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Perpetual vs Subscription

Perpetual vs Subscription

Perpetual vs Subscription

As a prominent former RISA employee, a number of people have approached me privately with some questions/ concerns regarding RISA's recent move towards subscription licensing. As such, I thought it would be a good idea to state the current policy as I understand it and offer some generic advice to those who are wondering the same thing.

RISA / Nemetschek is currently only selling their subscription licensing. Meaning that if you contact them about getting a new copy of their software (or updating from an old version) they will offer to "lease" the right to use the software on a yearly basis (i.e. a subscription). But, once your lease runs out you lose all ability to use the software unless you renew your subscription.

However, people who own a perpetual version of the software and continue to pay their yearly maintenance fees will continue to get upgrades to the newer versions using their traditional license protection (Sentinel network licensing or hardware keys or such).

Maintenance cost vs subscription costs. The maintenance costs of the perpetual licenses are significantly less per year than the subscription costs. This is because the owner paid a large up front cost to purchase the right to use the software. And, they are now only paying a yearly maintenance fee to provide for upgrades and access to technical support.

Personally, I feel the Subscription model and costs are really pretty good. Provided you have a reliable internet connection (because the license validation relies on your internet connection). If I were a new user it would take something like three years of subscription to make up for the purchase price of the program. The only drawback is that I don't own the right to use the software once my subscription runs out.

Transferring licenses: If you prefer a perpetual license over a subscription, your only current option is to purchase it from an existing RISA user. Maybe you have a friend who is getting ready to retire and is willing to sell you their license. All you have to do is purchase the license from your friend, and get them to write a letter to RISA authorizing the sale. Then you can take over their maintenance payments and such.

A couple of words of words of caution about perpetual licenses:
1) The license protection scheme (sentinel USB hardware keys) used for perpetual licensing seem to be falling out of fashion with the company that sells this technology to RISA. So much so, that it hasn't updated the drivers for their keys for years. They still seem to work with Win10, but there is no guarantee it will work with the next version of Windows. What will RISA / Nemetschek do if this happens? Back when Bruce owned the company I knew what the answer would be... He would offer very fair (even generous) terms to the users who got screwed over. He valued all of his customers and had a genuine desire to do right by them. I'm not entirely confident that the new RISA / Nemetschek would be quite so generous.

2) While the maintenance costs for a perpetual license are currently a lot lower than the subscription costs, there is no guarantee it will stay that way. It would be kind of a nasty thing to do, but what's to stop RISA / Nemetschek from raising the cost of the maintenance until it equals the subscription costs. Certainly there is a desire to move as many users over to subscription as possible. It's a better licensing model for them after all...

Note: I cannot give you the currently pricing because I don't know it. In fact, the current company policy at RISA/ Nemetschek is to let only their Sales Reps know the cost of the software. Pricing structure is considered "too complicated" for regular engineers to understand. LOL... If anyone wants to know the current pricing, then you should ask RISA directly or get someone to post the information to this forum.

RE: Perpetual vs Subscription

We'll see how this shakes out... I understand that AutoCAD is having a bit of a reaction to its new 'rental plan', and that many CAD users are switching...


RE: Perpetual vs Subscription

Chalk me up as an engineer who would be interested in finding a spare hardware key -- I sometimes work in very remote parts of the developing world and internet connections are not always available.

The name is a long story -- just call me Lo.

RE: Perpetual vs Subscription

Lomarandil -

The key with the subscription / cloud based licensing is that if you KNOW when your internet is down, you can deal with it ahead of time. I can "borrow" my subscription license for up to 30 days prior to going offline. The major issues occur when your internet goes down unexpectedly and you didn't get a chance to fix that license to your computer.

Now, that I don't work for RISA, I don't have any reason to promote one type of licensing over the other. Personally, I would have preferred to have a hardware key. With subscription there is always the fear that if someone from RISA / Nemetschek read a post of mine that they don't like, they could pull my license and lock me out without any warning or recourse. With a hardware key, I have more freedom.

That being said, there are a lot of things that I really like about the subscription / cloud licensing. I can share my license with an engineer who's doing some work for me just by logging into the license administration page and having it send him an e-mail. Then I can prohibit him from using it anymore just by going into the license admin page and removing his e-mail address. In my experience, most people who have used it seem to really like the way it works. The biggest complaints I had were from people who were running a older computer with an operating system that wasn't compatible with the new system.

RE: Perpetual vs Subscription

One thing to add:
I realize that it is considered inappropriate to exchange personal information on Eng-Tips for the selling and purchasing of RISA perpetual licenses (whether current or for an old version).... At least I do now.

However, does anyone know of another site where this could be done? I'm thinking that maybe setting up a Linked In group (where users can directly message each other) might be a way to facilitate this. I would love to provide engineers who are still interested in purchasing a perpetual license for RISA a way to get in contact with license RISA owners who would be willing to sell them their rights to their license.

