The Ansys Licensing Landscape

Customers of Ansys, renowned for their computer-assisted engineering (CAE) software have always had the option of perpetual (Ansys term is “paid-up”) or subscription (“leased”) licenses for their products. Recent developments have resulted in a third license option, the “elastic license”. This license acknowledges two changes:-

  • the rise of cloud computing
  • a drive to make Ansys products accessible to as many users as possible, not just specialist engineers and scientists.

In light of the drive by some other vendors to move users to subscription licensing and discontinue perpetual licenses, Ansys has a refreshing and customer-centric approach to licensing. As the leading software company in CAE software used for finite element analysis (FEA), computational fluid dynamics (CFD) and other simulation applications, they are making their products easier to use and understand by non-specialists. This is analogous to the growing market in data discovery tools, where any user can analyse big data and produce business intelligence, without being a business analyst or a data scientist. Making Ansys products widely accessible will grow their user base at most organizations. Some companies have already taken this route, and their sales and marketing teams carry laptops with simulation demos loaded to show products to potential customers.

Flexible and Versatile Licensing

The Ansys licensing model supports their strategy; if you want the maximum number of users to need your software, you do not want them to be hampered by denials and license shortages. So licenses are made as accessible as possible for all scenarios, from on-site servers with a perpetual license pool to short-term users and cloud users. With very few restrictions, licenses can be used across platforms and during peak demand periods.

How does the Elastic License Work?

An elastic license is purchased an advance in units required, and when software is booked out it consumes a pre-defined number of units per hour. This provides a back-up of additional licenses when required, the only drawback being that the units expire at the end of the year, so the estimation of units required needs to be done carefully. Users of Autodesk Token-flex will be familiar with this license model, however there are some differences.

  • Elastic licenses are only used where there is no traditional license remaining to be used on the relevant license server, the traditional license are consumed first.
  • Because of the specific nature of simulation work, which requires business continuity, Ansys makes provision for the situation where the customer runs out of units during a simulation process. It is possible to sign up for a post-paid option to avoid a job being cancelled in midstream.
  • The license management of elastic licenses is customer-friendly and has reporting that helps optimize these licenses, such as departmental chargebacks.

Traditional on-site User Community

Existing customers would have one or more license servers set up on-site with a pool of concurrent licenses and possibly some subscription licenses for superusers. The main challenge of the license administrator is to have the maximum number of users who have access with the minimum number of licenses. This can be difficult to predict and is obviously dependent on the volume of work coming in. The Elastic License assists customers in the following cases:-

  • short-term peak demands that are beyond the capacity of the existing license pool, which has been optimised to cope with the normal workload.
  • where there is uncertainty as to which products are needed and how many licences are required, for instance, there may be a job requirement for Ansys Maxwell for electromagnetic field simulations and the company has no Maxwell licenses.
  • Where some short-term work needs to be done anywhere globally

Short-Term Use

It might be beneficial to use elastic licensing for short-term needs, such as a project at a remote site, where an annual license agreement would not be suitable. It could also be useful where one of the tools in the Ansys workbench is not used at present and more than a trial period is needed to decide whether the tool needs to be added to the company’s portfolio. Similarly, where a tool such as CFD is used very occasionally, it would be better to use elastic licensing for the times it is needed.

Working in the Cloud

Unlike most companies, who have a separate business model for cloud users, Ansys allows use of existing licenses to access the cloud. This applies to both concurrent and leased licenses. The only requirement is that the on-site server must be accessible via the company firewall to allow license access. There is an alternative where a license server is set up in the cloud. In this case, the licenses on that server are used exclusively in the cloud and no changes have to be made to the firewall. The Elastic license was designed for Cloud users, but the customer can use all three license models in whichever way best meets their individual needs.

How OpenLM can Assist

With the release of Ansys 18, the vendor has provided the customer with some useful reporting on license usage, such as denials and usage/cost attribution. It is not as comprehensive nor as customizable as OpenLM’s core offering, but is a refreshing change in the vendor/customer relationship, where it is acknowledged that the customer requires visibility on what is happening with their licenses, and the FlexLM logfile is interrogated o produce these reports.

However, most companies using Ansys products will also be using other software such as Autodesk, and OpenLM provides a single source to manage most or all of the tools used. In addition, OpenLM can manage Nvidia GPU licenses. While Nvidia provides a license manger, it has no reporting, which is why an OpenLM customer requested that OpenLM build the capability to manage Nvidia GPUs. It is highly unlikely that any company that runs simulations does not have a fleet of Nvidia GPUs to help in the number-crunching, so this is a handy addition to the extensive portfolio of software vendors managed. Feel free to contact us to help you with your specialized software license management.

