on demand will drive this change.
Oracle, IBM and Sybase are all singled out by the analyst firm as vendors with pricing policies that will dramatically hike up the cost of their software for end users.
The key change lies in the switch to multi-core processing, where two or more processing units are placed on each piece of silicon.
At present most software companies are charging double the licence fee for dual-core systems, which Gartner highlights as both unfair, since doubling the number of processors does not double performance, and unworkable.
"Software companies will generally charge for the total potential CPU capacity regardless of what is being used," said Alexa Bona, research director at Gartner.
"They will have to change their policies, but that change will not come quickly. It is therefore crucial for enterprises to understand the risks and protect themselves by starting contract negotiations with their vendors now."
As to other factors, the use of virtualised servers could prove expensive if software houses charge on total potential server space rather than space used. The report finds that "potential savings in hardware can be eliminated by rising fees".
Gartner recommends companies to ensure that price increases for dual-core licences should not exceed the 25 per cent currently charged by Microsoft. In addition, they should insist that they are not penalised on charges stemming from other technical advances.
"I think the software houses will come to their senses on dual-core; for me virtualisation is more of a problem," said James Governor, principal analyst at Redmonk.
"We are just coming out of a prolonged downturn and may be heading into another, and that is not the environment where software companies slap their customers around.
"The notion that software companies will screw everyone on multi-core machines, well I don't see that happening."
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