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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!

SIAS Limited Licenses the Reprise License Manager (RLM)

Summary: “After some research SIAS selected RLM as the supplier of the next licensing solution. RLM offered all the flexibility needed to cope with our unique licensing model. The test code supplied in the RLM kit was tried on a network spanning multiple time zones and successfully checked out and checked back in some 10,000 licences. RLM support was also a great help in integrating their libraries into our mix of programming environments.”

About SIAS Limited:[]

S-Paramics and RLM licensing

S-Paramics, from SIAS Limited in Scotland, UK, is a road traffic microsimulation software suite.  It assists city planners and transport planners in assessing the impact of the changes to the flow of traffic. A model of the road network is built and calibrated using surveyed data on journeys and traffic flows. Then changes are made to the model such as new roads, new traffic control systems or additional road trips, perhaps from a new retail development. S-Paramics simulates every individual car, truck and bus on the road network in both versions of the model.

The major software module in S-Paramics is the modeller, which edits road network models, simulates the vehicles and provides a visualisation of the moving traffic. There is a separate batch mode of the modeller which performs the simulation only. The Data Analysis Tool then takes the results of the simulations and identifies the changes in speed and flows as well as quantifying the benefits of the road network changes.

Licensing Models
Licensing S-Paramics is quite complex.  The three main modules are individually licensed.  For example a customer may have more batch mode licences than desktop modeller licences and will use them to operate a grid computing batch farm.  S-Paramics is licensed according to the size of the simulation model, measured by the number of vehicles present in it, so some details of function and model size must be encoded in a licence. Most customers also have time limited licences which require renewal annually and hence there is an expiry date in the licence. Finally, many customers continue to use old versions of S-Paramics, preferring to keep the number of variables to a minimum when comparing new road designs with runs from previous base models.

RLM replaces problematic dongles
Two different dongles have been used in the past. The first was a serial port dongle (pre-USB and it had to work on Unix, Linux and Windows).  This was replaced because the failure rate approached 40%. The next dongle, a USB key, works fine when licensing individual PCs but the network dongle proved troublesome when communicating over corporate networks spanning several timezones. The latest release of the dongle management software also saw the dongle manufacturer taking more control of the configuration process making it hard to integrate into SIAS’s own procedures. For SIAS to continue to offer licences for older S-Paramics releases while using the new dongle security we would have had to duplicate the licence data and in effect double the number of licences available from each dongle.

Why RLM?
After some research SIAS selected RLM as the supplier of the next licensing solution. RLM offered all the flexibility needed to cope with our unique licensing model. The test code supplied in the RLM kit was tried on a network spanning multiple time zones and successfully checked out and checked back in some 10,000 licences. RLM support was also a great help in integrating their libraries into our mix of programming environments.

http://www.paramics.co.uk

Lanner Group LTD Licenses the Reprise License Manager (RLM)

Summary: Lanner has deployed the Reprise License Manager at a large multi-national automobile manufacturer. Both parties are delighted with the simplicity and reliability of the system. Lanner is now undertaking the work to roll out RLM as a standard licensing mechanism to all customers within its autumn release of WITNESS Power with Ease.  Its plans also call for RLM to be used with its PRISM and Px-SIM range of products early in 2010.

About Lanner Group LTD:

Lanner chooses RLM for its flagship dynamic process analysis software WITNESS

Lanner develops simulation software that enables organisations to understand and improve their business processes. Lanner’s simulation technology works by enabling users to represent their real world processes in a dynamic animated computer model and then experiment with alternative ‘what-if ?’ scenarios to identify the optimal solution.  It includes the natural variability and complexity of interactions in users’ processes that spreadsheets or planning based techniques can’t reflect.

Dynamic Process Analysis
Lanner’s technology is used by the most technically respected and demanding organisations in manufacturing, and in the service and financial sectors. It is also chosen by many of the worlds leading software providers. Based in the UK with subsidiaries and partners in Europe, The Americas and the Far East, Lanner applications are used by more than 3,500 companies globally.

