Autodesk network to subscription licenses, plan your way

Autodesk is determined to move all its customers from using the network licensing model to a subscription or named user model. It is important that a comprehensive cost/benefit analysis is done before deciding what action to take, even if top management is pressurizing for a resolution to the situation.

While the network model is generally better for most organizations, there is  no one-size-fits-all answer to the dilemma, some companies might even benefit from switching to the named user model.

What would be a good methodology to consider the switch? We could apply a two-stage process.

Stage One, Identify your Baseline.

  1. Know your current maintenance costs.
  2. Count the number of unique users that you currently have
  3. Multiply the subscription cost by the number of users to understand what your annual cost will be.

Compare the price per year. If the subscription cost is higher than the current perpetual cost, refuse to upgrade. The difference you see now is the MINIMAL amount of money you can save!

If the subscription cost is equal to or lower than the current perpetual cost, move to the next stage that is checking if you currently utilize your license correctly and that you have not been missing out on potential savings.

Based on our experience, depending on the efforts one is willing to invest it is possible to get 100% more usage from the existing license pool, sometimes more. This would mean that you could decrease your licensing costs by 50% or more. In order to achieve this, you will need to have a software tool that will help you to optimize your license usage. The better the software you employ, the higher savings you will achieve.

Stage Two: Identify Where You can Optimize Usage
There are two main areas that require attention:-

  • your license server configuration
  • how both dedicated and network licenses are being utilized

License servers – the more license servers you have, the less optimized your configuration. License server consolidation is one of the most efficient ways to improve access to license pools. In the case of multi-nationals, it is not always possible to consolidate all the servers into a single centralized pool, because the licensing agreements were entered into with regional subsidiaries or partners of Autodesk and they are treated as separate entities. Even so, there will be at least a few consolidations possible, which has additional benefits in that the number of license servers is reduced and the complexity of managing the licenses is reduced as well.

Current License Utilization – Dedicated Licenses

A comprehensive audit of which licenses are being used and by whom is the next step. In the previous step we paid attention to the concurrent license pools. There is a good possibility that there are quite a few dedicated licenses on site. Sometimes granting a user a dedicated license makes sense, where that user spends most of their time using AutoCAD or Revit, for example. What often happens is that a dedicated or named user license was obtained for a short-term need, like a special project, and the user no longer uses it to the extent that a dedicated license is necessary. Going forward, such users can access licenses from the concurrent pool. As you are still evaluating whether subscription licenses will work for you, you should leave these licenses as is for now, bearing in mind the cost savings of dispensing with them.

Current License Utilization – Network Licenses

Once the license pools have been reconfigured, it is time to check what the actual utilization looks like. Data must be gathered on:-

  • Who is consuming the license?
  • On which workstation is it being used?
  • Where there are several software versions, which license is being used?
  • What time of day is the license being used, which aids in understanding usage peaks and troughs?
  • How long is the license session between access and release of the license?

If you are relying on Autodesk’s license manager software, you may find that this information is not readily available to you. This is where a dedicated license management software tool becomes useful. When you want to take the next step and start optimizing usage, the tool will quickly become worth its weight in gold.

However, just by using the basic information you have gathered, you will have identified areas for further investigation, such as:-

  • Should a user have access and why are they using the software? Maybe they just need a viewer to see a drawing, they are not actually drafting or designing
  • Why is the server underutilized?
  • Why are you getting denials when the server is not being heavily utilized?
  • Are users who book out a license for the whole day actually using the tool all day, or is it idle most of the time?
  • Are there users who do not release the software when they are finished, they keep it booked out overnight.

Autodesk’s license manager will definitely not give you all this information. You need a tool like OpenLM’s License Parser to understand what is really happening. Below is an example of reporting on license utilization from one of OpenLM’s customers.


AutoCAD license utilization at an OpenLM customer

This chart shows how the licenses are utilized realtime. You can see from this graph that, although 70 licenses have been purchased, this could be reduced to 30 licenses without any significant change in quality of service.

First Conclusions

By this stage, you will already have a clearer view on whether subscription licenses are cost-effective for your organization. You might already find that the costs outweigh the benefits. This is even before you have started on your license optimization. You might even have identified that the pros and cons are pretty evenly balanced at this stage. It is premature to decide at this stage. We recommend that you implement some changes that will optimize utilization of your license pool(s) further. Once you have done this, you will get a clear view of your Autodesk license future.

Some Changes that will Reduce License Waste

The changes described below require targeted reporting to implement them. You will not be able to extract this data from your Autodesk license manager. The cost savings that you will achieve will more than pay for good license management software that is written to satisfy the customer’s needs rather than the vendor’s requirements.

