By staff

RLM v9 Addresses Opportunities in “The Cloud”

The Reprise License Manager (RLM) v9 addresses licensing challenges and opportunities presented in the cloud.

Earlier we wrote a short article about this topic, asking “Are you ready for the Cloud?”  RLM v9 now incorporates features to help software vendors exploit these new opportunities.

The biggest industry players are driving the cloud movement. Platform vendors such as, Google, IBM, Microsoft, and are leveraging their enormous investments in computing hardware and advanced virtualization software to build on-demand computing infrastructures. Corporate users, tired of paying to maintain in-house iron, are increasingly looking to reduce costs with cloud computing, while at the same time simplifying procurement, decreasing acquisition time, and adding unprecedented throughput potential.

Users can obtain “hardware on the fly” to run any operating system on arbitrarily large servers – “in the cloud.” These virtual systems may persist indefinitely or disappear when no longer needed.  The software on them may be used for only a short burst of time – just enough to get the job done – measured in days or even hours.  Likewise, paying for “cloud-time” is easy, often paying with nothing more than a credit card.

The most common problems facing ISVs who use a software license manager to license their applications in the cloud are the following:
– license keys locked to hostids may become invalid between instances,
– license servers used to enforce concurrent or floating licenses are too complex for cloud customers to manage,
– license models that rely on usage records are too hard to retrieve.

The critical technology change in RLM v9 to accommodate cloud-based software deployment is in the ability for software vendors to easily create and manage license server farms. The idea is that ISVs create these farms on their own servers, and run multiple instances of their ISV server within the farm to serve licenses to all customers who are using cloud-based products.

What problems does this solve?

By being able to run multiple license servers on the same computer, an ISV can eliminate the problems mentioned above. Specifically, licenses deployed in the cloud point back to the appropriate license server in the farm, so no local (cloud) hostids need to be checked and the user no longer needs to set up a local license server. Also, since applications deployed in the cloud must contact one of the license servers in the farm, ISVs can easily gather license usage information used to produce periodic post-use invoices for their cloud-based users.

What’s best is that you don’t have to create a separate “cloud-enabled” version of your application. Your off-the-shelf version will work just fine because this solution is a part of RLM’s  the new v9 license server, and is governed by the license keys that you give your customers.

Of course, the value of this new functionality is not limited solely to users in the cloud.  ISVs who want to simplify the deployment of their floating licenses for their traditional customers can set up license server farms for them as well.

Portfolio Decisions Licenses the Reprise License Manager (RLM)

Summary: After using several other software license management solutions, Portfolio Decisions found the Reprise License Manager (RLM) to be easier to install and support while offering increased licensing flexibility and control.

Who We Are

Portfolio Decisions is a management consulting and software firm specializing in the analysis of decision options and alternatives. We take business planning to the next level. A conventional business plan is valuable, but like a paper road map when you re on a trip, it is limited and static. Our approach is like a GPS combined with Google maps – valuable even when you’re navigating unfamiliar territory or facing changing circumstances and complex choices.

What We Do

With our approach, decision makers can link business investment decisions to strategy and explore ways of meeting or exceeding their performance goals. Perspectives, our portfolio management tool, helps identify and assess strategic options interactively – in real time, yet comprehensively – honoring both financial and operational metrics, near term and longer term considerations, and project interactions. Foundations, our data management tool, compiles and manages data from disparate sources, preserves an audit history, and facilitates processing of economics data, forecasts, strategic plans, budgets, and post-review data for planning and valuation needs.

Our Clients

Our clients include global corporations, midmarket companies, and private equity firms. Highly skilled professional engineers, economists, and financial staff use our tools for strategic planning, budgeting, and quick responses to senior executive requests for acquisition assessments.  Our clients require reliable access to software, the ability to install without IT support, and the ability to move software licenses from desktops to laptops by themselves, so they can continue to work from home or on the road, For our part, we do not compare ourselves to Google maps or a GPS lightly; we take seriously our commitment to speed, flexibility, and comprehensive, data-supported analyses. Clearly, no one wants a licensing issue to slow down the results. We prefer to spend our time helping companies derive more value from their businesses rather than installing and policing licenses of our software.

Our Licensing History

For a small company, Portfolio Decisions’ history with licensing products is a long road with several twists and turns.  Initial products we investigated were so burdensome to users that we elected to simply trust our user base.  This went well for a time, but one inappropriate incident half a world away told us we needed a licensing product.    The initial product we used was painful for clients to set up and horrific to administer.  Our next product used a web site to initiate a license.  Due to security settings, we often cannot get internet connections at our clients’ sites, so licensing with the web based product could become a cumbersome and often embarrassing process.  The consultant onsite could not complete the job without calling another consultant who had internet access.  We sometimes spent longer licensing our tool than the tool takes to optimize a portfolio. This painful path caused us to continue to search for a solution that protected our intellectual property without putting undue burden on our staff or our clients.

