Changing the Dynamics in Healthcare Research with Ansys Software

Scientific breakthroughs in healthcare are increasing daily. However, the costs of new drugs and devices are prohibitive and making them available can take years before they are approved by authorities such as the FDA. Traditionally, to gain approval for a new healthcare drug or device, it had to undergo comprehensive testing in three disciplines; bench tests (in vitro), animal tests (in vivo) and finally, clinical trials (in situ). This process can take a decade before a new drug or device is regarded as effective and safe enough to be brought to market. What is more, a large number of new products fail 90% of the way through the journey.

The development of scientific software applications that can assist in and accelerate the process is bringing a new dynamic, helping to bring down costs while reducing the risk of failure of a drug or device. Simulation software provides a new means of testing any prototype healthcare device, and is becoming increasingly important in biomechanical research and is commonly referred to as in silico testing, referring to the silicon chips that are integral to any computer. Software vendors such as Ansys have collaborated in integrating their software in healthcare modelling and simulation, assisting in breakthroughs in healthcare device development.

Accommodating the New Market

Traditionally, software such as Ansys was developed for the engineering industry and is known as computer-assisted engineering (CAE). While CAE software that can perform functions such as finite element analysis (FEA) and computational flow dynamics (CFD) is what is needed for in silico testing, healthcare researchers are generally untrained in these disciplines, especially in the pharmaceutical industry. Ansys themselves speak of the need to “democratize” their software tools, making them accessible to all, not just the few researchers with the necessary training in mathematics and engineering. They have already made inroads on providing a product that can be used by anyone in healthcare. Surgeons can use simulation before an operation to assess the effect of a particular approach on a patient. Sales and marketing can demonstrate how a product functions via simulations. Even executives can use a simulation model to secure funding from potential investors.

Ansys has collated a portfolio of case studies where the use of their products has brought benefits to healthcare organizations, primarily via reduced costs and shorter timeframes as well as risk reduction. The ability to show a simulation as opposed to describing it has an impact all along the value chain:-

  • investors can visualize what the innovation does
  • regulatory authorities get a clear view of how the product works
  • potential customers, such as doctors and hospitals, are likely to adopt the new product from a demonstration
  • insurers are presented with visual evidence to help them make a decision about a patient procedure and how likely it is to succeed.

From Cardiac Interventions to Better Pills

  • Heart Disease. The medical world is focused on combatting cardiovascular disease, because it is the leading cause of death globally, according to the WHO. The traditional procedure of open-heart surgery is steadily being replaced by less invasive remedies, such as inserting a stent to regulate blood flow. CFD is invaluable in this field, from making more accurate diagnosis of the state of a patient’s arteries to manufacturing new stents that work more effectively than current models.
  • Pulmonary Applications. New drugs can cost as much as $1-billion to develop, and those for respiratory diseases are the most expensive, because of the difficulty of testing the drug’s effectiveness in the field. Researchers are turning to CFD to simulate the movement of air through the respiratory passages. In silico simulation can reduce the cost of development by as much as 30% and halve the time to complete the testing.
  • Dietary Supplements. It goes without saying that if a pill is too large and difficult to swallow, it will not be marketable. The ideal shape is as round as possible, but this affects the hardness of the pill, which in turn compromises the machinery punching out the pill and reduces the lifetime of the parts. Asahi in Japan have expanded their product range from brewing beer to providing dietary supplements. They used Ansys Mechanical to come up with a solution that saved them hundreds of thousands of dollars.

There are many more examples of the use of simulation in healthcare available on the Ansys website, but these few give an idea of the diversity of applications that can benefit from CAE.

So How Does this Affect the License Administrator?

Up to now, CAE software has been used by specialists and experts, even in engineering, so there are usually only a few simulation software applications on site. Now that Ansys is “democratizing” its product and making it accessible to people who are not skilled in modelling and simulation, the need for the product across the organization will increase, and so will the number of licenses required. Ansys provides FlexLM as a license manager, as do most of their competitors, notably Comsol and Dassault. While FlexLM reports salient information on license usage, it is for the benefit of the vendor, rather than the customer.

This is where OpenLM can play an important role, as it can provide all the control and visibility required to manage other licenses, such as MatLab, as well as Ansys, through a single graphical interface (GUI). What is more, OpenLM’s core product can manage licenses for Nvidia GPUs (graphical processing units), which are being used by more and more organizations running simulation software, because of the reduction in time taken to process the information. Ansys has cooperated with Nvidia to make their software very scalable, for instance, for performing simulations, Ansys Mechanical can scale up to 1 000 cores as opposed to the industry standard of 100 cores, and can solve up to 2 billion DOF (degrees of freedom). Ansys’ CFD tool, Fluent, can scale up to 129 000 cores.

OpenLM can also manage the Ansys “pay-as-you-go” licensing model, the “Elastic License”. This license can be used as a supplement to the regular Ansys agreement. It allows the customer to “top-up” where required, for instance, where there is a peak demand for a new project. It is a much more customer-friendly license model, in that it has reporting that supports departmental and project chargebacks.

Where Ansys is leading currently, its competitors will surely follow suit. In a few years time, it is likely that specialized and rare CAE software will no longer be used by only a handful of finite element specialists, but by resources across the organization. Managing software such as the Ansys Workbench is just as easy as managing Autodesk products with OpenLM, as well as the GPUs required for the necessary processing power. One of our consultants can advise you on your unique situation.

How Solidworks Enables Innovation in a Bionic World

The design and manufacture of medical devices has changed dramatically in the last decade. The advent of 3D printing and software applications that enable simulation for testing concepts and prototypes enables organizations in this field to bring safer products to market more quickly than ever before.  Versatility and flexibility is also possible; it is physically and financially feasible to design and fit devices that fit perfectly for an individual patient, such as an artificial hand. Many of the engineering software vendors provide invaluable software to make the job easier. Solidworks, a subsidiary of Dassault Systèmes, has developed and built a range of products which are available as a portfolio, that enable and support the medical product value chain from concept through to regulatory approval.

An End-to-End Toolkit

While there are many vendors offering some or most of the software applications needed to produce 3D designs, run simulations and create bills of material, Solidworks claims to be the only company that provides a complete solution, as opposed to point solutions and PLM (product lifecycle management) software. The Solidworks Product Portfolio is a PDM (Product Development Management) solution, and they are confident that its contents will satisfy two critical success factors in medical device development; regulatory requirements and time to market.

Parent company Dassault Systemes are recognised as the world leader in 3D systems, so much so that they call themselves the “3D Experience Company”, abbreviated to “3DS”.  While the Portfolio offers every possible 3D engineering aid, from CAD to visualization and preparation for 3D printing, its real strength is in the documentation that it generates. Every step of the journey is recorded and traceable, which is vital if regulatory approval is to be granted.

Factors that Affect Outcomes: Regulation

It is understandable that medical devices require far more rigorous testing and approval than most products, after all, a poor quality shoe may be uncomfortable and give you blisters, a sub-standard stent could kill you. Although the average total cost for bringing a new medical device to market is much less than the $ 1 billion required for a new drug, the cost of regulation can be as high as 77% of the overall cost, especially when you are dealing with the FDA and the device is a Class III device. The FDA’s Class III device is regarded as high risk and is any device that needs to be inserted into the patient’s body, such as a hip replacement or a stent and requires a special and costly PMA (pre-market approval). A 510(k) approval for lower-risk devices takes just a big chunk out of the total product budget as illustrated below in a figure from an article in Medical Product Outsourcing Magazine, discussing a report published in 2010 by Price Waterhouse Coopers.

regulatory cost as a component of medical product development in the US

Illustration of regulatory cost as a component of medical product development in the US


The report examined the impact of regulation on new medical devices in the US and Europe. It was found that US patients would generally have to wait an extra two years after a device was approved in Europe before they would be able to benefit.

