The Ansys Licensing Landscape

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

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

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

Flexible and Versatile Licensing

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

How does the Elastic License Work?

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

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

Traditional on-site User Community

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

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

Short-Term Use

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

Working in the Cloud

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

How OpenLM can Assist

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

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

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Good News for High-Performance Computer Users

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

GPU license management is essential for compliance especially in VDI environments

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

Typical situations where high-performance computing is needed are:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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