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Subscription management, in general, can be anywhere on the spectrum from unnoticeably simple to unbearably painful depending on what company you’re working with, how involved you are with their subscription components, and oftentimes, how educated you are in their policies. 

Here at Red Hat, we understand it hasn't been all rainbows and butterflies when it comes to managing a Red Hat Subscription. But we are working on making this process as smooth and painless as possible for all of our users, regardless of their role, involvement, or training levels. 

I’m here to tell you, we’re working with a goal to achieve "absolute zero" when it comes to how much we require from our customers in order to manage their Red Hat Subscriptions.

Subscription mapping: every admin’s least favorite thing to do

Let’s paint what might seem an all too familiar picture for some: 

After the value of a new subscription is validated and agreed upon, IT admins are ready to scale up their deployment by issuing a new set of licenses to their colleagues and reports. Likely, in advance of this, their procurement team was made aware of the size of the environment that was initially needed and purchased only that number of licenses. 

The IT admin discovers that the quantity of entitlement instances available doesn’t match up directly with what they were expecting. There is rarely a 1:1 subscription to system alignment and what they didn’t realize is - since subscriptions work for physical and virtual systems differently, a single subscription may cover a certain quantity of systems and now they learn the subscription covers a number of cores, or sockets… or both? 

This puts our IT admin in a situation where they need to research how the subscriptions work, and what subscription provides the exact content of the product they’re looking for. All the while the admin is tearing their hair out thinking "I just want to get back to doing my job already."

The painful renewal process

Afterwards, all the subscription counts have been figured out, systems have been deployed and the subscription mapping experience, not quite forgotten, our admin moves forward happily. Until their inbox delivers an email from Red Hat with the subject line: "Your subscriptions are expiring, click here to renew." 

Even though they took painstaking efforts to ensure that the subscription mapping was accurate earlier in the year, of course, things have changed since then. This starts the entire subscription process again - it’s also required that they "renew their certification in subscription management" as they again need to go research the new entitlements all over.

Get back 10-25% of your work week

In a customer poll at Red Hat Summit 2019, we found more than half of the users we spoke to said that Red Hat subscriptions are "moderately challenging" to manage or worse, with reports of spending up to 10 hours a week managing their subscription. Only about 15 percent of customer reported that subscriptions were not at all troublesome. Maybe you are currently dealing with similar subscription issues, wasting somewhere in the ballpark of 10-25% of your work week, bosses breathing down your neck for results, and you’re stuck trying to figure out how to just use the product you already paid for.

Let me tell you about Red Hat’s Simple Content Access. The name couldn’t be more indicative of what we want you to gain from it. We’ve recognized that we previously required extensive domain expertise just to use our product, and we want to take that out of the equation entirely, allowing users to consume our content where, when, and how they want. 

So, how does it work? Put simply (pun absolutely intended), Simple Content Access takes what used to be client level subscription enforcement and relaxes that to an organizational level. Now, rather than looking at individual client systems to confirm subscription status before making content available, we’ve taken a step back and looked at the organizational layer to make sure you’ve paid for the content you want to consume. Minimizing your need to manage subscriptions, you can now register your system, enable the content, and that’s it go consume your content. Simple as that! 

Imagine a world where you never have to think about a pool ID again. A world where virt-who can be run with minimal frequency while freeing up even more resources to run more important workloads. A world where you have a full day back each week to get back to your real job.

Getting Started

Simple content access is currently available for Red Hat Satellite customers (some accounts/regions are currently opt-in only, so if you see a note that your account is administratively disabled, please reach out to your account team and they can work with us in getting this enabled). 

For supported Red Hat Satellite customers, there’s a simple two step enablement process:

  • First, an Organizational Administrator needs to opt-in on your account at the global level. This will enable access to the switches for each manifest in your organization. 

Figure 1: Opting in account to simple content access

  • Second, go to any subscription allocation that you desire to be active, and enable it for that manifest. 

    • Note: As with any manifest updates, this change does require a manifest refresh on your Satellite, so depending on your business requirements this may be encouraged to schedule during your next maintenance window. 

Figure 2: Enabling subscription allocation in Red Hat Satellite

Self Governance and Content Management

Finally, since simple content access removes the need to manage subscriptions on each client, we still want to provide the ability to create some management and governance capabilities. We understand a number of our Satellite customers can be hosting other teams' environments, and may not have any insight into their consumption habits. Additionally, you may want to set some boundaries for your teams to verify that everyone is staying in compliance, or only consuming a certain subset of content in a specific group of systems. So, we wanted to make sure some subscription enforcement is still available so our users don’t unknowingly over consume and can easier track what’s been used. 

  • The first recommendation is to implement Activation Keys, if you haven’t already, and then set host limits to each key. This can be done quite simply, and will provide you with a means to "throttle" usage and avoid any extreme/unexpected usage. 

    Figure 3: Throttling usage

  • Additionally, if Activation Keys are new territory for you, you can assign key factors like System Purpose for assigning Service Levels, or Activation Key Content for assigning hosts to a specific Lifecycle Environment and Content View. 

    • For more detail on how to manage activation keys, check out our available docs.

Subscription Watch

In tandem with simple content access, we’ve just launched an additional tool called Subscription Watch, giving users a single pane view into their organization’s past subscription utilization and allowing for a bit more internal governance so you know what, when, and how you’re using your Red Hat content. 

Figure 4: Subscription Watch graph

Stay tuned for Part 2 to this blog where we’ll cover this in a bit more detail! Now that you’re equipped to go forward and get started in this new subscription experience, head on over to Subscription Central and reclaim some lost time, today!


About the author

Camry Fedei joined Red Hat in 2015, starting in Red Hat's support organization as a Support Engineer before transitioning to the Customer Success team as a Technical Account Manager. He then joined the Management Business Unit in Technical Marketing to help deliver a number of direct solutions most relevant to Red Hat's customers.

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