Different types of licensing models

Licensed Software applications are managed in a variety of methods. These methods differ in

  • The license management interface and process,

  • License allocation and availability,

  • Compliance to licensing agreements,

  • Usage chargeback considerations.

License vendors should be aware of the different opportunities and disadvantages resident in each of these methods. System administrators and license managers should also heed the capabilities and prices that are embedded in the different options and methods of software licensing. This document is a brief review of these different available licensing models.

License dongles or license usb keys

This is an electronic device provided by the software vendor, which enforces copy protection and authenticity validation of a licensed application. The hardware key is programmed with a singular product key and is attached to an external bus of the computer to enable work with the software. This form of licensing is very rigid, unconfigurable and lean on features. Consequently – dongle licenses are typically the cheapest form of supplied licenses.

Software node locked licenses

This type of license is merely a software implementation of the former one: Prior to enabling the application on the designated computer, The vendor would provide a license key or license file specific to that machine. The result is a rigid – format license per machine.

Floating licenses, Network licenses, Concurrent license

These are synonyms to the same concept of possessing expensive licenses in a smaller number than the maximal number of users. Floating licenses effectively shares software assets among users on a network, time-dividing licenses according to a queue of demand; When a user requires a license, a request is made to a central license server, which in turn either grants the request or refuses it according to availability or predefined constraints.

Floating licenses often involve a certain form of “contract” that articulates the quantity of acquired licenses and the policy of permitted usage. This license file may be either physically provided by the vendor or reside in trusted storage on the network.

Some Concurrent License Management systems provide methods of excluding limited quantities of licenses from the collective license pool, to assign them to specific users or workstations, for either a predefined period or indefinitely. These methods would also be elaborated in the license file.

License Borrowing

License Borrowing”, also referred to as “License Commuting” or “Offline license” is a method of providing application usage privileges in the absence of connection to the central license server. This is an effective solution for travelling businessmen and engineers, that need to work using a laptop computer.

The Borrowed licenses’ option is usually the most expensive form of licensing; Usage is counted as the entire period in which the license was extracted from the pool. It is recommended to return license servers to the pool as soon as possible.

Host locked, Node locked licenses, Single Use licenses

These are synonyms to licenses that are allocated to specific workstations. This option is defined in the licensing files or “Options files” provided by some license management systems. Connecting a floating license to specific workstations decreases license maneuverability, but in turn it ensures the productivity of certain staff members, and generally lowers the cost of licensing in the organization.

Named users

Similar to having licenses tied to workstations, there is also the possibility to connect a specific license to a predefined user. the advantage of the latter is the user’s capability to apply their usage rights once, on each of the organization’s workstations.


OpenLM is an Application Usage Management tool, which monitors license usage on every type of the license models as described above. OpenLM can either query the central license manager for license usage, or manage workstation specific license – dongle applications by introducing the OpenLM Agent module on each of the ‘Dongle’-ed machines.


Monitor ESRI ArcGIS borrowed licenses with OpenLM


License Borrowing is a method of linking a specific workstation to a single license instance from within the license pool. This procedure marks a license as being perpetually used on the license manager (LM), enables users to borrow a product license for a designated time period, and to operate the licensed application without connecting to the license manager.

OpenLM presents the identity of users who have borrowed ESRI licenses.

ESRI license administrators have long noticed that license borrowers are not identified by license server querying, i.e. by running lmutil -lmstat commands. Instead, the borrowed user is identified as “Activated License(s)”, which isn’t very helpful in understanding who is taking the license you need now.

Audit log information

By combining information from multiple sources, the OpenLM Server is able to determine the identity of license borrowers: Usage information is provided by License server querying, while the cross reference between the borrowed license and the user identity is provided by the ESRI Audit log.

The OpenLM Broker

The OpenLM Broker is an optional component which is run on the license server machine. It provides a degree of robustness to the data flow from the license server to the OpenLM server,  and also complements the information gathered by the OpenLM server.

Examples for such additional information provided by the Broker are license denials statistics, and feature packaging information. In its latest released version 1.8, OpenLM has enhanced the broker to read ESRI Audit logs, and extract usage information for borrowed licenses.

The following image demonstrates the naming of a borrowed license:  

This is yet another unique capability provided by OpenLM for Monitoring, Managing and Optimizing the usage of ESRI ArcGIS licenses.

For more information about the OpenLM Broker, and OpenLM benefits for ESRI users, please refer to these articles:

Application Note 2000: OpenLM system structure overview v1.8

Application Note 2004a: OpenLM Broker Quick guide version 1.8

Application Note 2004b: OpenLM Broker Comprehensive guide version 1.8

Application Note 2036: Set ESRI ArcGIS licensing Level


License borrowing in FlexNet (FlexLM) and Offline Concurrent licenses in IBM-LUM and DSLS


License Borrowing is a method of linking a specific workstation to a single license instance from within the license pool. This procedure marks a license as being perpetually used on the license manager (LM), enables users to borrow a product license for a designated time period, and to operate the licensed application without connecting to the license manager.
OpenLM monitors borrowing of licenses on several LM types. This document presents the borrowing methods on three of these LMs: FlexNet (FlexLM), IBM-LUM and DSLS, and the OpenLM advantages in monitoring borrowed licenses.