One of the challenges in getting a PMA or a 501(k) is the compilation and presentation of all the relevant documentation to the FDA. This is where Solidworks offers a clear advantage, because every detail of the workflow is automatically recorded, from design to final prototype. Without this functionality, the R&D staff is tasked with compiling all the data from disparate systems. The manual overhead adds time to the project and is error-prone. Having all the necessary documentation collated and integrated saves many hours both in the lab and in negotiations with the FDA, bringing down costs as well. Many of these costs are salary related: approximately 1/3 of employees are tasked with quality control and adherence to regulations. Superior documentation should reduce the headcount required as well as reduce hours spent in compliance activities. Improved delivery times are also vital when it comes to competition.

Factors that Affect Outcomes: Competition

Despite the hurdles to be overcome with regulation and compliance, competition is fierce in the medical product world. So speed is of the essence, balanced with uncompromising quality. A single, integrated stream of applications that moves from concept through 3D rendering, iterative testing of the model using simulations such as FEA and CFD, as well as a comprehensive standard parts library, optimizes the time taken to get to approval and into the market. It is also possible to decompose the product into smaller parts and test them independently and then together, accelerating testing by simplifying what has to be tested, rather than deal with the entire product every time. The ability to customise a product for an individual patient is also simplified with the Driveworks application, which takes a pre-existing model and adjusts it according to a set of criteria specified by the engineer.

Any competitor who is using a range of different products will find it difficult to match the speed to market that the Solidworks tools provide.

Some Success Stories

While some medical devices require stainless steel for manufacture, plastic is used wherever possible. Plastic design is specialized and requires a specific toolset to design the plastic part to be manufacture-ready, for instance, when injection molding or 3D printing is required. As Dassault and Solidworks are experts in 3D modelling, they are the first choice for companies producing devices that can be printed on a 3D printer.

  • One example of where 3D printing is a lifesaver is in the manufacture of devices that can be inserted in newborns with birth defects. One infant had a very soft windpipe that kept collapsing: a splint was designed and inserted to protect and strengthen the windpipe.
  • Tensys Medical Inc attributed the use of Solidworks tools in shortening their design process by 60% when they designed a non-invasive arterial blood pressure management system. This enabled them to get their product out ahead of their competitors.
  • Exoskeletons for assisting hemiplegics, paraplegics and quadriplegics to move independently are becoming a major subject of biomechanics. At Solidworks World 2018, Korean professor Kyoungchul Kong revealed 2 exoskeletons designed to assist his fellow-workers, one for paraplegics, called WalkON, and one for hemiplegics and people with walking difficulties called Angelegs.

There are hundreds more examples of designs, ranging from more ergonomic pill bottles to artificial arteries, all of which have been designed using Solidworks tools. The cost of the software is easily recouped, whether it cuts down on regulatory costs, accelerates time to market, cuts down on prototyping via simulation, or all three. Licensing for all products can either be on a subscription or perpetual basis. There is also a 3-month subscription option available for some applications, specially tailored for small companies who need the products for a short-term project. The license management is provided by Flexera, and OpenLM can manage licenses for all all Solidworks products.


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.

Managing Licenses on the Edge – Flexera’s New product

The exploding growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) has brought massive change to license and security management. Even the smallest sensor has one or more software drivers, and there is growing recognition that the true value in the device or product lies in its use and the execution of the embedded software, rather than the device itself. New revenue models based on consumption rather than sale of capital-intensive assets are being adopted by industrial device and product manufacturers. Manufacturers of CT scanners recognise that small-scale hospitals and clinics cannot afford the capex for their hardware, so an alternative where the scanner is leased and the hospital is charged when scans are done is becoming popular. This has created a move to licenses embedded in the devices side-by-side with the software that drives the device. There are billions of “things” that are already connected via the Internet, and the volumes are increasing exponentially. This has created a new challenge, managing the data.

The Data Avalanche and How to Contain it

All the machines participating in the IoT have one purpose, to feed back data to a central source. This is creating huge volumes of data which are measured in petabytes and zettabytes. In principle, this data is streamed back via the cloud to data centers located in remote sites across the globe. In reality this model does not work:-

  • not all data gathered by a sensor is required real-time
  • Distance is not dead; the time taken to transmit a message to a data center and receive a reply may not meet requirements, especially because it is the cloud provider that directs the message, not the owner or vendor of the sensor
  • Some data is very time-critical, and needs low latency to get a response to the message, for instance, a pacemaker sensing a pending cardiac arrest needs an immediate reaction
  • Many devices are kept offline, due to security or connectivity constraints
  • Each connected device is a cyber risk which could allow hackers to infiltrate the main ecosystem

The answer to mitigate these risks is edge computing and edge computers.

What is Edge Computing and will it Destroy the Cloud?

Edge (or fog) computing takes processing close to the device (Fog computing is a descriptive synonym for edge computing, coined by Cisco, and while there are differences in how fog and edge network, the principles are basically the same, so we use edge here to cover both edge and fog).

Edge is both a halfway house to the cloud and a pre-processor that can return a response to the device in time-critical situations. There are those that believe that edge computers will displace cloud computing, while others believe that the two will always co-exist. Typical edge hardware is designed for high availability and very powerful, with GPUs to process data rapidly. Obviously, to perform as required, it needs its own software for various activities, including:-

  • polling sensors to send data,
  • evaluating and consolidating the data (rather like the ETL of a data warehouse)
  • application processing for time-critical responses (e.g. avoiding an accident for an autonomous vehicle)
  • and even AI and machine learning to provide business intelligence and to improve its own performance.

Where there is software, there must be a license, which must be managed, and Flexera have identified the need and devised a solution.

Flexera Edge – Managing Connected and Unconnected Devices

The development of a product to manage licenses on the edge makes good sense, when you consider this statement made by Gartner in 2017.

Currently, around 10% of enterprise-generated data is created and processed outside a traditional centralized data center or cloud. By 2022, Gartner predicts this figure will reach 50 percent.

They recently revised this statement (October 2018).

Currently, around 10% of enterprise-generated data is created and processed outside a traditional centralized data center or cloud. By 2022, Gartner predicts this figure will reach 75 percent.

IDC, in their predictions for IoT for 2018 stated

Prediction 7: By 2020, IT Spend on Edge Infrastructure Will Reach up to 18% of the Total Spend on IoT Infrastructure, Driven by Deployments of Converged IT/OT Systems That Reduce the Time to Value of Data Collected from Their Connected Devices

This, coupled with the concerns about Cyberthreats mentioned in the same report, makes it extermely good sense to be focusing on edge computing as the place where asset, entitlement and license management should be happening:-

Prediction 1: By 2020, the Potential Cybersecurity and Physical Safety Concerns Associated with IoT Devices Will Pressure CIOs at G2000 Companies to Increase IoT Security Spending by up to 25%, Temporarily Neutralizing Business Productivity Gains

Flexera have heeded the call and developed a product for managing devices at the edge.

The reasoning behind the product is simple:-

  • There already are billions of devices out there that need software enhancements and fixes updated. Some of these updates may be very occasional, but other devices may require updates daily or even more frequently.
  • The zettabytes of data reaching the edge should be aggregated and analysed and the distilled result should be relayed up to the cloud. This implies that edge computers will carry their own portfolio of software that enables them to perform AI and self-learn.
  • The customization of devices by applying rules in embedded software within the device as to what features the organization or even a single user signed up for, means that universal updates are no longer viable.
  • Entitlement management has to be applied in conjunction with the software update
  • Managing this from the cloud is impractical and unwieldy, because there are so many devices to which updates must be streamed.
  • Managing this manually is completely impossible.
  • Keeping software current is just not good enough; for some industries, it has to be proven that the latest release is the one being used. This is a requirement from the FDA, but may well be taken up by other authorities.
  • All the above applies to disconnected devices too.