That being said, this is certainly a tricky thing to get involved in. I don't ever want to be involved in people selling illegal or pirated copies.

RE: Perpetual vs Subscription

I'll just add that I switched to RISA about 3 years ago because they had a hardware lock system. I don't need constant updates to RISA for my work and generally only update such software every 5-10 years once it starts falling behind the codes too much or other new features come out. This enables me to acquire a collection of hardlocks for software that I own forever. I don't have to worry about RISA folding or myself being offline for a long time.

This system works out far cheaper for myself and I like owning the software I paid for. I can see the appeal of a subscription service but it's just not for me. RISA could lose my business by going this way just like STAAD did.

Professional Engineer (ME, NH, MA) Structural Engineer (IL)
American Concrete Industries

RE: Perpetual vs Subscription


You're preaching to the choir here. It's this type of legalistic attitude towards their customers / users that kind of soured my relationship with the current management. My attitude was do everything we reasonably could to exceed customers expectations. That caused me to be viewed as "not a team player" (my words based on how I felt management perceived me prior to my departure).

RE: Perpetual vs Subscription

Quote (TehMightyEngineer)

I'll just add that I switched to RISA about 3 years ago because they had a hardware lock system. I don't need constant updates to RISA for my work and generally only update such software every 5-10 years once it starts falling behind the codes too much or other new features come out.

So you don't both with the yearly maintenance fees?

I purchased a perpetual license (with hardlock) a few years back, and for the first few years paid for the annual maintenance, but when the last invoice for mainenance came around I let it go. I seldom used the customer support (the RISA videos are very instructional) and the program updates were relatively minor.

But not sure if it was the right decision to not pay it - if I let it go for a few more years, what will it cost me to upgrade to the latest version. I got 'caught' with this with AutoCAD in the past.

RE: Perpetual vs Subscription

Ingenuity -

You won't be allowed to upgrade your perpetual license anymore. Not if you lapsed with your maintenance. I suppose RISA/ Nemetschek might allow the upgrade if you only lapsed for a few months. After all, there isn't anything technically preventing them from doing it. It's just their new corporate policy to prohibit this. Instead, your only option for getting the new version will be to go with a subscription license.

You can still keep and use your old perpetual license, of course. It's just that it will forever be stuck at the old version you had when you decided to stop paying maintenance.

RE: Perpetual vs Subscription

Quote (Ingenuity)

So you don't both with the yearly maintenance fees?

Nope, no maintenance. If I did more design projects that relied on the code checks without complete hand verification I'd definitely want it but for my work I mostly just need the structural analysis features. The code check is certainly useful but I end up calculating most of my concrete stuff myself.

Professional Engineer (ME, NH, MA) Structural Engineer (IL)
American Concrete Industries

RE: Perpetual vs Subscription

TME - thanks.

Quote (JoshPlum)

2) While the maintenance costs for a perpetual license are currently a lot lower than the subscription costs, there is no guarantee it will stay that way. It would be kind of a nasty thing to do, but what's to stop RISA / Nemetschek from raising the cost of the maintenance until it equals the subscription costs. Certainly there is a desire to move as many users over to subscription as possible. It's a better licensing model for them after all...

The annual maintenance cost for a single perpetual license is currently US$800 - and that is 50% of the yearly subscription license. I paid US$4k for the stand-alone/perpetual license in 2016. I think RISA/Nemetschek will indeed close the price gap for maintenance of a perpetual license such that it will soon equal the subscription annual cost. I am happy to be wrong!

Near identical situation occurs with BLUEBEAM - same parent owner - Nemetchek!

RE: Perpetual vs Subscription

Quote (Ingenuity)

The annual maintenance cost for a single perpetual license is currently US$800 - and that is 50% of the yearly subscription license. I paid US$4k for the stand-alone/perpetual license in 2016. I think RISA/Nemetschek will indeed close the price gap for maintenance of a perpetual license such that it will soon equal the subscription annual cost. I am happy to be wrong!

If they do, I guess that's an opportunity for software providers who still offer perpetual license + maintenance.

Doug Jenkins
Interactive Design Services

RE: Perpetual vs Subscription

With the new pricing scheme, it seems as though SAP2000 basic will be a lot more cost effective in the long run:

As someone looking to do some 3d steel design (with code checks) any reason I shouldn't go with SAP2000?

The third option I'm considering is skyciv, but I prefer my local software to cloud if I get the choice.

RE: Perpetual vs Subscription

Dreber -

Well, the most cost-effective software is the software that makes you most productive. If SAP2000 is what you've used in the past and you feel you're effective and productive using it, then it may be more valuable to you.

