How do ISVs license their products in library form?
Many independent software vendors (ISVs) who sell their products as complete applications also sell them as re-linkable libraries. Licensing the applications is pretty straightforward, but what about the libraries? How do ISVs tackle licensing of libraries?
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.
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.
Consider your end user and long term support implications when designing your licensing implementation
In this article we attempt to provide a framework for how well-behaved applications use RLM. Adherence to these guidelines will be greatly appreciated by your end-users who will see more consistent implementations across their RLM ISVs. This will also translate into support savings for you, as applications from different RLM ISVs will behave in a more consistent fashion.
How do I harness the power of the license manager? What rights should I give to my customers? Let's first look at basic elements of a license that you can control, then look later at some other important parameters that can further refine your licensing policies.
Since software license keys contain entitlement information, it makes sense to protect those data from tampering and corruption. It would be tempting for an unscrupulous user to change a license count from 10 to 100 by simply tacking on an extra zero, or to upgrade your v2.0 licenses to v5.0 with a similarly simple edit.
Independent software companies are increasingly relying on innovative software licensing and pricing strategies to create steadier revenue streams. They are looking for smoother and more predictable revenue growth to make financial planning easier and to increase business efficiency and to maximize value to shareholders.
An important but easily overlooked aspect of a software license management system should be its support for and use of multiple license servers. The customers of software applications typically have more than one server machine on which to deploy license servers.
Software pricing and licensing experts agree that optimal pricing strategies are rooted in value pricing. This means that the customer and the vendor find a satisfying middle ground where the value that the user receives from the software is proportional to the price that he pays.
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, but are often launched by other applications within a product suite.
License Tracker Inc., a Reprise Software partner, has announced the availability of a free "Limited Edition" (LE) version of its leading license usage reporting tool for software vendors and their users.