Mastering the Hybrid License Environment

The rise of cloud computing and software-as-a-service (SaaS) has moved the goalposts when it comes to software license management, especially for organizations that have a large base of users accessing costly specialized software, like CAD, BIM and mathematical modelling tools. Traditionally, the most cost-effective way of managing such software was to acquire a perpetual license based on concurrent users, where there is a finite pool of licenses available, rather than a license per user. This licensing model treats each license as an asset and the associated costs are treated as capex and a balance sheet item. A cloud solution is based on some form of pay-per-use, and when the user accesses the software this is now an operating expense, which is an income statement item. This means that the complexity of license management causes pain in the CFO’s office as well as in the CIO’s domain. While this article focuses on hybrid license management as a license management issue, it is important to remember that there is an impact on the accounting principles and policy for software too.

Hybrid Licensing is not New

There has always been some mix in license management and administration, especially when it comes to specialized software used for scientific and engineering purposes, even for a single software product, such as AutoCAD. Although the majority of users would depend on concurrent user licenses accessed from a pool, there would always be some users who needed guaranteed access or worked with the software for most of their day. For such users, a named or dedicated license would be purchased. The license administrator would need to monitor these licenses separately from the license pool, checking on whether the named user actually needed a dedicated license or could revert back to the pool. The ability to reserve or borrow licenses from the pool could create a temporary dedicated license which again needed monitoring for when reserving the license was no longer justified.

There are also variations in concurrent licensing, such as token licensing, where actual usage is measured, usually on a time or product basis, and a “price” of a certain number of tokens is charged for such use. The annual number of tokens are purchased up front as part of the contract, and may require topping up during the year, or may have been overestimated.

Some vendors manage their licenses via hardware such as dongles or USB keys. This now means that additional oversight is needed to ensure that the physical licenses are not lost, as they can only be replaced by repurchasing the license.

Multinationals also experience different licensing rules, where licensing agreements are not global and differ from region to region, calling for extra vigilance that compliance is not breached in such situations. So license management has never been a simple job. Cloud licensing has just made it more complex. While some vendors offer both perpetual and cloud licensing options, others, such as Autodesk, are making it their mission to eradicate the perpetual license from their portfolio. This is forcing customers to consider their options, which range from straightforward acquiescence to the change and converting all their licenses, through remaining on the current version for the time being and not upgrading to moving to another competitor’s product. None of these decisions are easy, and there is no uniform in-house policy that can be adopted, as the forms of licenses available are under the control of the vendor, so different decisions need to be made for different software.

The New Flavors of Licensing

There are quite a few license models emerging, that recognise the flexibility that the customer requires while trying to maximize the profitability and sustainability for the vendor. Here are a few variants.

Token Licensing
We have already mentioned token licenses, where the user “pays” a number of tokens for a particular product, such as Autodesk Revit. The number of minutes used can also affect the price, as well as when the timeslot starts. This can result in unnecessary costs, as some customers of Autodesk have discovered.
Another token variant is based on the way the software is being used, for instance, the number of tokens needed is linked to the number of CPUs being used for processing by Abaqus, a Dassault product.

Bundled and WorkBench Licenses
This seems to be a growing trend; instead of licensing a single product, the contract covers a range of software from the vendor. It can be based on user skillset and needs, e.g. architect or civil engineer. This can work for some environments, but generally there are a few products that are not needed by the company, for which they have paid. This model can also be token-based, with a different token value for each product.

Remix Licenses
A variant on workbench licenses, where the customer can specify their software needs for the year, but have the option to change up to 25% of the agreement to cater for changing requirements. This pay-per-use model is usually for a multi-year agreement and acknowledges that the customer’s needs change based on business acquired and changing market conditions. It does make the swapping of shelfware for something more useful easier.

There will definitely be new models emerging in the next few years, as vendors try to maintain their revenues, which are predominantly derived from licensing.

Regaining Control of the Situation

As if the license administrator’s job were not complex enough, many organizations do not understand the implications of using the vendor’s license management tool and the overheads it imposes on the license management professionals. Vendors either use one of the commercial models available from license management specialists such as Flexera and Gemalto, or have their own proprietary license tool, as is provided by Dassault and Bentley. There are even some companies that do not provide any aid whatsoever, especially where software has been custom-written.

