By staff

Licensing by Longitude

Can you gain by restricting your software licenses to certain regions of the globe?

Independent software vendors (ISVs) are often reminded of how interconnected their customers are. For instance, they may receive a support call from someone in India using a license on a server in Indiana.

Depending on the ISV, this may not be the original intent of the license. For a variety of reasons, some some them wish to restrict usage to the location into which the license is sold.

Why restrict by location?

The primary reason to restrict licenses to certain geographies is to try to maintain price discipline across territories and to provide lower price points for more tightly bound licenses. For instance, ISVs who sell to large multi-national customers may want to encourage regional use of licenses with lower per-seat prices, and charge a premium for licenses that span the globe. Also, ISVs who sell through a reseller channel may want licenses to be deployed locally in order to avoid unproductive price competition between regions.

Creating Geo-Aware Licenses

With the Reprise License Manager (RLM), licenses can be generated to restrict the timezones within which the licenses can be used. The mechanism is relatively straightforward. Simply add the keyword TIMEZONE=timezone-spec to any license.

The value assigned to the TIMEZONE keyword is a bitmap representing the client’s time zones, relative to GMT, within which the licenses are valid. In other words, it allows the specification of a set of valid timezones for the client machine that performs the license checkout. The timezone-spec is a 24-bit HEX number, with one bit set for each timezone you wish to be valid. Bit 0 represents GMT and each bit to the “left” of bit 0 represents one timezone (one hour) west of GMT. Thus bit 5 would be EST, bit 8 would be PST, bit 23 would be one hour east of GMT, and so on.

TIMEZONE Keyword Examples:

North America (GMT-5 through GMT-8): 0000 0000 0000 0001 1110 0000, TIMEZONE=1E0

Europe (GMT-0 through GMT+2): 1100 0000 0000 0000 0000 0001, TIMEZONE=c000001

Japan (GMT+9): 0000 0000 1000 0000 0000 0000, TIMEZONE=8000

Hold on to that License

Using RLM keywords “HOLD=” and “MIN_CHECKOUT=”

Many valuable software tools that require floating licensing run for only a short time.  These include various solvers, development and design tools, and other specialty software products that are designed to perform very specific tasks very quickly.  Unlike typical interactive or desktop applications, these short-burst applications typically do not have a GUI of there own, and are often launched by other applications within a product suite.

The “Short Duration” Licensing Challenge
The licensing challenge for these applications is based on the fact that a floating license is a shared license.  When a floating license is used it is unavailable until it is returned.  But, short duration tools consume licenses for only a short time, so a single license could potentially be shared by a large number of users.

The “Short Duration” Pricing Challenge
The licensing challenge is really a pricing challenge.  In other words, how do you set a price for a single floating license that is low enough for small sites to afford while at the same time scaling your pricing so that larger sites that use more of your software pay you more for that use?  How do you prevent large sites from satisfying their requirements by licensing only a single floating copy of your software?

Extra Hold Time: HOLD=
One way to handle this problem is to implement an extra “hold time” on the floating license.  This instructs the license servers to hold the license for an extra number of seconds after it is released by the client, regardless of how long the license was actually used.  So, for example, if the application uses the license for 20 seconds, upon termination of the program the license is “held” for an additional 300 seconds, say, for a total of 320 seconds.  The effect is that the floating license can be shared by fewer users because it is “held” this extra amount of  time each time it is used.  This encourages customers to order more licenses to satisfy their user population.  But, some customers may object to the license being unavailable for such a long time.

Minimum Checkout Time: MIN_CHECKOUT=
Another similar method is to enforce a “minimum” license checkout duration.  Instead of extra time being added to the end of a licensing session as in the above example, a license would be held for at least a specified minimum amount of time.  So, a license with the minimum checkout time set to 300 seconds would add 280 extra seconds to a license that was in use for only 20 seconds.  Licenses used for more than 300 seconds would not be affected.

Both “extra hold time” (HOLD=) and “minimum checkout time” (MIN_CHECKOUT=) keywords are specified in the license file, external to the application, so that the same executable can use either method without modification to the source code.

Queuing for Licenses

Adding support for license queuing promotes more efficient use of a user’s inventory of licenses

The RLM license server has the ability to manage a queue of requests for a license when all licenses are in use. If queued for a license, the application is notified by the license server when a license has become available. Queuing occurs in the course of a normal checkout if the application’s environment specifies a value for the variable RLM_QUEUE.

