License Renewal Time? Check if you really need it.

One of the main challenges of license management is the juggling act between carrying the minimum number of licenses to reduce costs while ensuring that your user base can work at maximum productivity with as few denials as possible. Here at OpenLM we believe that our standard reporting supplies all the information you need to keep your license pool lean and mean.

Most of our customers buy OpenLM because the license management software provided by the vendor, such as Autodesk, reports on licenses that are checked out of the network pool. What is not reported on is the efficiency with which these licenses are being used, in other words, how productive are the users? Customers say to us that they know intuitively that their license usage is not optimal, but that they have no way of confirming this with the vendor’s license management software.

So, when an organization acquires OpenLM, they usually start off by monitoring license usage and whether there are surplus licenses. They can now identify idle licenses, that is licenses that have been booked out, but are not being used. These licenses can now be freed up for other users by “harvesting” them, suspending the user’s session and putting the license back in the pool.

One of the ironies of license management for engineering software is that the IT business unit has to budget for the software licenses but does not actually use the software. With our software, it is possible to identify license usage by group or department and charge the costs back to where the software is actually being used. This usually results in further cost savings, because the manager of that group or department will be making sure that his users are economical when they book out licenses, because he is responsible for those costs.

However, it is not just about reducing costs: there comes a time when more licenses are needed. Early warning signs include:-

  • advance warning of a new project starting soon
  • the time for contract renewal for the software is coming up
  • the high water mark (or peak usage) is getting close to the maximum number of licenses on a daily basis
  • the number of “true” denials is increasing (a true denial is either one where a user repeatedly retries to book out a license with several attempts without success, despite the license manager accessing every server to find one. The situation where an attempt was denied but the next retry was successful, and the user and his work are not impacted is not counted as a “true” denial. For instance, if the license manager could not find an available license on the first server interrogated, but did find one on the second or subsequent server, this is not a true denial, because the impact was negligible).

While our standard reporting provides useful input for the decision to acquire more licenses, we felt that there was place for a report to help decide whether new licenses are needed and how many. This new report has been added to our Reporting Hub extension.

Our new addition to the Reporting Hub

There are 3 sections to this report and you can select a wide range of filters to get different views. Along the bottom of the screen are time dimensions and to the left of the screen are software, user and workstation parameters. The reporting is granular down to software feature level, which is especially useful where additional license costs for advanced features are part of the license agreement. Let’s look at the report content.

The report at the top of the screen gives statistics on each feature of the application, how often the feature was checked out and how many denials were encountered. It then analyses the denials and provides two denials ratios, the number of users denied and the number of denials. The features are ranked by the denials ratio in descending order. You will see that the feature at the top, “GMS4050_ufunc_exe” was never checked out, as every attempt was denied. This would be typical of a feature that was not purchased under the license agreement or a specialized feature that is only accessible by a select few users.

We can already see from the ratios that the comfort zone for this license pool has been exceeded and that more licenses are needed. If we look at the graph at the bottom left-hand side, it shows us that the rate of denials is very high and that users are experiencing multiple denials, because the number of denials is up to 4 times the number of users. The value of “12” on the left-hand  side of the report is the number of additional licenses required to get a better balance of supply and demand. There will still be some denials, but there will be a reduction of 80%, which gets us back to an acceptable ratio.

The graph at the right hand side confirms our first impression. You can see that the concurrent usage high water mark often meets the number of licenses in the pool and this is when denials start occurring during the day. It is definitely time to start considering more licenses. What is nice about this report is that it is a clear demonstration of why more licenses are needed

Please contact us if you want to know more about the Reporting Hub or any of our other software products.

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Taking the Pain out of Flexlm License Allocation

One of the key administrative tasks when it comes to software license management is controlling the allocation of licenses for each user. This is especially complex when it comes to engineering and scientific software, where that user may require 30 or 40 specialized and costly applications to perform his job to the standard required. We have had an increase in requests from customers of Flexera FlexNet Manager (and a few other license manager tools) for a product that makes license allocation easier for them. The main problem is that the file where allocations are set up, which is the “options” file in FlexNet, does not link to the company’s organizational directory, such as Microsoft’s Active Directory.

OpenLM’s license manager software does link to the organization’s directory as a matter of course. This means that any change to the organizational directory is synchronised through to the allocations table in OpenLM. This cuts down a load of manual work managing two separate allocation views and also reduces the possibility of error. The users of Flexera license management products are aware of OpenLM’s capability in this area, but have invested much time and money in getting FlexNet tailored for their organization, so are reluctant to change vendors at this stage, but are looking for something to ease the “Options” file pain. We are glad to announce that we now have a solution.