With Lanner, customers can access simulation technology through a range of industry standard and industry tailored desktop tools; so making dynamic process analysis accessible and convenient. For great general purpose 2D and 3D process modelling, our customers choose WITNESS simulation. For those needing a simulation engine to embed within their own software solution, they adopt Lanner’s L-SIM.

Lanner’s Plans and RLM
Lanner has deployed the Reprise License Manager at a large multi-national automobile manufacturer. Both parties are delighted with the simplicity and reliability of the system. Lanner is now undertaking the work to roll out RLM as a standard licensing mechanism to all customers within its autumn release of WITNESS Power with Ease.  Its plans also call for RLM to be used with its PRISM and Px-SIM range of products early in 2010.

Flexible license management allows Lanner to protect multiple product configurations, across a variety of deployment scenarios, and yet maintain a single license control database. By integrating the RLM Internet Activation into our Salesforce.com based business information system, Lanner expects to achieve a significant reduction in cost and time within the license fulfillment process.

RLM Integration with Salesforce.com
With RLM Internet Activation, Lanner will be able to support sales to customers worldwide without the time-zone delays normally related with a UK based customer service team.  The self-service license fulfillment removes the need for e-mail exchanges, saving of attachments, and users having to follow complicated instructions. Not only will RLM deliver better customer service, it will vastly reduce the load on our customer support team.

“With our implementation of RLM v7, our maintained customers will get upgrade rights downloaded to their license servers or to their node-locked client applications automatically.” says David Jones Lanner CEO.  “We are looking forward to being able to offer short-term trials, upgrades and additional licensed seats, simply by adjusting our Salesforce.com records. This will be a key component in helping Lanner grow its business.”

http://www.lanner.com

Dynamic Named-User Licensing

Let your License Manager build user lists dynamically

Floating licenses are the most versatile of the license types. If floating licenses are available, anyone on the network with the application software product and access to the license server can get a license to run. This is tremendously powerful for software user organizations. But, there are times when software publishers (ISVs) want to sell the convenience of floating licenses while enforcing a more restricted named_user license model.

In the named_user model, the idea is to restrict license access to only users who are on a list.

Business Benefits
The benefit of named_user licenses to the software user community is that their regular software users will not have to contend with other users for licenses. The licenses are in effect dedicated to the group of named users.  These licenses may also be less expensive than floating licenses. The ISV, on the other hand, benefits because he can sell named_user licenses, perhaps at a lower cost, that better match the spirit of his license agreement.  If he chooses, the ISV can still sell unrestricted floating licenses, but at a premium to the named_user type.

Names can be Dynamically Assigned
In Reprise Software’s RLM, named_user licenses allow ISVs to require that user names be included on a list in order to use the licenses. The list can be assigned by the system administrator, or RLM can create the list “on the fly.” The number of users in the list can be less than, equal to, or greater than the number of licenses available. Once a user is added to the list, he can be deleted, but once deleted, he must remain off the list for a minimum number of hours (24 hours by default). This prevents the manipulation of the system in an effort to defeat the named_user license policy.

If the number of named users is smaller than the number of licenses, then this small group will share the larger pool (assumes that it’s feasible for a single user to consume more than one license at a time).  If the number of named_users is greater than the number of licenses, then the larger pool of named_users will contend for the available licenses.

The “How To”

To deploy a named_user licensing model, the ISV does not need to modify his RLM-enabled application at all; it’s controlled in the license certificate itself.  To create a named user license a named_user keyword is simply added to a standard floating license certificate, in one of the three following ways:
named_user – to require the same # of users as there are licenses
or
named_user=n – to require a maximum of n users to be named
or
named_user=”n min_hours” – to require a maximum of n users to be named, and to specify the minimum number of hours before the deleted user name can be re-added back to the list.

Managing the List
As was mentioned earlier, the license server can construct the list of users automatically as license checkouts occur, or the list can be entered via the RLM web interface by the end-user administrator. If entered manually, either individual user names or GROUP names (as defined in the ISV server options file) can be used.

