Collecting project information for usage using OpenLM Software

Preface

OpenLM Software allows organizations to collect usage data for billing and management purposes. OpenLM supports different policies, by groups or by project. Collecting information by groups is most common, the organization is using OpenLM in order to collect information according to any sub-division: subsidiaries, divisions, departments, etc.. The information is then used in order to implement the billing policy selected by the organization: charge by the hour, distribute maintenance costs between cost centers, or other.

Billing usage time by the active project is mainly used by project oriented companies. It helps such companies to calculate a more accurate cost of the project by collecting the usage time for each project.

Supported Software Systems

The process of collecting project information for software usage is supported for software systems that are using license managers such as FLEXlm (FLEXnet), SafeNet RMS, SafeNet HASP, IBM LUM, LMX and more.

These types of license managers are used by high-end software systems such us: ESRI ArcGIS, AutoDesk Autocad, Pro Engineer, PTC, Catia, Matlab and more.

Setting project support settings

OpenLM interfaces that allow the system administrator to perform the following actions:

  • Create new projects.
  • Set project state (Active, Not Active).
  • Assign users to projects (or remove).

Version 1.5 of OpenLM provides these interface by using OpenLM Users Management Module. From version 1.6 and on, we integrated these interfaces into OpenLM EasyAdmin.

The project collecting capability needs to be activated from OpenLM Server Configuration form. This can be done by navigating to the Projects tab. The following options are available:

Activating projects capability (“Log Project Information”).
Minimal Usage Duration – User can set a short period of usage that won’t be considered as actual usage.
Agent’s Behavior – Allows the system administrator to select one of two policies, by using OpenLM Agent functionality or by Environment Variables. The use of OpenLM Agent functionality is more user friendly and provides a more accurate results.

Environment Variables – The use of an environment variable is simple, set the name of the environment variable and OpenLM will automatically collect the information based on the environment variable settings. Using these option may also require the use of “Add unknown projects”, OpenLM server will automatically create unknown project names reported by users.

OpenLM Agent functionality – OpenLM actively collects project information for usage sessions. OpenLM Agent provides the following functionality:

  • Active Project prompt popps up automatically from OpenLM Agent when the user is activating the licensed software.
  • Active project prompt to pop-up every few minutes, in case the user switched to another project.
  • Active project prompt can be set to disappear automatically when the user ignores it.
  • The user can also activate the active project prompt from OpenLM Agent icon at any time.

Generating Reports

OpenLM EasyAdmin->Reports Tab provides reports based on active project. The user can generate usage reports at any time and limit the query by almost any argument.

Individual sessions can be reported by using OpenLM EasyAdmin->License activity tab.

Synchronization with external systems and sharing information

OpenLM allows organization to synchronize project assignment information automatically with external systems like the organization project management system.

OpenLM supports the update of the project list and and assignment of users to project through OpenLM API.

External systems can also access the project information and totals by using OpenLM API.

Summary

OpenLM System provides a complete infrastructure that allows organizations to implement a billing policy for licensed software usage. The system supports billing policy based on groups or users, projects or both together.

OpenLM Supports automatic synchronization of project information with external system like project management systems.

FLEXlm License Usage Billing – Its Implementation in OpenLM Version 1.5.5

The implementation of the usage billing policy in many organizations has proved to be a very profitable step. This article discusses the concept of FLEXlm billing and the usage of OpenLM Software in order to implement such a policy.

Many organizations use software systems that are licensed by Floating (concurrent) licenses. This type of license facilitates the organization to install an unlimited number of seats of the software. The number of licenses used concurrently are limited to a predefined number (i.e. set during the purchase). Many of the software systems licensed this way, use Flexera FLEXnet Publisher (commonly known as FLEXlm software). This type of licensing method is commonly used by software vendors that produce high-end software systems.

In many cases, such projects are initiated as a part of a License Server Consolidation project. In order to explain the project, let us use an imaginary company “Green Energy Ltd.” from the USA that has 3 subsidiaries worldwide: UK, Australia, and Japan. Each subsidiary manages several license servers with different software systems. Let us assume the following software inventory:

Software
USA
UK
Australia
Japan
ESRI ArcGIS
55 34 46 21
Autodesk Autocad
56 26 15 21
PTC
24 24 12 31
Solidworks
35 11 36 41

The usage diagrams produced from OpenLM EasyAdmin show that utilization of some of the licenses is high, while other licenses are practically not in use, depending on the time and location.

This chart demonstrates usage of ESRI ArcGIS licenses in USA alone:

The first step the company took was to consolidate all the licenses so that a single license server will serve all users worldwide. This table shows the license availability worldwide after the consolidation:

Software
Total Licenses
ESRI ArcGIS
156
Autodesk Autocad
118
PTC
91
Solidworks
123

After the consolidation, the company checked the usage level of their licenses and found that the utilization is more balanced. But, some software systems are heavily used while others have a very low usage rate.

Thus, the licenses were better utilized when the company adopting the following two steps:

  • Utilizing the consolidated license server now allows users to use the same licenses over the 24-hour period.
  • The creation of a bigger pool of licenses provides a higher license availability.

Based on the usage reports, the company decided to purchase more licenses for some of the software systems, while cutting down the maintenance fee for other licenses that are under utilized.

The managers of some of the subsidiaries have complained that they pay for licenses they don’t use; the reason for which is that the maintenance costs are evenly distributed between the subsidiaries. In order to solve the problem, the company decided to implement a billing policy based on the actual usage of licenses by each subsidiary. The “Groups and Projects” extension to OpenLM System provides this solution. The company has created a Group for each subsidiary using the OpenLM Users Management software.

In order to avoid the need to manually relate users to the Groups, the system manager decided to utilize OpenLM’s ability to synchronize Active Directory users and groups with OpenLM Server database. Since the organizational belonging of each user is based on the structure of the organizational tree in AD, the manager chose the OU’s option and set the system to constantly synchronize the information with AD. This way, each new user will automatically be related to the correct subsidiary. OpenLM automatically updates the user’s belonging to a subsidiary, according to any change in the position.
Thus, the information now looks the same both in AD and in OpenLM Users Management interface.

After a month, the team was able to produce a usage report according to the different groups, thus easily producing a fair billing report for each group.

The UK subsidiary has decided to further enhance the accuracy of their project’s pricing. By implementing a project usage policy, they have measured their license usage of each project. They have created all their projects using OpenLM Users Management application, and have assigned each user to one or more projects. Users that were assigned to only one project did not have to report the active project. Users that belonged to more than one project, report the active project using the capabilities of OpenLM Agent software.

The information collected this way allowed Green Energy UK to price their projects better, taking the cost of expensive software usage into account.

This example provided an insight to the basics of Floating License Billing that can be implemented by OpenLM system. We can see that the capabilities of OpenLM actually enabled the server consolidation project, and also provided all the information needed for billing.

The highlights of OpenLM functionalities demonstrated in this article are:

  • OpenLM’s ability to monitor the usage level of the organizational resources.
  • OpenLM’s ability to synchronize OpenLM information with Active Directory in order to avoid manual work and to ensure data accuracy.
  • OpenLM’s ability to easily provide usage information for different groups of users.
  • OpenLM’s ability to track the usage of licenses for specific projects.

Conclusion

OpenLM Software provides all the needed tools for the implementation of a usage billing system in organization using license managers like FLEXlm (FLEXnet). IT Managers are now able to easily implement a usage billing system that can lower operational cost while improving license availability and reducing administration costs.

We have to emphasize that this is not a real world example. In reality, there are many other problems that were not taken into consideration here, for example, network limitations and many other factors.