8 elements of a successful engineering licensing management system

Oren Gabay, OpenLM CEO Podcast

 

With time, engineering systems are evolving and they have complex licensing needs. The licensing norms for these systems are often different from other traditional software. This brings us to the question at large – What are the most important elements of a successful licensing system? Let me take you through eight of the most important features of a good licensing system today.

In this context, we should understand what the utility of the licensing system is in the first place. The product of a licensing system is licensing – allowing engineers to have proper access to software they need while keeping the organization compliant. The other, and arguably more important, benchmark for a licensing system is its ability to help the management optimize cost.

Therefore, a successful licensing system provides a scope for sufficient availability of licenses while minimizing the cost overhead.

A good licensing system should:

1. Consolidate your license servers.

2. Closely monitor your license servers and user activity.

3. Reduce idle time to the minimum.

4. Control all procurement channels of new licenses.

5. Closely control access of users and groups to licenses.

6. Charge cost centers for license usage.

7. Expose license usage information to all stakeholders, including users.

8. Take decisions regarding license maintenance solely on data.

Let me take you through these points in a bit more detail:

Consolidate your license servers – While working with several clients we realized that in many cases organizations do not know what license servers they are in possession of. Many of these license servers were purchased in different periods. At times, branch or nodal offices purchase licenses separately so the central team remains out of the loop. In many cases license servers were used for a specific project and after the conclusion of the project, they remained unaccounted for.

In another instance, organizations were seen purchasing licenses while license servers with the same exact specifications were laying idle with another division or branch of the same company.

Closely monitor your license servers and users’ activity – Collecting continuous license usage information from all license servers is critical to the management of a healthy licensing system. The information allows your organization to make the right decisions, both in the short and the long term. In the short term, the current usage data allows the management to manage the system and allocate licenses to groups, release idle licenses and solve license managers’ problems. In the long term, this data allows the management to make decisions on the structure of the licensing system, procurement of licenses and license allocation to projects.

Reduce idle time to the minimum – Utilization of the license pool is reduced when users have licenses idle on their workstations. Ideally, a provision of license harvesting helps in situations like this – when idle licenses can be allotted to other users in real time. A good licensing system does just that and every license can be utilized to the fullest.

Control all procurement channels of new licenses – An effective licensing system allows for centralized approval for all procurement requests. This effectively increases utility, as it is indeed difficult to make the most out of software if uncontrolled purchases care being made.

Control access of users and groups to licenses – License servers typically allow the license managers to allocate a license to specific users and groups of users.  Options FIle in FLEXlm (FLEXnet publisher) is a classic example. In most of the cases the implementation of this useful capability is based on text files and is designed for small user groups. In order to implement it for large systems, a dedicated platform is necessary.

Charge cost centers for license usage – With data at their possession, the top management can charge cost centers for license usage. This is an extremely important method to increase productivity. It is often observed that when department managers are paying from their budget for license usage, a significant improvement in the utilization of licenses is observed.

Expose license usage information to all stakeholders, including users – When license utilization data is made available to all stakeholders, including the end-users, this provides clarity and increases efficiency.  This can be done by providing the data on a dedicated webpage, a user utility or in periodic reports. Several organizations implement a dashboard to make this data available to all relevant users.

Make decisions regarding license maintenance solely on data – An engineer or the department head may not be able to take financial calls – like discarding or not renewing licenses that are no longer in use.

Such decisions need to be made by people that are looking at pure economic factors and not the functionality of the software. When the management is armed with data from an ideal licensing system they can easily instruct some other department, especially finance, to take over.

I hope I have been able to illustrate the nuances of a good licensing system to you in brief. You can always check our blog and my video channel for updates about engineering licensing.

#licensemanagement #engineering #software #openlm

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OpenLM Agent v4.6.0.3 Released – What’s New?

On February 20th, 2020, OpenLM Agent v4.6.0.3 was released. This version includes a number of bug fixes as well as stability and performance improvements.