Applications must be made aware of Queuing

The licensed application needs to support queuing, in that it has to react appropriately to the RLM_EL_INQUEUE error status after a checkout attempt, instead of treating it as a hard error. The application should keep checking the license status periodically as long as the user wishes to remain queued for the license. Not all RLM-licensed applications do this, but most do.

Queuing to Multiple Servers is Transparent

The licensed application side of RLM manages queuing in a multiple license server environment transparently. If all licenses are in use on all of the license servers that the licensed application is aware of, RLM will queue for a license on all of the license servers. As soon as a license becomes available on one of the servers, it is granted to the queued application, the application dequeues on the other servers. This is handled transparently to the application, in the RLM library. [ Don’t you wish supermarket check-out lines worked this way? You’d be waiting in all of the lines at once. ]

All Aboard the Express

RLM has the concept of “express” license pools for the purposes of queuing. An express license pool is one where queuing is not on a strictly first-in first-out basis. This is best illustrated by example. Consider a pool of 10 licenses: 8 are currently in use, and 2 are available. Application A requests a checkout of 3 licenses, and specifies that it wants to queue if the request can’t be granted immediately. Its request is queued because only 2 licenses are available. Application B then requests 2 licenses. If the pool is an express pool, Application B’s request is granted immediately. In a non-express pool, Application B’s request would be queued behind Application A’s request. By default, all pools are express pools. This can be changed by the end user on a pool by pool basis, or globally, via the EXPRESS directive in the ISV options file.

SketchList Selects the Reprise License Manager (RLM)

Summary: Here at SketchList Inc. we use RLM for four primary reasons. First, it protects our investment in our software by assuring us that only paying users can use our software. Second, it provides us with flexibility in our pricing plans by allowing us to time limit keys we sell to our customers. Third, the RLM software and services are high quality and professional in nature. And finally the RLM pricing and scheme provide fair value to our company.

Licensing Challenge: To develop a scheme that allows us to sell online, offer trials, provide many pricing options, and address both the PC and MAC computer users with a minimum of operational burden.

Why RLM: While the consultants charged with recommending the solution had originally selected another package, the pricing for that package / service was too high and inflexible. After RLM was introduced to the consultants they tested it, incorporated it into the SketchList product, and have since recommended it to other clients of theirs. We were able to introduce RLM to our environment and test it to our satisfaction within the trial period. We are currently using it to provide keys for a new release that is in beta, and have seen no problems.

About SketchList Inc: SketchList 3D is a software product that helps professional woodworkers prepare winning bids for new projects and customers. It allows woodworkers to use virtual 3D objects – boards, doors, drawer and hardware – to quickly and easily design and demonstrate their proposed work to prospects. Photo-like quality images in 3D help their prospects see what they are buying. In addition, all drawings and reports necessary for building the project are being created as designs are developed.

Infochem Computer Services Ltd. Licenses the Reprise License Manager (RLM)

Infochem converted their robust FORTRAN application from dongle-based licensing to a file-based system using RLM, reducing support costs while increasing customer satisfaction.  According to Dr. Richard Szczepanski, Director, “We have always regarded a licensing system as an essential part of our software. We started using a dongle-based system in the early 1990s and this has developed over the years stand-alone installations to network licenses. Dongles are not always popular with customers but they do an effective job of controlling licenses.”

“We chose RLM to enable a complete electronic delivery of the software product and license. In the past we have considered a number of license-file based systems but poor experiences as users of these systems and high costs prevented us from adopting them for our own software.”

“It is simple to sum up our experience with Reprise and RLM: we are happy and our customers are happy.”

About InfoChem:

Infochem is a specialist engineering company that provides thermodynamic modeling software and consultancy services to the oil & gas, process and chemical industries. We have been established for over twenty years. Our principal software product, Multiflash, is a powerful and versatile program for modeling physical properties and phase equilibria involving any number of fluid and solid phases. It is used by engineers worldwide, either as a stand-alone program or in conjunction with other software. Typical applications include flow assurance and life-of-field studies for the oil industry, pipeline network modeling and process design and optimisation. A complementary product, FloWax, simulates the deposition of wax from oils and condensates in multiphase pipelines.

We have always regarded a licensing system as an essential part of our software. We started using a dongle-based system in the early 1990s and this has developed over the years from parallel port dongles to USB dongles and from stand-alone installations to network licenses. Dongles are not always popular with customers but they do an effective job of controlling licenses.

It is a common complaint among software suppliers that the licensing system consumes an uncomfortably-high proportion of support effort. It has certainly been our experience over many years. This was one of the main reasons for investigating alternative license control systems. Another was to enable a complete electronic delivery of the software product and license. In the past we have considered a number of license-file based systems but poor experiences as users of these systems and high costs decided us against adopting them for our own software. We were aware of RLM for some time before we decided to try an evaluation. We talked to other users and their positive comments convinced us to go ahead.