The license managers have to understand the license management product that each vendor provides and use each tool for managing allocations and access, as well as extracting business intelligence from each tool. This is a full-time job. Adding a new layer of complexity with cloud licenses just adds to the overload. This is why an independent license management application is so necessary; it gives the license manager a single lens to view and manage all or most of the licenses under his control. It also offers a second opinion on actual license utilization, which many companies have found vital in negotiating with vendors and debating the vendor’s metrics as opposed to what the independent software reveals. Finally, the independent product is written from the customer’s viewpoint, not the vendor’s viewpoint, and offers reporting and functionality that assists license management in license optimization and forecasting future license needs.

Customers of OpenLM have discovered the benefits of a license management application that reports objectively and extensively on their license usage via a single product instead of a tool per vendor. The benefits of an application that has a common look and feel for all reports on license usage are often overlooked, especially when it comes to reporting to executives outside the IT environment. Some of our users have mentioned the power of OpenLM heat maps for getting the message across to their executive.

Outsourcing the License Conundrum – License Management as a Service

The decision to outsource license management is a growing trend, and is embraced by CIOs who are finding it increasingly difficult to get the right people on board to manage the licenses, because demand exceeds supply. It also makes license optimization easier, as the outsource companies have extensive experience in monitoring licenses from the different vendors and know from experience what size license pool should work for a specified number of users. Companies that have outsourced their license management find that the costs of the service are balanced by the savings obtained by the fine-tuning of the license portfolio by the service provider. OpenLM offers managed services that are gaining in popularity because of the cost benefits derived by the customer.

The Ins and Outs of Autodesk Global Travel Rights

Autodesk grants global travel rights to organizations who either have a subscription agreement or a maintenance plan. These rights can be very beneficial to companies who undertake projects outside the country or region in which they are based, and can result in savings costs under the right circumstances. There is one very important condition that we must mention first, because it is not explicitly stated in most of the Autodesk literature about global travel rights; there is a time limit. Where the travel rights rule applies, users are only allowed to use the software for a maximum of 90 days outside their “home country”. So, for a long-term project it will be necessary to obtain another license once the 90 days has passed.

What Constitutes a Home Country?

The home country is the country in which the license was purchased. Where the contract was entered into for a named user, the home country applies to his or her residency. Where the contract is with an organization, as would be the case of a maintenance agreement, the home country is that where the company is incorporated. For organizations within the European Union (EU) or who have signed the European Free Trade Association Agreement (EFTA), home country is any country that falls under the EU or EFTA classification. For companies subject to Brexit, they must re-examine their policies regarding user travel rights, as their freedom to use Autodesk software across the EU will be curtailed.

Which License Agreements Provide Global Travel Rights?

There are three major categories of licenses that benefit from travel rights:-

  • perpetual agreements which are covered by a maintenance agreement
  • Traditional subscription licenses
  • Cloud subscription licenses.

There are differences in which users are entitled to use software while travelling based on which license agreement has been implemented. It is also important to note that support services for the products are available during the operating hours that apply to the home country, not the company where the user is working under the global agreement.

Which Users are Entitled to Global Travel Rights?

Where an organization has a perpetual license with a maintenance agreement, all employees qualify, as well as on-site contractors. The on-site contractor must be contracted directly by the organization. Where the organization has agreements with affiliate companies to carry out the work, the employees of the affiliates and any contractors employed by the affiliate are NOT entitled to global travel rights.

Where an organization has subscription licenses in place, the same rules apply, in that only employees and direct on-site contractors qualify. The subscription users must be named users, generic users and user groups do not qualify, although it is possible to negotiate terms with Autodesk for specific circumstances. The named user should be identified as such in the license agreement and cannot share his license with any other user. If the user has his own individual license which recognizes him as the named user, he can use his license globally.

Cloud licenses have a different set of rules, which give access to a wider set of users, but this must be confirmed with Autodesk by the organization. The cloud subscription travel rights can extend to employees and contractors of companies affiliated to the parent organization, which is definitely not the case for perpetual and traditional subscription licenses.

What to Watch out for from a Compliance Aspect

Where a company has purchased licenses in their home country, use of travel rights are quite straightforward. However, the license administrator needs to guard against the following circumstances:-

  • the licenses were purchased outside the home country, for example where a project is to be executed in a foreign company. Those licenses can only be used in that country, regardless of whether the employees using them are permanent employees or contractors.
  • the travel rights apply only to the entity that purchased the license. They cannot be extended to a parent or sister company or the employees or direct contractors of those entities.
  • The usage period extending past 90 days.

For our OpenLM customers, it may be advisable to build a customized report that monitors compliance for licenses that are being used under the Global Travel Rights terms and conditions. Early warning of usage periods getting close to expiry, as well as a list of users who are operating under the travel rights agreement will avoid non-compliant usage.