OpenLM License Allocation Manager

The OpenLM License Allocation Manager (or LAM) is a software product dedicated to the management of license allocation. This new release is limited to allocation for Flexera licenses, but imminent releases will cater for other license management software. It can be bought as a stand-alone product that does not impact any existing license management software installation. The software integrates with the organizational directory and the license administrator no longer has to cope with updating the text file for license allocation used by FlexNet.

While many of our customers are happy just to have this directory link enabled, there is much, much more that gives precise control over license control. Parameters are included to allow customization of allocation for:-

  • Allocation and access by user group, for example a specific project team.
  • Geolocation, where access is managed based on the user’s location.
  • Time of use. This parameter helps in managing peak demand and can be combined with location and/or group.
  • Software version. Where multiple instances of a software package are used, a user or user group may be permitted to or prohibited from using a specific version.
  • Workbench management. Where a portmanteau license has been acquired, such as AutoDesk’s bundled offerings, the user can be limited to using only some of the products.
  • Feature limitation. Especially with token licensing, specific features may carry an extra cost or be in scarce supply. Allocation can be tailored to permit or limit access to a feature within an application.

License Allocation Manager OpenLM

We have not exhausted the possibilities that our new LAM software offers. If you believe that this product could help you solve your current license allocation problems, why don’t you contact OpenLM to find out more and try the software for your own environment?

Time of day: Some licenses entitle users a “follow the sun” policy, granting licenses on different time zones according to the time of day. Server availability: Some license management systems provide a multiple server redundancy scheme to ensure license availability in case of hardware or network failure. Changes in infrastructure: Migrating a license manager from one server to another may require changes in configuration of end user workstations Dynamic users: Users join and leave the organization, and migrate among groups and projects. User prioritization: Ranking of users in the hierarchy of license priority and application license level may change over time. Project priorities shift: The allocation plan should reflect the priorities dictated for each project. These priorities are also dynamic by nature.

For more information about OpenLM products and their capabilities, please visit our website.

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Managing and Monitoring Custom-built Software Licenses

While OpenLM was designed to manage licenses for engineering and scientific COTS (custom-off-the-shelf) software, many of our customers have at least one, and sometimes many, custom-built software tools. Such custom software is usually protected by a license agreement, but does not have a formal license manager application to make compliance simpler. OpenLM recognises that a customer can be using software that falls in this category and has a name for it, which is “unmanaged software”. We also have a solution for managing the unmanageable, our product, the OpenLM App Manager. This product provides the license administrator with a way of monitoring and controlling usage of any software application, enabling him to gather accurate data on that usage, as well as limiting over-usage where it creates a risk of non-compliance or incurs unnecessary costs.

What the App Manager primarily supplies is a means to automate the company’s software allocation policy. It can be used for products that are managed by the OpenLM core product, such as AutoDesk, as well as products that are commercially available but not part of the engineering software family, like Adobe Acrobat. The only requirement is that the software is executable (i.e. is in an *.exe file) and has processes for the App Manager to give you control over any software.

What Can be Controlled? – Access

You can tailor the accessibility of any software product, licensed or not, to meet the exact specifications of your environment. This is done via parameters that you set to permit or deny usage and consumption by software version, location and time.

For instance:-

  • you can limit access to normal working hours for a particular location.
  • you can block access to users in the UK from 15:00 to 18:00 EST because that is peak usage time in Boston and New Jersey.
  • you can limit usage to a specific software version for a user group where you are running more than one software version concurrently.
  • You can also permit a specific group access (because they have priority), while denying other users, or limiting their access.

What Can be Measured? – Usage

Then you can also measure and manage license consumption and get accurate values on such usage. This is very helpful even with software products that have license managers, as it provides you with your version of the truth and not the vendor’s opinion of which licenses were used and how much was consumed in time, tokens or any other measure. For custom-written software this is ideal, because you are provided with a view of how the software is being used and identify how to economize on usage. This can also help you define your policy and business rules for the software you need to manage.

Managing and Monitoring at Feature Level

One of the challenges with custom-written software is that it can include features that have their own licenses, via an API or a call to a product, such as Adobe Acrobat in order to generate a PDF. Such callas and interfaces can generate costs or even be non-compliant for your agreement with the called product. You can also set up business rules to manage these circumstances.

Overall Benefits

Limit or prevent excessive consumption, which can result in nasty cost surprises.

This could be the case where the custom software calls an Autodesk product that is managed via a token license – each call will eat away at your total token license annual purchase and may result in you having to top up during the year. The call may only require one minute of usage but costs eight minutes and at least one token. This could be a design flaw and may require a change to the custom application.

Reduce or Avoid Denials at Peak Usage

This is a common problem with all software, even with license managers. Here is a way of assuring that those who need the software the most will get it when they need it, using the time and location parameters. You can even tailor the need to a specific group or even a single user.