Introduce Chargebacks

If you do not charge licensing costs back to the respective business units that use the licenses, even your best managers are pretty relaxed about usage. Start charging back to cost centers and see how things change. The license costs will affect the bottom line for most managers, and they will start monitoring usage and cutting down on unnecessary use. You will be able to make this easier for them by providing reporting on idle licenses within their cost centre, which is part of the next change.

Actively Manage Idle Licenses

If you have not been able to manage idle licenses before, you will find that most users are very lax about checking a license back when they are not using it. You need reporting that will alert you to idle licenses. You can either “harvest” these licenses manually, or automate harvesting to occur after a certain elapsed number of idle minutes. Below are several reports available in OpenLM on idle licensing, from selected customer sites.

List of idle licenses and elapsed time

It is easy to see from the display above which licenses need to be reclaimed. You also have the option to close the application or just remove the license. It may occur that you have a peak period and licenses are in short supply. You may decide to close the licenses for a low priority group to free them for another group who have top priority. However, this is not necessary in this case; here are 10 licenses you can harvest right away:-


Licenses that have been idle for over an hour

You can even interrogate usage on a per license basis. Here is an example below.

The effect of harvesting is that your actual licensing utilization will drop quite dramatically. You will now be getting a far more accurate picture of your Autodesk license requirements. By now you should have discovered that you have more network licenses than you need for the actual current usage, like our customers who had 70 licenses but only needed 30. You might even have discovered “shelf” licenses, licenses that are completely unused, but you are still renewing the license and maintenance agreements for them. You will also have identified serial offenders who “hog” licenses and can apply some change management.

You are now ready to make an evaluation of whether you should move to Autodesk subscription licenses or not.

Will Subscription Licenses Work for Us? Some Assumptions

  1. There is huge industry pushback on the move to subscription licenses. We are not alone.
  2. The different features and products that are available in the subscription do not affect the decision-making process, we are deciding at vendor level.
  3. We would like to keep the same service level we have now.
  4. This was a preliminary exercise. We can optimize even further.
  5. There might be a case for a few subscription licenses (e.g. full-time draughtsmen)

With the data we have collected from our investigation, we can make an informed and objective decision on whether adopting subscription licenses and retiring concurrent licenses will work for us or not.

Graphical analysis of network licenses compared to subscription

  • In the graph above, the blue line is the named license requirement, where each user needs a subscription. This is a one-to-one relationship and creates a 45% angle.
  • The red line is the best case for concurrent license utilization. Some customers have even achieved a ratio of 1:5 licenses/users, but the average is probably 1:1.5
  • The orange line is a more realistic adjusted network license utilization.
  • Both the red and orange lines will be unique to your organization.
  • The saving exists in the area between the blue and the orange lines and is represented by the green arrow.

What are Autodesk offering?

The subscription option is not cheap- the solution is a package with multiple products, which you may not need and is almost €4000 per user. Even the discounted cost per user for 5 years is almost €15 000.

Subscription multi user – This is a subscription option where the user does not log in using his login credentials (user name and password), but logs in via the network and the license manager authenticates him,which is more flexible than the named user alternative.

Keeping your network licenses – Autodesk is increasing your maintenance costs over the next few years, which will erode the value of your concurrent pool – if you decide to continue paying maintenance costs. The original license purchase is a sunk cost and does not affect the calculation.

Market Forecast

Another factor that is vital in your considerations is your projections on your organization’s growth over the next few years.

Optimistic Scenario

The company will continue to perform well, new projects will come in regularly and we will need more licenses to support our growth. We have the following options:-
Subscription – we will need to buy subscription per user. – no other options
Network – squeeze more usage out of the existing license server (possible!!) OR buy some additional subscriptions.

Pessimistic Scenario

Economy is depressed -the company has lost projects, needs to scale back and needs less licenses –
Subscription – In the first three years, giving up any license will cause a loss of the discount benefit on subscriptions. After the first three years, giving up subscriptions has no effect.
Network – can reduce the usability and keep for better times and consider stopping maintenance in the short-term.

Other Considerations

You need some additional modules that are included in the latest industry package or the “one” Autodesk, but not in your current agreement. In this case consider buying a few subscriptions, without changing tour network pool.

What Most Customers have Told us

We stayed with our network agreement and purchased few subscriptions by swapping a few concurrent licenses to take advantage of the discount. We now have the benefit of having a hybrid license environment. We allocated the named licenses to a handful of power users and let the majority of users rely on the network licenses – we still have the benefit of the concurrent pool which costs less because of the licenses we converted to subscription licenses.