Another method of managing compliance would be to tailor license allocations to include and exclude users according to their qualifying or exclusion from the global travel terms and conditions. OpenLM has recently launched a new product for managing license allocations that is available to all Autodesk customers, whether they use the OpenLM core product or not. This parameterized application allows the license administrator to tailor allocations by time, region, user or user group as well as software used down to feature level within that software product. Users can be granted access or blocked depending on the organizational policy and the license agreements in force. Please contact us for more information.

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.

FEA Specialists-take note! How to get the most out of your Abaqus tokens

Dassault is one of the world’s top enterprise software vendors by revenue, and the largest EDT (engineering design tool) supplier. Abaqus is one of their Finite Element Analysis (FEA) products which is widely used for simulations for computer-aided engineering, or CAE. Abaqus was acquired in 2005 by Dassault, and there are 2 license manager options: Dassault’s own product DSLS or Flexera’s Flexnet which is designed to handle token licenses. The token system works quite well for Abaqus, because of the nature of FEA software, which is often run on multiple processors with no or only occasional intervention by the user who scheduled the job. The number of tokens required for a job is dependent on:-

  • the number of simultaneous users
  • the number of parallel processors (CPUs or GPU) that are needed
  • at least 1 token for the CAE pre-processor, depending on number of users

So, while using multiple parallel processors will cut down the time to run the simulation to a fraction of the time it would run with a single CPU, there is an extra cost incurred for each processor used. Below is an illustration of token costing for various Abaqus products:-

Keeping track of token usage can be quite a complex task, and is even more complex when you are running FEA software on multiple CPUs. It can also be a challenge weighing up time taken to process the simulation against the cost of tokens. This is why GPUs have become so popular for intensive computations like FEA.  Tests by Abaqus working in tandem with Nvidia have found that Abaqus Standard runs 3.7 times faster when using a GPU.

Source: https://www.nvidia.com/en-us/data-center/gpu-accelerated-applications/abaqus/

Not only is processing time faster, it is cheaper. The token calculation when using one GPU in addition to the CPUs is the same as for the CPUs without a GPU. In other words, looking at the graph above, both methods will use 12 tokens, but results are produced in 1/4 of the time. The amount of acceleration improves for very complex calculations and very high numbers of degrees of freedom (DOF), and may not make a marked difference for smaller computations with a smaller number of DOFs.

This token pricing model applies irrespective of the number of CPUs utilized, as the graph below, illustrates.

Source: NVIDIA GPUs Accelerate Dassault Systèmes SIMULIA’s Abaqus/Standard FEA Solver  

https://www.nvidia.com/object/tesla-abaqus-accelerations.html

The improvement in processing time is shown below as this graph from a white paper by Nvidia illustrates, based on a study at Rolls Royce.

Source: White Paper – Accelerating Abaqus Computations Using NVIDIA GPUs

Possibly an even more important benefit is the energy savings from using the energy-efficient GPUs. The graph below, taken from the same white paper, shows energy savings when a GPU is added to the computation.

Source: White Paper – Accelerating Abaqus Computations Using NVIDIA GPUs

It clearly makes good sense to start incorporating GPUs into any complex calculations, such as FEA, where the software products cater for it.

There is further good news for Simulia customers, because Dassault has come up with a new token licensing scheme for three additional products, namely Isight, Tosca and FE Safe, which have been bundled together in an extended licensing scheme.

Good News for OpenLM Customers

Customers who use Abaqus have been able to apply OpenLM in managing their Abaqus licenses and tokens for some time. We are pleased to announce that we have recently enhanced our product in answer to a request from a leading research company who use OpenLM to manage their licenses. They asked us to provide license management for the Nvidia GPUs; Nvidia provides a license manager, but for ease of use, the company wanted just one tool to manage the Nvidia licenses as well as their computational software. It must be noted that the Nvidia license manager does not report on usage, an essential requirement for control and optimization. We have been able to develop this solution and it is now available for any of our customers who apply GPUs in their IT environment. We recognise that GPUs are used for a variety of applications, from crypto mining to VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure) installations. Even more conventional engineering tools, such as AutoCAD, are being boosted by the use of GPUs. Now their licenses can be managed through OpenLM as well.

