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Autodesk Subscription Options for the US Government

Introduction

This article contains information about Autodesk software subscription offerings and how they pertain to US Government specific needs. We’ll discusses the various offerings, how and when an offering is best used, and high-level technical details about each type of subscription offering; more specifically, we’ll address the following:

  • Selecting the right subscription type
  • Migration strategies and options
  • Technical requirements for each option

This article does not attempt to define or override Government regulations, agency security parameters, or security policies. The purpose is to show how Autodesk subscription can best be used in an enterprise Government environment.

Subscription Overview

Basic Concepts

Autodesk subscription is a term-based licensing mechanism that allows a user to operate the software for a given period of time. Subscription has many benefits over the perpetual maintenance licensing model used in the past. Some of these benefits include access from multiple computers, lower overall cost of usage, and improved support options.

In the past, licensing for Autodesk software required the software to be locked to a computer (i.e., node-locked) or shared using a network implementation. Connectivity was required to activate the software and lock it to a given computer. If the computer was altered in some way, the activation would need to be performed again. There were also limits on the number of activations possible. Subscription eliminates this model.

Subscription Types

Subscription is available for two primary types of implementations: single user and multiple users. There is an alternative option exclusively for the US Government called Local Licensing. It is intended for a single computer and functions much like the legacy node-locked standalone license.

Single-User Subscription 

Single-user subscription is a subscription assigned to a single person called a named user. The named user can access the software from more than one computer.

Single-user subscription is not the same as ‘standalone,’ a name used in the past to signify a node-locked license on a single computer. In the old standalone model, only one computer could use the software with a single license.

Single-user subscription requires the user to sign in using their credentials. Once signed in, the user is free to use the software. When multiple seats are purchased, the organization software administrator can determine which users can access a given software package. This can be changed at any time by the administrator. This allows the administrator to assign software to users in the organization and reassign the software as needed. The tools used for managing the users are provided via a web browser over the Internet using the Autodesk software management portal.

Single-user subscription works best for Internet-connected systems. Plans are available that offer tools for managing larger groups and with extended reporting and support options.

Multi-User Subscription 

Multi-user subscription is used to serve larger groups of users. A subscription license is consumed for the software when, and only when, it is in use. This allows the organization to share the subscription across many users simultaneously and in an automated manner. Users do not need to be named, and signing in is not required.

Another key difference between single-user and multi-user subscription is that no connectivity is required with Autodesk for multi-user subscriptions. The subscription licenses are hosted within the organization’s network domain. Access can be determined by configuring the service to allow for any number of possible access permutations.

Multi-user subscription is also known as concurrent licensing. Because the license is only in use while the software is in use, the same license can be used concurrently throughout an organization. If a user is not using the software, the license is available for another user. This is a great way to maximize an organization’s software budget.

Users can also ‘check out’ the license for extended periods of time. This allows the user to ‘borrow’ a license for field use when away from the organization’s network.

License services within the organization are not limited. They can be hosted on multiple networks, inside SCIFs, or in small work groups.

Multi-user works best for larger environments and user-bases. The more users the organization has, the more the concurrent manner of licensing benefits the organization.

Local Licensing 

Local licensing is a US Government alternative that uses the multi-user subscription mechanism to simulate a standalone, node-locked license. The license service is hosted on the same computer as the software rather than being shared centrally on a network. The subscription license becomes locked to the computer. The user does not need to sign in to Autodesk to use the software, nor do they need to connect to their organization’s network. This option is ideal for truly standalone, offline computers which may have no connectivity at all.

Local Licensing works best for single users in disconnected, isolated, or high availability situations.

Technical Requirements

Single-User Subscription 

The connectivity required to access subscription rights is done over the Internet. This should not be confused with cloud computing. No data is transferred other than the credentials necessary to authenticate the user and provide access to the software. The communication uses standard HTTP and HTTPS protocols and ports.

Single-user subscription requires an account for each named user. This account is created and maintained using the Autodesk management portal. The organization’s software administrator can create these accounts or the user themselves may do so. The software administrator must assign rights to the named user for the user to be able to use the organization’s software subscriptions. A single user may also acquire a subscription for themselves, in which case they are the administrator and have complete access to their own subscription.

View the complete list of ports, protocols, domains, and payload content.

The user must connect to Autodesk at least once every 30 days to maintain usage access when using single-user subscription. Extended offline plans are available that can remain disconnected from the Internet for up to 365 days (1-year plan) or 1,095 days (3-year plan).

The software will attempt to contact Autodesk to validate the subscription access each time it is connected to the Internet with both standard and extended offline subscriptions. Usage information that is collected is stored on the computer until it reconnects. Once uploaded, the reporting statistics becomes available for the user through the management interface.