Named_user licenses utilize the INCLUDE functionality of the license server, and do not need a fully populated list of users before the licenses can be used. In fact, no users need to be specified since the license server will add users who do not appear on the list if the current list size is less than the number of allowed named users.

SilhouetteFX Licenses the Reprise License Manager (RLM)

Summary: “Users are able to activate and deactivate over the Internet, activate on a machine without Internet access and permanently remove a license from a machine which can be verified using a removal code. The ability to activate and deactivate licenses, allowing customers to move licenses between machines as needed, has been a huge time saver for us since the process takes place without assistance from our customer support department.”

About SilhouetteFX[]:

SilhouetteFX turned to RLM in 2006 to manage its license delivery and fulfillment for its motion picture visual effects customers. Silhouette’s rotoscoping and paint software has been instrumental in creating special effects for Hollywood’s top blockbuster movies. Licenses supplied to customers are either nodelocked or floating and are available for Macintosh, Windows and Linux based systems.

Once we knew that RLM worked solidly, we went to the next step and wrote our own activation system built around RLM for nodelocked licenses. Users are able to activate and deactivate over the Internet, activate on a machine without Internet access and permanently remove a license from a machine which can be verified using a removal code. The ability to activate and deactivate licenses, allowing customers to move licenses between machines as needed, has been a huge time saver for us since the process takes place without assistance from our customer support department.

RLM integrates seamlessly with our custom activation system and together they meet all of our licensing needs at an affordable price. We couldn’t be happier.

SilhouetteFX brings together superior software designers and visual effects veterans.  Add an Academy Award for Scientific and Technical Achievement, 3 Emmy Awards and experience in creating visual effects for hundreds of feature films, commercials and television shows and you have a recipe for success.

Frontline Systems Licenses the Reprise License Manager (RLM)

Summary: Internet activation of licenses with Reprise is a key benefit that Frontline is extending to its customers in the V9.5 product line release.  In a beta test involving about 75 users around the globe, Internet activation has offered better reliability, better security, and most of all simplicity for end users who just want to get the software running.

About Frontline Systems[]:

Frontline Systems  Inc. (www.solver.com) is a leading developer and marketer of software for mathematical optimization and risk analysis with Monte Carlo simulation.  Frontline’s products for Microsoft Excel are upward compatible from the Solver in Excel, which Frontline developed for Microsoft.  Frontline’s software is used throughout the world in nearly every industry, by thousands of large companies, universities, and other software companies; its products range from free versions bundled with textbooks to concurrent-use licenses costing tens of thousands of dollars.  License management that is convenient for the end user but protective of intellectual property developed over two decades is crucial for Frontline’s business.

Frontline is rolling out the Reprise License Manager v7 in its latest (V9.5) product line release, replacing SafeNet Sentinel RMS.  According to Daniel Fylstra, Frontline’s president, switching to Reprise has solved a series of problems with SafeNet Sentinel, ranging from unreliability in the field to problems in large companies with Windows Vista and Terminal Services.  Frontline also expects to lighten its technical support load, where about 50% of cases have involved Sentinel licensing issues.  “I can’t convey how relieved we’ll be to retire the Sentinel license manager,” Fylstra says.

Internet activation of licenses with Reprise is a key benefit that Frontline is extending to its customers in the V9.5 product line release.  In a beta test involving about 75 users around the globe, Internet activation has offered better reliability, better security, and most of all simplicity for end users who just want to get the software running.  As Frontline rolls out its commercial release, it can offer self-service license fulfillment for credit card purchases through its Web store for the first time, thanks to RLM Internet activation.

And Frontline is taking advantage of new features in RLM v7, such as activation whitelists and activation re-hosting using RLM’s refresh capability, to meet some of its key objectives in 2009.  “We want to give our academic users access to our best software, while protecting our much higher price points for commercial users,” says Mr. Fylstra.  “With Reprise v7, we can use whitelisting to ensure that academic users are actually connected through a *.edu domain.”  After spending the last few years coping with the costs and limitations of its old license manager, Frontline is now beginning to find ways to use RLM to help grow its business.