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

 

The Engineering Software Alphabet Soup

 

Engineering software has grown in leaps and bounds since the first engineering products were developed. Where initially the focus was on computer-aided design, or CAD, now it has extended to provide digitized support to all areas of engineering. There are thousands of engineering software tools available today, many of which fall into categories that have a three-letter acronym to describe them. Managing compliance of all these products with vendor agreements has become an important discipline for the IT business unit, and the license management team in many engineering companies have come to rely on OpenLM in helping them manage the “alphabet soup”. We have compiled a list of some of these acronyms, and the products supported by OpenLM that fall under these categories.

BIM – Building Information Modelling

Building Information Modelling software has evolved from the original concept of 2D and 3D CAD. BIM provides the architect and engineer with 3D models of proposed and existing built structures. It can be used both for individual buildings and for whole ecosystems, like smart cities. The power of BIM is its ability to identify potential construction errors and weaknesses. Some of the BIM tools that OpenLM supports are Autodesk’s Revit and Navisworks, Tekla BIMSight, Dassault Systemes BIM, and BricsCAD BIM.

CAD – Computer-aided design

Computer-aided design heralded the revolution in engineering life, providing a software alternative to the drawing board and pens. Now available for 3D as well as 2D drawing, every engineering and architectural company has at least one CAD tool in their portfolio. While OpenLM is known for its ability to manage licenses for AutoDesk’s AutoCAD, it also supports BricsCAD, PTC Creo, Dassault’s Catia and Ansys, among many others.

CAE – Computer Aided Engineering

Computer-aided engineering performs analytics and simulations on engineering designs, such as computational flow dynamics (CFD), finite element analysis (FEA) and multibody dynamics (MDB) among other disciplines. Typically, such software is composed of a pre-processor, solver and a post-processor, and receives the output of design executed using a CAD or similar design application.

MSC Software were one of the earliest companies offering software for various types of CAE, such as Adams Car. Other CAE software includes Mathworks Simulink, Matlab, and Wolfram’s Mathematica, all of which are in OpenLM’s vendor list.

CAM – Computer-Aided Manufacturing

Computer-aided manufacturing usually describes an automated manufacturing process and is not engineering software per se, but does receive output from CAD and CAE application as part of the value chain and often requires the supervision or intervention of experienced engineers. Many vendors of engineering software offer CAM solutions, including Dassault (Catia), Siemens (NX CAM), PTC (Creo), AutoDesk (Powermill, FeatureCAM and Fusion 360) and HCL Technologies (Camworks). All of these vendor products are supported by OpenLM..

CFD – Computational Flow Dynamics

Computational Flow Dynamics or CFD is used to analyse the flows of gases and liquids via simulation and is one of the CAE analytic tools. Typically, like most CAE tools, CFD analysis is very complex and is run using multiple CPUs and/or GPUs.

Many major vendors offer CFD software, notably Ansys, which has products such as Fluent, CFD and CFX. Other well-known products include Autodesk’s Inventor and CFD, MSC’s Dytran and Solidworks.

ECAD – Electronic Computer Aided Design

Electronic Computer-Aided Design (ECAD) is a special branch of software that is dedicated to the design and production of Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs). The “CAD” in the name is a bit misleading, CAD is focused on design, while the best ECAD products cover the whole board manufacture process from design through to assembly and even parts explosion and bill of materials (BOM) generation.

One of the leaders in this field is Cadence Software with its Allegro software, which is focused on the design aspect, and some other products that are devoted to MCAD, the manufacture aspect, and IDX that allows electronic and mechanical engineers to collaborate on the board design and manufacture. OpenLM also supports Mentor Graphics’Xpedition PCB engineering suite.

EDA – Engineering Design Automation

Another acronym that is synonymous with EDT.

EDT – Engineering Design Tools

EDT is a global term for specialized engineering software, and includes any software that the engineer could find in his digital “toolbox”.

FEA and FEM – Finite Element Analysis and Method

Finite element analysis (FEA) is one of the CAE family of software. FEA software performs simulations and is usually run in batch mode. There is a wide variety of FEA software available, such as Simulia’s Abaqus, Nastran, originally from NASA and now available from MSC and Siemens, Livermore’s LS-DYNA and Ansys. There are many FEA packages that originated in universities and through research. These generally do not come with a license manager, but OpenLM has a feature that allows software like this to be monitored.

GIS – Geographical Information System

Geographic information systems (GIS) have been around for a long time and ArcGIS was the software that OpenLM is founded on. The founders were working at a company that used the ESRI product extensively, and the need for an independent license manager was identified. They started up a company that initially offered a solution for ArcGIS license management, then AutoCAD, followed by software from many other vendors. Today over 900 customers rely on OpenLM to manage their licenses, in industries ranging from Aerospace to scientific research.  

