The New Autodesk License Policy

By Ori Kaplan

A common trend in the engineering software license industry is the migration of license management from localized networks to cloud based management services provided by the software vendor.

There are several benefits in this transit. To name a few:

  • Minimizing the hassle of administering license servers
  • Keeping the software version up-to-date
  • Facilitating inventory maintenance and license compliance
  • Streamlining technical support and cloud services

Such is the case with Autodesk licenses.

Who Moved My Cheese?

Much has already been written about the new/ Autodesk licensing policy. I personally feel that many phrases that have been deployed as part of its promotion have thrown customers off track. For example, I find the frequently used term “Pay as you go” inaccurate and misleading. One does not pay per usage time, but per subscription period. There is a big difference between the two, as I will demonstrate below.

Many customers address us at OpenLM with questions about this change and its effect on license monitoring and management systems. Some are even concerned that such changes may deem license tracking tools redundant, when in fact the opposite is true; license tracking software is as useful and beneficial as ever, keeping license utilization and availability at its peak.

What Is Changing?

The essential change in policy is starting this month (February 2016) – users will no longer be regarded the owners of the software they use. Instead, they will be subscribing to it from the software vendor. The subscription period is the main parameter of choice, and that’s where license monitoring tools come in handy.

Maintenance Subscription

The currently available licensing flavors include:

  • Free trial licenses and Student licenses that provide an entry point for familiarizing with the software. I do not consider these types as commercial licenses for the purpose of this article
  • Stand-alone: These licenses are normally promoted for “individuals or small businesses requiring a specific number of users”. I believe this license type should also be considered for heavy users, as opposed to ‘RESERVE’-ing or ‘BORROW’-ing more expensive network licenses to obtain the same result
  • Network licenses: Shared licenses over local or wide area networks, managed by a local license server, accommodating the needs of medium or large organizations

Such license types will remain supported after February 2016, provided they are kept under maintenance, hence they were tagged “Maintenance Subscription” licenses. Maintenance Subscription provides benefits such as:

  • Customer support
  • Access to the latest software release
  • Flexible license rights (e.g. work from home or abroad for up to 90 days)
  • Access to cloud services

Customers will be able to renew these license maintenance agreements periodically, and avoid any implications whatsoever of the forthcoming change. Failure to keep the licenses under maintenance revoke the aforementioned privileges, and will require the purchase of a Desktop or Network Subscription in order to resume them.

Network Subscriptions

This is a new licensing flavor, which will be available starting February 2016. This license type will be similar in essence to perpetual network licenses with Maintenance Subscription. The main difference would be the license duration; it will be limited to 1, 2, or 3 years.

This type of license will accommodate license management and reporting tools, but is not reported to include real-time license usage monitoring. An independent license tracking tool will still be needed in order to:

  • Know who’s got the licenses you need
  • Harvest idle licenses
  • Provide license availability notifications
  • Accumulate insight of usage trends and patterns
  • Desktop Subscription Licenses

Autodesk Desktop Subscription is promoted as a “flexible, cost-effective way to access the software you need to help meet fluctuating business demands. Gain access to the latest software releases, product enhancements, cloud services, and support.”

The software is licensed per user, and is managed, reported and controlled by the vendor as a service on the cloud. Desktop Subscription plans are available for a month, quarter, year, and multi-year term. One might argue that this diminishes the need for a license tracking software, but here is to argue the contrary:

1. Objectively Induce the Required Number of Licenses to Subscribe

There is a huge difference between the top license usage watermark and the actual number of required licenses. In fact, the entire logic of sharing licenses is built on this rationale. Autodesk reports will not include usage efficiency information.

An independent license analysis tool should be applied on short-term subscription periods, to induce the number of required licenses for longer, expensive subscription periods.


We have observed many cases in which the required number of licenses for supporting high quality of service was much lower than the actual number of purchased licenses. Please observe the image below, depicting a realistic dispersion of license utilization:

The original dotted chart depicts actual customer license utilization of their 10 Esri’s ArcGIS licenses. Note that usage of more than 6 concurrent licenses is very rare

The Green line depicts an example of improved utilization, per a predefined 95% level of quality of service (i.e.: 95% of license requests are being granted). In this case, 7 licenses were required to support 95% quality of service

The Red line depicts an example for worse utilization. Only 3 licenses were needed to reach 95% quality of service, so the licenses are significantly under-utilized
The new Autodesk license policy is a perfect opportunity for customers to adjust the number of subscribed licenses with the aid of apt license tracking tools. In the given example, such a tool would suggest subscribing to 5-6 licenses instead of the current 10.

2. Resuming Control

The bottom line of submitting license management to software vendors is loss of control. At OpenLM, we observed several cases in which such loss of control had had harmful ramifications on software users.

License vendors do not provide real time license usage information, or advise against inefficient license allocation schemes. At times software vendors even benefit from excessive license usage to steeply charge software customers. This is not to insinuate that Autodesk has a mindset of getting the best out of its customers, but to advocate against losing control of license usage monitoring altogether.


Autodesk’s migration from perpetual to subscription-based licensing does not diminish the need for independent license monitoring and management. It also presents the perfect opportunity for customers to tailor cut the number and duration of subscription licenses according to the required number of licenses in order to support a predefined quality of service.

About the Author

I am an Electronics Engineer BSc., en route MSc. in Biomedical engineering. I currently manage the Pre-sales and support team at OpenLM; producers of the OpenLM License management and License monitoring system. Prior to that – I have been employed in several prominent Electronics companies in Israel as a Real-time / Embedded Pre-sales and support Engineer.