The RLM Solution

Since implementing Reprise’s RLM solution, we have nearly eliminated our licensing headaches.  RLM has been simple to implement and even simpler to use.  The licensing product is integrated by our development teams but administered by our portfolio management consultants.  Most clients use a node lock license which we administer in accordance with lease agreements.  The license structure is easy to tie to expiry dates on software leases. We can offer a single license file for multiple products which makes the client’s life easier, and we can use roaming licenses to meet clients’ varying demands.  Reprise has been easy to work with and very supportive. Our clients are equally happy with the Reprise security solution. Once again, we are happily engaged using our expertise to help decision makers gain insights into the performance implications of their decisions while we are also confident that our intellectual property is protected.

Vision Software Solutions Ltd Licenses the Reprise License Manager (RLM)

Vision Software Solutions Ltd

Summary: A New Zealand based software company chooses the Reprise License Manager (RLM) to launch its product that uses subscription licenses activated over the Internet.

We are a New Zealand based start-up company still very much in our launch phase having spent the last 5 years in development mode. We have only just recently made our software product available for sale.

Our product “VSS Thunder” is a project management type tool designed for the building and construction industry with small to medium sized businesses specifically in mind. Our aim is to reduce the paperwork load of their businesses and give our customers greater visibility on all aspects of their projects, meaning hopefully spending less time in the office as a result.

Russ Lines (our founder) is a builder by trade so the concept came out of his need for a simple solution for his business but it quickly became apparent that other builders could benefit from it as well.

We sell subscriptions to VSS Thunder online via our website so protecting our software via a licensing system is very important for us as is the ability for our customers to easily activate their keys over the internet. We have been with Reprise for over a year now and are a very satisfied customer. We appreciate the support Reprise has given a small start-up company like ours – especially one based on the other side of the world!

Our aim is to eventually take our product worldwide and we are confident that our relationship with Reprise will help us get there. Watch this space.

Shane Lines
Marketing Director, Vision Software Ltd

Tips for Multi-Server Site Configurations

Multiple Independent License Servers

A site may have multiple RLM license servers serving the same licenses, either in a failover scenario or when the site has decided to split its complement of licenses for a given product across multiple servers. The licensed applications need to know which hostnames and port numbers the license servers are on. There are several ways in which this can be done:

The licensed application may provide a configuration utility which allows the user to configure multiple license servers.

The environment variables RLM_LICENSE and <isv>_LICENSE may be set to a list of [email protected] values, for example:

Note that the separator character is semicolon on Windows and colon on UNIX.

A separate license file can be configured to reference each license server. Each license file need only contain a SERVER line with the appropriate host name and port number – the hostid field is ignored by RLM on the client side.


License File 1:

  • SERVER london any 5053

License File 2:

  • SERVER newyork any 2234

License File 3:

  • SERVER tokyo any 12343

Modifying Licenses in the Field

Using “REPLACE =” and “UPGRADE”

Probably the most basic of all licensing policy methodologies is the ability to control the duration of the license with an expiration date in the license. At times, as in demo or trial modes, you may want your licenses to have a short duration, 30 days or so. Still other times, you may sell usage rights on a periodic basis, monthly or annually, requiring a new license to be issued upon renewal.

In many cases however, you want your licenses to be perpetual, with no expiration date. What happens if over time you want to do a radical overhaul of your license policies or you have negotiated a new contract with a customer that requires issuing of new licenses that would replace the existing licenses? Perhaps you issued licenses that were only good for a defined version of your product and now you are upgrading to a newer version. The permanent licenses do not expire so how do you make the necessary changes?

Replacement and Upgrade Licenses to the Rescue
The way to render ineffective one or more licenses which you have already issued is to use the REPLACE[=product-list] option in the new license. REPLACE= causes RLM to ignore the “replaced” or old RLM license(s).

Upgrading licenses to a new version. There are a couple approaches you can take if you are upgrading existing licenses that are valid for a previous version of your software to a new version release. If you are upgrading all instances of the existing licenses to a new version then the REPLACE= option works very effectively.

But, what if you want to upgrade only a subset of the existing licenses to the new version and leave the rest unchanged? The UPGRADE license type was created for this very situation. Using a an UPGRADE license type, you can upgrade a limited number of the existing licenses to a newer version and the remaining licenses will run under the older version. UPGRADE does not grant any new license rights, it only upgrades the specified number of existing licenses to a new version.

“UPGRADE” and “REPLACE=” are specified in the license file, external to the application, with no modification to the source code being necessary.

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.