Even with a clear view of your actual current usage, this is not an easy decision to make, which is why most customers have hedged their bets by opting for a hybrid model.

Managing Autodesk Licenses Effectively

Optimizing license usage is often overlooked at engineering companies, even when trying to contain costs in the IT budget. When times are tough, this is a quick and easy way to reduce costs. Even when the orders are rolling in, there is no need to spend money on licenses that are surplus to your requirements. Many of OpenLM’s customers have used our license management software to trim down their license portfolio of excess licenses, especially licenses from the Autodesk family.

The recent changes made by Autodesk to their licensing policy going forward have made it even more critical for customers to keep a tight control over their Autodesk license usage.

While Autodesk provide the Flexera license manager to customers, which does provide some information of how licenses are being used within the company, it has been designed from the vendor’s viewpoint of ensuring compliance. To get the transparency and control that every license administrator needs, a customer-centric software product is needed. OpenLM was originally designed by license managers who worked at a site that made extensive use of ArcGIS , and had the same challenges. Their success in building software that helped companies manage ESRI licenses next expanded to helping Autodesk customers with their AutoCAD, Revit and other software.

The  License Administrator’s Wishlist

The license manager needs deep insights into how any vendor’s licenses are utilized. This is needed on a daily basis for optimizing usage, periodically for management reporting and annually or on demand to plan and forecast license requirements for the next year or for an anticipated project. This is rarely available to the extent needed using a vendor’s license management tool, and it is recommended that license management software that is vendor-agnostic is investigated. The features that a good license management package should provide include:-

  • Visibility into license usage on at least a minute-by-minute basis
  • Minimising license denials to users
  • Easy identification of idle licenses
  • The ability to “harvest” idle licenses, either automatically or manually
  • Messaging options to inform users of license availability where they were denied
  • The ability to see a consolidated view of licenses where there are multiple pools and named users
  • Comprehensive reporting that can be used for management reporting to management
  • Financial reporting on usage across the organization  that supports chargebacks to cost centers and projects, based on their usage
  • Forecasting to indicate a need to purchase or dispense with licenses, both on a regular basis and for annual license renewals or new projects
  • A graphical interface that allows the license administrator to manage licenses for a product without having to log in to the vendor’s product to make changes.

To really understand and test for these features, the software should be evaluated on a trial basis. OpenLM is confident that they provide all these features for Autodesk  software products as well as thousands of other engineering software tools.

The Daily License Challenge

Most engineering software can be bought under a concurrent or network user model, which enables the company to buy the minimum of licenses needed to satisfy user demand. The license administrator has to perform a balancing act between keeping his users happy and productive by always having licenses available, while managing the license pool effectively and avoiding further purchases.

To do this, he needs to manage idle licenses. Users have a tendency to book out licenses at the start of day and not return them until the end of day, even when they are away attending meetings or on-site. Some users also will hang on to their licenses overnight, so that they do not need to book them out again when they come into work the next morning.

The license administrator needs to be able to take control over idle licenses and “harvest” them, releasing them back into the pool. The amount of time that a license is allowed to remain idle and whether the session is saved or not will depend on the individual requirements of the company and should have a defined policy and business rules.

He also needs an early warning system that licenses are being denied (although angry users phoning in will happen in any case). OpenLM, with their knowledge of what it is like to be in the driver’s seat, have built these features for Autodesk customers:-

  • License denial reporting
  • Real-time reporting on usage
  • Reporting on inactive, hanging or otherwise unavailable licenses
  • The ability to harvest idle and unused licenses and release them back into the pool
  • The option to suspend, save or terminate an idle session
  • The ability to automatically notify users who were denied that a license is now available for them
  • Distinguishing between “true” denials and denials where the software was available and booked out shortly after the denial
  • Extensions and other aids that allow the license administrator to build business rules, add alerts or otherwise customise OpenLM to fit the customer’s environment

The provision of all these features makes idle license management a breeze. For customers like Array Architects, they were able to confirm their suspicions that users were not releasing their software at and of day, and could now release all those licences, so that the entire pool was available at the start of the next business day.

Feedback and Reporting

OpenLM has fine-tuned the management of Autodesk software products to second-by-second visibility. Reports showing usage statistics, daily peaks and troughs of user demand and usage by group are all standard. There is also an extension that enables the license administrator to create custom reports.  Anything that needs to be known about AutoCAD licenses or any other Autodesk product can be reported on.