Lattix Inc. Licenses the Reprise License Manager (RLM)

Summary: “We found that the flexibility of RLM allowed us to migrate to the new licensing scheme with minimal training for our internal staff and our customers.   Based on our experience with Reprise Software, we recommend RLM as the most cost effective choice for a license management solution.”

About Lattix Inc.:Lattix

Lattix offers an innovative solution for automated analysis and enforcement of software system architecture.  We pioneered the Dependency Structure Matrix (DSM) approach which uses system interdependencies to create the most accurate and scalable blueprint of software applications, databases, models, and systems.  DSM provides a compact representation that can easily scale up to tens of thousands of classes or files, whereas conventional box-and-arrow diagrams become unusable for systems composed of even a few hundred boxes.

With Lattix, architects and developers can analyze their systems in detail, edit the structure to more easily achieve refactoring initiatives, and specify design rules allowing them to formalize and communicate the architecture to the entire organization. Lattix enables companies to improve and maintain quality, enhance testability, lower costs through more effective development, and manage risks by better understanding of the impact of proposed changes.

Lattix provides the most comprehensive solution for systems that use Ada, C/C++, Java, .NET, and Pascal languages; Oracle, SQL Server, and Sybase databases; Spring and Hibernate frameworks; and UML or SysML models. Lattix also provides support for automated web-based reporting of architectural metrics, violations, and incremental changes.

Until the most recent release, Lattix 4.8, licenses were only available as Named-User.  Our customers had been asking for a floating license option to expand their use of Lattix throughout their development organization, across a variety of platforms.  With RLM and its strong support, we were able to quickly develop and deliver the necessary licensing for the full range of our product options.  We found that the flexibility of RLM allowed us to migrate to the new licensing scheme with minimal training for our internal staff and our customers.   Based on our experience with Reprise Software, we recommend RLM as the most cost effective choice for a license management solution.

Learn more about Lattix at http://www.lattix.com/products/products.php. : A free evaluation license is also available for download from http://www.lattix.com/dl/gettingstarted.php.

Expanding your Software Licensing Policies

RLM’s Simple API makes executing tactical adjustments to pricing and licensing policies easy

In these tough economic times it is critical to have the flexibility to address complex licensing policies quickly and easily. In a previous article RLM’s ‘Policy is in the License’ methodology was discussed, explaining how the RLM license policy is largely removed from your application. Since the license policy is defined in the license keys, a single binary can support many license policies.. Once RLM is implemented, you can address ever-changing business rules by simply varying the type of keys that you issue.  RLM can support a wide range of licensing options and policies.  Many of these policies have been covered in previous articles and are summarized here (with link to original article):

  • Trial and Evaluation Licenses are implemented using a license with an expiration date, and possibly a “demo” flag, to make your product accessible to would-be buyers.  Since eval/demo/trial licenses can also be easily turned into full, “purchased” licenses, a trial version of your product is the logical first step in a successful sales process.  Well-designed eval/demo/trial licensing programs will reduce your cost of sales, increase customer satisfaction and productivity, all while expanding your reach into wider geographies and attracting new types of users.
  • Floating and Node Locked Licenses can be implemented as needed and depend largely on how your software is intended to be used, shared or unshared.  Floating licenses are free to “float” across the network to users who need them. The license manager controls access to these floating licenses via a central server that enforces the maximum license count that you have set for this site. Node-locked licenses, on the other hand, are usually uncounted, allowing an unlimited number of copies to run on a specified host.
  • NAMED_USER, or USER_BASED Licenses are a class of floating licenses that must be assigned to user names so that they cannot be used as widely as unrestricted floating licenses. With a named_user license, the license server can construct the list of users automatically as license checkouts occur, or the list can be entered/modified via the RLM web interface by the end-user administrator.  Gives you more pricing depth.
  • Token Based Licenses are among the more-advanced features that provide a license model to your customers to enable license alternates. This is the case where you sell a single product that consists of many separately licensable components (product and sub-product model).  If you sell product bundles at a special discounted price, then customers can purchase a combination of both the bundles and the components of the bundles in order to match their requirements.  Token based licensing allows you to define product rights in terms of relative value between your products, or allow a user to consume a mix of your products up to a pre-determined level of value.  This model also allows you to introduce new products into your customers easily since the new products consume the same licenses (tokens) that are already installed.
  • WAN/Time Zone Licenses use time zones in the license file to increase your pricing options. Your biggest customers usually connect their geographically dispersed sites via a WAN. When they do that, they can potentially share your floating licenses across the globe. For a variety of reasons you may want your licenses to be used only within a particular time zone.
  • Subscription based Licenses are supported using the start and expiration dates in the license file.  Subscription licenses are priced so that they provide a lower initial cost in order to attract both new customers and those customers who are trying to preserve short term cash.
  • Version based Licenses can be implemented to support versioning control by either version number or version release date.  License requests beyond the version number or release date would be denied, presenting an opportunity to remind the customer that access to that version requires a new license obtained only via a support contract extension, again providing an avenue for maximizing ongoing revenue.
  • Licensing on Virtual Machines is supported in RLM via a parameter in the license itself that controls whether it will or will not run under VM.  Vendors can deliver both kinds of licenses to their customers – disabled and enabled – allowing them to, for example, issue short-term VM-capable licenses for testing and evaluation purposes, but disabling other licenses for long-term production deployment, or allow certain customers, but not all, to run their licenses on VMs.Choice

