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Cloud / Internet Based Licensing of a Competitor

Cloud / Internet Based Licensing of a Competitor

Cloud / Internet Based Licensing of a Competitor

I read another thread recently where some folks went on a rant or two about Bentley's current licensing. If possible, I want to better understand the issues that are making some users so upset with this competitor. Some of them seem pretty obvious to me. But, I think there may be a couple of other more subtle points that have gotten lost in the

I thought about publishing this in the Bentley forum or the general structure topics forum. But, I decided that might be considered poor form. The point really is NOT to encourage a public rant against Bentley. Rather it is to make sure that we (RISA) don't end up making similar mistakes as we look into alternative licensing models.

Anyone please feel free to correct me if I get anything wrong. My understanding is that the current licensing for RAM/STAAD is an internet / cloud based subscription license.

By Internet / Cloud based meaning that the server which controls whether or not you're allowed to use the program is not local to your office or your network. This effectively requires that you have an internet connection to check out a license.

By subscription I mean that the license is not owned by your company, but merely leased on a yearly or monthly basis. If you forget to pay your yearly (or monthly?) licensing fee then you can be immediately locked out of the program.

From what I understand, the big complaints seems to be focused on the way the billing is handled or the way the usage is calculated. Or both. Anything incorrect with what I've stated so far?

Question #1:
Do folks have a major objection to concept of cloud based or internet based licenses in general? Especially if they cloud licensing were to behave more like the older licensing scheme.... where you were denied a license if the license scheme detected that this would exceed your license count. If so, I'd like to better understand the objections. Obviously there are some customer that will always want greater control. Ones who don't allow connection to the internet or who desire high level control over their network security.

Question #2:
Do folks have a major objection to the concept of subscription based licenses as opposed to perpetual licenses? For the Bentley guys does there seem to be a difference in price between the two? Meaning if you went to buy RAM (or STAAD) today (and can only get a subscription license) vs if you went to RAM a year before they switched what would the price difference have been. Do you still "purchase" the program and pay yearly (or monthly) renewals. Or, do you get the program for free provided you pay your monthly subscription fee?

I'm really just collection information and trying to get better informed here. There are a number of on-going discussions in our office about these subjects and I'm not particularly well informed on the topic. So, I really just want to increase my knowledge so that I can offer a more informed opinion on what's currently happening in the industry.

RE: Cloud / Internet Based Licensing of a Competitor

The only things I know about Bentley's licensing is what I've heard on these boards. I'll leave the specifics there to others. But more generally:

#1 -- the only real objection I have to a cloud based license regards working either A) in the field without internet availability, or B) if the company's licensing servers have gone down. In either case, a node locked or USB-based license is preferable to me.

#2 -- Some of us don't particularly care for the subscription based model. Unless Company X is really on the cutting edge of improving software features every year, I'm just as happy running a product that is functional and a few years old; rather than re-learning UI, dealing with version compatibility, or heaven forbid an update that introduces bugs to the product. This is even the case for our perpetual license software-- I just don't want to be on a 12mo cycle. 2 or 3 years is better.

On top of this, the industry has done a poor job explaining any consumer benefits of the subscription based model, so it's widely seen as a money grab.

RE: Cloud / Internet Based Licensing of a Competitor

Thanks for the feedback.

I tend to think that subscription licensing likely would be preferred for the companies which fully intend on paying the maintenance every year.

When that choice is taken away, then I can easily see how it can be viewed as a money grab. That's why I asked the question about cost. And, whether the pricing had changed.

I would think that the cost of a perpetual license would be mostly an up front purchase cost with an option for yearly upgrades / renewals/ maintenance (at a much lower price).

Then a subscription license would have no up front purchase cost and ONLY a yearly / monthly license fee. But, what would that price be compared to the purchase of a perpetual license or the compared to a yearly maintenance fee of a perpetual license?

Those are the subtleties that I'm curious about. And, the RAM / Bentley guys have not been historically very transparent with their pricing. So, I can't exactly ask them directly. bigsmile

RE: Cloud / Internet Based Licensing of a Competitor

We have RAM & RISA in our office. JoshPlum, guess which one I prefer?! :)

The problem we ran into with the RAM licenses is they charge by the instance of user usage within a given hour. For example, I could be in a model from 12:00 to 12:15, and another user from 12:20 to 12:40 and that would count as (2) usage instances. If at any point in that hour do we exceed the number of licenses, then we are charged overage. There is no physical locking out of additional users, no warning that we're going over. They just add to the tab! In my opinion (and everyone else in my office), it is an infuriating nickel-and-diming scheme.