For a totally new user, who has no experience with either, I personally think that RISA is a lot easier to pick up and a lot easier to use. But, everyone is different. For me (an expert RISA user) my productivity with RISA is certainly enough to offset the difference in cost between the two programs.... even if I could get a copy of SAP2000 for free.

Regarding "cloud", I just want to clarify that RISA runs locally on your system. It's just that it pulls it's license from the cloud when it starts up. So, it's not really a cloud application. That being said, the licensing has frustrated me a number of times the last few weeks when my internet connection was down.

RE: Perpetual vs Subscription

For what it's worth, I'm finding clients that stipulate that their structural data not be acessible via the internet. Is anyone else facing this?

RE: Perpetual vs Subscription


Not yet... but, I can see it on the horizon... There has just been too much data accessed by hackers. I'm not big on clouds... when I carry data from one place to the next, it's on an encrypted USB stick...


RE: Perpetual vs Subscription

Not to Hijack this thread, but as someone noted here, AutoCAD did the same thing and I think it's where RISA could be headed. I sent the below email to the Sr. Marketing Manager of Autodesk after they kept emailing me about how great subscription is, only about a year after they tried to sell as many standalone licenses as they could:

Quote (me)

I received the below email regarding the “subscription” over “maintenance” switch you all are doing. I sent in my feedback previously through your website (albeit it never was completely resolved in my book because the person I was speaking to wasn’t high enough on the company food chain to know the answers to the questions I was asking), but since I am still being emailed about this, I just wanted to let you all at Autodesk know that I still don’t appreciate this. I may be wrong, but I believe Autodesk sold a bunch of standalone licenses back a couple years ago when you all advertised them as the last time they would be available, knowing that you were going to essentially take them away shortly thereafter by increasing maintenance costs to near subscription pricing. I believe that your “special offer” may have been a marketing scheme to make more money, not to serve your customers.

I am open to being wrong, and I welcome you to push back on my assertions. I do just want you to know that that is the impression that is left in my mind every time I see one of the emails such as that below. I doubt that I am alone in my thinking.

I look forward to a response/explanation that may reassure me that Autodesk does have its customer’s interests in mind.

A Stand Alone/Maintenance customer,

She sent me back saying

Quote (Autocad Exec)

Thank you for your e-mail. I personally appreciate your candidness and thank you for sharing your feelings with me about the Move to Subscription.

I would like to apologize in failing you – we clearly haven’t done our best on effectively explaining why we’ve made the move to subscription and how it will provide you greater value and benefit as we move forward. There is logic and reasoning driving this customer-centric evolution of our offerings (I would not be able to sleep at night if I was involved in change that was centered on Autodesk) and clearly there’s more work we need to do to help get that information out.

I would love to be given the chance to further explain the 3 year outlook, your options and the value and benefits we plan on delivering through a subscription based offering during this month’s webinar.
And if you don’t mind, I’d like to follow up with you directly after the webinar to touch base to see if this detailed information impacts your point of view in any way. Would that be ok with you?

The classic apologizing that she didn't effectively explain it to me move...in other words, "Sir, you are wrong, we are right, and we apologize you are too dumb to understand that".

I don't buy it for a minute. That is about corporate bottom lines. Autodesk doesn't care about it's customers needs unless they align with their "vision". Customer centric would be actually listening to me and the many other users saying similar thigns...

Now to tie back to RISA. I worry that this is where RISA will go now that they aren't privately owned. I used to be able to email Bruce Bates directly, and he would respond. Now...I'm a likely a number to the corporation, and my questions about policies will get a form letter back. I hope I am wrong about that...but big corporations cause me concern

RE: Perpetual vs Subscription

Guastavino -

Some personal insight that might help.
I know nothing about Nemetschek. I never met or talked to anyone employed by them. The only contact I had with them was a form letter their acquisition team sent to the RISA employees about how excited they are about the acquisition. Typical corporate speak stuff.

Amber is the undisputed head of the company now that Bruce is gone (especially with Roger and me getting pushed out as well). Therefore, you should be able to send an e-mail directly to her in the same way you would have sent them to Bruce in the past. I'm sure she will respond. The response may be different (i.e. less genuine/honest) than you would have gotten in the past. That's not intended as a personal dig against her, more as an acknowledgment about how extraordinary Bruce was. However, I'm certain she'll respond. So, unlike AutoDesk, you will get a response from pretty high up.... The only person within RISA with the ability to affect change if you don't like the strings RISA/Nemetschek is pulling.