  • Consolidated views of multiple license servers, user groups is enabled
  • Heat maps and graphs on license usage come standard with the application
  • Forecasting for renewals is available
  • Financial reporting for chargebacks based on usage is a standard feature
  • Accurate reporting on usage, that can be compared against Autodesk’s calculations.

These reports can demonstrate to the executive how well license optimization is progressing, as well as quantifying cost savings and ROI. Many of our customers have achieved an ROI in under three months of use.  

Going Forward

The determination of Autodesk to discontinue all network licenses and offer only subscription licenses in the future is a headache for most customers who have a considerable investment in Autodesk products and use concurrent licensing to get the best value for their money.  Every organization will have to do an evaluation of what a conversion to subscription licenses will cost them and whether they should go ahead with the change while the discounted price is still available. OpenLM provides the intelligence to make a decision based on an accurate assessment of the situation.

Finding a pot of gold in your software license portfolio

A substantial part of the budget of any company is taken up by IT, especially in engineering, healthcare and scientific organizations. For this reason, most CFOs scrutinize any capex or opex emanating from the IT division. One of the recurring costs that is laid out there in black and white will be for software licensing. The CFO will be unhappy about this ever-increasing cost, but regards it as an important part of compliance; after all, he does not want to be subject to a software audit that finds the company has compromised their license agreement and are now subject to a punitive fine. The number of licenses purchased and how efficiently they are used is rightly regarded as the CIO’s responsibility.

The CIO’s Challenge

The CIO, in turn, does his best to optimize license usage, by buying concurrent user licenses where possible and then monitoring that these licenses are used as efficiently as possible. However, if he is relying on the license management software provided by the vendor, the visibility of what is really happening is limited; the software is provided to help the vendor monitor usage, rather than the customer. Some organizations  that have never paid much attention to engineering and scientific software licensing costs, especially where licenses are acquired for every project and those costs are passed on to the customer. In these organizations, the licenses are often not under the control of IT, but are looked after by the relevant engineering department or project.

This does not mean that there are not IT shops who actively monitor and report on their concurrent licenses, but good license management results in demonstrable cost savings, and the CIO will obviously not downplay his success in cost reduction. There will also be readily available reports, which the CFO should take the time to understand.

Are The Cost of Engineering Licenses Often Overlooked?

The CFO is aware of licensing costs. After all the company usually has ERP, accounting and human capital software with which he is closely involved, as well as general office software, such as Microsoft Office, and will probably have several cloud-based applications like SalesForce. For these software products he has a close involvement in the licensing and renewals, but they tend to be on a per-seat or per user basis. This might be why so many CFOs leave money on the table when it comes to engineering software. The CFO will question the acquisition of new hardware, such as a high-spec laptop for the engineering department, but accept that new licenses need to be loaded on to the laptop. The fact that these licenses can cost far more than the laptop is often missed.

What a CFO can do to Mitigate these Costs

Tracking licensing costs for scientific and engineering software is a very labor-intensive task, especially if done manually. A diplomatic first step to get the information required, would be to request a new set of reports that show the number of licenses purchased, in use and the level of their utilization. There will probably be some resistance from the CIO, mainly because these values are very difficult if not impossible to determine using the vendor-supplied software. Any arguments can be countered by conceding that a reasonable budget will be allocated for getting the right software to do the job, but that this must be done as soon as possible. By showing empathy and understanding of the problem, there is no implication that the CIO has neglected to look after his licenses. It might even be the case that he has no control over these licenses, because the engineers buy and manage them directly.

Where this is the case, there may need to be some additional work to bring the license back under IT’s management. Whatever the situation, the reporting will be an eye-opener.

Finding the Money

There are three main sources of unnecessary spending or “waste” on licenses:-

  • unused licenses, or “shelfware”.
  • single-user or named user licenses that are only used occasionally
  • a concurrent or network license pool with poor utilization.

Shelfware. Unused licenses are commonly found where a set of new licenses was procured for a new project, and the project is now completed or the phase of the project where they were needed has passed. What tends to happen with these licenses is that license renewals are entered into without checking that they are needed. These licenses can immediately be dispensed with, you have enough licenses without them.

Single-User Licenses. It is often valid to purchase a single-user license for a resource who uses the software daily and for most of the day. However, there needs to be real justification for retaining them, rather than assigning the user to the concurrent user pool and freeing up the license, to be exchanged for a concurrent license or terminated. Single-user licenses are cheaper, but not if they are not used extensively.

Concurrent Licenses. Concurrent licenses cost more but can be used much more efficiently because users draw them from a pool and (hopefully) return them to the pool when they are finished (good license management software can manage that too by “harvesting” idle licenses). Ensuring that concurrent licenses are used to the maximum is not an overnight job, but the CIO should be able to demonstrate gradual improvement month-by-month once he has the right software to see what is really going on. We have several case studies where customers have used OpenLM to optimize concurrent license usage.