RE: Cloud / Internet Based Licensing of a Competitor


Very strange. Very clumsy. Any idea if the cloud licensing system they used was developed by Bentley rather than a 3rd party? If so, that could explain the extreme clumsiness. One of the drawbacks of being owned by a larger company I suppose. I know the sales and support staff at RAM appear to be frustrated about it as well. Though they likely have limited ability to force change in the larger company. At least not at the speed they were used to when they were independent.

I take it if you used the program from 12:00 to 12:15 and then your colleague was locked out (assuming you only had one license) until 12:16, that this wouldn't have been a problem for you guys provided that you each only counted against that one license.

RE: Cloud / Internet Based Licensing of a Competitor

Josh, I've heard the licensing software is 3rd party but I'm not entirely sure? I don't use RAM, but from what I've heard there is no "lockout" or warning at all. At the end of the month we just get a bill for the instances of overage. The guys that use RAM have resorted to a manual card-based checkout system. It is indeed clumsy, and I just laugh as I fire up my RISA3D and Floor!

RE: Cloud / Internet Based Licensing of a Competitor

Using software is like flying. Can't we just post a bond somewhere and use software as though we are not criminals. I will put my P.E. on the line if you all would just trust me.

RE: Cloud / Internet Based Licensing of a Competitor


The way I understand their usage policy in the example above is your colleague needs to be locked out from 12:15 until 1:15 (maybe 1:00 if they work on the hour) otherwise it still counts as two usages in an hour. Essentially if you use it for 1 min, you might as well use it for the hour.

RE: Cloud / Internet Based Licensing of a Competitor

My comment is really that if another company (RISA?) or even RAM were to implement a similar licensing system that actually locked you out temporarily when you exceeded your license count. Then that would be okay and would prevent most of the anger / frustration that the RAM users have experienced recently.

I'm assuming, of course, that the lockout period were a reasonable amount of time. Just enough to process a license return. Something like 60 seconds.

For what it's worth, I don't see this type of licensing completely replacing the type of licensing that currently exist. Because (as Lomarandil points out). There is something that seems safe and secure with having control of your own USB key or your own license server. You're not dependent on some other company's server. Or, even on your own company's sketchy internet connections.

RE: Cloud / Internet Based Licensing of a Competitor

I see. Yes, I think that would likely satisfy a lot of customers. I can only imagine the reaction to the first invoice coming in when you didn't know you were getting charged overage with no warning. A lock-out would cure that, even if the delay is slightly longer, it's annoying sure, but likely less than an over usage charge.

RE: Cloud / Internet Based Licensing of a Competitor

I believe you're on the right track Josh. If you're at all familiar with the issues with DRM for video games and digital media distribution I feel that this follows similar lines of thinking. Overall, I'm of the opinion that DRM should never hinder a legitimate user from using the product, otherwise it become even more enticing to use a product illegitimately. I've actually "pirated" a few video games I actually own just because their DRM was so obtrusive and the pirated versions were thus superior. A "good" DRM should actually offer benefits to using it. To continue using video games as a reference, the Steam distribution service is really a quite restrictive DRM as you never truly own the software and should the system shut down you would lose anything not stored locally. However, it's very seamless and offers additional features versus an "off-line" distribution of the software.

Re: Question #1

I am okay with internet based anything that does not require a continuous connection. To hold Steam (see above) up as the gold standard; you typically use steam online as this provides the full features of Steam. However, if you need to, you can run the software in "offline mode" indefinitely with no functionality lost from the video game software. This kind of offline mode would be highly useful for laptops where they are often taken on business trips or to remote job sites where internet service is limited or comes with large fees (such as airports).

The only way this can work is if the software doesn't check for the number of users allowed to use a license before going offline. For steam this can pose the problem where you could theoretically log into the system, download a game, put the system in offline mode and play the game, go to another system, repeat; and thus have many more copies open than was licensed. However, I consider this not an issue because this is tedious and removes the benefits of being online. Thus, it becomes more of a pain to use the software illegally than to use it legitimately. Steam also combated this by allowing any friends you authorize to use any game you own online as long as you or another friend wasn't already using it. This allowed friends to easily "borrow" your games but incentivized them to buy their own as often the game would become unavailable frequently if the owner or another friend was using it.