A new feature that has been introduced is the ability to set the license level for ArcGIS Pro:

ArcGIS Pro license level setting in OpenLM Agent

Check out the full list of bug fixes and enhancements or download it from our website: https://www.openlm.com/free-trial/

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The Engineering Software Asset Manager – an Unlikely Superhero

One of our community members, David Foxen, recently wrote a lighthearted piece about “The IT asset manager skills you may need that they don’t tell you about”. While David labels the skills required as “tongue-in-cheek”, his comments ring true, especially when one is tasked with managing specialized engineering and scientific software assets. David threw down the gauntlet on this one and we took up the challenge, firstly to add to the list, and then to discuss the challenges in more depth, in the hope that all those making demands of our beleaguered asset managers and license administrators will read the article and empathise with our licensing heroes!

What skills David identified

Legal skills – for understanding the contracts and licensing terms

Negotiation skills – as you end up leading and negotiating your new software contract!

People Management – because Bob wants the latest iPhone, but Susan says that’s not the standard.

Vendor Management – because you are the ITAM pro, so surely own the service and relationships?

Detective Skills — why aren’t you using that piece of software or where on Earth has that Asset gone?

Technical Skills – again, you use the ITAM tool therefore you own it – of course if it’s broken you fix it

Patience – Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will your ITAM function!

We know most of our customers will heartily agree with this list. Here are a few more skills that we know about.

 

Some More Asset Management Skills

 

Explorer – Finding all the organization’s software asset contracts in the first place.

Claims Negotiator – Dealing with vendors and insurance companies when dongles are lost or damaged by engineers with too much on their minds

Subject Matter Expertise – it is assumed that you have an in-depth knowledge of every product in the software asset register, even if you are not an engineer or biotechnician.

Traffic Cop – detecting and dealing with asset hogs and idle licenses

Bereavement Counsellor – when you have to take Joe’s named license for software he hardly uses and assign him to the pool.

Stage Presence – you present to management on why more licenses are/are not needed and win your case

The list is endless; we are sure you have many of your own challenges that we have not listed here! Jokes aside, we are the first to recognise that software asset management is not an easy job – the realization of this gave rise to OpenLM when our founders experienced the joys of managing ArcGIS licenses. Here are some thoughts on what it takes to be a resilient software asset manager in an engineering or scientific environment.

Why we Feel the Engineering Software Asset Manager is a Superhero

1. The Asset Manager often has this Role Thrust upon them

In conventional environments, and when dealing with commonly used suites and packages, like Microsoft Office, the role of asset manager sits firmly in the IT space, although with ERP acquisitions, such as SAP, the oversight of the licenses may be the responsibility of the CFO’s office. When it comes to specialized software, things get complicated. Some companies believe that all software should be managed by IT, who understand how the applications fit into the architecture and how to monitor license compliance, but do not understand the software product itself, or how it is used. Many other companies prefer to leave the administration in the hands of someone who understands how the software works and how critical it is to the business and its users, such as a CAD manager. Then again, there are organizations who do not have centralised control of their software assets, preferring to leave the responsibility of managing the assets with the business unit that uses the software. This works well when there are only a few copies of specialized software, such as a CFD analyser or earthmat designer.

2. The Asset Manager Understands and Manages the Software Customer Experience

However the software and its licenses are managed, each manager responsible for the assets under his care has similar challenges. When you have less licenses than you have users; it is critical to know who gets priority, especially at peak demand times. Just because a user has the entitlement to book out a license does not mean that he is first in the queue; there may be other users on a time-critical project or an expert who uses the software most of the day. This is where a “broad-spectrum” license manager like OpenLM comes in handy, because it allows the asset manager to prioritise license usage, and even make the software unavailable to casual users, by specifying a particular group and/or a time period when the licenses are unavailable, and automating the business rules that drive this choice.

We are all guilty of “hogging” software – it is much easier to check out a license and hold on to it all day, whether you are using it or not, at the same time possibly depriving other users access because there are no free licenses. This is where the Asset Manager can intervene, by saving and closing the software hoarder’s work and putting the license back into the pool.  Harvesting licenses this way is very effective and improves productivity. However, license harvesting cannot be implemented as a manual process, which is where license management software comes in, supporting an automated approach to harvesting based on the company’s unique software policy.