An edge computer is the best platform for managing and controlling the software assets of devices that network to it. It can manage the updates for both connected and disconnected devices, without opening them up to cyberrisk, report on the current state of its IoT community, what software versions are out there, who is actually using them and which features and alert to any aberrations.

This means that the edge computer itself must be extremely secure and resistant to threats and attacks. From a physical perspective, and because many edge devices are situated in industrial locations, the computers themselves are ruggedized and housed in protective cages and lockers. Logically, there must be a resilient and resistant security infrastructure that will ward off cyber attacks within the edge computer logic. If the edge computer is secure, the devices it manages have a reduced risk of attack. If there is a direct attack on a device, the edge computer should be able to quarantine it and prevent the virus or infection from spreading.

Changing the Licensing Landscape

The traditional licensing landscape is still adapting to the changes imposed by factors such as cloud computing, BYOD and embedded software. The traditional setup of the on-site license server that controls perpetual and named licenses is inappropriate for the IoT, and will have to make way for new models that permit edge computers to oversee license and entitlement. While the emphasis is on monetizing the software that drive the IoT devices, the administration of who owns the licenses, what their entitlements are  and what software version they are using still need to be managed. A consolidated view of the feedback of all the edge computers for the organization is also a necessity. There will be many new licensing and asset management products reaching the market in the next few years as the demand for applications that can manage IoT licensing and entitlement grows, joining Flexera in this new niche.

Fake news in the software industry

We got a surprising email from a customer this week. A long time very loyal customer that received an offer from a competitor, as following:

Over the years OpenLM has provided exceptional support and a product that has met my needs.

I was approached by a competitor and have no idea how they discovered we are your customer but they knew.

As part of their sales pitch, they sent me the attached “White Paper. I would never refer to such as a “White Paper”. White papers are scholarly factual descriptions of how a product or process functions to provide service or meet it’s goal. Most of what they sent is a potentially libelous slam that uses semantics to phrase claims in a light that benefits their product. If you have not seen it, you should look it over.

You can find the document sent to our customer in the following link.

The paper was written by Guy D. Haas, BS, MBA, President, TeamEDA, Inc.

While I got an advice to seek for a legal assistance we thought that we better let you judge. Unlike the writer of the paper we value our customers as being smart and professionals – not naive. The only cure we know for Fake news is Fact-checking and this is what we are going to do in this article. We are looking forward to getting your feedback about it.

In total I collected 38 claims from the document and decided to stop at this point. All the claims that can be categories with Incorrect/Correct are shown in the following table. In total 3 out of the 38 claims are correct, in total 90% are incorrect claims. After the table I will discuss claims that can’t be categorized by a simple Incorrect/correct (you can skip to this part using this link).


Fact-checking table:

# Claim Correct? Fact
1 OpenLM does not support Asset/Inventory Management Incorrect We provide comprehensive inventory management – links
2 Contact Management Correct We don’t provide contact management
3 OpenLM does not support mapping of features to products Incorrect Fully supported – link
4 OpenLM does not support Feature Name Aliasing Incorrect Fully supported – Link
5 OpenLM does not provide support for Concurrency or Heatmap Graphs, or Zero Use or Group Usage Tables Incorrect Fully supported – link
6 OpenLM does not provide Batch Reports Incorrect Fully supported – link
7 OpenLM release new version 3-4 times a month Incorrect OpenLM transparently document each software release in our site and one can easily see that this is incorrect.
8 OpenLM is low quality due to lack of testing Incorrect OpenLM holds an inhouse QA team of 4 people and also employs automatic QA software
9 OpenLM customers are required to upgrade monthly Incorrect OpenLM customers get a very stable product and need to upgrade based on resolved issues/new functionality needed. OpenLM is using Agile development methods that allows us to provide fast response to customers.
10 OpenLM support is only in Israel Incorrect OpenLM has support centers in different timezones to provide global 24/6 support – see further discussion bellow
11 OpenLM does not provide support in English Incorrect OpenLM US support team are English native employees of OpenLM Inc. (US company) – see discussion
12 OpenLM support is only accessible by email Incorrect OpenLM support is accessible by phone (toll free US number:  +1-866-806-2068, Online chat (Link), Support online form (link) and email
13 OpenLM cannot and will not provide any on-site support Incorrect OpenLM does provide on-site support, not only in the US but also worldwide
14 OpenLM cannot support a Dashboard Incorrect OpenLM does have a dashboard and it can be configured using our role based security system – Link
15 OpenLM reports are not accessible using a hyperlink Incorrect OpenLM provides links into specific reports – see discussion
16 .NET does not allow URL-based report creation. Incorrect A claim about .NET technology which is totally wrong. “URL based report” can be implemented with almost any development language
17 OpenLM can’t support big companies with best practices Incorrect OpenLM has more than 1000 customers with thousands of employees. 10% of our customers are in the Fortune 1000 list. We also have prominent customers in the public sector and academia.
18 OpenLM only offers a cheap solution for basic usage monitoring. Incorrect Companies who use OpenLM to monitor Catia, Siemens PLM, hundreds of CAD licenses and advanced simulation software are looking for a lot more than basic monitoring. – link to case studies
19 OpenLM is cheap and can’t invest in development Incorrect OpenLM’s development team has more than 20 full-time developers
20 OpenLM is cheap and can’t invest in support Incorrect OpenLM support team is 6 people strong and provides 24/6 coverage worldwide. Most customers call on us only occasionally for support, because of the stability of our core product and they find it very easy to use
21 Idle license harvesting is not legal Incorrect It is the customer’s right to close the software when it’s not in use
22 Harvesting an idle license is dangerous Incorrect The term “dangerous” does not seem to be valid here. Note that OpenLM provides the option to save before closing the application.
23 OpenLM requires an agent Incorrect OpenLM Agent is an optional software component
24 OpenLM Agent is required to be installed on servers Incorrect OpenLM Agent is an application for end users workstations not for servers
25 OpenLM must be installed on each workstation Incorrect OpenLM Agent is an optional component which many of our customers choose to install thanks to the huge benefits it brings them
26 OpenLM Agent must be installed on each license server Incorrect OpenLM Agent for the license manager (OpenLM Broker) is optional and the system can function without it. By installing it, the customer is getting advanced functionality
27 Installing OpenLM “open up your network, License Servers, and Workstations to a company in Israel?” Incorrect Installing OpenLM on-premise does not expose our customer’s information to us. Our software does not send anything outside the organization, and we respect all data privacy legislation globally.
28 There really is no way to monitor usage of node-locked licenses Incorrect OpenLM has supported this functionality for the last 8 years
29 OpenLM License Allocation Manager uses FLEXlm Options Files capabilities to manage allocations Correct Correct, we are utilizing and enhancing the built-in functionality – link to product page
30 OpenLM (does not have) any daemon management capability other than maybe editing Option files, and that is questionable. Incorrect OpenLM provides: reread, start, stop, upload license files, download any logs and more
31 Software architecture is determine by development language Incorrect There is no tie between development language and architecture
32 Java  and PHP is a more flexible framework compare to .NET Incorrect If I purchase an application, the coding is irrelevant in most cases, as a customer I want a working product. OpenLM does use Java, check this article
33 Java and PHP allows url-based report generation while .NET does not Incorrect This capability is not related to the development language but to the software architecture (OpenLM is using the SPA concept)
34 .NET is only Windows Incorrect This claim is against Microsoft and inaccurate.  The new version of .NET – .NET Core is platform independent and we are switching to it.
35 OpenLM does not offer Linux solution Incorrect From the beginning, in 2007 we fully supported license servers running on any platform either by direct query or by cross platform agent
36 OpenLM does not have offices all over the world Incorrect OpenLM has physical offices in Israel and Europe.
37 OpenLM main location for development is Israel Correct We are proud to have our main development center in Israel
36 OpenLM’s main location for support is Israel Incorrect We would be proud if that was true  but in order to provide best quality support we have more representatives around the world
37 OpenLM website links don’t go anywhere Incorrect We hate dead links with a passion and if you are unlucky enough to encounter one, on our site, please let us know!