Use only the Appropriate Version

If there are multiple versions running simultaneously, you can tailor your accessibility to permit or deny users access to part or all of a product. For instance, let’s say that a call to AutoDesk is essential for users on a particular project. You had a design change implemented to prevent users accessing Autodesk because of the problem we identified as unnecessary consumption. However, you retained the previous version for a small group of users or super-users. Only they are allowed to access this particular version. What is more, unauthorized software running on a workstation or laptop can be picked up and reported on.

Reduce Costs and Avoid Non-Compliance Risks

You will now know the true costs of running the custom product and what you should be paying for your usage, instead of relying on your vendor/development shop’s opinion of what is owed. Where there are APIs and calls to other licensed software you can manage the costs incurred making these links.

Manage your Software Exactly as you Wish

You have the power to control license allocation and management just the way you want, that fits in with your business model and value proposition. You also have the flexibility to change the rules as circumstances require.

Comprehensive Reporting

Reports can be generated that show you exactly what is going on with the software you want to control. While your current need will be for your custom product, you can use it for any software used in your environment.

What You Need to Use App Manager

In order to take advantage of the App Manager, you must first install our OpenLM Core Product. You will also need to download OpenLM Broker (there is no charge for the Broker, but it does have a separate license). To get a bird’s eye view of what each workstation is up to, you need to install OpenLM Agent on each station, but this depends on what level of control you want to implement.

For more information on how App Manager Works, watch our short videos at:-

https://vimeo.com/263134305 or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s8G1DqL1GBU

We also run a webinar for more in-depth information – https://www.openlm.com/webinar-registration/

For more advice, or a discussion with a consultant, please visit our website at openlm.com

 

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Freedom and flexibility with Custom Commands

One of the criteria that is often overlooked when building or buying software is the capability for users to customize the application without having to request a change by the vendor. OpenLM recognises that, while they have done their best to provide all the features one would need for license management, most customers will have special license requirements that pertain to a particular software product, either on a temporary or a permanent basis. In order to cater for this need, OpenLM offers the “Custom Commands” feature. We recommend that you discuss this feature with your development or support team to see if this product will work for you.

For instance, custom commands enable the user improve their license management by:-

  • displaying custom commands in addition to standard OpenLM or vendor commands, for instance a warning that the software version is going to be decommissioned at the end of the month
  • configuring license availability by setting conditions for prioritizing or excluding classes of users when the need arises (e.g. at peak periods)
  • Launching a short program, script or process to run automatically when a certain condition is met. N.B. There is a time limit of 2 minutes within which the called routine or process must start.

These are only some of the opportunities available when using custom commands, many of which can be executed from the core system. For full functionality, you need the App Manager extension. Custom commands are free to use, all you need to do is email sales@openlm.com to get a return email with the license link. This process guards against any potential misuse, because this is a very powerful feature.

 

Figure 1: Terms and conditions for using Custom Commands

Getting Started

(There are detailed instructions on how to set up OpenLM for using the custom commands on the OpenLM website in our knowledgebase. We have just described the basics briefly below, to illustrate that it is not a complex process).

Once you have the license installed, you need to restart the OpenLM Server to install the Custom Commands for use. You then need to check that the OpenLM Agent is configured and that the OpenLM Software Locker is running on the workstations. You may not need this functionality if you are not planning to customize your Agent Procedures, but it also does not affect your setup if it is set up for future use.

There are three routes for adding a custom command to the OpenLM core system, depending on the type of customization you want:-

  • Use Agent Procedures to perform an action such as suspending one or more workstations or running a script that will affect workstations.
  • Use Alert Management for posting customized messages to workstations or running a program when a specific condition is met.
  • Use the App Manager extension to run a custom script when a business rule created via the App Manager is activated.

To get a better idea of how powerful this feature is, we have included an example using the Agent Procedures option.

An Example Using Agent Procedures

There are three steps to setting up an agent procedure, starting with a log-in to EasyAdmin.

  • Define Custom Agent Procedures
  • Define Unmanaged Processes
  • Configure Unmanaged Processes to Enable Custom Procedures

Define Custom Agent Procedures

From the EasyAdmin screen, select “Agent Procedures”.

Figure 2: The EasyAdmin Administration Screen – with Agent Procedures selected.

This will open the screen below. If this is the first time you are adding a procedure, it will say “No Results found”. Select the “Add” button at the top of the screen.

Figure 3: Top of Agent Procedures administration screen

This will open the following screen:-

Figure 4: The Agent Procedure Editor, with drop-down list for Action Type

The Name field is a unique identifier for the agent procedure. We suggest you set up a naming convention that will help you to identify what the affected software is and what the procedure does, so that it is easy to identify from the Agent Procedures List.