3. He Can, and Does, Save His Company Millions

When it comes to earning company revenue the focus is on Sales and Marketing, who bring in the business. Administrative positions are not seen as contributing to company revenue. This is where the asset manager is a real superhero, because he has the ability to save the organization millions, protecting the company’s earnings, by reducing and avoiding spend on superfluous software purchases. Apart from discovering “shelf” (unused) software and finding the equilibrium between the number of users and the pool of licenses, he can achieve additional savings by proving that there is no need to acquire additional licenses for a new project. Comprehensive reporting also is critical at contract renewal time, where, rather than rolling over the previous agreement or purchasing additional licenses “just in case”, the asset manager can identify exactly how many licenses are needed from any particular vendor. He then has the job to convince CFOs, programme managers and other decision-makers to accept his findings. Again, this is where license management software, such as OpenLM, offers crucial assistance through reporting on usage, peak demand and other factors determining how many licenses are actually needed. Many of our customers indicate that OpenLM pays for itself by allowing them to hold back on buying more licenses or discarding any superfluous licenses when renegotiating their contracts.

Let us Appreciate our Unsung Heroes

The vital role that the asset manager plays is generally underestimated and misunderstood by the rest of the organization. It is not an easy job and often calls for the asset manager to assist outside his scope and mandate. Through educating users and managers about the ins and outs of license management, he is the prime architect in building an organization that has a mature approach to software acquisition and license management, which also gives him the recognition he so richly deserves.

Companies can also acknowledge his capabilities by providing him with the correct toolset to accomplish his goals and objectives. Feel free to contact us to discuss how OpenLM can make the asset manager’s life easier, either with on-site assistance or our managed service alternative.

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OpenLM Server v4.7 Released – What’s New?

On January 31st, 2020, OpenLM Server v4.7.3 was released. This release brings a host of bug fixes as well as several enhancements and features such as:

  • The Feature Usage Per Group/User reports now include a Table view (in addition to Chart view)
  • An “Idle period” column has been added to the “Group by” tab in the License Activity report
  • Enhanced Options file management: the Options Files Management window can now be expanded and a search bar has been added for quick file search
  • The Alerts widget window now has a filter panel with 2 types of filtering available: “New Alerts” and “All Alerts”
  • Software managed by OpenLM Applications Manager is now displayed under its own table in the Audit Report (previously, it was listed as a standard vendor)
  • The OpenLM Server installer is now provided as a stand-alone file, separate from OpenLM Broker. Users can still install Broker by following a link in the installer or downloading it from our website.

The release notes can be found here.

A full-featured, 30-day trial version of the new release is available for download on the OpenLM website. Existing OpenLM users with a valid maintenance agreement can upgrade for free.

Download here: https://www.openlm.com/free-trial/

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OpenLM CEO Annual Webinar: Leading Innovation

Dear friends,

In today’s world, every organization must adapt, transform, and innovate. So how do you drive the type of organizational transformation that shifts leadership behaviors and culture? How do you create a steady environment that ensures the needs of your end-users?

In this webinar, Oren Gabay OpenLM CEO, will share insights from his research and consulting with customers, and future trends. He will reveal OpenLM new solutions and services that will help you overcome the barriers and to lead innovation in your company.

Oren welcomes you to send questions or topics you would like to discuss with him and he will conduct a QA session at the end of the webinar.

The webinar will be conducted 2 times on different days and hours, thus please join the one that best suits your availability.

First session:   January 15th, 17:00 pm CET (Europe) 07:00 (US PDT)
Second session: January 22nd, 20:00 pm CET (Europe) 10:00 ( US PDT)

Join Webinar

Noa Yitzhak
VP Marketing, OpenLM

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When Worlds Collide – Engineering Goes to the Movies

One does not normally associate engineering software with the media and entertainment industry; images of airplanes, buildings, oil rigs and automobiles are far more likely to spring to mind. In fact, scientists and engineers owe a huge debt to the gaming and movie industries for pioneering software that answers one of the major challenges of Industry 4.0; the merging of the virtual and physical worlds. Architects, automobile manufacturers and biotechnology engineers all use rendering software to breathe life into their concepts and designs, in the same way that FX specialists bring characters to life on screen. The outputs may be very different, but they can be created using the same toolsets.