Stay tuned for the upcoming launch of our new even “more comprehensive” website !

38 OpenLM makes a lot of false claims about functionality and performance Incorrect OpenLM stands by its word regarding functionality and performance. We support the world’s biggest configurations – link

More Claims

Few of the claims that I am not able to answer with a Incorrect/correct answer so I would like to refer to it here:

Claim: “OpenLM is a small Israeli company, who seems to cater to small naive companies, where low price is the #1 consideration. Not sure how long they have been in business, or if they are profitable. Hard to imagine since they can’t be generating that much revenue.”

There are multiple claims here:

OpenLM is a small Israeli company: The term small is relative, you can be small compared to another company. Yes, we are small compared to Apple. OpenLM is actually a group of three companies: OpenLM LTD, OpenLM Inc. and OPENLM SOFTWARE S.R.L.. The groups employ more than 40 workers worldwide at the time of writing this document, and we are currently expanding our workforce.

OpenLM seems to cater to small naive companies:  “Small” is relative and size is no indication of company expertise, skills and market share. Everyone has to start somewhere and we recognise and value our SME customers just as much as our large corporates. Our customers are also very worldly wise – naive companies would not be investing in license management software, as they understand the risks of compliance.

We are very proud of our loyal customer base, which includes some of the leading organizations in the following industries:-

  • Aerospace
  • Automotive
  • Construction and Architecture
  • Healthcare
  • Manufacturing
  • Oil and Gas
  • Research
  • Technology

to mention a few.

We also provide services to the public sector, from local authorities to government entities, including US Defense bodies.

Through our University Program, we have a strong academic customer base, with at least 20 of the global top 200 universities that we are delighted to have as customers, as this is where our customers of the future are being educated in the use of engineering and scientific software.

As to size, we have customers who employ thousands of employees globally and whose brands are instantly recognizable.

Not sure how long they are in business: OpenLM has been in business from 2009 as a company. The operation started 2 years before incorporation as a project within another company. As of 2019, we have been in the market for 12 years.

Not sure if OpenLM is profitable: Thanks for your concern, we are doing well.


Other claims I would only want to refer to briefly (these are not a Incorrect/Correct response):

  1. It does not make sense to monitor node locked licenses – Read the following articles, links 1 2
  2. OpenLM Agent is capable of monitoring keyboard, mouse and cpu, which degrades system performance – Any software that you might install on your workstation will degrade performance. Taking it to the extreme, if you don’t install anything, you will have the best performance and security but no functionality, so perhaps you should also turn off the power as well. Many of our customers decided to implement OpenLM Agent because of the value it brings to the table and they feel that any performance degradation (which is minimal) is worth it. By the way, OpenLM does not directly monitor keyboard, mouse activity.
  3. Idle license harvesting is intrusive/not legal/dangerous – There are many limitations that companies impose on their workers, and have written policies stating these limitations. They are not allowed to install any software they want, to access any site, to store content and more. The equipment of the company is dedicated to work and companies expect their employees to use it as such. Although these actions are intrusive most people agree they are reasonable. Our customers view the expensive engineering software as a company resource, that should be used as such. When it’s not in use, they expect it to be released to another user that needs it. This is a feature we support. It is not a default, it is up to the customer to implement it or not for one or more of their software applications. I assisted many companies to implement this functionality and most end users are thankful for implementing it, it improves the availability of the applications they need and saves money for their companies. Installing OpenLM Agent and harvesting idle licenses is legal and implemented by OpenLM customers worldwide. In Europe, Germany has the most restrictive legislation regarding user privacy and for them, we introduced a specific functionality that addresses any possible privacy concerns.
  4. Software release policy – OpenLM typically releases two major software releases per year. We do also release minor software releases based on new functionality and software issues we are resolving. Typically most software issues don’t affect every user and most users can skip a few releases and only install software releases that are relevant to them. Our quality system is constantly developing and consists of both automatic and manual testing. We also have a load testing infrastructure that allows us to mimic real customer loads up to 400 monitored license server ports, 25,000 concurrent users and query activity via the user interface. I think that a company that releases new versions of its software shows that it is constantly evolving and that it cares about its customers.

In general, a software comparison written by a competitor himself is always biased so most users will read it carefully. OpenLM also drafted one as per the request of our customers but we did that with a very careful approach, consulting the competitor website and users. We always invite users to correct us if we are wrong, and immediately implement comments we receive. I invite you to examine the result.

There is also another white paper from the same author comparing his software to FLEXnet for Engineering Applications. As a service I also share it with you.

Before I summarize this long document I would like to refer to the main claim of the author of this white paper. When  you buy expensive software you get high quality. Cheaper software will give you lower quality, functionality and performance. This is a very simplified view of the market, most people understand that pricing policies are much more complex and involve many different considerations. Most companies check the software offered to them, comparing functionality, performance and pricing and looking for the best ratio – value for money. It also applies to other fields as well, take Ikea as an example, you get very high quality items if you are willing to compromise on the uniqueness. When you do, you get the best value for your money.

We in OpenLM, decided we would like to bring our technology to as many companies as possible, introducing a very aggressive pricing model. Mr. Haas is not the first competitor that complains about our policy, another competitor came to our offices and explained why he thinks this is not good for the market, and had an offer for us. We listened, discussed and decided to refuse but we have respect for this person and the company that he represents.  



I have nothing to say about author’s company or software. In general we prefer that the customer himself will do the evaluation and make the decision. I just have to mention that in 2013 he contacted us and asked our permission to use OpenLM Engine to extract the data from the license servers. His plan was to replace the engine he was using as white label until then. This deal did not happen but knowing this I was very surprised to read this document.

Since we released the first version of OpenLM in 2007 we decided that we will allow everyone to download and install our software and let the best company win.

If you are not already a user of OpenLM Software I personally invite you to download our software and judge the claims for yourself. We are offering a wide variety of options to interact with our technology:

  • Download our on-premise installation
  • Open a SaaS account with minimal install of OpenLM broker on the license server.
  • OpenLM Parser premium provides the ability to receive usage data with zero installation

OpenLM Support will provide full support during the evaluation process of the software. We are available to support you by email, chat and phone. I invite you to try our software and service and share your experience with the community.

There is one claim that I fully agree with: by implementing a software assets management for your engineering licenses you can save 20% of your expenses, furthermore, some of our customers who also implemented some of the advanced functionality, like software harvesting, managed to save a lot more.

Are you an OpenLM Customer? I will be grateful if you drop a response here. We are willing to get both positive and negative feedback and improve accordingly. If you prefer not to comment here our customer success representative will be happy to speak with you in person (click here to leave a message).

Oren Gabay – CEO, OpenLM

The Many Dimensions of BIM

Building Information Modelling, or BIM, seeks to break down the silos between all the participants engaged in the design and build of a building, by providing an integrated, virtual model of the structure in 3D. One of the main challenges in erecting a large commercial building is that there are so many players and different companies involved. The software they use differs from company to company; the architects could be using Autodesk’s AutoCAD, while the structural engineers use Bentley Microstation. With the thousands of engineering software products out there, it is to be expected that this will occur, and it adds time and risk to any project. Any approach that promotes a common view of the structure for everyone working on it is to be welcomed.