Borrowing licenses in FlexLM

In order to enable license borrowing, the software publisher should issue a floating license file with a FEATURE or INCREMENT line that contains the BORROW keyword, for example:
INCREMENT 3d_to_2d_flattener ugslmd 27.0 06-nov-2012 1 SUPERSEDE \
DUP_GROUP=UHD user_info=”NX 2D Exchange” ISSUED=06-sep-2012 \
BORROW=2880 ck=194 SIGN=”code”
In the example above, the BORROW time was restricted tp 2880 hours = 120 days. The maximal value for borrowing licenses in FlexLM is 180 days.

A user specifies the expiration date a borrowed license is to be returned, which should be equal to or smaller than the BORROW parameter above. This expiration date is set by applying a value to the LM_BORROW environment variable. This is done either directly, or by running the lmborrow utility, or by setting it in the application (when available).

The user then runs the application while connected to the network which writes borrowing information on the client computer. The license server keeps the borrowed license checked out. If enabled by the software publisher, borrowed licenses can be returned early, prior to the borrow period expiration.

When the expiration period has elapsed, or after having returned the borrowed license early, the local borrowing data no longer authorizes the license checkout, and the license server returns the borrowed license to the pool of available licenses.

More information on Borrowing Flexnet licenses can be found here.

DSLS Offline licenses

In DSLS, Borrowed licenses are referred to as “offline licenses”. The operation of extracting licenses for offline usage is done by the Application’s “Offline Management” tab on the “Local License Management” dialog box. There, a user needs to select a license for extraction and set the duration period for offline extraction. Maximal license offline extraction is 30 days.
When querying the usage of licenses with the DSLicSrv command’s getLicenseUsage -all ,  Offline licenses should be reported similarly to the following example:
internal Id: <Workstation> …
granted since: <Time and date> <workstation> <Username> <Application full path> …
targetId: <targetId> licenseId: <licenseId> …
granted since: <Time and date> hold until: <Time and date>

IBM LUM Offline licenses

The IBM License Use Management (LUM) system also refers to borrowed licenses as “Concurrent Offline Licenses”. In order to implement license borrowing in LUM:
1. The user calls the application.
2. The application looks for an offline-nodelocked license in its nodelock directory.
If a license is found and is valid, the application runs.
3. If the application does not find a license in the nodelock directory and the
portable computer can reach a License Use Management network license server,
the application requests a concurrent-offline license from it.
4. The network license server checks if the license has an authorization for the
user, group, or for the target ID of the machine, and validates the password
provided by the user.
5. If the authorization is for a concurrent-offline license, the server creates an
offline-nodelocked license and copies it to the nodelock directory of the
portable computer. The license is marked as in use on the server.
6. The application checks that the nodelock directory contains a valid license and
the application starts. The application can now run without a connection to the
License Use Management network license server (that is, the application can
run on a portable computer).

Management of offline concurrent licenses is done in the IBM LUM windows UI:

  • The product authorization must be set to “All Allowed” to enable concurrent offline usage
  • The license offline extraction time is set. It is limited to 120 days.
  • A password is set for the license instance.

Similar options are available by the lumblt command line.
Further information on IBM LUM concurrent offline licenses is found here.

The OpenLM advantage

Borrowing a license is typically not the preferable method for license deployment. It is both expensive and hard to track:

  • As borrowed licenses are floating licenses that have been put to work perpetually, they can not be subject for license chargeback, and are more expensive than other concurrent license on the license pool.
  • Borrowed licenses are also hard to keep track of. They are no longer marked as part of the license pool. License administrators need to manually revoke such licenses as soon as they are not needed.

OpenLM monitors the usage of license managers, providing insight regarding users’ identity and the efficient license allocation. It thus presents several advantages for such license administrators:

  • Identify users who draw both borrowed and concurrent license from two different workstations, and alert upon such conditions.
  • Mark specific used licenses as borrowed, clearly presenting the user and workstation it is linked to.
  • Identify usage patterns, and advise an optimized license allocation policy.


Note: Please contact support at openlm.com for a list of supported license managers’ borrowed license monitoring.

ESRI ArcGIS 10.1 SP1 version published


ESRI has recently published the ArcGIS 10.1 SP 1 patch version.
This release contains a list of bug fixes and enhanced performance.

Relevant to OpenLM users:

One fix is related to the desktop’s license borrowing capability:
NIM060359: High Latency/Low Bandwidth connections including VPNs may prevent license borrowing.

OpenLM compatibility

OpenLM has already installed and tested the patch with OpenLM Server and Agent version 1.7. No compatibility issues were found.