Computer gaming has also had a dramatic impact on the engineering and scientific worlds, because the graphics cards originally designed to support computer and video games have now become indispensable for their parallel processing power. Nvidia and AMD GPUs (graphic processing units) are essential when performing simulations, cutting processing time that previously took days and weeks.

Software vendors were quick to realise the potential of programs like Arnold, Maya and 3DS Max, all of which were acquired by Autodesk, who wanted to corner the market in rendering software for the entertainment and media industries. Movies such as the Avengers, Men in Black 3 and Gravity all used SolidAngle’s Arnold to create the effects we saw in those shows. 3DS Max is also very popular with architects and engineers; companies such as Arup have seen the possibilities of merging art and science. Autodesk has ensured that most of their rendering products interface with their engineering tools, notably Revit. 

Other vendors have also recognised the intersection between science and art. PTC acquired the augmented reality company Vuforia, and Volvo made good use of the product to optimize its supply chain of trucks, which offer thousands of customizable options to prospective customers. Dassault’s 3D modelling has been used in movie making by directors like Luc Besson in the “5th Element”. When we admire the grace and dazzling spectacle of Cirque du Soleil, it is startling to discover that the various props used in the acts have been crafted using SOLIDWORKS, from the Dassault stable. The designer is Eric Spendlove, who started as a stagehand and has progressed to the stage where he runs his own company and has an expertise in the software that many engineers would envy. While Eric taught himself to design with tools like AutoCAD and Solidworks, there are many opportunities for engineers in entertainment.

 

Career Opportunities for Engineers

While technologies and techniques such as 3D modelling and augmented reality have been adopted fairly recently in the engineering industry, the entertainment industry has always had a place for engineers in its ranks, long before design software was available. Walt Disney pioneered his company of “imagineers” nearly 70 years ago, to ideate and create the built environment for Disneyland. Theme parks are a fertile ground for engineers; attractions such as roller-coasters require some ingenious structural engineering, coupled with robust safety in design. Wave and surf parks require intensive understanding of how waves work naturally in order to create artificial surf that keeps surfers happy riding continuous waves and have given rise to specialist companies, such as Spain’s Wavegarden, who are experts in computation fluid dynamics (CFD) and design and build wave parks around the world. Engineers who have specialized in marine and ocean engineering are not limited to careers in shipbuilding and oil and gas, they can apply their knowledge to creating the perfect wave, and even the perfect surfboard, which also benefits from CFD simulation.

There are many other engineering opportunities provided in the world of entertainment, from design and construction of casinos, racetracks, sports stadia and golf courses, to building better sports and gambling equipment. . Academia has recognised this, and although the selection is small at present, there are universities that offer degrees in entertainment engineering. Unsurprisingly, the University of Nevada, in Las Vegas is one of these, but the University of Derby in the UK also offers a similar degree.

However, there is nothing to match the movies when it comes to job creation for engineering and designers of all types. Just watch the credits roll at the end of any Star Wars Episode; pages and pages of people who worked in the CGI, animatronics, sound effects and other special effects are listed. No self-respecting rock concert or could be put together without a squad of engineers. While this work may seem trivial to someone designing the built environment, maybe those alternate realities we see on the screen can accelerate development in the real world. In 2002, Steven Spielberg called together a panel of futurists and experts to workshop what technology would be freely available in 2054, for the movie “Minority Report”, based on Philip K. Dick’s novella. Many of those predictions have already happened, and some, like additive manufacturing/3D printing are commonplace. 

There will always be a job for aerospace, mechanical and health and safety engineers, it might just not be in the industry you expected.

 

What Role does OpenLM Play?

