The paradigm of software licensing is shifting to meet the challenges of cloud computing, virtualization and the Internet of Things (IoT). From the vendor’s perspective, a new approach to monetizing software is needed. From the customer’s viewpoint, especially if they are in the scientific and engineering industries, they are becoming software vendors themselves as they need to manage connected and intelligent devices and embed software in these devices.
Embedded software licenses are not a new concept, but Flexera® has revisited the concept and produced a solution in system development kit (SDK) format with a very small footprint of approximately 50k. The vendor who purchases the solution can tailor the license to fit their particular offering to achieve a number of benefits for themselves and their licensees. The embedded licenses are part of Flexera®’s Software Monetization Suite, formerly called the FlexNet Producer Suite, which was originally launched about a decade ago. The embedded licenses are the mechanisms for managing the software and gathering licensing information. The other products in the suite are:-
- FlexNet Operations. This is the process engine of the Monetization suite; it uses information gathered by the embedded licenses to manage entitlements and can be used to create new products by changing an existing configuration to a new one that meets the user’s expectations. It provides a 24/7 self-service portal for users. Flexnet Operations is what you use to perform operations on your embedded license population, such as issuing transfers, upgrades and temporary licenses.
- FlexNet Delivery on Demand – delivers software electronically to the user who is entitled to use the software. This reduces the costs of fulfilment.
- FlexNet Connect – a messenger service that delivers applications, updates and messages directly to users.
- FlexNet Publisher – this is the Flexera® license management application, commonly known as FlexLM and the most widely-known product.
Installation of the suite enables the device manufacturer to manage the software that drives his devices, starting right at concept and design stage.
Efficiency in Product Design and Inventory
The modern marketplace is placing increasing demands on manufacturers in all industries to produce customer-centric designs and provide unique one-on-one experiences. This does not mean that you need to create a bespoke device for every customer, unless you are in a market that is prepared to pay for such items, like Bentley, Cartier or ABB. The new way of managing this is by using the software that is embedded in the device to produce permutations and new features. You then use license management to grant entitlement to some or all of the features that the customer needs. This results in a very lean inventory of physical devices, but a wide variety of virtual products, which obviously reduces costs, at the same time cutting down on time to go to market (and beat the competition).
The use of the embedded license also provides predictive analytics; at any time, you can gather information on which products and features are the most and least popular and use this intelligence to bring out new products and expand into new markets.
Accurate and Targeted Pricing
With the ability to monitor usage down to feature level per user, it is possible to develop a new approach to revenue income. It is also possible to provide fast turnaround when a customer needs a new product or feature, no delays waiting for account manager visits and changes to contracts. It is simply a matter of entitling the user(s) to use the feature or product they need. This is a batch change, not real-time, but is still considerably faster than the traditional sales cycle. Prepaid, pay-as-you-go and even post-paid options can be offered to customers.
Any Environment, from On-Site to Virtual
The embedded license can operate happily in most environments with many operating systems, from proprietary to open-source. Cloud, edge and virtual computing can all be managed, and apart from Microsoft and Apple operating systems, several of the leading Linux systems are supported. Mobile development is also supported.
A Special Benefit – Added Security
License Management software manufacturers are in the business of protecting intellectual capital and ensuring that is is not overused or used outside the terms of an agreement. To ensure compliance, they have developed protection against hacking and other attempts at illicit software use. The vulnerability of devices and the IoT is well-known, and embedding a license in a device will provide several layers of protection. Flexera® are proud of their security, and rightly so. They explain it as a “Three-Level Ring of Defense”, via resistance, obfuscation and detection.
- Resistance. the software prevents reverse engineering of the application via decompilers, debuggers and other techniques used by hackers.
- Obfuscation. The entry points to the application are disguised, making it difficult to follow the code logic. Key pointers such as data strings and variables as well as certain functions are hidden. All these actions make it difficult for the hacker to penetrate the application.
- Detection. Flexnet Embedded can detect code changes in memory or on disk made by hackers. This can be integrated with FlexNet Connect to send an alert that there is an intrusion for immediate action.
The added protection given by the embedded license will help to address the vulnerability of the device in which it is embedded.
To Develop a new Competence or to Outsource?
There are many other benefits to be derived from using an embedded license, whether it is the Flexera® product as part of the Monetization Suite, or another competitor product, such as Safekey’s offering from Gemalto. The real challenge is in the management of software licenses as a software vendor. At OpenLM, most of our clientele are in engineering or research, and many of them are venturing into the IoT or selling intelligent devices in areas such as healthcare. Up to now they have been on the receiving end of license management, with products such as AutoCad and Ansys, which is why they purchased OpenLM. Becoming a software vendor places an added burden on the license administration, no matter how automated the software may be. Administrators are also not easy to find. This is why some companies are outsourcing at least the operational aspects of embedded licenses, while concentrating on the device design and manufacture aspects. We would be delighted to assist you with support, either on a long-term basis or via a co-sourcing arrangement that will involve skills transfer until your IT department are confident they can manage the licensing on their own. For further information, please contact us at https://www.openlm.com/contact-us/