The Hidden Costs of “Rolling Your Own” License Manager

If this title intrigued you at all, chances are you work for a company that sells software it creates, what many call an Independent Software Vendor (ISV).  Most ISVs feel, rightly so, that they’re pretty good at writing software.  And when the time comes to consider adding a license manager to their software (see last month’s newsletter article) some ISVs feel it best that they just write the license manager part themselves, and be done with it.

Let us suggest why that may not be the best course of action for most ISVs.

Core Competency:
First, let’s look at the role of software development staff at an ISV.  Their job is to create the products that their customers want to buy.  Easy enough.  But at what point does the ISV decide to use a third party product for some type of functionality?  Well, only they can answer that, but here’s a suggestion: if the need for something new in your product goes beyond your engineers’ area of expertise, it probably makes sense to use a third party product for that cool widget, or license manager, or whatever you’re looking to add.  Otherwise, your engineers will be distracted from what they do best–be it CAD, Oil/Gas exploration, animation, etc.  Do you want some of your staff learning a new area of expertise when a valid third party market for that functionality already exists?

What’s the True Cost?
Obviously, a third party license manager has costs associated with it, both up front and/or ongoing.  But clearly, an ISV writing its own license manager must balance those costs against the true costs of “rolling their own.”

The biggest portion of the true cost to an ISV of writing their own license manager is opportunity cost.  As we point out above, an ISV’s developers are probably better at what they were hired for, likely some fairly narrow technical area relating to the ISVs core business, not license management.WWTD – What would Tiger do?
Does it make sense to pull an engineer off a core project and assign them to write the license manager?  Does Tiger Woods spend time mowing golf courses?  Sure, he probably knows exactly what to do, given that he knows a thing or two about a properly maintained fairway.  But he’s probably better off improving his game by practicing and playing.

Similarly, an ISV needs to be able to respond when new product features are demanded by its customers.  In this day and age, where “Internet time” is measured in days and weeks, ISVs can’t be distracted from their primary business.

More Hidden Costs
As if the above issues aren’t enough, ISVs also need to be concerned that end users may want a license manager that’s familiar, not Yet Another License Manager.  They may not tell their sales rep the true reason, but not being comfortable setting up a proprietary license manager could certainly make a would-be customer less enthusiastic.  And how well has that home-grown license manager been tested in the field?  Besides soliciting feedback on the features in that next Beta release, better add requests for feedback on the license manager.  Wouldn’t it make sense to use a license manager that’s already field-tested?

Not a One-Time Requirement
So let’s pretend an ISV does go out and write their own license manager.  What about when a big customer requests support for that new 64-bit platform?  Does the ISV take more internal resources to port (and test, and debug…) the home-grown license manager on the Latest, Greatest 64-bit platform?  Surely this is an on-going extra cost.  Same with costs the ISV would bear to have its developer update the home-grown license manager with new licensing features and license models.  Wouldn’t a third party just add new features and models as part of its product evolution?

The Truth Is…
We talk to ISVs all the time who’ve thrown in the towel and want to use a third party license manager.  They see the benefits of a competent third party.  They like understanding the cost structure and would rather “buy” than “build” a license manager for all the reasons above.

How about you?  Contact Reprise to discuss the benefits of using a third party license manager, or if you’d just like to start your evaluation of RLM.

Help for RLM license administration

- view the RLM License Administration Manual here
- Visit our license administration help page here

Written by Reprise Software - Visit Website

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