This may seem like an exercise that will result in small savings, but if you take the cost of these licenses into account, some companies have realized over a $1,000,000 by reducing their license overhead. It depends which software you use, but when you consider the price of Catia, Solidworks, Revit or AutoCad, it would be foolish not to get rid of licenses you don’t really need.

How Array Architects Reduced Waste in their Software Licensing

Array Architects is a specialist architectural enterprise which provides services to the healthcare industry. Through innovative advisory services, planning and design, Array provides a new paradigm in healthcare where the traditional oppressive and dull working spaces of hospitals and clinics become welcoming and positive. This is a vital contribution to the well-being both of those who are being treated and their relatives and friends.

The Challenge

Healthcare is undergoing rapid transformation in this digital age; patients are no longer numbers, they are customers, and a customer-centric and holistic approach to treating them is becoming the norm. Array’s designs are at the forefront of this change. In addition to providing an encouraging environment for treatment, their work equally recognizes the challenges of the healthcare institutions to manage their assets efficiently; Array applies Lean principles in their design approach, both eliminating waste and gearing up the built environment to be flexible and responsive to change. Array is based in the United States, with eight regional offices, with their headquarters located in Pennsylvania.

Applying Lean Principles to Software Assets

While Array is applying Lean principles to their design projects, they identified areas within the firm which needed to improve efficiency. One of these areas was software license management. While concurrent licenses for AutoCAD and Revit had been purchased from Autodesk, Daniel R. Cadden, Array IT Director, wanted better visibility into how these licenses were being utilized. He had optimized his asset management by installing one centralized license server and purchasing 66 concurrent licenses which could be utilized by 90 users, but felt sure that the situation could be improved. Daniel was aware of the fact that users would book out a license and leave their workstations open overnight without closing the application. Other users would simultaneously book out AutoCAD and Revit or two different versions of the same product.

Visibility and transparency are key to Lean practices, and the license manager provided by Autodesk was not providing Daniel with the insights he needed. He investigated the license manager market and decided on OpenLM, based both on its keen pricing and its ability to help manage Autodesk products.

Initial investigation and implementation

To make sure that OpenLM was the product Array needed, it was evaluated and tested for 60 days prior to making a purchasing decision. This was in the summer of 2016. OpenLM provides various paths to implementation and its ease of installation, as well as advice from Michael of OpenLM Support, made it a painless process with a short demonstration as well as active support. Daniel also used the PDQ Deploy tool to get up and running in an hour.

Successful Outcomes

Daniel already knew that some staff were leaving their licenses booked out overnight, but now he had proof. While this did not necessarily change user behavior, Array no longer has to start the day without a full complement of licenses available. Open licenses are suspended and returned to the pool. Daniel’s main requirement is that all Autodesk network licenses are managed efficiently and smoothly, for which OpenLM is fulfilling all expectations. Other features, such as reporting, have not been explored to any extent. Array has upgraded since the original purchase to OpenLM version 4.1. They also purchased OpenLM Active Agent for 90 machines. The Active Agent extension facilitates and automates the harvesting of idle licenses in several ways, such as saving the work done in the session, closing the license and returning it to the pool.

“OpenLM has been an essential tool to manage and control the use of our licenses”  Daniel R. Cadden Array IT Director

Array architects Case study

AutoCAD 2019 – What is Autodesk’s Strategy?

Autodesk has released AutoCAD 2019, the “One” AutoCAD recently to a less than rapturous response. It is called the “One” because it replaces all the AutoCAD verticals, namely:-

  •     Architecture (previously known as AutoCAD Architecture)
  •     Mechanical (previously known as AutoCAD Mechanical)
  •     Electrical (previously known as AutoCAD Electrical)
  •     Map 3D previously known as AutoCAD Map 3D)
  •     MEP (previously known as AutoCAD MEP)
  •     Raster Design (previously known as AutoCAD Raster Design)
  •     Plant 3D (previously known as AutoCAD Plant 3D)

with one all-embracing package. There is one exception, AutoCAD Civil 3D, which will remain as a stand-alone product – maybe it should be called “the Other One”. The reason for AutoCAD Civil 3D being excluded is that it is being rewrapped as a BIM tool, tightly coupled to Infraworks, rather than one of the AutoCAD offerings and was renamed on April 13th as Autodesk Civil 3D.