GPU – Graphics Processing Unit

What was originally a circuit board designed to support computer games has become a vital cog in modern computing. The parallel processing capabilities of graphics cards cuts down processing time and costs on intensive software processing required by CAE applications. Nvidia is the leading producer in the GPU field and they have collaborated with some of the leading software vendors, such as Dassault to optimise processing using the Nvidia boards. Recently OpenLM was requested to include Nvidia license management as part of the supported vendor products and this has been done. This simplifies work in advanced simulations and calculations, where cost of processing is an important consideration.

MDB – Multibody Dynamics

Multibody dynamics (MDB) is a CAE software tool. The discipline examines the behaviour of mechanical moving parts and the influences of external forces on these parts. Because the effects of these forces are unpredictable and cause friction and instability, this software can predict weaknesses and other potential flaws as well as mean time to failure. Some major software vendors in this field are Comsol, who have a Multibody Dynamics Module, and MSC Software with its Adams, Adams Car and SimXpert products.

PLM – Product Lifecycle Management

Early engineering software was siloed into different areas of expertise, and did not integrate readily with other applications used in the overall production of a part or product. This has been changed with the introduction of product lifecycle management (PLM) which covers the whole value chain of product development from inception to market. It also goes beyond this in that it supports maintenance during the product’s life up to the time when it needs to be disposed of as it has reached the end of its life. Some of the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software also lays claim to PLM management, but the main players in the PLM space are, Siemens, Dassault and Autodesk.

The Wide World of Engineering Software

These are not the only acronyms in the alphabet soup, and there are also many products that do not have a handy acronym to classify them that are used in various industries and engineering disciplines. Building roads and bridges, communicating via radio and satellite, designing transmission networks and the many facets of the oil and gas industry, all have their own specialized software tools. OpenLM covers many of these products too. If you are looking for effective license management over your valuable software, why not try our product and see if it works for you. You can download an evaluation copy and try it for 30 days at https://www.openlm.com/download/.

 

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.

 

The Hallmarks of a Great Software Asset Manager

The role of the software asset manager (SAM) in most organizations cannot be overemphasized. All organizations and their employees are totally reliant on software tools to do their daily work. This is especially relevant to engineering, scientific and construction companies, where the licenses for specialized software can comprise up to 15% of the annual IT budget. Then there is the added threat of steep fines and penalties for non-compliance with the licensing agreement with each vendor. The SAM can save a company a great deal of money by ensuring license adherence as well as ensuring that the quantity and type of licenses for each product are as close to the ideal number as possible. To do this effectively it is critical that the SAM and the SAM team have the right toolkit to manage software assets proactively and not in retrospect, for the following cases:

  • Identification of every software asset that the company owns
  • Managing the inventory of software assets
  • Understanding the complexities of each vendor relationship and license type, such as named, concurrent and pay-as-you-go licensing, soft and hard (i.e. dongle or USB) keys, maintenance agreements, upgrades and sunset clauses
  • Provide accurate figures on current and future use for each product as renewal time approaches
  • Having oversight on versioning and upgrades
  • Conduct regular audits to ensure that usage of a product falls within the license agreement or agreements with a vendor to ensure that you are always compliant and prepared for a vendor audit.
  • Manage the disposal of surplus software sitting on the shelf or otherwise no longer needed (e..g. software that was used for a project that is now completed).
  • Ensure that no software is purchased and/or downloaded without prior approval
  • Implement a process for the request for software by a user or department, the criteria for approving the purchase and notification by procurement that the software has been delivered for addition to the asset register and/or configuration management database.
  • Draft and implement a software asset policy that describes how software assets are managed within the company.
  • Ensure that all users are aware of the policy and adhere to its restrictions

There are other tasks that a SAM may be required to perform, but these are the key responsibilities. Each of them mitigates risk and most of them assist in cost reduction, either through keeping a minimum viable software portfolio for each product or by avoiding the possibility of a fine by the vendor for non-compliance.

Identifying all software assets

This can be a lot more difficult than it sounds, especially in organizations with many branches spread across countries, regions or remote sites where a project is in progress. Depending on the size of the company and its IT division, there might be local software asset managers who report to the lead asset manager and are responsible for the local software portfolio. In an IT environment which has established asset management practices, the asset register should be an accurate reflection of what software is actually being used in the company, but where software asset management is being implemented for the first time, actually identifying which software is on site requires a detailed investigation into contracts, license agreements, the license servers themselves, and other proof of the existence of a license and how it operates (e.g. perpetual, subscription, and how upgrades and maintenance are managed).