For RISA I've always thought the physical hardlock to be the best system. However, I know that companies with multiple offices or such can't easily pass a hardlock around and thus need some sort of network license. Local network licenses seem the best but if an online system had to be used then I believe the model Steam presented is the best. Don't try to 100% prevent usage of more licenses than is actually owned but rather make it incentivized to utilize the licenses as allowed.

Another system I like was the one used by Solidworks (owned by Dassault Systèmes). There was a distribution server where when you installed the software would log that the license was used and activate it. Per the license agreement you were allowed to install 2 copies of one license (intended to have one for office work and one for home/travel work). You were not supposed to run both licenses at the same time but this wasn't checked by any system. In addition, there was no requirement that your computer ever talked with the licensing servers ever again unless another install was performed. To install to more than two systems you would have to "deactivate" the license on one of the two original machines (which was fairly painless). This made it unobtrusive and convenient but still allowed Dassault Systèmes to control their license (worst case is two people use it instead of one). You could theoretically activate and deactivate the license over and over swapping it around the office but this would be tedious. Thus, they incentivized buying additional licenses (or buying a network license which required the software to be "online" at all times). The biggest downside to their licensing system is the network license cost a good amount more than the standalone license. This seemed silly to me, why should I pay for more restrictive DRM?

The biggest concern to all of these is the servers performing licensing authentication going down for a long time. Such as if a company went out of business or if that system is deemed "obsolete". This happened recently with the Nook e-book systems. They are assuring people that another company will continue running the licensing servers for some books but I doubt full functionality will be maintained. For Steam I trust they will either continue for my lifetime or that they will provide a way to continue using legacy software past any demise of their company. For someone like Bentley I have no such trust and losing the ability to review a structural model made 5 or 10 years ago is not something I would treat lightly (and if I was still using the software for some reason, that would be even worse).

In the end, whatever RISA chooses to go with I'd always caution that current DRM does nothing but hurt legitimate consumers and will never 100% stop piracy. Thus, a careful balance must be found with not impeding the legitimate use of the software or hardware while still providing incentives to using the software or hardware legitimately.

For further reading about how absurd this can get I refer you to this article discussing some of the rediculousness of the DMCA: http://boingboing.net/2015/10/27/librarian-of-congress-grants-l.html

Professional and Structural Engineer (ME, NH)
American Concrete Industries

RE: Cloud / Internet Based Licensing of a Competitor

I have used RAM for a long time and I am really reluctant to make a switch.

Last year when I was looking to upgrade they gave me the warning about the software licensing. My understanding was for licenses checked out between a specific hour say 1:00-2:00 would be charged extra. Someone could log out at 1:59 and another log in at 2:01 and there would be no extra charge. I'm a one man shop but this still put a bad taste in my mouth as I sometimes need sub consultants to help me with my work.

Now you mentioned about checking out licenses and putting them back within 60seconds from log out. This is the way their system used to be. It would lock people out until a license was available. They said they made the change because of user complaints, but I call BS.

I'm not exactly thrilled about RISA's licensing process either as it seems to get a network license you need to buy 1.5 pieces of software otherwise, it's stand alone for you.

To answer your second question, Bentleys price is the same for node locked vs a network license, the difference is the yearly subscription fee. I think this fee is something like 1/3 of the purchase price and needs to be paid up front for the year. So you end up paying 1.33x the initial purchase price to get continuous updates.

RE: Cloud / Internet Based Licensing of a Competitor

SteelPE -

RISA has the standard "stand-alone" license which comes with a hardware key. Then we have the network license which starts at 2 seats. Thought the cost is only 50% greater than the stand-alone license. My guess is that's where your idea that we're asking you to purchase 1.5 licenses comes from. I can certainly see how you would view it that way if you really only want one seat. And, I can certainly see how it can rub people the wrong way....

There are significantly greater costs on our side associated with network licenses. More support, paying for a 3rd party licensing system, et cetera. That's the reason why we require a 2 seat license as a minimum before you can go with the network version.

Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong. But, I imagine that the total cost is still in-line (or even lower) than what the other guys are charging these days.

Obviously, I don't know for sure.... That's one of the reasons why I asked about the cost aspects of RAM / Bentley's switch to cloud in my previous posts.

RE: Cloud / Internet Based Licensing of a Competitor

If the two seats can be used simultaneously then I believe it's lower cost than most.

Professional and Structural Engineer (ME, NH)
American Concrete Industries

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