With a new release, as a user, one looks for new features and enhancements, which seem to be limited mainly to online and mobile enhancements, although 2D graphic performance has been dramatically boosted. For companies that have hundreds of users working off desktops, the web and app enhancements are irrelevant.

On careful examination, it appears that Autodesk’s focus is internal rather than customer-focused. Firstly, it is looking to streamline its support services by reducing the number of products, although this will not reduce the volume or complexity of service calls from the different engineering disciplines.

However, combining all the products into one offering is only part of the strategy. Autodesk is relentless in its drive to eliminate perpetual licenses.

Unwelcome News for Perpetual License Holders

They say there is no such thing as bad publicity, and this is definitely a slogan in which Autodesk implicitly believes. The “One” AutoCAD is available only to subscription license holders. Not only are perpetual license holders excluded from acquiring the new AutoCAD product, they have already been notified last year that there will be a considerable price hike for their maintenance agreements. These are:-

  •     a 5% increase for 2017
  •     a 10% increase for 2018,
  •     and a massive 20% hike for 2019.

This rise in maintenance costs is intended to make the perpetual license less attractive, however it also makes the idea of renewing one’s maintenance agreement less attractive.

When you consider that many of these customers have been using AutoCAD for 10-20 years, this must be causing them to seriously rethink their dependency on AutoCAD. Surprisingly, the reaction via social media appears to be quite muted.

It must also be noted that subscription users also have a 7% price increase, and that the transition from one of the vertical offerings such as Mechanical or Plant 3D is not seamless. There are also licensing considerations, such as when the subscription expires, that add complexity to the transition. The Autodesk website has a series of FAQs around the change to 2019.

Autodesk claims that bundling all, or almost all of the special disciplines into one package will give the customer greater flexibility to change their business model and use the other “toolsets”, as the verticals are now known. The question is, is an electrical engineering company really happy to know that they can use Plant 3D for P&I design without having to enter into a new contract?

What will the Long-Term Effects be?

That remains to be seen. We saw earlier how ESRI had to backtrack on their plans of eliminating perpetual licenses due to user backlash. ESRI claimed that they listened to their customers and had a rethink about their strategy. In this Age of the Customer, Autodesk seems to have no regrets about pushing ahead with the One AutoCAD and backing perpetual users into a corner.

Unsurprisingly, Autodesk’s competitors have welcomed the news. Bentley already started offering disgruntled AutoCAD users attractive discounts to move to Microstation a couple of years ago. Solidworks too, is tempting Autodesk users to make the move. One of the most successful contenders is probably Bricsys, who have compiled a free 350-page book to help AutoCAD users migrate to BricsCAD.

Another surprising development is a growing secondary market in AutoCAD perpetual licenses in Europe. European law allows the original purchaser to on-sell his software license when he no longer needs it. This is probably only valid where the buyer is located in a EU country or the UK until Brexit takes place, and the vendor is required to offer the same support to the new customer that the old customer would have had. This ruling has been accepted by Autodesk, as they are subject to the legislation, and the change is a fairly simple process, with a four-page form to fill in and return to Autodesk, who then effect the transfer.

It will be interesting to look backwards on AutoCAD 2019 from 2022 or even earlier, to see if Autodesk’s strategy worked for them or not. Perpetual license-holders have the options of giving in, continuing to purchase maintenance agreements at ever-increasing prices, dropping the maintenance license agreements or taking their loyalty to another company entirely. Perhaps Autodesk will rethink their strategy in the near future, much as ESRI did.

AutoCAD License Manager – It’s OK, But You Need More

Users of AutoCAD are found in a diversity of industries from consumer products like golf clubs to oil and gas plant and piping design and drilling platforms. This useful and versatile software does not come cheap, with individual licenses starting at $1575. While there are small businesses who rely on AutoCAD and only need one or two licenses, larger companies need many licenses for their large drawing offices and multiple projects. In such cases, it is impossible to manage license management effectively using manual procedures and spreadsheets. Most AutoDesk implementations come with  license manager Flexera, the most widely used solution in this arena. It is designed to control allocation of licenses, monitor license compliance, which is useful for any company that does not want to fall foul of a license audit, but even more useful for AutoDesk, who needs to keep a watchful eye on how their licenses are being used, especially where a concurrent license agreement has been chosen with the Token-Flex agreement.

