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Venture Spotlight: Cerno



Cerno’s software license consulting has been brought into the London Ventures portfolio to give London councils the technical, commercial and contractual expertise to reduce unwarranted demands by the large software vendors.


So what’s it all about?

All local authorities now have substantial dependence on software supplied by the major vendors – Oracle, SAP, Microsoft, IBM and Adobe.  However, often the license terms are opaque, the contracts are ambiguous and much rests on particular interpretations placed on the license position by the vendor.

Councils often have a trusting relationship with their software vendors. But those same vendors are increasingly looking to their existing customer base to bolster falling revenues. So, they do not hold back on progressing very searching audits nor on delivering demands on all shortfalls that must be paid.


Nick Preston, CEO of Cerno explained more to us:

Why did the Cerno initiative first start?

‘Having worked in IT for over 25 years I knew that software licensing was very complex with few, apart from the vendors themselves, being able to understand the full picture. Over the last 5 years however, I could see that many major corporates and public sector organisations who were totally dependent on their software systems were being exposed to high penalties through under-licensing – largely inadvertent and often encouraged by the software vendor’s own impenetrable contracts.

Along with leading software lawyers, we determined to redress the balance. Now we have a powerful and cohesive negotiating team comprised of technical, contractual and commercial specialists. The mission is to resist unfair demands and obtain the lowest software licensing costs.’


Do you have a unique selling point?

‘Certainly our contractual + technical + commercial combination is unique and does pay huge dividends.

It’s crucial to us also that we are fully independent: many consultancies are either platinum partners with the vendors or have declared (or hidden) relationships. We fight only for the licensee: we are not there to mediate a deal only to get the best achievable result.’


What are the big issues currently?

‘Certainly virtualisation and use of VMware is a big area of risk with a great deal of contractual uncertainty and a substantial costs impact often triggered by quite small changes in the IT infrastructure.

But the biggest risk is simply not being prepared: it’s now predictable that, whatever your long and trusting relationship might be, you will still get audited and concessions will not be made. It’s hugely risky to allow the vendor in unless you have first done your utmost in both knowing and then minimising your licensing exposure.

Local authorities are often uncomfortable in facing up to a major and continuing supplier. However, with the major European and US software vendors, a very different approach is needed.

Cerno comes in before or after audits in order to defend our clients against excessive and often inaccurate demands’.


Why you should get involved

The benefits of working with Cerno include:

·         Reductions in penalties/ licence fees in software audits/license reviews;

·         Preparatory advice as to deployment and licenses needed in advance of any audit;

·         New purchases and ‘Unlimited License Agreements’ : most appropriate licenses acquired at lowest cost;

·         Removal of jeopardy for unrealised claims;

·         Total software licence costs reduced.


Cerno in a nutshell

Cerno offers expertise in Oracle, SAP, Microsoft, IBM and other vendors. It is an unusual – but necessary – combination of contractual, technical and commercial expertise with no declared (or hidden) relationships with the vendors.

Cerno works in:

  • Strategic review: what might be our current exposure;
  • Audit defence: use the best software contract and licensing specialists to confront unfair demands;
  • New purchases: we advise on best technical deployment to balance with optimum licensing costs;
  • Ongoing support and maintenance: costs reduction and renegotiation.



Find out more… you know you want to

If you want to get involved with Cerno as a borough, go to  or contact Nick Preston ([email protected]) on 07789-000122.

For more information about London Ventures you can contact Lisa Henry ([email protected]).

Have a look at the other innovative products and services in our portfolio on our current ventures page.