FLEXlm License Usage Billing – Its Implementation in OpenLM Version 1.5.5

The implementation of the usage billing policy in many organizations has proved to be a very profitable step. This article discusses the concept of FLEXlm billing and the usage of OpenLM Software in order to implement such a policy.

Many organizations use software systems that are licensed by Floating (concurrent) licenses. This type of license facilitates the organization to install an unlimited number of seats of the software. The number of licenses used concurrently are limited to a predefined number (i.e. set during the purchase). Many of the software systems licensed this way, use Flexera FLEXnet Publisher (commonly known as FLEXlm software). This type of licensing method is commonly used by software vendors that produce high-end software systems.

In many cases, such projects are initiated as a part of a License Server Consolidation project. In order to explain the project, let us use an imaginary company “Green Energy Ltd.” from the USA that has 3 subsidiaries worldwide: UK, Australia, and Japan. Each subsidiary manages several license servers with different software systems. Let us assume the following software inventory:

Software
USA
UK
Australia
Japan
ESRI ArcGIS
55 34 46 21
Autodesk Autocad
56 26 15 21
PTC
24 24 12 31
Solidworks
35 11 36 41

The usage diagrams produced from OpenLM EasyAdmin show that utilization of some of the licenses is high, while other licenses are practically not in use, depending on the time and location.

This chart demonstrates usage of ESRI ArcGIS licenses in USA alone:

The first step the company took was to consolidate all the licenses so that a single license server will serve all users worldwide. This table shows the license availability worldwide after the consolidation:

Software
Total Licenses
ESRI ArcGIS
156
Autodesk Autocad
118
PTC
91
Solidworks
123

After the consolidation, the company checked the usage level of their licenses and found that the utilization is more balanced. But, some software systems are heavily used while others have a very low usage rate.

Thus, the licenses were better utilized when the company adopting the following two steps:

  • Utilizing the consolidated license server now allows users to use the same licenses over the 24-hour period.
  • The creation of a bigger pool of licenses provides a higher license availability.

Based on the usage reports, the company decided to purchase more licenses for some of the software systems, while cutting down the maintenance fee for other licenses that are under utilized.

The managers of some of the subsidiaries have complained that they pay for licenses they don’t use; the reason for which is that the maintenance costs are evenly distributed between the subsidiaries. In order to solve the problem, the company decided to implement a billing policy based on the actual usage of licenses by each subsidiary. The “Groups and Projects” extension to OpenLM System provides this solution. The company has created a Group for each subsidiary using the OpenLM Users Management software.

In order to avoid the need to manually relate users to the Groups, the system manager decided to utilize OpenLM’s ability to synchronize Active Directory users and groups with OpenLM Server database. Since the organizational belonging of each user is based on the structure of the organizational tree in AD, the manager chose the OU’s option and set the system to constantly synchronize the information with AD. This way, each new user will automatically be related to the correct subsidiary. OpenLM automatically updates the user’s belonging to a subsidiary, according to any change in the position.
Thus, the information now looks the same both in AD and in OpenLM Users Management interface.

After a month, the team was able to produce a usage report according to the different groups, thus easily producing a fair billing report for each group.

The UK subsidiary has decided to further enhance the accuracy of their project’s pricing. By implementing a project usage policy, they have measured their license usage of each project. They have created all their projects using OpenLM Users Management application, and have assigned each user to one or more projects. Users that were assigned to only one project did not have to report the active project. Users that belonged to more than one project, report the active project using the capabilities of OpenLM Agent software.

The information collected this way allowed Green Energy UK to price their projects better, taking the cost of expensive software usage into account.

This example provided an insight to the basics of Floating License Billing that can be implemented by OpenLM system. We can see that the capabilities of OpenLM actually enabled the server consolidation project, and also provided all the information needed for billing.

The highlights of OpenLM functionalities demonstrated in this article are:

  • OpenLM’s ability to monitor the usage level of the organizational resources.
  • OpenLM’s ability to synchronize OpenLM information with Active Directory in order to avoid manual work and to ensure data accuracy.
  • OpenLM’s ability to easily provide usage information for different groups of users.
  • OpenLM’s ability to track the usage of licenses for specific projects.

Conclusion

OpenLM Software provides all the needed tools for the implementation of a usage billing system in organization using license managers like FLEXlm (FLEXnet). IT Managers are now able to easily implement a usage billing system that can lower operational cost while improving license availability and reducing administration costs.

We have to emphasize that this is not a real world example. In reality, there are many other problems that were not taken into consideration here, for example, network limitations and many other factors.

OpenLM: How to export license inventory?

After installing OpenLM Server add all your license servers using OpenLM Server configuration form, license tab.
Then, execute OpenLM EasyAdmin2->Licenses (Windows start->OpenLM->EasyAdmin2)

Use the export button to create a CSV file that contains the license list:

Workstations tab in EasyAdmin2 (Version 1.5.5)

OpenLM’s workstation tab was completely updated in version 1.5.5 of OpenLM. This short article explains the new functionality.

Four new columns are introduced in the workstations panel: “IP Address“, “User idle time“, “Online” and “Controlled” that replaces the “Managed” column in earlier versions. These columns are added to “Hostname” and “Agent version“. “Last Heart Bit” column has been removed.