When you consider the extraordinary budgets involved in entertainment projects, from the virtual world of the movie to the physical world of a theme park, it is not surprising to find that organizations in this field keep a close watch on their engineering licenses. Those hundreds of people mentioned in the movie credits are using 3D software from Autodesk or Dassault. Ansys and MSC Software are only two of the software companies offering CFD simulation software, essential for those wave parks. OpenLM monitors all those applications, and is happy to have partnered with companies in the entertainment and gaming spheres, minimising the effort required to manage their Avid, Maya or Arnold licenses while maximizing productivity. We also monitor Nvidia GPUs in response to a request from a research organization, which is a boon to all our customers performing simulations across all industries. If you are a player in the entertainment industry or engaged in any form of engineering or scientific endeavor, why don’t you download a trial version of our software and see how it can fit seamlessly into you organization and save you substantial costs?

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The Seven Wastes of License Management

Manufacturers are extremely aware of inefficiencies in their production processes and assembly line and apply principles and techniques such as Lean to optimize throughput and quality. However, in our interactions with manufacturing customers, we often find that these same principles are not applied in a critical aspect of the business, namely management of the software assets that support the flow of production. While organizations purchase software licenses and strive to comply with their license agreements, there is often a great deal of waste in software license management, which contributes to overall costs. This is due to a number of factors:-

  • There was a time when software had a physical attribute, it was delivered on a packaged CD and had a printed license number, so it was pretty easy to keep control of software assets. Now software is generally downloaded and the license number, too is intangible (dongle-based licenses are easier to account for, but losing the dongle is another pain-point – you need insurance for that). 
  • The license management software that usually accompanies your application was written for the vendor to keep track of how their software was being used, not for your benefit, and generally does not give a clear view of how licenses are actually being used.
  • Most companies have a software policy, but the policy does not explore the depths of how applications are procured and how they are used once acquired, nor how the purchasing decision is made and by whom.
  • Mergers and acquisitions bring two or more software portfolios together and the audit and rationalizing of the software is often overlooked while attention is focused on merging the companies. This applies to the software policies too. Internal company reorganizations can have a similar outcome, because the software needs are not reviewed at the time.
  • When specialized software, such as that used in engineering or life sciences is acquired, general management, and even IT management in some cases, do not understand the complexity of the many different license models and how injudicious purchase and usage can drastically affect the software budget. The role of license management and its importance is greatly underestimated when trying to control these costs.
  • The misapprehension that renting software in the cloud is cheap, controlled and not subject to software audits is currently a big issue on most CIO’s desks. In 2018, Rightscale, which was later acquired by Flexera, estimated wasted spend of 35% on cloud technology, above the 30% waste estimated by respondents. For 2020, not much has changed, except that respondents believe their overspend is about 12%, while research places the figure at about 30%.

 

The Perfect Software Portfolio

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as the perfect software portfolio, but one can work towards it by eliminating waste. We have listed the main factors that can create waste; below is a list of “7 wastes” we have drawn up for you to start working on today. There may be other unwanted contributors to costs, but a focus on what is listed here will considerably reduce the licensing component in your IT budget.

  • Lack of Control
  • Lack of Visibility
  • Wasted Effort
  • Inventory

– shelfware
– outdated versions
– named licenses

  • Too many Features
  • Idle Licenses- waiting
  • Pay per use – chargebacks

 

1. Lack of Control 

Centralized command and control may be old-fashioned, but in the case of license management it works well. It is not always possible, especially for multinationals; a global license can be very costly, and some vendors require you to get licenses from their local office or partner for foreign branches. Most organizations tend to accumulate software and licenses over the years, especially in project-driven environments, where it is often expedient to buy a whole set of new licenses for Autodesk to fire up the project. Finding all the software agreements in force can be a very tough exercise, but is the start to weeding out surplus licenses.

 

A watertight software policy

Is your software policy explicit about matters such as public and private cloud, virtual machines, BYOS (bring your own software), idle licenses (checked out, but not being used), who is entitled to procure new and additional licenses and who qualifies for a named license? Are the roles and responsibilities for license management and administration explicitly defined? Are there documented processes and procedures? If you can answer “yes” to all of these questions, you are in a minority of 18% of organizations. Having the right framework within which you can operate is a prerequisite to starting waste elimination.