Managing Multiple Users on a Network

A network license is a concurrent license that can be used by any user with access rights, and is an efficient way of minimizing the number of licenses in the inventory while catering for a large group of users. Some companies achieve a ratio of three users per license or even better. For this licensing option the license management software is loaded on to one or more network license servers and can be used by the license administrator to grant, manage and remove access rights to the company’s users.  The AutoDesk license manager also gathers statistics on usage for billing purposes and does help to a certain extent with managing productive license usage. However, if something more advanced than a “License Manager 101” is required, it is advisable to invest in additional license manager software that was written for the customer, rather than the vendor. This is where OpenLM comes into play: it is written specifically to make license management and administration easier and more productive from the customer’s perspective and provide valuable insight to license usage in the organization.

Why OpenLM is a Really Good Investment

OpenLM is a license management tool designed specifically for the engineering sector, but is also used in manufacturing and construction, and any other environment where engineering software is part of the user toolset. It operates in real-time and can be used to monitor many of the most widely used engineering software products on a per-minute or even a per-second basis.  Some of the capabilities of OpenLM include:-

  • The ability to detect idle licenses and “harvest” them (disconnect the user’s access and free the license back into the license pool for another user to access).
  • A feature that enables the license administrator to maintain the FlexLM Options file directly from OpenLM without having to access AutoDesk’s license manager, for functions such as the granting or revoking of access rights.
  • Flexible and in-depth reporting, notably the usage of AutoDesk tokens and where they are costing more because of the AutoDesk time-slot management and pricing model.
  • Special extensions that offer even more value-add, such as a newly introduced reporting add-on that allows you to create custom reports using any of the data that OpenLM can extract.

A Cost-Effective and Easy-to-Use Solution

OpenLM can be installed for a free evaluation by anyone interested in an effective license management solution. During the trial evaluation period, most customers are impressed with its easy to use interface, and find they do not need much assistance in getting up and running. The ability to manage, not just AutoCAD, but other engineering licenses, such as Catia, Solidworks and ArcGIS, through a single product cannot be overemphasized. No longer does the license administrator need to remember the quirks of every license manager software supplied by their vendor (such as Sentinel RMS or IBM LUM).  And, it’s competitive pricing adds a sizeable weight to the ROI.

For an organization that is heavily invested in AutoCAD, all the facts needed to maximize productivity are at your fingertips, simultaneously minimizing licensing costs while maximizing availability for your concurrent users. Get more detail about AutoDesk and OpenLM.

Quicktips: License Usage by Group

Did you ever need to report license usage by group? Many license administrators want this capability for a variety of different reasons, among them chargeback – to help the organization charge the appropriate department or project according to usage, and allocation – to help them decide whether certain groups should be given preference over others.

Using the OpenLM Group Usage extension gives you that capability. You can synchronize with MS Active Directory entities such as organizational units, or build groups of your own.

In the OpenLM License Usage report, you can clearly view usage of different groups each represented by a different colored line on the chart, done by checking the checkbox labeled “Display separate chart lines for each group”

You can display any combination of groups by marking those required in the filter, as shown above.

See it demo’d in the next live OpenLM Extensions webinar.


Software License Types Explained

Named and Node-Locked Licenses (Fixed)

Traditional software licensing was simple; a license was obtained for each user, and there was a fixed license charge, which could be discounted if there was a large user base. This license model is still available today, but it is not very efficient, because only one person has access to the software, and it lies idle when they are not using it. In recognition of the limited utilization, these licenses are cheaper than multi-use licenses. They can be tied to a specific user or a specific workstation.

“Hard” Licenses

This license is still popular among engineering vendors. The license is managed via a USB key or dongle. Access to the software is via the device. This does allow sharing, because plugging the key into one’s laptop allows access, and the vendors are keen to point out that offline access is available via this method. However, lose or damage the key at your peril; you will have to purchase another license. Some vendors recommend that you get insurance equivalent to the license value to mitigate this risk. Vendors who use this form of licensing tend to supply very specialized engineering software that only a few users at a company will need, and it can be the best option where the work is done at remote sites with no online or internet access.

Concurrent Licensing

Large customers who required hundreds of fixed software licenses or a site license pushed vendors to come up with a more flexible, multi-user option, and this has come to be known as concurrent licensing, floating licensing or network licensing. Concurrent licensing offers the customer the best option when it comes to licensing efficiency. The license caters for a maximum number of concurrent users at any one time. In a concurrent environment, if all the licenses are booked out, the next user to try and “pull” a license from the licensing “pool” will be denied access until a license is freed. This license model requires skilful management to balance between the number of licenses purchased and the maximum number of users at peak times. The concurrent license costs more than the named or single-user license, but a good administrator can achieve a 3:1 ratio or better on users to licenses.

Vendors have been trying to discontinue concurrent licensing with very mixed results. Esri had to backtrack on their initiative when their ArcGIS user community pushed back (A very good reason to join user groups). Autodesk are also having less than spectacular results with token licenses.