A short description of each column:

Hostname shows the workstation’s name as reported by FLEXlm or other supported license manager.

IP Address is collected when the system is set to resolve stations names (This is an optional setting at OpenLM Configuration form->Advanced).

Last User is the name of the username that was last active on this workstation. This value is only available when OpenLM Agent is distributed to end users workstations.

Agent Version column shows the version of the OpenLM Agent installed on this workstation. This information is very useful when distributing or updating agents on users workstations.

The User Idle Time column displays the number of seconds passed since the user was active on the workstation. This column will only display information when an agent is installed on the end user workstation.

The Online column has two possible values, online (green) or offline (gray). A workstation will always be offline if an agent is not installed on it. When an agent is installed, the workstation will be online when at least one user is logged in. It takes about five minutes before OpenLM switches a workstation’s status from online to offline or vise verse.

The Controlled column is only relevant to supported systems, at this stage, OpenLM for ESRI ArcGIS. This column indicates if OpenLM Extension is properly installed on the ESRI Desktop ArcGIS software. When OpenLM Extension communicates successfully with OpenLM server through OpenLM Agent then the workstation is controlled.

The information provided by the updated workstation tab in EasyAdmin2 interface allows system administrators and managers to control license activity. For example:

  • Recognize users that are idle and consume a floating license.
  • Recognize unauthorized access to the floating licenses.
  • Locate workstation that does not have OpenLM installed.
  • Locate uncontrolled installations of ESRI ArcGIS Desktop software.
  • Control the distribution of OpenLM Agent to end users workstations.
  • Etc…

FLEXlm (FLEXnet) License borrowing and ArcGIS Desktop 9.4

ESRI says that they might support FLEXlm license borrowing in version 9.4 of ESRI ArcGIS Desktop. This borrowing functionality is already supported by many software systems licensed by FLEXlm. For example Autodesk supports this functionality for years now. The ESRI user community is waiting for this functionality for long and we hope that it will be included with version 9.4 of ArcGIS.

The borrowing functionality allows users to borrow a license from the license server for a predefined period of time. During this period the license will only be available on a specific workstation. The FLEXlm license server will have less licenses to serve until the license is returned back to the FLEXlm license pool. Borrowing is actually converting a floating license to a node locked license for a specific period of time.

The main use for the FLEXlm borrowing functionality is to take a license out to the field. For example, the worker needs the ArcInfo license in the field in order to collect information and show it to the customer. The user can use the “FLEXlm lmborrow utility” application to borrow the concurrent license (floating) from the network to his laptop computer. By doing that the license is temporary converted from a concurrent license to a node locked license and the worker is able to use the license on the field. At the end of the borrowing period the license will not be available on the laptop computer, it will be available again as a concurrent license on the network. The user can also return the license to the server before the end of the borrowing system.

The FLEXlm license borrowing functionality is a very useful functionality that allows user the flexibility to use the FLEXlm licensed software on mobile devices that are not connected to the network. The problem with this technology is that in many cases it is misused by users and by that reduce the usage efficiency of the whole company. Some examples:

  • A user borrows a FLEXlm license to his laptop computer but the actual usage during the borrowing period is minimal.
  • A user borrows a license from the FLEXlm license server to his personal workstation and by that, a floating license is converted to a node locked license.
  • A user borrows a license to a mobile device to a longer period then required. The user is now using two licenses, one for is network workstation and the other on the mobile device (The borrowed license).

The management of borrowed licenses can be done easily using OpenLM system functionality. The system displays borrowed licenses, borrowing date, return date and all other information needed in order to manage a FLEXlm server that allows license borrowing.

The system administrator can control license borrowing activity using the FLEXlm Option file. There are various options that allow the system administrator to limit the misuse of this functionality. The options are:

  • Set aside a specified number of licenses that cannot be borrowed.
  • Specify who can borrow licenses for a specific product.
  • Specify who cannot borrow licenses for a specific product.
  • Specify the maximum borrow period for a specific product.

OpenLM version 1.5.6 will allow system administrators to manage all these options and other FLEXlm Option file functionality using a convenient web based interface.

OpenLM for ESRI ArcGIS features a smart license release functionality that assures a very efficient usage of ESRI ArcGIS Desktop licenses. This functionality is also supported with FLEXlm servers that allow license borrowing. OpenLM for ESRI ArcGIS recognizes the reduction in the number of available license and provide the functionality for the updated number of licenses.

It is the responsibility of the system administrator to force a rational usage of the organization resources, in this case – the floating licenses. A misuse of this functionality can cause a bogus lack of licenses that can cause a purchase of unneeded licenses or a reduction of the company efficiency because of the lack of licenses. OpenLM 1.5.6 Option file edit interface allows the system administrator to easily enforce a policy that assures license availability for network users while allowing the flexibility of borrowing licenses to mobile devices when there is a need.

Please take into account that the ESRI ArcGIS version 9.4 was not released yet and the ESRI implementation of FLEXlm license borrowing may be slightly different from what we described here.

Two additional software systems supported by OpenLM:

Geomatic – Geomagic software enables engineers and designers to transform scan data from physical objects into highly accurate digital models.

Autodesk AliasStudio – Autodesk® Alias® Design software is for consumer product designers who control the entire design process—from ideation to the final surfaces that are passed to engineering.