 

2. Lack of Visibility

You may be confident that your asset register ties back to the sum of licenses across all your license agreements, but you are frustrated by your inability to see the true usage of these licenses. Relying on the license manager (LM) software provided by the vendor does not give you visibility into your usage; that is not what it was designed for; it is there to ensure you do not infringe your license agreement in any way. What is more, every vendor provides an LM that monitors only their products. You do not have an overall view of your software licenses. This is why you need your own license manager; to gain transparency.

 

3. Wasted Effort

Working without an independent license manager creates further waste in the amount of effort required to monitor and manage licenses, extract usage data and provide meaningful reports to management on why the software license budget is so high and what you plan to do about it. Onboarding new recruits and transfers from one department to another are painful tasks when it comes to granting entitlements and access for all the software tools they will need, while HR may have forgotten to inform you of employees who are leaving, where access must be removed (time to revisit your process flows). A license manager that is vendor-agnostic reduces and removes much of this effort by providing visibility and automating tedious activities. This is what we at OpenLM have spent years refining, based on your needs, not those of your vendor.

 

4. Inventory

It may seem that this waste should be at the top of the list. The problem is that without proper controls and processes, transparency and minimizing manual effort, tailoring your inventory to what you really need is a lost cause. Once you have put these in place, you can focus on removing the bloat from your software asset inventory. This is not an overnight job – you will first have to identify redundant licenses and then see if you need to wait till renewal time to discontinue them or can negotiate with the vendor in the interim. Here are the prime suspects in license redundancy:-

  • Shelfware. Licenses that were purchased for an initiative that has now completed or moved past the stage where the licenses can be put to good use. The licenses should have moved back into the general pool, but are just sitting there and if you don’t take care, they will be renewed.
  • Outdated Versions. Legacy software and older versions often still co-exist alongside the current version. You can now trace these, as well as software that is due to be retired
  • Named Licenses. There is nothing wrong with having named licenses as part of your software mix; for very specialized software, this may be the cheapest and most effective solution. Problems crop up where named licenses are hardly used, and the user could rather be checking out a license from the pool when needed.

With comprehensive usage reports, you can quickly weed out software that is surplus to requirements and trim down your inventory. Once that is completed, you can ensure that the licenses available are fit for purpose.

 

5. Overkill – too many features

The tendency of vendors to bundle a whole set of applications together under a single license, or to provide additional features that are rarely, if ever, used, can pad license costs considerably. Again, usage reports drilling down to feature level can highlight unnecessary features. There may be a few users who do need these special features; this is where the costs and benefits of a named license for those users can be evaluated.

 

6. Idle Licenses – Waiting

The last two wastes relate to human behaviour. The first is common in concurrent user environments; the user checks out the software he wants to use before he actually needs it, for instance, when he goes home, so that it is available in the morning. He could also book out the software, work on it, and then go to a meeting without checking it back into the pool. The ability to identify these “idle” licenses and check them back into the pool is a powerful aid in ensuring that the minimum of licenses need to be purchased to satisfy the maximum number of users. The time lapse when a license is determined to be idle (e.g. 15 minutes) should be clearly indicated in the software policy.

 

7. Pay per Use – Chargebacks

It is ironic that licensing costs of software, such as Solidworks or ArcGIS are often placed squarely in the IT budget, when the main users are not in IT. Without a software tool that can identify actual usage by an individual, group or business unit, it is virtually impossible to extract accurate chargebacks. The ability to charge back usage costs to a business units with documented proof is a powerful tool in reducing software costs, because it is now part of that manager’s budget, and he will take care to ensure there is no abuse of license usage.

 

OpenLM for a Lean Organization

All of the wastes (or muda, in Japanese) identified above can be mitigated or removed by implementing OpenLM. Even in organizations that use basic software, such as Microsoft Office, license overspend per head is calculated to be $295 on average. In industries that use specialized engineering and software, that per capita excess is much higher, if you consider the cost of a single Catia or Siemens NX license. OpenLM is specifically designed to manage licenses across most of the engineering landscape, which is why we have customers in every field from upstream oil and gas to medical devices using our products to optimize their software usage. Our license managers and administrators are confident that they are getting the best mileage out of their license portfolios, with reports and extracts that prove both economy and efficiency.