3D BIM modelling is used, not only by the architects and structural engineers, but also by the MEP (mechanical, electrical and plumbing) engineers. Traditionally, MEP design is only incorporated into a building once the architectural and structural model is in place. Conduits for cabling and wiring and ventilation shafts are included in the architectural drawings, but whether they are adequate or suitable for the MEP engineering is often only found out once construction is underway. If there are problems, the participants have to go back to the drawing boards (literally) to accommodate any MEP design such as the HVAC system. Using a BIM model enables the MEP engineers to sort out any problems before the first foundation is poured or the first brick is laid.

While this approach is a great improvement on traditional CAD design, and provides a common virtual platform for collaboration (the CDE or Common Data Environment), more was needed and extra dimensions were added to the model, resulting in 4D, 5D, 6D and even 7D, with each dimension enriching the model and enabling better delivery within time and budget. Although 4D and 5D BIM are clearly defined, there are different schools of thought as to what constitutes 6D and 7D, and we have taken the approach that 6D is about “greening” the building, its sustainability and energy efficiency, while 7D focuses on lifecycle management.

3D BIM – Design for All

3D BIM is the anchor and the focus for everyone who has a role in taking the building from concept to completion. Once the building is completed, the BIM takes over the maintenance and lifecycle management responsibility. The model is constantly updated and refreshed to ensure that maintenance is proactive rather than reactive. The power of having a 3D model of the building  at concept stage is in the opportunity it offers to everyone to check and test that their contribution to the project is integrated and does not clash or collide with other parts of the design. If there is a conflict, this can be resolved before construction and not in mid-stream.

4D BIM – Rethinking the Schedule

If there is a requirement that must be changed due to one or more conflicts as mentioned above, it may impact the project schedule. An unexpected delay because of some relatively minor structural problem can have a domino effect, affecting the start date for the various MEP companies, drywall contractors and shopfitters. To integrate the project schedule within the BIM added another dimension, 4D. The transparency that 4D adds to the model enables participants firstly to be aware of how they are impacted and secondly to be able to suggest mitigations and alternatives that will prevent the project falling behind.

5D BIM – What are the Costs?

Changes to the schedule imply that there will be additional costs. It makes sense to integrate both the estimated and actual costs as well as the history of all changes applied to both the estimates and actuals. This has given rise to 5D BIM. It is also useful for assessing different scenarios, for instance if there was a delay in the project which has resulted in the original lighting contractor being fully committed to another project, determining alternative contractors and comparing proposals/quotations.

One might argue that 4D and 5D BIM are catered for by project management, however, with large projects it can happen that certain activities or scope changes are overlooked, which should not happen when they are integrated into the building model. Any engineer who has worked on a very large project will empathise with this; a typical example was where a dam was being built and there were three project teams monitoring the project on Primavera, Microsoft Project and Excel. Depending on which plan you consulted, the project was running at a $5 million loss, breaking even or making a $7 million profit, and each team was adamant that they were using the same data.

6D BIM – Going Lean and Green

We are all aware of the pressures we are exerting on our planet’s limited resources, and the focus in this century is on long-term sustainability over short-term gain. Old buildings need to be retrofitted to minimize energy consumption and collect waste heat; Europe has many of these projects running under the aegis of the European Commission. New buildings need to be designed and built to be as energy-efficient as possible. The goal is to obtain LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, or at least build in conformance with LEED requirements.6D BIM is both about the original design and about maintenance going forward, which introduces the final (up to now) dimension of 7D BIM.

7D BIM – Building Life Cycle management

Traditionally, once a building was completed, it was handed over to the owners together with copious electronic and paper files covering all the aspects needed for facilities management. With 7D BIM, an elegant and integrated model of everything that needs to be known about operating the building is presented in the Common Data Environment.  Everything from contact details to user manuals and guarantees is accessible in one place. Any subsequent changes to the building are recorded in the model. For instance, for the lighting of an auditorium:-

  • the original lighting design using Relux could be included, as well as the design company’s details
  • the details of each lighting product used
  • the suppliers from where it was sourced
  • the company that did the the installation
  • the expected life of the product
  • and any warranties.

Armed with similar information for every aspect of the built environment, the facilities manager can manage the building efficiently, scheduling required service visits, keeping a watchful eye on products that are reaching the end of their useful life and attending to the day-to-day issues that ensure he is never idle.

Can one Justify Adopting BIM?

As can be inferred from the many dimensions of BIM, there is a path to BIM maturity, and it is a long journey. 3D BIM is achievable; it may require purchasing or upgrading to another product in your current vendor’s portfolio, for instance, moving from Bentley Microstation to AECOsim Building designer, or from AutoCAD to Revit. This change brings a learning curve and resistance to change, but the benefits outweigh the disruption and costs. Moving up the curve to 4D and 5D BIM can then be contemplated once 3D BIM is in place.

It is not an easy path for any company to successfully adopt and use 5D BIM, and some of the prerequisites are integrating the different technologies and software, acquiring and learning how to use some of the BIM software and, most difficult of all, accepting the change in approach. There are substantial costs to be incurred and plenty of teething problems, but once mastered, overruns, rework and other problems that plague the AEC industries, and the risks they bring, are considerably reduced, if not completely eliminated.

McKinsey cites 5D BIM as one of the 5 biggest disruptors of the construction industry, along with the Internet of Things and predictive analytics. They pointed out in a 2016 article that large construction projects typically are up to 80% over budget and take 20% longer to complete than original estimates.

Source: McKinsey and Co –

They also note that productivity in the AEC sector has been declining rather than improving. Working collaboratively will reduce both risk and uncertainty for architects, engineers and those commissioning the buildings.

There is no doubt that BIM is the way to go, all it takes is convincing the executive to take the risk and provide for the additional costs to be incurred. It is important to recognise that this is a change in thinking, not a software buying spree – there is no single vendor that has all the answers for all the dimensions of BIM.

Altair’s New Licensing for solidThinking is a Win for SMEs

A major barrier to innovation for startups and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) is the cost of simulation software. Combining this cost with the learning curve required to apply the principles embedded in computer-aided engineering (CAE) has resulted in many great ideas not getting to market. It is widely recognised that SMEs are the powerhouse of economic growth globally, and that every effort should be made to facilitate their rocky path to create a sustainable business. Altair’s contribution to SME growth is to make CAE more accessible, firstly by changing their licensing model for solidThinking.

Eight years ago, when they released Hyperworks 11.0, Altair changed their license manager from Flexera to LM-X from X-Formation. The objective of this change was to provide greater flexibility in the licensing options offered to customers, especially for their Hyperworks suite. The licensing model is units-based and the customer buys and uses the Hyperworks units (HWUs) according to the business need, selecting the specific software they require from the suite, rather than buying licenses for each product. Users of solidThinking software were still required to buy each of the products they wanted, based on the license model that was in force when Altair acquired solidThinking.

Although Altair had purchased solidThinking in 2008, they did not change the license management software from the original Flexera FlexLM and the purchase-per-product approach until recently, in August 2018. solidThinking units (sTUs) are now available for all products in the solidThinking suite. The units are stored in a pool, and the user books out the software he needs by checking out the number of units required for that application, for instance, Altair Inspire 2018. On finishing with the application, the sTUs are returned to the pool for the next user.

A Single Licensing Model for On-Site and the Cloud

To simplify the license model even more, the software can either be used on-site or in the cloud. This is useful for SMEs who have limited computing power and want to avail themselves of cloud services, such as Altair’s own cloud-hosting service, Altair 365. The number of units required for the organization is also flexible; units can be added or removed to fit current circumstances.