Our software is written in Fortran so we needed some help to get to grips with the API. Reprise put us in touch with another Fortran user and that made the task simpler. Overall our experience was good. The product performed well and met our requirements. Our software comes as a basic product plus a number of optional modules; we provide node-locked and floating licenses and we issue short-term evaluation licenses. All this is well-supported by RLM. In particular, the cost and effort of providing evaluation licenses has decreased dramatically because there is no hardware device to deal with. The process is smoother, faster and simpler for prospective customers.

The transition to RLM has been transparent to our customers because we are using the dongle system and RLM in parallel. We have a single program that incorporates both licensing libraries. New licenses are RLM-based and, although it is still early-days, the support effort has indeed decreased. Most importantly, we have not been faced with any of the long trouble-shooting investigations that were sometimes necessary in the past. We are still learning but the effort has been worthwhile.

Time to Talk about Timeouts in the Reprise License Manager (RLM)

Technical article on timeouts in the Reprise License Manager

There are two types of timeout events in RLM: connection timeouts, and idle timeouts. Let’s dig into each of them a little bit deeper.

Connection Timeouts

Connection timeouts occur when a client application takes too long to connect to one or more RLM license servers. Users can change the default connection timeout value from 10 seconds to as low as 5 seconds by setting an environment variable. If set to a negative value, the connect timeout will be its absolute value, and if any particular server connection times out, no further attempts will be made to that server. If set to a positive value, a connection will be attempted to the server even if it timed out on the last attempt. The latter example is the default behavior in RLM.

Skipping over License Servers

RLM also keeps track of which license servers in its license path list have an ISV’s server running on them. If either there is no ISV line for that ISV in a local license file, or an attempt is made to check out a license from a server and the RLM server returns a status indicating that this ISV is not present, then the server is flagged as not having that ISV server.

In a multi-server environment, it doesn’t make sense for an application to repeatedly attempt checkouts from servers that are known not to be serving its licenses. So, application developers may choose to “skip” these license servers. Note that by default, RLM will attempt all operations on all servers.

Idle Timeouts and Heartbeats

Most users want the license server to reclaim licenses from applications that become idle for too long. This ensures maximum utilization of floating (shared) license pools.

The RLM license server expects to hear from client applications periodically as a way for applications to tell the server that they are still active. Normally, this is done by sending “heartbeats” from clients to the server either automatically or under the direct control of the application itself.

Some software vendors may decide to inform the server that an interactive application is idle while waiting for user input. This allows the application’s license to be reclaimed by the server when the application waits too long for user input. When the user eventually “wakes up” the formerly idle application, it will attempt to reclaim any lost licenses from the server.

When licenses are timed out by the server, they are essentially checked back into the pool for use by others.  This event can be recorded in a server report log, if desired.

User Control of Idle Timeouts

An end-user can specify a TIMEOUT value for any idle license. If the license remains idle for this amount of time, the license server performs an automatic check-in of the license and informs the application (if it is still running).

Software vendors can set a MIN_TIMEOUT keyword in a license that specifies the lowest value that an end-user can set for the timeout value of a license. If not specified in the license, the RLM default minimum of 3600 seconds (1 hour) is used.

Lanner Group’s Witness Reprise License Management System (RLM) Saves Time And Cost For License Fulfillment Process

Summary: Lanner Group, the business process improvement and simulation software specialist has included Reprise Licensing Manager as standard for all users within its latest release of WITNESS Power with Ease 2.01. It follows the successful introduction of WITNESS software incorporating flexible license fulfillment with Ford Motor Company.

Full Press Release:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 24, Houston, Texas

Lanner Group, the business process improvement and simulation software specialist has included Reprise Licensing Manager as standard for all users within its latest release of WITNESS Power with Ease 2.01. It follows the successful introduction of WITNESS software incorporating flexible license fulfillment with Ford Motor Company.

The latest release of WITNESS Power with Ease 2.01 includes a number of enhancements to the award-winning WITNESS system, and in partnership with Reprise Software, Inc. it now includes Reprise License Manager (RLM) networking licensing.

Lanner Group’s initial deployment of its WITNESS program integrating RLM was with Ford Motor Company.  The system proved adaptable and reliable and has led to the as standard inclusion of the licensing mechanism in the latest issue of WITNESS.