Managing the Inventory

For the fortunate SAM whose company has a comprehensive ITIL framework, the configuration database should be the repository for all software assets. This is not always the case, however, and sometimes a software asset register is also in existence or needs to be created. What happens in many specialized environments, such as engineering and scientific entities is that the general software used throughout the company, such as Microsoft Word, SAP, or Adobe, are well managed and documented. When it comes to specialized software, such as Coulomb, or lightning protection software, where there are only a few copies, they are not recorded. Of course, the management of a large portfolio such as Microsoft Office, is very important in avoiding the risk of non-compliance, very expensive software such as Catia, can be overlooked. Its existence in the company must be recorded and monitored.

 The Vendor Relationship

Each vendor relationship is unique, varying from the simple relationship where a vendor has only one product that has been purchased on subscription, with named licenses, to the situation where many software applications have been bought from the vendor and its partners across the globe, with several license types and forms. The simple relationship involves only an annual renewal, while it is possible to have 3 or more renewals per year, one agreement with the vendor and the others with different partners around the globe. Perpetual concurrent user licenses also will have an annual maintenance agreement. It is important to have an overall view of all the different agreements so that there are no slip-ups when a renewal comes due.

 Getting Ready for Renewals

As mentioned above, there could be several renewals a year for a single vendor or a single product. By producing comprehensive reporting timeously when renewals are about to fall due, the software asset manager assists the CIO and other executives make the correct decisions. Points to be considered are whether there are surplus licenses that can be dropped, multiple contracts that could be consolidated into a single contract, and alternative license forms that could be considered. Sometimes there is no alternative; Autodesk is determined to move all their customers to subscription licenses and discontinue perpetual licenses. The reporting should be detailed enough to support the management decisions, and the SAM needs a robust license management application that can produce this detail.

Managing Upgrades

Upgrades are a form of renewal where a long-term arrangement is in place, such as a perpetual license or a multi-year agreement that was negotiated at a discounted rate. Again, reports that analyse the pros and cons of the upgrade must be generated.

Spot Checks and Audits

 The unannounced arrival of a vendor who has come to conduct an audit can come at any time. In order to sleep peacefully at night, the SAM should also conduct spot audits to check compliance. Any non-compliance can be attended to immediately. This mitigates any risk of being slapped with a large fine for lack of adherence to the licensing conditions. It is recommended that regular reporting, which could either be produced by a SAM or license management software application, is implemented. Such reports may need customization to get the detail required. performing manual audits can be very time-consuming and this could cause audits to fall behind, creating risk of non-compliance.

 Disposing of Surplus Licenses

 Many companies buy more licenses than they need, either to ensure that none of the users experience denials or to provide for a temporary increase of use of the software. The software asset manager must report on the surplus and recommend how to reduce the costs of these licenses, either by discontinuing them or by converting them to another format, such as concurrent licenses.

Eliminating unauthorized downloads and purchases

One of the reasons for license “creep” is the ability of users to purchase or download copies of the software which then fly below the radar of the asset manager. A method of controlling this needs to be implemented. It is also important where the license caters for BYOD (bring your own devices), especially by contractors, that the license is revoked when the resource leaves the company because his contract has completed. The software asset manager needs to collaborate with Security and the license administrators to ensure that access is always controlled and appropriate.

Software Acquisition Process

There should be a clearly defined and mapped process for procuring software that does not allow divisions to buy software without reference to the SAM. It is surprising how many companies have not made sue this cannot happen.

Implementing the Software Asset Policy

The company’s approach to software license management must be documented by the SAM in a policy document. This clarifies how and when software can be acquired and retired, what needs to be done to avoid vendor non-compliance and the responsibilities of the SAM and the users of the software. Processes described in the policy must be mapped and implemented as well.

Communicating the Policy and Good Practice

 It is one thing to write a policy, it is quite another to make sure that every user understands the contents and their own responsibility. An education campaign may be necessary, especially in large organizations.

 Conclusion

It is clear from what we have described here that the role of software asset manager is a key and important one in any organization. Where software asset management is not managed well, the threat of a massive non-compliance liability from a vendor always looms like a large cloud. A competent software asset manager is worth his weight in gold and can save millions in companies which have large software investments. He should be given the resources and tools he needs to carry out his job. Some companies cannot afford permanent resources and should consider consulting external specialists who can assist the SAM.