Existing customers can convert to the new model with the minimum of fuss:-

  • Perpetual license holders with maintenance agreements will have their licenses converted to full sTU licenses for the same cost as the existing annual maintenance agreement.
  • Where the perpetual license holder had let their maintenance agreement lapse, there was an offer made  to upgrade the existing licenses during an incentive period, which lapsed at the end of December 2018.
  • Where the licenses were being leased, the customer is upgraded to sTU licensing at no additional cost.

For all existing license holders, the conversion gives them access to the entire solidThinking suite of applications, and the ability to run the programs on-site or in the cloud.

More Intuitive Software

Altair recognizes that many SMEs will not have the necessary skills on-board to handle the complexities of CAE. To this end, they have focused on making the simulation products easy to use and intuitive, both for engineers who are familiar with simulation software and other resources who are not from a engineering background but need to run simulations. The combination of easy-to-use software and an affordable pricing model make solidThinking an attractive option for SMEs. Through purchasing sTUs, they have access to 9 applications, ranging from conceptual designs using Evolve through to extrusion and cast metal moulding using the Inspire applications for this. There is even Compose, a programming language for mathematical modelling, similar to Matlab.

The flexibility of the solution, combined with its scaleability, allows an SME to develop and grow at their own pace. Cost constraints imposed by the need to invest in costly high-performance computing can be avoided by using the cloud, either Altair’s own service or another cloud provider. By removing the barriers to using simulation software, Altair has levelled the playing field for small businesses to compete against large organizations. Using simulation software instead of prototyping both reduces costs of product development and accelerates time to market.

Small Startups get a Boost

While Altair has come up with this licensing model to boost innovation by small businesses, it recognises that the cost may still be beyond the means of early-stage startups. For this reason they have developed a startup program for startups and entrepreneurs who meet certain criteria, including:-

  • an annual revenue of less than $10 million
  • a privately held concern, and
  • less than 4 years old.

Apart from providing software at deep discounts of up to 80%, Altair also offers free consultancy and training to such startups. They are also prepared to assist SMEs who do not meet the criteria with discounts, based on the current state of their business.

Like other vendors providing simulation software, Altair facilitates academic institutions by providing discounted software to the institutions and teachers, and free software to students who need to perform simulations as part of their studies.

How Altair benefits from the New License Model

While the units-based license model brings in less revenue from a user who previously had to buy each of the solidThinking applications separately, Altair have opened up their market to a new customer base of SMEs and startups. This means more sales and the ability to partner with small businesses as they grow. Their larger customers, such as Airbus and Samsung, can also benefit from the new business model, which is easy to administer and tailor according to demand.

Customers who start the relationship with solidThinking products can move on to other Altair products as the need arises, such as their high-performance platform or Internet of Things and digital twins platforms. In this respect, the new license model is a win-win for both Altair and their customers.

How To Survive a Software Audit – six-step guide to make sure you are on top of things.

The threat of an impending software audit causes many CIOs to lose sleep. It is understandable when you consider how vendors like SAP have been pursuing their customers with non-compliance suits that carry price tags in the hundreds of millions.  Most organizations focus on their ERP, HR and general office software, supplied by vendors such as Oracle or Microsoft. Specialized applications are often overlooked, unless there is a heavy investment in them, so you will find that an engineering company will monitor their Autodesk licenses while software from other vendors, such as Ansys, is overlooked, because there are only a few licenses. The risk of a software audit where you have bought software via an on-site agreement, such as a perpetual license, remains the same for any software as it does for the AutoCAD or ArcGIS license. However, software compliance need not be an issue if the organization takes an active interest in adhering to the contents of their license agreements. Too many companies rely on their vendors to tell them about their licensing costs, where they should be monitoring these costs themselves. We discuss some actions to be taken to take control of license management that will make audit nightmares a thing of the past.  

Do You Know Where your Licenses Are?

The answer to this may seem obvious, but specialized software has a nasty habit of entering an organization by stealth. It is purchased to fill a legitimate need, but ownership and management is often vested in the department that needed it, such as transmission engineering or geological exploration. IT may not even be aware that it is on site. So a reconciliation of what software is being used is a very good start and may turn up some surprising results.

Do You Know the Specific Details of each License Agreement?

You may be out of compliance if the fine detail of the license agreement has not been analysed. Gartner Group have studied the risks of license governance for some time and have found that actual reading and dissection of what the license agreement says is often neglected. They mention some amusing cases, such as an agreement where the user had to surrender their first-born son in return for using the software (6 people signed up). Another vendor included the promise of a cash reward to any user who signed up for their application. Four months and 3000 sales later, someone actually claimed. Gartner also points out that it is not necessarily your biggest vendor that will conduct a software audit.

This may seem like a great deal of work, but it is a once-off exercise that is very valuable. There can be holes in some of the strictures that the vendors place on the user. Cerno produced a report on this, identifying 8 weaknesses in Oracle’s standard licensing agreement, which is worth a read if you want an idea of what is reasonable and generally accepted under US and UK law and what is an imposition.  This ranges from vendor’s right of access to what assistance the user company is required to provide. The customer who knows their rights has the upper hand when it comes to an Oracle audit, and this probably applies to many other vendor agreements.

It is also recommended that you keep all your old license agreements, as deviations from the original agreement may have crept in over the years.

Review your Software Policies

Licensing models are becoming more complex  and your software policy may not be covering all bases. Some of the important points to be covered include:-

  • who manages the licenses – ideally this should be centralized for all applications, but if not rules and responsibilities that will ensure compliance must be documented
  • access and entitlement, based on whether the user is an employee or a contractor.
  • BYOD and BYOA (Bring your own device/application). If a user brings in their own laptop running AutoCAD and a few other applications, this can contravene your agreements, as well as theirs.
  • cloud applications. Most companies assume that cloud usage removes the need for audits (it does) and therefore compliance too (not so).
  • other forms of licensing, such as SaaS, token and embedded licenses.
  • if you have been involved in recent mergers and acquisitions, your policies and license agreements will not be aligned, and this may have been overlooked.

This is not an exhaustive list, for instance, you may have outsourced your licensing management to a third party which is covered by an SLA. The management of the outsourcing must be clearly defined.

Are You Relying on Your Vendor’s License Management?

Most vendors supply you with a license manager, usually from specialist license management companies like Flexera or Gemalto. These applications manage licenses from the vendor’s perspective, not yours, although some of the newer license types, like embedded licenses are more customer-centric. The provided software is designed around accumulating costs for the vendor to charge you. In some cases, such as with Autodesk Token-Flex, these costs can be excessive if you do not understand the nuances of how the token time units work.

It is just not viable to build manual processes to calculate costs from your perspective, so investing in an agnostic license management application is your best bet. Not only does a good application calculate usage costs, it can be used to optimize license usage and can save you thousands of dollars or more annually. OpenLM specializes in license management for engineering and scientific software, and even has extensions for other commercial software and custom-built products. There is competition from Flexera and a few others, but your best option is to evaluate the products that appeal to you. We are confident that we will come out tops.

With your own license manager software you can now calculate license costs which you can use as evidence in the case of an audit.

Who does your Vendor use for their Audits?

We mentioned Cerno earlier; they are a specialist company who assist organizations with software audits. They recently published a very interesting report “Sleeping with the Enemy”,  which points out that, if you share the same “Big 4” auditor as your vendor, they are more likely to side with the vendor in the case of a dispute.  Each of the auditing firms has a software audit arm that is contracted by the vendor to perform and pursue audits.

You can access the report here.

Cerno lists six British local authorities which were audited on behalf of Microsoft by their own external auditors, as well as a British University that was audited by KPMG, their Auditors, for SAP. This is a clear conflict of interests, no matter how much the Auditors can claim an arm’s length relationship and objectivity.