The incorporation of RLM into WITNESS simulation software allows licenses to be easily booked out from a network license on to a small portable computer or laptop providing the flexibility to work off the network as needed.

RLM is available for all network installations of WITNESS and for hardware locked stand-alone installations.  Further advantages of this new system are options for automatic web activation of licensing, making this process quicker and easier.

“We’re delighted with the simplicity and agility of the Reprise Licensing system,” says Lanner Group director of business development, Americas, Mandy Tague. She continues, “By integrating Reprise Licensing into WITNESS simulation software, Lanner Group is offering the market a uniquely agile and flexible system that gives a significant reduction in cost and time within the license fulfillment process.

“Reprise License Manager increases end-user customer satisfaction through the use of easy-to -implement, flexible license terms automatically included with software shipped to end users,” she concludes.

“Lanner Group’s license management requirements are similar to those of other companies in the simulation and modeling software industry, demanding a robust, powerful, yet affordable license manager,” stated Matt Christiano, CEO of Reprise Software. “We are proud that Lanner Group recognizes the flexibility, simplicity, power and value of the Reprise License Manager and look forward to continuing a long and mutually beneficial relationship between the two companies.”

Lanner Group also plans to roll out RLM with its law enforcement simulation, PRISM, and pharmaceutical simulation, Px-SIM, range of products in the near future.

The release of WITNESS Power with Ease 2.01 is part of a series of updates to improve the flexibility, power and ease-of-use of WITNESS software. Development objectives are set with the end user in mind, by consulting directly with WITNESS customers through client service reviews, site visits, and other informal conversations about what improvements customers would most like to see in the software.

Over the past two years Lanner Group’s development team has added built-in Quick 3D capability to WITNESS software.  This ability tracks and optimizes energy consumption and a host of other improvements to enhance user experience of WITNESS. This momentum continues with the release of WITNESS Power with Ease 3.0 later this year.


About Lanner Group, Inc.

Lanner Group Ltd, headquartered in Redditch, UK, with its Americas subsidiary Lanner Group, Inc. in Houston Texas, is dedicated to delivering innovative solutions to model, analyze and optimize processes through simulation software and enables business managers to make comprehensive decisions in a risk-free environment.  Industry sectors include law enforcement and public sector, energy, defense, aerospace, automotive, manufacturing and healthcare.  The Lanner Group portfolio is based around the leading business improvement products WITNESS, L-SIM, Px-SIM and PRISM.  Its client roster includes end users such as HP, 3M, Boeing, Ford, GM, Nissan, and Rolls Royce.

Network Intelligence Enabled – Tektronix Licenses the Reprise License Manager (RLM)

Summary: The Reprise License Manager provides a win-win solution by ensuring Textronix’s customers that they have enough licenses to satisfy their business requirements and, at the same time, that they are not paying for more licenses than they need. Also, the license manager protects  intellectual property from unauthorized use while increasing overall revenue as customers purchase all the licenses they need.

Tektronix selects RLM

Network operators today are faced with many challenges that impact their businesses – more competition, technology challenges, and a more demanding customer base. Many network operators have been caught off-guard and are searching for viable, cost-efficient solutions that will mitigate these challenges and enable all facets of their business to excel. At Tektronix Communications we develop Network Intelligence Solutions to help fixed, mobile and next-generation operators around the world better manage their networks, services and customers by providing them with accurate, real-time (and historical) information that can be leveraged by multiple departments such as customer care, product planning, network operations, network traffic and engineering, and more.

To be able to meet the constantly changing network demands and growth as well different operator sizes and requirements, we introduced a new innovative Applications Platform, IrisView. As the framework behind the Network Intelligence portfolio, IrisView provides a seamless user experience for all applications within the framework­regardless of the underlying data source.

Such flexibility required the embedded power of a license manager platform to enable the dynamic change, update and packaging of customer tailored solutions using different IrisView modules. Using the IrisView embedded license manager, RLM from Reprise Software, we were able to creatively price, package, and bundle products for broader and deeper operator’s market penetration whether it is on the mobile or fixed side. To meet emerging markets demands, we were also able to quickly create corresponding product packages to better serve these markets. With the license manager we were also able to offer our customers the use of IrisView applications trials or evaluations. Such trials enabled shorten acceptance cycles and generated interest in our new product features and upgrades.

In summary, the IrisView license manager provides a win-win solution by ensuring our customers that they have enough licenses to satisfy their business requirements and, at the same time, that they are not paying for more licenses than they need. In addition, the IrisView license manager protects Tektronix Communications intellectual property from unauthorized use while increasing overall revenue as customers purchase all the licenses they need.