 

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‘Save and Close’ for Kingdom, Harmony and Petra

OpenLM version 4.6 introduces a new extension that enables the ‘Save and Close’ functionality for three oil industry applications – Kingdom, Harmony and Petra. 

“Save and Close” is one of several features that OpenLM offers organizations to better manage and utilize their licenses. Basically, it works by retrieving idle licenses and returning them to their pool where they can be used by other users. As the name implies, the project is automatically saved before the application is closed and the license is released. 

The mechanism of action is simple – OpenLM tracks the application on the user’s machine through the lightweight OpenLM Agent component. Once OpenLM registers that an application has been idle for a predefined amount of time, administrators have the option to either manually or automatically close the application. 

Previously, the “Save and Close” functionality was only available for applications that had an open SDK, such as MATLAB and ArcGIS. 

Recently, one of our customers shared with us a wish. They wanted to see the same functionality implemented for the Kingdom, Harmony and Petra platforms. 

After an introductory meeting with the customer, we were able to better understand their needs and the specific applications they wanted us to handle.

Although we offer an alternative remote close functionality called “Suspend and Resume”, we understood that it was not optimal for the customer. They needed a sure-fire way to release the licenses back to the pool and they needed to fully automate the process, while also being able to save the current work of the user. 

As it was clear that we had to extend the “Save and Close” functionality to other platforms, we gathered our development team and had a brainstorming session. After a few ideas came up, we finally decided on the specific technology set to be used, while assembling a quick POC. 

We knew we could do it, but we also needed the customer’s assistance for us to test the solution. 

Luckily, the customer was more than cooperative! They prepared a special environment for us where we could connect remotely and run numerous on-site tests (of course, before this we agreed to sign a metric ton of security and clearance paperwork :-)). The customer taught us how to use their applications to pull licenses which we could test-drive during development.

We were able to develop a specific extension for each application, implementing our new technology. 

This required a very deep “drilling” and analysis of the structure of each application. After we mapped out all the required components, we knew exactly what it would take to develop a precise solution. 

We had several cycles of development. After each cycle, we deployed the extensions to the customer machines for testing. 

Today, our customer is more than satisfied: he can use the ‘Save and Close’ feature for his Kingdom, Harmony and Petra applications automatically, without lifting a finger. His wish has come true. 

Are you in need of this extension for your own organization? Or perhaps you have a special wish of your own you’d like to see fulfilled? 

Contact us and let us know. We would be more than happy to turn your license management dreams into reality.

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OpenLM v4.6 new features

On October 29th 2019, OpenLM version 4.6 was released and is now available for download.
The full-featured version of the new release can be downloaded from the OpenLM website for a 30-day trial. Existing OpenLM users with a valid maintenance agreement can upgrade for free.
Download here https://www.openlm.com/free-trial/.

The enhancements are listed briefly below:

  • Two new license managers are supported: the ESPRIT Floating License Server and Sparx Systems Keystore Service. Please note that for this initial release, we currently monitor license usage info without license denials.
  • OpenLM Broker now reads the Windows certificate store by default, thus eliminating the need for converting certificates into JKS format and also allowing organizations to make use of their own self-signed certificates.
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Managing Office 365: Engineers Get It!

The Internet is bursting with articles about how moving Office into the cloud can result in some unexpected and unwelcome results, primarily when it comes to costs. Companies are reporting that costs are as much as two to three times what was budgeted and signed for. Various recommendations are made, such as:-

  • Understand what your on-premise Office commitment is and try and consolidate where you can
  • Classify users according to roles and groups and identify which Office 365 offering is appropriate for their needs
  • Watch out for idle licenses
  • Check you are not running multiple versions and instances
  • Limit access to licenses out of hours unless really needed.
  • Purchase software to manage the licenses, because Microsoft does not help you in this regard.