Build your own Audit Lab

Forewarned is forearmed. Why not set up a ‘lab” for performing random self-audits. This will both keep everyone on their toes with regards to license compliance, it will ensure that you are compliant. Implement processes and procedures for conducting an audit and become an active participant in license compliance, rather than a passive one. You can re-use these for the day when a vendor decides to call.  You may require some external advice initially, but once you have implemented the processes and educated the organization on your software policy, “auditophobia” will become a thing of the past. OpenLM can also assist in this regard, as well as helping you find efficiencies and cost savings along the way.

Gemalto’s Embedded Licenses – Securing your Software

Gemalto is well-known for their security solutions. They have branched into software licensing by acquiring SafeNet, which was a very synergistic merger.  The Sentinel product range, which is now under their roof, is a popular choice among software vendors, offering both soft and hard-key options for protecting valuable and expensive applications from unauthorised use. While Gemalto can offer solutions for both on-site and cloud licensing, our focus today is on their embedded licenses and the Internet of Things.

A Shift in Understanding

Manufacturers of sensors, devices and major equipment have come to understand that the real value of their products is in the software that is integral to the product, rather than the hardware, which is a once-off purchase. Managing and monetizing usage of the software can provide a steady revenue stream long after the purchase has taken place. This is where Gemalto has been busy developing a comprehensive solution. A combination of Sentinel’s license management with Gemalto’s cybersecurity is flexible and robust enough to protect and monitor anything from sensors measuring heat given off by urban buildings to major healthcare and industrial equipment, such as MRIs or cranes.

Using embedded licenses can have a major impact on inventory and product range. The application can be used to activate or suppress one or more features of a product, removing the necessity to keep a different physical product for each permutation. The company can carry a lean and minimal physical product range, with a wide and diverse virtual list of products, the features of which are differentiated by the licensing software. They can also be confident that their intellectual property is secure and protected from tampering and hacking.

An Enhanced Customer Relationship

While using embedded licenses requires a complete rethink of how products are assembled and delivered, there is also a major change in the vendor-customer relationship. Traditional licensing was focused on ensuring that the customer was compliant with their licensing agreement. The software monetization approach is collaborative rather than adversarial (Think of SAP vs Diageo). The benefit of being able to receive real- or near-time data on what products and features the customer is using is twofold; the vendor has visibility into what features each customer needs and can capitalize on up-selling or cross-selling opportunities; secondly, analysing the data for the entire customer base identifies future products.

Managing these licenses is by entitlement; each customer and each user of that customer can have his own profile of the product, with features switched on or off.

The vendor can also design his own licensing model, opting for prepaid, where a new feature or application must be requested before it can be used, pay-as-you-go, or even post-paid, where it can be used and paid for retrospectively. The flexibility is possible because of the usage data being streamed up from the customer; the vendor knows how the customer is using the devices and the software within these devices.

Sentinel Fit -When Size does Matter

Gemalto claim to have the smallest software licensing product on the market with Sentinel Fit. Specially designed for the most basic of devices, its footprint ranges from 1,5KB RAM for AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) to 13Kb RAM for RSA (Rivest, Shamir and Adleman, the cryptographers) encryption. Flash storage uses more (6.5Kb for AES and 34Kb for RSA). This does not mean it is not scalable, it can support up to 65K licenses of features or functions.  It is available in kit form and the runtime source code can be accessed. It has also been designed to work in most environments and across most platforms.

This small package is very secure, as you would expect from Gemalto; licenses are secured throughout their lifecycle from inception to decommissioning; users cannot copy the software from one device to another, because a “fingerprint” is generated that prevents this from happening.

For those vendors who want primarily to control access, entitlement and software versions, the Sentinel Fit provides a stripped-down but functional license capability. for those who need more, there is Sentinel LDK and EMS.

Sentinel LDK is a comprehensive license development kit that offers complete versatility, from physical key management through to cloud. This enables the vendor to choose any form of license management from perpetual to cloud to provide a license that is the best fit for the customer.  In tandem with Sentinel EMS, it covers all aspects of licensing and entitlement.

Pulling it All Together – Sentinel EMS

Sentinel EMS is a license and entitlement management system that can easily integrate a company’s back office and enterprise applications, including SAP, Salesforce and Oracle. It has a customer self-service portal too. Sentinel Fit feeds data to the EMS and this data can be analysed to provide intelligence on:-

  • licensing compliance
  • how products are being utilized, and which features are most used
  • future products and toolkits for the market

It can also be used to notify users of upcoming upgrades, contract renewals and enhancements and fixes. This is a useful feature, which improves the customer experience, together with the self-service portal. The portal gives the customer excellent flexibility in managing their licenses. It can be:-

  • customised to allow customers to manage their licenses independently, without having to rely on Support Services – this allows customers to perform actions like activation, renewal and upgrades, depending on the vendor’s business model or models
  • branded to match your website (white-label software)
  • integrated with other software services that support customer experience, such as your CRM

There are other products from Gemalto, such as Sentinel Up, which manages upgrades and enhancements, Sentinel Cloud for web-based access, as well as their core license management offering, Sentinel RMS. All the products integrate and can cover the whole geography of license management, from on-site to cloud. They also have a comprehensive set of hardware devices that can be used to increase security, such as dongles and USB cards. Gemalto has an impressive list of customers, including many in the engineering and scientific realms. Two of them are Stryker and Trimble.

Some Embedded License Experiences

Stryker as a major manufacturer of medical devices had been using dongles to protect the software that drives these products. The challenge with physical licensing is addition or replacement of the license manager when required; it takes time to get to the customer, while time can be a critical component in healthcare. It is also expensive getting the device to the customer. They have migrated to a SaaS solution, where the software key is embedded in the device for their main product, and are rolling the same solution out across their product range.

Trimble needs no introduction to anyone in engineering. With about half a million assets to manage, license and entitlement management is a major concern for them. They also used to rely on dongle protection, but as their Marketing Director, Bill Graber explains, getting a physical license key to a customer operating in the depths of the Amazon rainforest is far more challenging than sending the license over the air (OTA) or embedding it in the product. They also are faced with disparate license models within the organization, inherited via their acquisition strategy, which has seen them bring 200 companies under the Trimble roof in the last 15 years. Sentinel EMS assists in the integration of these different models.

Which is Better: Gemalto or Flexera?

While Flexera and Gemalto are not the only providers of embedded licenses, they are the leaders, with the largest market shares. Flexera is very widely used for software license management – it is highly likely that some of the software applications you are using yourselves have Flexera licenses. The chances of having one Sentinel license or more are also high, especially if any of the software you use is protected by a dongle or other hardware device. Both vendors claim robust security features, but Gemalto may have the edge in this case, as security management is their core offering. The small footprint of Sentinel Fit is ideal for IoT sensors with very limited storage; Flexera also have a small footprint embedded license, but it has a minimum size of 50K. It is advisable to try a proof of concept with these two vendors as well as some of the smaller competitors, like Snow and Agilis, to find the best fit for your business.


Sibling Harmony – Embracing the Digital Twin

The concept of a “digital twin” has been around since the beginning of this century, although the name was adopted later. Dr Michael Grieves introduced the concept in 2003 at his University of Michigan Executive Course on Product Lifecycle Management (PLM), where a digital doppelganger of a physical device or product could be modelled to use in simulation and prediction of behaviour. The fact that this was a course on life-cycle management implied that the twin would be in existence throughout the product’s life.

At the time, the technology required to build and maintain the digital model was immature and prohibitively expensive. The improvement in connectivity and the rapid growth of the Internet of Things, especially the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) has now made the digital twin a viable and cost-effective way of optimizing design and performance. It has been adopted in the automotive industry, in oil and gas, in construction and especially by urban planners for the “smart city”.

From being a pipe dream 15 years ago, the digital twin has moved rapidly up Gartner’s Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies from rising star in 2017 to top of the curve for 2018.

