Floating Software Licensing is a method of sharing a limited number of licensed applications throughout an organization (or part of it). Floating licenses are normally more expensive than fixed licenses, however, when properly managed they are more cost effective, while maintaining compliance with intellectual property licensing agreements.
This method of sharing is implemented on a central License Server. This server receives requests for application usage from end users, and either grants or denies these requests according to license availability.
Examples for such license management implementations are FlexLM serving Matlab and Autodesk licenses, and DSLS serving Catia licenses.
Sharing resources is good practice. Leaving the License Server alone to do its thing uninterrupted is not. The reasons for this stems from license management technology as well as human nature.
- Inventory: Organizational changes and miscommunication between role players often lead to loss of control over the software asset inventory. Keeping up with license expiration dates and usage constraints cannot justify the use of using spreadsheets alone. This directly leads to license over or under utilization.
- Compliance: Another aspect of inventory disarrays is the difficulty it imposes on keeping up with license compliance agreements (e.g. licensing according to geo-location), and the undergoing of software audits.
- Idle licenses: Employees tend to leave licenses checked out for much longer than otherwise necessary. This inadvertently leads to low license availability and productivity. This is not even taking into account the occurrence of license hogging and misuse.
- Manpower: Losing touch with license usage status imposes unnecessary strain on System Administrators. They often get side-tracked from their work in an effort to keep licenses available for all end users.
This list gives added credence for the need of license monitoring and management tools.
From the partial list of problems above, a few basic requirements arise for any license monitoring tool:
- Inventory: It needs to keep up with an inventory of various applications and different license management systems. Care must be taken in handling license pools that would differ in their packaging, versions and license expiration dates.
- History: Historical usage data needs to be accumulated to serve as a basis for usage billing, license auditing and software procurement and maintenance plans.
Above and beyond
As man can’t live on bread alone, modern license monitoring comes with additional features that boost license utilization and control. Here’s a few:
- Statistics and usage patterns provide insight to the workflow of specific applications in the organization. License availability and cost may be optimized by understanding these patterns.
- License Denials are a key element in understanding license bottlenecks. It is important to single out true denials, not just the result of a single user’s repetitive request or licenses that were redirected from another license server in a cluster.
- Projects and Groups: Attribute application usage according to organizational units, work groups and projects. These may be defined on the organization’s Active Directory (LDAP) server. Billing and Usage Constraints may also be applied to these Groups.
- Applying constraints: License management systems such as Flexnet provide “Options files” to apply constraints on license usage for specific users and groups. This is a means for enforcing license compliance as well as to divert software assets according to predefined needs. For example, global organizations may restrict license usage to distinct geographic territories according to work hours. Have your license monitoring tool manage these constraints automatically, thus following up on organizational changes and the time of day.
- Optimal License Utilization does not merely mean the high-water mark of licenses taken. A good insight to license usage should answer the question: “How many licenses can I get along with?”.
- Management: Savvy license monitoring should include a certain capacity of management. Real time information, alerting capability, manual and automatic administrative intervention capabilities are all part of keeping complex licensing constellations finely tuned.
- Empowering the end users: Keep your end users informed; tell them who’s got the licenses they need, so they won’t need to disturb your IT personnel for answers.
- Monitoring actual usage: As stated above, not all checked-out licenses are actually being used all the time. A good license monitoring tool should differentiate between Idle and Busy sessions. This information will provide the basis for improved license deployment and utilization.
To summarize the points above – there is more to license monitoring than just counting the number of used licenses and presenting usage statistics. Advanced license monitoring tools present benefits for all role players in the organization, and optimize the usage, availability, maintenance, compliance and purchase of expensive concurrent licenses.