“Pay-as-you-Go” or Token Licenses

This is a new addition to the batch of software license types. While the concept of paying as you use a product initially makes some sense, it has not been well received by customers. In comparison to the floating license model, rather than limiting concurrent usage, the user organization is free to use the software without limits, instead spending tokens for each use. Autodesk has recently introduced this model, and the benefit is that all Autodesk products are available under this software license type. Unfortunately they have made it complex  and difficult to understand by pricing usage differently depending on the software chosen; for instance Revit MEP uses more tokens than AutoCAD. There is also a time-of-day factor that can result in relatively high charges. One of the main hurdles users need to overcome with this model is effective forecasting and budgeting . Forecasting is difficult enough with concurrent and fixed licenses, so how many tokens are needed for next year is very difficult to estimate.

For more on the Autodesk model and how it works, please refer to this blog post on the subject.

How do Vendors Track License Usage?

Knowing how and when licenses are being used requires vendors to provide license control software, although some vendors do not even provide this feature. This has created a software niche of companies who provide license tracking applications, of which the most widely used is Flexera. The license control software is loaded on to a special license server or server cluster and it performs asset tracking and license access from there. While the software does assist the license administrator to some extent by providing a vehicle to grant access rights, its primary purpose is to restrict access according to license package purchased and to collect software usage data on behalf of the vendor.

The  administration of licenses is made more complex because there are different license control applications used by the vendors, each with their own rules and reporting, although most of them use FLEXlm from Flexera. To give you an idea of the challenge; here are some vendors and the license control software they use.

  • Autodesk       Flexera Flexlm
  • Bentley          Own product
  • Dassault        Dassault’s own manager for products such as CATIA
  • Deltacad        Reprise License Manager
  • InterGraph   Intergraph SPLM

The license administrator is faced with the challenge of managing each vendor’s toolsets individually, with no overarching view of his license landscape.

How Can YOU Manage YOUR Licenses?

In an engineering environment, there are far too many software applications (with or without vendor-supplied license management software) to manage effectively and produce reporting that will satisfy the CIO and CFO. Fortunately, there is another niche of license management software that monitors and even manages licenses from the customer’s viewpoint. This software is written expressly to help the license administrator get the best out of his portfolio. OpenLM is one of the companies that has focused on the varied and complex engineering software market, and has solutions tailored to make any license administrator’s life easier by offering:-

  • the ability to gauge license utilization and efficiency with a common application that provides one form of user interface and reporting across products and vendors.
  • Tracking of utilization per second on a large range of the most commonly used engineering software products, such as AutoCAD and ArcGIS and per minute on others.
  • Managing access in addition to that of the vendor’s license manager
  • The ability to “harvest” unused licenses for some software products, and release them back into the pool.
  • Comprehensive reporting that can be used to audit the vendor’s asset tracking and license control report
  • Extensions that allow the administrator to perform analytics on the license data, set time of day restrictions, notify users when a license becomes available and other useful activities.

You can evaluate OpenLM for 30-days without commitment. All the extensions – add-ons that provide enhanced functionality – are included in the evaluation.

After a short time, you will see the true value of visibility over your floating licenses. You will see that OpenLM is more than a useful application; it is value for money and brings you a quick return on your investment.

See more. Sign up for a live webinar


Quicktips – License Usage by Time of Day

Did you know that OpenLM can let you control software license usage by conditions that even many license managers don’t know how to handle?

For example, one of the features of OpenLM’s most recent extension – App Manager – is to permit or deny use of the app according to time of day.  Another condition you can set is to restrict the user to only certain versions of the application. First you need to set up the condition. Below you can see how simple this is. In the condition editor window, you select the argument type time, set operation to ‘after’ and value to 10:00.

app manager Condition Editor time

Next you set up the rule – a new rule called ‘Deny USA after 10:00’. The condition we defined above is marked as well as another condition that had been defined previously – ‘groups include USA’. Finally an action of ‘Deny’ is specified for the rule. See below.

app manager rules - time

Another possible condition you can include in the rule is the version of the software,  defined below.

app manager Condition Editor version

An example of a rule using this condition is shown below. In this case it is used in conjunction with another condition ‘application’ and an action of ‘Allow’ is marked as shown below.

app manager rules - version

The result of implementing a rule is that when a user tries to launch an application, if it doesn’t match the rules the app will not start and a message similar to the one below is displayed.

app manager message on restriction

The OpenLM App Manager is now being offered free including support for one year to all OpenLM customers with a valid maintenance agreement for OpenLM Pro, Enterprise or Site License configurations.