The remainder of this article will briefly discuss a few other optional license fields. The following license keywords can be classified as ‘vendor defined’ options as they are not used by RLM to determine policy, but can be accessed by your application to further restrict usage rights or present information to the end-user:

  • License Options field specification is used to encode options for the product.  Do you have the need to restrict information access or usage within you application?  Do you want to limit the number of database records that can be created or accessed, the number of accounts that can be open, the number of portals that can be accessed, etc.?   This information can be entered into the ‘Options’ field and extracted by your application to further limit or define the applications internal processes.
  • Contract field can be used to hold the customer’s purchase information or software agreement number.  This can be displayed to the end-user to validate a support contract, etc.
  • Issuer field would be used to identify the organization which issued the license, such as a third party distributor etc.
  • Customer field can be used to identify the customer of the software and can be displayed by your application to the end-user. This can be an added incentive to keep honest users honest.  It is unlikely that Mega South-East Airlines would want to use a license that was issued to Main St. Bank.

Even though it is wise when starting out to keep the implementation relatively simple, it is very important to have options to address the changes due to market pressure, economic stress or customer feedback. RLM’s licensing methodology gives you the flexibility to address the ever-changing business rules. Reprise Software’s experts can help you plan your optimal approach. Please feel free to contact us to discuss.

3 Engineers LLC Licenses the Reprise License Manager (RLM)

Summary: RLM’s attractive prices and the Reprise management team’s experience won over startup 3Engineers. Flexible license policies can match the ones of future CAD/CAM platforms.

RLM Customer Story:

Xpresso is speech-recognition software for SolidWorks, a 3D solid-modeling CAD package. Xpresso allows designers to simply say commands, eliminating actions that do not add value. Using Xpresso reduces hand movement and augments the use of additional navigation devices, streamlining the design process and making it up to 15 percent more efficient.

Our license manager selection process was driven by the need to contain expenses as a startup and to find a solution that would not become a distraction from our product development efforts. We recognized that the Reprise team had the necessary elements for stability and success, and that RLM was adopted by other vendors in the CAD/CAM market. Ultimately we selected RLM because of their responsive support, pricing that made sense, and the relative ease of incorporating it into our product.

Xpresso uses single-seat “node locking” licenses that compliment the SolidWorks licensing strategy. In addition to per-year release licenses, limited duration trial licenses ensure that potential customers can get a “shot” of Xpresso.

Having the flexibility to provide more than just node-locked licensing ensures that as we expand to provide speech recognition capabilities to additional CAD/CAM platforms we can complement their licensing strategy. RLM’s interfaces are simple and clean; the cross-platform solution is stable; and their pricing strategy from market entry through revenue generating is attractive and compelling.