Then add an action. Some of the fields, such as “Action Type” have a drop-down list, as shown above.

Script Info must contain the full path to the script (if a script is part of the procedure) in Windows Shell scripting, e.g. <path>\[filename].exe (or <path>\[filename].bat for a batch file).

The script can either run immediately or must wait until the previous command is successfully completed. To ensure that it runs immediately, prefix the path with an “@”sign, e.g. @<path>\[filename].exe. Without this prefix, it will wait for completion of the previous task.

The Execute Condition defaults to “NoWait”. You can override this to one of the other options, “WaitComplete” or “WaitSuccess”. If there is an error condition with the WaitSuccess option, the procedure will terminate.

Run At defines whether the procedure runs as an on-line interactive procedure (select “Application”) or whether it runs in background (or silent mode, select “Service”).

The “Active” field will indicate whether the procedure is active or not.

Figure 5: A simple procedure to kill any instance of NotePad with no wait.

The example above is very basic, but is a useful case of what can be implemented.

If you need to include a script for your procedure, you will have to define and configure an unmanaged process.

Define Unmanaged Processes

In case you were wondering what an unmanaged process is, it refers to a feature from a software product that OpenLM does not officially support. Following demand from customers, with Release 2.0, we added functionality to include other software products, or “unmanaged licenses” to their administrative portfolio.

What is an Unmanaged Process?

Here are 3 definitions:-

  • Unmanaged software is software from a vendor that has a license manager that is outside the scope of OpenLM’s extensive list of supported vendors. This is usually because the software is not engineering software, which is the focus of OpenLM’s license management, but is commonly used at our customers. A typical example would be Adobe Acrobat.
  • An unmanaged license applies to a software license for unmanaged software.
  • An unmanaged process refers to a process that supports a feature from unmanaged software. Every software feature from any product runs as a process.

Although OpenLM does not manage the process, you can discover the process name by opening the Process List in OpenLM to get the name. Here is a description of how this is done.

Configure Unmanaged Processes to Enable Custom Procedures

We are not going into the detail of how to do this, but illustrate how much control you can have over software that is unmanaged, in the screen below. To learn more about how this is done, please visit here or see our full explanation here.

The example is a procedure to monitor Adobe Photoshop licenses that are idle, without human intervention, based on the elapsed idle time. The procedure name “messageAdobe” is the procedure name that will appear in the Agent Procedure List.

Figure 6: Example of an Unmanaged Process for Adobe Photoshop.

Although this is a very brief run through of the capabilities of Custom commands, there is enough information to show how easy it is to tailor your software license usage, even for licenses that are not managed. You can have customized control over all of your software tools without any intervention from your in-house developers or the software vendor.

What’s Next?

With so many capabilities available, we have illustrated only one example. We invite you to visit our page and download the detailed PDF for a more comprehensive idea of how custom commands can make your license management easier. The link to this page can be found here.

 

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10 Things That Not Everyone Knows About OpenLM

The primary focus of most of our users is on license usage monitoring and reporting to optimize their license-to-user ratios and all this is included in the base product. However, OpenLM has 10 extensions that further enhance the functionality of the product. These extensions are optional software modules and may be purchased if and when needed.

The 10 OpenLM extensions are described briefly below:

OpenLM Reporting Hub

With the OpenLM Reporting Hub, you can sync the OpenLM database to a database dedicated for reporting purposes.

OpenLM Directory Synchronization

The extension lets you import information such as user names and groups from Windows Active Directory.  

OpenLM Active Agent

The OpenLM Active Agent is our license harvesting tool. You can intervene in idle user sessions and either close the session after saving any work or suspend the user’s screen. In both cases, the license is released and returned to the pool.

OpenLM Actual Usage

Get information beyond just license checkout and release times. Know who pulled the license and didn’t use it.

OpenLM Roles and Permissions

The roles and permissions extension lets you allocate OpenLM functionality to different administrators.  

OpenLM Group Usage

Report on usage by groups defined in OpenLM or based on Active Directory OU’s and work groups.

OpenLM License Allocation Manager

Configure options files the easy way without having to open a text editor and work out what’s written there

OpenLM Project Usage

You can get users of engineering software to select the project they are working on when pulling a license.

OpenLM Alerts

You can set up alerts for a variety of license status and license usage conditions.  

OpenLM External DB Support

Lets you use an alternative external database instead of the standard OpenLM database.

Read more at https://www.openlm.com/openlm-extensions/. If you are not certain how an extension can benefit your organization, please contact our sales team who will be happy to explain further. You get a free 30-day trial to test it out before you decide!

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