License Server Deployment: Local or Web-Based?

Which is Better for Your Customers?

As license management technology has evolved, so has Internet-based networking and the ability to locate various clients and servers at physically distant locations.  But are “distant” and “remote” always best for a software vendor’s customers?

Let’s look at some of the thinking that could go into the decision on how and where to locate license servers, and what that means for a software vendor’s choice of license management technology.

First off, it’s best to look at the question of server location in the context of a specific type of end user.  Clearly, not all software is best managed with license servers, either local or across a WAN or the Internet from its intended users.

Software that is best deployed with license servers is typically low-volume and high-dollar-value software, such as is used in various engineering fields (mechanical CAD/CAM, chip design or “EDA”, oil and gas exploration, video production, etc.)  So, it goes without saying that the nature of these software products, and their value to the organizations buying licenses for them, demands near-instantaneous, secure availability of those licenses, as well as the ability to easily report on their usage.  In fact, this model is where the term “software asset management” is derived: non-tangible yet hugely valuable software licenses that are treated by end user organizations just like any other important, valuable physical asset.

Given that high-value software licenses must be always available, secure and reportable, where should the servers hosting those licenses be sited?  On the end user’s Intranet?  Across a WAN?  Across the Internet?

At Reprise, our experience going back over 20 years leads us to think that the physically closer you can site license servers to their intended users, the better.  Also, the fewer network devices you can put between the user and their license(s), the better.  While it can be argued that networking has only gotten better over the years, with more capable routers, higher-speed connections and better system and network management, as of yet no one has figured out how to remove Mr. Murphy, of Murphy’s Law fame.  And the last thing your poor, harried user needs is Murphy messing with license servers at the eleventh hour of a big project, when that important software license had better be available.

Besides availability, control is obviously important in deploying license servers.  Large enterprise organizations dedicate individuals or even teams to keeping software licenses watered, well-fed and ready for their users.  Inherent in that is the capability to tweak individual vendor servers, or the main server itself, so that license reservations for groups or projects and reporting are all set up to maximize the users’ benefit.  So while moving all of this infrastructure across the Internet may seem appealing to the software vendor, be sure to ask your users what they would think of this.  Would your users still have routine administrative access to stats about server and license availability?  What happens when Port 80 is saturated when the next “gotta watch” video is posted?

While there’s a trade-off between configuring firewalls to handle non-Port 80 traffic and the immediate availability of Port 80, it’s our observation that most end user organizations want to dedicate ports and server hardware to serving valuable licenses, so that their users can get them when they need them.  And now, with the concept of license “refreshing” and re-hosting, a good hybrid deployment model is available to end users of license managed software.  Imagine–having the flexibility to easily move licenses from one server to another with the good availability of licenses served from a machine directly under the end user’s control.  What could be better!

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