These tips are big news to the normal purchasers of Microsoft Office, who are in IT Procurement or Finance. For CAD managers and license administrators of engineering and scientific software, they have already been down this road with much more expensive software, like Autodesk and Bentley products, both on-premise and in the cloud. They are familiar with all of the tactics and pitfalls may arise, such as:-

  • increasing the price and/or sunsetting the on-premise alternative to push customers to moving to subscription – Autodesk does this and Microsoft raised the price of Office 2019 by 6% late last year with the same intention.
  • Role-based solutions – if you are an Abaqus or Ansys customer you are familiar with product differentiation by role, such as product designers, and of course, all engineering software is bundled differently based in industry requirements.
  • Identifying idle licenses and harvesting them according to policy is one of the biggest cost-savers for many of our customers. When a single license costs thousands of dollars, you don’t let it just sit there consuming dollars, especially with time-based software like Autodesk TokenFlex.
  • Engineering license administrators are quick to pick up on multiple instances of licenses running, especially where more than one version is on campus simultaneously, a common problem with Autodesk.
  • Multinationals that have “follow the sun” requirements often tailor license availability based on location. License use often needs to be prioritised as well, to give preference to critical projects or key users.
  • Engineering companies know that the license manager provided by the vendor is not your friend; it is there to protect the vendor’s interests, not help you optimize your resources, that is why most companies have invested in software that does the job of balancing the concurrent license pool against peak user demand.

This list does not even include other unnecessary costs, like those incurred when using Bentley software, which allows users to access licenses even when there are no concurrent licenses available according to the license agreement, providing some unexpected costs at month-end.

Software Spend that is Easily Overlooked

Although Office 365 licenses are very cheap in comparison to, say, Autodesk Cloud licenses, everyone in the business uses them, and over-purchasing and underutilization costs can be formidable for large and even mid-sized businesses. In many companies, the discretion for purchasing Microsoft Office licenses falls to the CFO, who is not wise to the cost complexities of software licensing. Even the CIO may decide to migrate from earlier on-premise licensing of Office to Office 365 by a simple one-for-one license swap, because everyone in the company needs a license and the pricing seems acceptable. 

Extract from Microsoft pricing comparison: https://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/p/?linkid=861604

 

They may even decide to procure P5 licenses for everyone in the company, while it is doubtful that more than 10% of users actually need premium licenses. This is how the costs spiral. The difference between a P5 and a P3 license is $180 per annum; between a P5 and a ProPlus license is $276; multiply that by the number of users who do not need the premium subscription and you can see why taking the Office 365 route can be an expensive journey. There is no guarantee that these packages will not change in both content and pricing over time, which makes the future even more unpredictable. One also has to consider whether all the applications included are needed, such as Skype for business, when Webex or Zoom is already freely used in the company. The days of putting all one’s software eggs in one basket are long gone; the benefits of only having to rely on one vendor are outweighed by the risks of being locked in to their products.

Another aspect to be considered is that, although the overall management of Microsoft Office licenses is the responsibility of the CFO or CIO, the CAD manager and engineering license administrator has stewardship over the Office licenses needed by their users. The costs of these licenses may be charged back to the engineering business units, and it makes sense to double-check what is being charged out by central admin.

Timing also can be a factor in increasing the cost burden for large organizations. The rollout of the new product in a large organization can take months; meanwhile all the licenses purchased, but not yet implemented, are sitting on the shelf, chewing up dollars every month. It could be advisable to migrate in two phases, so as to minimise this wastage.

Why we Now Support Office 365 License monitoring

So engineering and scientific companies are wise to all the sneaky things that vendors do to improve their revenue streams. This is why our customers requested us to add monitoring of some key cloud software to our list that is not normally part of our software portfolio.

We applied our minds to what we provided for cloud software in the engineering space, such as ArcGIS Online, and applied the same principles to Office 365. While we were working on this, we also added Adobe Cloud software to the list, because, again, everyone uses Document Cloud and/or Creative Cloud for design or content management.

License administrators who now want to manage Office 365 or Adobe Cloud software can do it through our Easyadmin dashboard, without having to use the Applications Manager to define the business rules for these products. We hope this has made life that little bit easier for our present and future customers. This functionality is available from release 4.5 onwards, which may require an upgrade, but there are other enhancements as well that make it worthwhile.

 

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