RE: Perpetual vs Subscription

I'm curious about the cloud licensing and the scenario where you might lose your internet connection. Many other applications we use today are presumably using a cloud licensing system (i.e. Adobe, Microsoft, etc) and normally those applications don't have interruptions. I wonder what licensing platform the new RISA cloud licensing system is using...presumably something not quite as sophisticated as these larger corporations. With the new RISA cloud licensing does it shut down the program if you lose an internet connection? Is there any leeway for not having an internet connection that will cover a network blip either when the program is already running or when trying to start it? As Josh mentioned, if you know when you won't have internet you can plan to take the license offline, but how do they (or do they at all) address the basic connectivity blips that we all experience on a regular basis? Seems like cloud licensing has some pros, such as not needing to keep track of a USB dongle, ability to share the license between engineers (i.e. network license) and when sharing you don't have to host a license server and connect to it via VPN or other routes when outside the office. Aside from the potential network connectivity issues, what other cons do people see with cloud licensing (I'm not talking subscription/perpetual, just the technology of cloud hosted licensing)?

RE: Perpetual vs Subscription

Rogersbr -

Good questions.... I don't want to get too much into exactly how the cloud licensing works (because I don't want to make information public that could assist in hackers cracking the licensing). However, I can answer the basics of these questions. Keep in mind that my responses may not reflect any changes that have been make in the last 4 or 5 months.

The RISA program checks out the license at start-up and checks it back in when it shuts down. It's a lot more forgiving than the network version run over a VPN which re-checks the license every 5 minutes or so.

If you lost your internet connection after startup, then the license will NOT check back in if you shut down. Until, you regain internet connection and re-run and re-close the program. However, I'm pretty sure the program will not ever kick you out during a session if you lose internet connection. Though I'm not 100% certain about that last part. It's possible, I suppose, that if your internet is down for a long time (an hour or more) that RISA will eventually kick you out. But, I haven't personally experienced that and my internet connection has been spotty.

For positive functions of cloud licenses, there is the following:
1) There's not as much involvement with IT/ network admins. As long as your internet works, the cloud licensing should work. With a network license, you have to worry about firewalls and setting port exceptions and such.
2) It's convenient for a one man shop who has a work computer, a home computer and a laptop for travel. As long as you have internet connection where you are, you can use your license.... As long as you didn't leave the program running on one of the other computers before leaving home or office or wherever. No concerns over VPNs. I don't even think internet speed is an issue.
3) What Rogersbr said about not keeping track of a USB key.

For negatives:
a) It's not as secure as the Sentinel / USB based licensing. This doesn't really affect the users though.
b) The subscription concept if you don't like it and and the potential long term cost increases (though it is cheaper in the short term).
c) You're kind of under RISA / Nemetschek's control. If you do something to piss them off, then with the push of a button they can take away your licensing. I've not seen them do that, but it is a cause of concern.... especially for me.

RE: Perpetual vs Subscription

And as I mentioned earlier, if a client has security restraints on your internet use for the project, this is a problem. My clients are in a very competitive industry.

RE: Perpetual vs Subscription

Buggar -

Yes, that is a definite drawback. I've seen some government / military clients that won't allow USB keys either as they're afraid they're jump drives and people can sneak out top secret information. Not much of a way to work around either.

The only way I can see an obvious work around is the following:
i) With a subscription, you check out the license for 30 days when you have access to the internet. Then restrict internet access after that. But, you have to renew it every 30 days.
ii) With the USB thing, you can chain the USB key to the computer so that it would take bolt cutters or such to remove it.
iii) With the network license, if your network and server is secure then you're good. If not, then you can commute a license (remote or local) Same thing with item i) though. You have to re-do this every 30 days.
iv) RISA technically can still issue "emergency license files" to any user. These are like a commuted license generated directly in the RISA offices. They are subject to a max time limit greater than 30 days (I think it's 180 days). However, my belief is they've made a decision to not give these out anymore. If you beg and plead, you might be able to persuade them.

RE: Perpetual vs Subscription

Thank you, Josh,

I'm resigned to the fact that we are having to leave a lot of tools behind due to subscription requirements. We're on a different CAD program now (not so bad since it goes directly to product) and I am returning to the old Basic programs everybody used to share across the net (I'm the author of Vibes.bas)

Best wishes to all.


RE: Perpetual vs Subscription

Just a correction to a comment I made a few weeks ago. It turns out that the subscription license does periodically check the internet to renew your license while you are using the program. I have now had the program shut down on me (while giving me the option to save my work) when I lose my internet connection.

It seems to take a little while (15 minutes?) for the internet to be down for me to get booted. It tricked me because the time period is a good bit longer than the network licenses which kicks you out after maybe 5 minutes (if your network goes down), or the stand-alone key which kicks you out almost immediately (if you remove the USB key).

RE: Perpetual vs Subscription

For what it's worth, I've picked up some clients solely on the basis that I use my old legacy copies of Risa and ACAD and my work never touches the internet. We mail USB sticks back and forth via US Mail and finished designs go directly to CNC machines, also via USB sticks. Paper copies are US Mailed but no electronics. I'm working in a competitive and well hacked industry.

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