Further information

If you have any questions regarding the upgrade of ESRI ArcGIS to the 10. SP1 version, please contact OpenLM: support@openlm.com

FLEXnet/FLEXlm: Error [1.5.-124] attempting to return a borrowed license early


The following error message is displayed when attempting to return a borrowed license from a client workstation:
License Return Error – Your license cannot be returned. For more information, contact your system administrator. Note: you can still use your borrowed license until (midnight): <Date>. Error: [1.5.-124]


This error usually indicates that the client and/or license manager have changed since the license was originally borrowed. For example, attempting to return a borrowed license early may cause this problem for that very reason. However, the following procedures will often resolve the error.
Method 1 – Wait out the borrow period
Depending on the extent of the time on which your license is borrowed and how urgently it needs to be returned to the network pool, simply waiting out the remainder of the borrow period is a simple and effective solution. After all, the license will be automatically returned at the end of this period. A viable option for Network administrators is implementing an Options file to restrict the maximum borrow period or limit those who can borrow licenses, reducing the impact of future borrowing problems. OpenLM provides full interface to all the license borrowing related options available in FLEXnet.

Method 2 – Reborrow the license and then return it
This method essentially consists of erasing knowledge of the borrowed license from the client machine, borrowing it again, and then attempting to return it. Note: This procedure resets all borrowed licenses for this user/computer.

  1. On the client computer, log in as the user who borrowed the license.
  2. On the Start menu (Windows), click Run (Windows 2000/XP) or StartSearch (Windows Vista).
  3. Enter regedit, and then click OK.
  4. In the Registry Editor, navigate to the following registry key:
    • HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\FLEXlm License Manager\Borrow
  5. In the Registry Editor, on the File menu, click Export to create a backup of this key.
  6. Delete this registry key.
  7. Close the Registry Editor.
  8. Borrow the license again for the product(s) and version(s) that you could not return.
  9. Return the license(s) for each product.

ArcGIS 10 FLEXlm License Borrowing

The release of ESRI ArcGIS software version 10 also includes an upgrade of the FLEXlm license manager to release 11.6.1. This upgrade enables the support for the long awaited FLEXlm borrowing functionality that allows user to convert a floating (concurrent) license to a node locked license for a predefined period of time.The borrowing functionality is both an opportunity and a threat to the efficiency of license usage. Users can now take their tools to the field, gather the required information and edit it on-site. By that they can highly improve their efficiency.
On the other hand users may borrow licenses to network workstations, borrow licenses for no reason and other action that can highly reduce the usage efficiency of licenses. The tools provided by OpenLM for ESRI ArcGIS accompanied by a reasonable policy set by the management can help you avoid the risks of the FLEXlm license borrowing functionality.

This article describes the required steps to enable borrowing and how to use the borrowing functionality.

Enabling Borrowing (Done by Administrator)

Borrow settings are configured on License Manager’s machine.
Start –> ArcGis –> License Manager –> License Server AdministratorAllow Borrowing – Enable/Disable the functionality
Max Borrow Time – Set the minimum time possible. Very long borrowing periods can highly compromise the license usage efficiency.
Audit Log – The location of the log.

ArcGIS ScreenYour settings are stored in Registry a registry branch on your license server:

HKLM\Software\ESRI\ArcGIS License Manager 10.0

The following keys can be found:

When you click “Apply”, license is re-read (Equal to the lmutil lmreread command. The benefit of this command is that system administrators can make changes without stopping the FLEXlm service).

Using Borrowing (Done by the borrowing user)

At the workstation, borrowing action is done by using the “ArcGis Administrator” tool. The workstation has to be connected to the network while borrowing.

Start the ArcGIS Administrator by using:
Start –> ArcGIS –> ArcGis Administrator

Select the Borrow/Return tab.

The user needs to check the feature he wants to borrow

After borrow is confirmed, the borrowed feature will not be available to other users and the system will show the return date:

At the ESRI Audit.log (which location was defined at first step) you can find borrow details:

Using the lmutil lmstat command FLEXlm shows this output:

Users of Viewer:  (Total of 1 license issued;  Total of 1 license in use)

“Viewer” v10.0, vendor: ARCGIS
floating license

ACTIVATED LICENSE(S) olm-arcgis10 ACTIVATION (v10.0) ( 102), start Thu 8/12 15:15

In OpenLM Version 1.6 active products TAB:

With ESRI ARCGIS vendor daemon FLEXlm does not show the borrowing user, it writes the word “Activated License(s)”. Other software products that use FLEXlm report the user that actually borrowed the Feature.

Releasing the license back to the license pool

Releasing the license is easy. Make sure the machine is connected to the network, open ArcGIS Administrator and release the license. The license can be released even before the the target date.

If the borrowed FEATURE is not returned to the license pool by the user the borrowing will expire automatically on the due date and will be available to all network users.


ArcGIS Desktop version 10 features the long awaited feature of license borrowing. This functionality allows users to borrow licenses to their workstation and by that to convert a floating license to a node-locked license for a limited period of time. This functionality allows users to take their ArcGIS Desktop software to the field (ArcInfo, ArcEditor, ArcView). OpenLM for ESRI ArcGIS fully supports the borrowing functionality.