The software asset manager also needs a good software product to assist him. Traditionally SAM software was available, but these products are gradually being replaced by license management software. License management software has all the capabilities of a SAM tool, but also has additional features than enable minute-to-minute license management. OpenLM is a license management product that combines software asset management with license administration. It is specially geared towards engineering software, which is notoriously complex and expensive. Where a single license costs thousands of dollars, close attention to managing it is vital to saving costs and optimizing use of the product. Users of AutoCAD, ArcGIS, Ansys, Catia or the thousands of engineering software products out there can rely on OpenLM to make the software asset manager’s life easier. Please contact us if you are looking for consultation support, and, if you are not already a customer, we recommend that you download OpenLM under free trial to see how it can help you in software asset management.

 

Good News for High-Performance Computer Users

The development of a virtual GPU (vGPU) by Nvidia has enabled many organizations to recalibrate the productivity of their installation to a high-performance model, using GPUs instead of CPUs for processes and applications that require large computational power. It has also added another license manager to the toolbox of license applications the company has to administer. Following a customer request, OpenLM has developed a solution for managing GPU licenses. 

GPU license management is essential for compliance especially in VDI environments

Graphics Processing Units (GPUs) are becoming very popular as an alternative for CPU processing, especially for the heavy computational work required in engineering and science. Running simulations using graphics processing can give a processing improvement; a user of Ansys Fluent can accelerate his computation to be at least twice as fast up to 3.7 times faster, depending on the class of GPU used. The leading supplier of GPUs is Nvidia, which has 49% of the market; what was originally designed as an aid to gaming and desktop graphics is now an indispensable aid to engineering applications, such as CAE (computer-aided engineering). There is even a trend towards using GPUs for standard office productivity, like Windows 10, which requires 30% to 50% more graphics processing power, depending on whether one is working at operational or applications level.

Typical situations where high-performance computing is needed are:

  • architects, designers and engineers who use CAD, CAE and CAM software
  • “Miners” of cryptocurrency who utilize extensive processing power to solve their blockchain algorithms
  • researchers who use AI and machine learning for new discoveries in healthcare, automotive and robotic design and other disciplines
  • and even regular users of widely used software like Windows, Office and Adobe, which require increased  graphics capability with each new release

What many CIOs are also doing is moving to a VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure) architecture. Instead of upgrading or replacing desktops and laptops on a regular basis to increase the processing capability, upgrades are made to the VDI, which is where the processing occurs; the user just accesses the application they want using their own device and the VDI executes the processing and holds the data. This adds a new level of security, if a user’s phone, tablet or laptop is stolen, the thief cannot access anything of value to the company. Vital company information is centralised and secure and cannot be left on a bus or in a taxi by accident. Theft of the device does not give the thief any vital information, because it is all kept on premises. Using a VDI also obviously saves on the capex budget, because less hardware has to be bought. However, the use of GPUs adds another set of software licenses that have to be managed.

There are two types of VDI setup, which have much in common with conventional software licenses, persistent and non-persistent VDIs:

  • A persistent VDI is a “desktop” in the cloud service that is linked to a specific user, similar to a named user software license.
  • A non-persistent VDI is a “floating” desktop”. The user accesses the desktop, applies it to the task at hand and returns it to the “pool” making it available to the next resource. This is similar to a concurrent user software license, which is not tied to any particular user.

While managing licenses for a “named” user is straightforward, as it works on a one-to-one relationship between user and VDI, the non-persistent VDI is more complex, because any user can access the VDI and release it for use by another user. Another licensing consideration relates to complex simulations and calculations where multiple parallel processors are used, such as Simulia’s Abaqus. In order to ensure license compliance, Nvidia provides a license manager application, but one of our customers requested a better solution.

The customer, a seasoned user of OpenLM software, had been using the product to monitor the specialized software that it uses to perform simulations and complex mathematical calculations. They conduct research on products and innovations for a wide range of industries and are reliant on GPUs and high-performance computing to execute their work.  The benefit of using OpenLM for them was that they could bypass all the different license managers from the various vendors and use a single product for managing access to licenses and optimizing performance and productivity. They wanted the convenience of managing their Nvidia licenses without having to use another license manager tool, as well as ensuring that they were compliant with their license agreement at all times.

The OpenLM development team studied what was required and came up with the desired solution within a few weeks. As our customers are mainly in engineering, science and tech, most of them either already use GPUs or are in the process of making the switch.  We are happy to announce that we can now assist them in monitoring their GPU usage and compliance alongside their license administration of their spatial, mathematical and engineering software. While the Nvidia licenses are relatively cheap when compared to a product like Dassault’s Catia or even AutoCAD, companies that perform extensive calculations, or are involved in AI can have thousands of GPU licenses, which puts manual management out of the question. Even a customer that has only a small investment in GPUs can benefit, because they are using a common license manager for all the software products that they need to administer.