The Future of Concurrent Licensing (Part 1)

By Pete Johnson

Concurrent licensing, also called “Network Licensing” or “Floating Licensing”, has been around a long time. It was first developed to offer a more cost effective way to license high-priced engineering software so that customers did not have to buy one license for every engineer in the company; with concurrent licensing they could share the licenses. Since the cost of such a license is typically very high, there needed to be a way to secure these sharable licenses so that the customer did not use more than what they were entitled to.

In this 2-part blog series, we will look at concurrent licensing: what it is, how it’s used, and what the future holds.

What is Concurrent Licensing?
Concurrent licensing is a system where a fixed number of licenses for an application are made available to an entire network. These licenses allow up to “n” copies of the specified application to run at the same time, anywhere on the network. The application can run on any machine that is on the network, as defined by the software license, but typically in a single geographical location. The fact that the license can allow the application to run on different machines is where the terms “Floating License” and “Network License” come from, in that this ability allows the license to “float” around the “network”.

How are the Licenses Managed?
The most common way of managing concurrent licenses is by using a network license server. This server reads a license file that contains the credentials of the license, typically a product or feature name along with the number of licenses that have been authorized. When a user attempts to run the licensed application, the application has code built into it that checks the license server to see if there are available licenses. If so, the application “checks out” the appropriate license and the license server decrements the number of available licenses. Once all of the available licenses are checked out, another instance of that application cannot start up until a license is checked back in, usually when the application terminates.

Why is it used?
Concurrent licensing is an efficient way to offer licenses for products that are used by a specialized group, are used occasionally, or that are priced very high. This is typical of engineering applications, and as such, a high percentage of them employ this licensing approach. The advantage for the company buying licenses in this manner is that they don’t have to buy one license for every engineer; they only need to buy enough for the maximum number of engineers that will be using the license at the same time. For example, if a company has 100 engineers, it may find that 50 licenses of a particular application are sufficient, since some of the engineers may be working on different projects that are in a different phase that won’t need this application.

Are there any disadvantages?
One drawback to concurrent licensing is that since not every engineer has access to the application at the same time, there can be times when more people want to run the application than can be accommodated by the number of available licenses. At these times, the license server issues a “license denial” to the user attempting to check out the license when all are in use. Having too many license denials lowers the productivity of the company, since users have to wait to do their job.
One way to deal with license denials is to analyze concurrent license usage over time, and buy sufficient licenses to handle peak usage. But if these peaks occur only occasionally, a better strategy may be to buy only enough licenses to meet the highest typical peak and either accept occasional denials, or plan to buy short term licenses to deal with the less frequent higher peaks.

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To learn more, please view our on-demand webinar: Pure Gold – Leveraging Software Usage Data to Reduce License Costs & Risk

 

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