Source: Gartner Hype Cycle for Emerging technologies 2017


Source: Gartner Hype Cycle for Emerging technologies 2018

While there is growing interest in the idea, there are still many organizations that have not embraced the concept. However, Gartner predicts that by 2020, which is only one year away, 50% of manufacturers with annual revenues of $5 billion or more will have at least one digital twin project in place.

What Exactly is a Digital Twin?

Here is the tricky part; it is whatever you want it to be, we are not talking about identical twins in general, although there are some digital analogues that are very comprehensive, most twins mirror only what needs to be simulated, managed and monitored.

For instance, Japanese software company Zuken offers a digital twin of the wiring in a motor vehicle. The average length of wiring in a modern vehicle is about 5 kilometers, a complex and tricky piece of electrical engineering to manage and generally rendered in 2D. Zuken’s software, E3.HarnessAnalyser, replicates a 3D image of the total wiring harness, complying with the VDA 4968 (or VEC) standard, but making it accessible to the rest of the automotive design team.

Another example in the automotive industry is Tesla, who keep a digital twin of every vehicle they sell. The feedback from the sensors in each vehicle can be used for maintenance and fine tuning of that vehicle, but are also used to understand the whole Tesla ecosystem.

A digital twin is so much more than a 3D avatar of the physical asset; that is merely the body. What brings it to life is the shared physical experiences of its sibling, gathered in the field or assembly line by sensors. Real-life situations are shared, stimulating learning and refinement of the physical product via the effects on the digital asset.

This has much in common with a simulation produced using CAE (computer-aided engineering) software, such as Ansys, but takes the concept further, in that it uses real-time data streamed by sensors to do predictive modelling and identify potential hazards proactively. What-if scenarios can test extreme conditions that have not been encountered in historic or current data.

One of the challenges of building a digital twin is that it is more complex than a 3D rendition of a physical product; apart from the essential feedback of IoT sensors, it may be necessary to access data from other applications, such as the organizational ERP and CRM. So, while there are several vendors who offer digital twin products, these are only partial solutions. It pays to be agnostic in selecting software for a digital twins initiative, as no vendor is going to provide a 100% solution. There are however, some vendors who have seen the opportunity to build on their existing product offerings, incorporating various essential components from IoT platforms to augmented reality.

Some Digital Twin Vendors

Software vendors who have products in the engineering CAE space have capitalized on their expertise and offer digital twin products, notably:-


Altair , with its Hyperworx PLM platform, is an active participant in the digital twin market. Its offerings support simulation and machine learning, essential components in constructing a digital twin. This month it has finalized its acquisition of Datawatch, a predictive analytics and business intelligence company to further strengthen its capabilities in forecasting and analysing twin structures.


Release 19.1 of Ansys simulation platform has a new feature called Twin Builder. It integrates with all the IIoT platforms available, allowing continuous monitoring of all the assets in the digital twin ecosystem. Users are able to use all the capabilities of Ansys simulation applications and can build, validate and deploy their twin configuration

Ansys and SAP have entered a mutually beneficial agreement, where Ansys can access SAP’s ERP, while SAP wins by embedding Ansys applications into its manufacturing and asset management portfolio, enabling simulation and digital twin capability.


Autodesk have been taking their BIM capability, such as is found in Revit, and stretching it to encompass digital twin models. For those companies that have not yet moved to BIM, maybe they should consider leapfrogging straight to digital twinning, if they are confident that their workforce has the requisite skills to bypass the BIM phase. Autodesk also purchased SeeControl, an IoT cloud platform, to assist in providing the foundation for a digital twin environment.


Bentley recently entered the digital twins space, announcing iTwin Services at their annual conference in London in October. They stated that their reason for coming so late to market is that the twinning of an infrastructural asset, like a highway or a construction site, is infinitely more complex than for an automobile, for instance. This is a cloud offering, and includes alliances and cooperation with Atos and Siemens.


Dassault refer to the “virtual twin” and support it via their 3DEXPERIENCE™. With their extensive CAE product range, they are well equipped to supply digital twin capabilities, especially in the automotive industry, where they need to compete with Siemens and PTC. Building a twin to suit a company’s needs is made easier by using Dassault’s Modelica language and FMI (Functional Mockup Interface).

While it is possible to wait until the IoT sensors are installed to relay real-time data, engineers need not delay – they can design what-if scenarios to test conditions such as temperature and humidity immediately.

General Electric (GE)

General Electric’s Predix IoT platform has been enhanced to provide a basis for building digital twins. GE is using the platform to construct off-the-shelf twin solutions for specific industries. They have supplementary software and hardware, such as their Predix APM (asset performance management) and their HMI (human-machine interface) and SCADA solutions that can participate in and optimize a digital twin ecosystem.

Landmark Halliburton

With its extensive footprint in the oil and gas industry, especially in the E&P (exploration and production) or upstream space, Landmark has used its DecisionSpace® platform to bring the digital twin concept to well drilling and completion. They have defined a concept, the “Voice of the Oilfield™”, that encapsulates the digital twin components.

Source: White paper – “E&P Digital Twin in a System of Systems Model” Dr. Egidio (Ed) Marotta & Dr. Dale McMullin.


Microsoft have recently announced the launch of their Azure digital twin product, which links their IoT platform with devices, people and geolocations to provide a twin ecosystem. Unlike most of the other competitors in this market, which focus on large industry, Microsoft’s Azure platform works well for smaller businesses and business cases.


PTC sees augmented reality as an essential component of twin building and acquired Vuforia, an augmented reality company, from Qualcomm in 2015. This was done to integrate the Vuforia technology into PTC’s Thingworx™ IoT platform. Organizations can adopt Windchill, PTC’s PLM platform and integrate Thingworx. They can use AR headsets to visualize the digital avatar of the physical product, a true blending of the physical and the virtual.


Like Dassault, its rival in the automotive and other industries, Siemens has solutions for digital twinning that integrate with its PLM system. The Simcenter allows current and predictive simulations. Siemens identifies three morphs of digital twins, based on their stage in the production lifecycle:-

  • Product Digital Twins Using digital twins for efficient design of new products
  • Production Digital Twins Using digital twins in manufacturing & production planning
  • Performance Digital Twins Using digital twins capture, analyze, and act on operational data

Siemens links these three ages and stages of the digital twin via a “digital thread”, which basically is the data flow between each step of the process, with the ability to provide feedback upstream, an essential of lean manufacture.


As mentioned above, Zuken, the software specialist in PCBs and wiring and wiring harnesses, has a digital twin solution aimed at its major customers in the automotive industry. Although the offering is somewhat siloed, it brings great benefits to both the electrical and electronics engineers designing the harness and their peers who are involved in other areas of aviation and automotive design.

A Complex Licensing Challenge

Managing license compliance for digital twins will be a new challenge for license administrators, especially those working for engineering and scientific industries. From licenses for the Twin software portfolio and IoT platforms to embedded licenses used by IoT devices and AI, VR and 3D printing software, possibly lodged in a series of edge computers, the list covers every license model and permutation. There will also be GPU licenses for vendors such as Nvidia, who provide computing power to drive simulations. Add to that compliance with SAP, who are notorious for pursuing customers for breaches in use, the “build” for license management is as complex as the build for a digital twin. There probably needs to be a Chinese wall between software that drives the physical asset’s lifecycle and the digital twin’s lifecycle. This will be an emerging skill set in the license management in the next few years, especially considering Gartner’s estimation of the rapid growth of digital twinning for everything from a megacity to a domestic appliance.

Speak to OpenLM about your licensing complexities for your digital twin. OpenLM can monitor licenses for all of the engineering vendors mentioned, including Nvidia. You can also customise license management for non-engineering products with our handy extension applications.