Different named user subscription plans offer varying levels of support and reporting options.

Multi-User Subscription 

Multi-user subscription requires a computer to host the licenses for the users in the organization’s domain. The hosting computer can run a desktop operating system (OS) or a server OS. The primary reason to use a server OS is to enable more simultaneous network connections. For example, Windows desktop OS only allows a maximum of 10 concurrent network connections. Unless the licenses are intended for a small workgroup of five to six individuals, a server OS should always be considered required.

The license server is a lightweight service that typically runs on Windows platforms. This service operates on two to five TCP ports which can be defined by the server administrator. The default ports are 27000 for the listener, and 2080 for the Autodesk daemon. The actual size of the license service application is less than 7MB. Communication traffic is similarly very light at a few bytes per request. Once a request is served, the ‘stay-alive’ heartbeats typically occur about once every three to five minutes. They are usually about 1-2 bytes long. The heartbeats are used to determine if a user is idle or disconnected. This enables the server to reclaim licenses that are not in use.

Access is controlled by a configuration file placed on the server. There are dozens of configuration options which can control access to the software, the ability to borrow licenses, idle timeouts, and more. These configuration options can be defined as global, per user, per machine, or for a given network.

The configuration file is a simple text file. It can be updated at any time, and commands can be issued to the license service to refresh the configuration while running. This allows other services, such as Active Directory, to write to the configuration file in an automated manner. By automating the interface between LDAP services and the license server, adding and removing access can be greatly simplified.

Local Licensing

Local licensing is a preconfigured variation of multi-user subscription that is intended for one computer. A local license uses a text file (the license) in the same manner a multi-user license server would. The primary difference is that the license is not shared with other uses and, therefore, requires no network connectivity or open ports on the host.

Installing Local Licensing 

Local licensing is installed by downloading and using the dedicated installer.

After installation, a program is used to install and update license files. The program validates the license to ensure it is valid and correct for the computer it is being installed on. After license installation, the user need only reboot the computer for the license to take effect. After the reboot, the user starts the application and selects ‘Network’ or ‘Multi-User’ as the license type. From that point forward, the application will start normally with no further interactions required.

Network Isolation

No firewall ports need to be opened for local licensing. Technically, no communication is occurring at the network layer. The license service is configured to loop back to itself on the bequeath ‘localhost’ (127.0.0.1 or ::1) adapter address. Internally, the service is using the same default ports for communication as a standard multi-user implementation (TCP 27000 and 2080). External to the client, however, these listening ports are not available. When no application is in use, the only active port will be 127.0.0.1:27000.

Disabling all network activity and licensing services is also possible with Local Licensing. To do so, install the Local License Manager, then the license, reboot, and run the application (i.e., AutoCAD). Borrow the license from the license service, and then stop and disable the license service (Autodesk Local Licensing). The user can then use the application for up to six months without the license service running. After six months, they need to start the service, borrow the license again, and then stop the service for another six months.

The physical port is not necessary for the local licensing model, but the onboard adapter must be enabled and addressable in order to perform the actions necessary for local licensing to work. The network adapter can be disabled after borrowing a license. Once borrowed, the adapter does not need to be enabled again until the license needs to be refreshed or the borrow window expires.

Updating Local Licenses 

Updating the license is as simple as running the license utility to install the new license. A reboot will be necessary for the new license to become loaded and available.

Migration Strategy 

If moving from maintenance to subscription, the user base must be migrated from one license type to the other. Fortunately, this is relatively simple. The method of switching users from maintenance to subscription varies by product version. The switch can be performed manually or through automated processes.

Migrating 2019-2016 Releases 

Licenses can be switched to subscription without re-installing the software. To reset the license type, a set of files must be deleted. Using Windows Explorer, navigate to the C:\ProgramData\Autodesk\CLM\LGS

Screenshot 1

Within this folder there may be several subfolders depending on which product is installed. The names of the folders follow the syntax [product code]_[release].0.0.F. To determine a product code for a given product, use the Autodesk Knowledge Base to query the product keys for the release year. In the example above, the first directory (498Ji…) pertains to Mudbox 2018.

To reset the licensing for a product, delete these two files: LGS.data, and nw.cfg

Screenshot 2

Alternatively, a simple change to the content of LGS.data can reflect the license type desired. The possible values are:

  • Standalone maintenance licensing: _STANDALONE
  • Single-user subscription: _USER
  • Multi-user subscription or Network Maintenance: _NETWORK

Switching from Single-User or Standalone to Multi-User

If switching from Standalone or Single-user to Multi-user, an environment variable must be added to direct the client to the license server(s). The environment variable is named FLEXLM_LICENSE_FILE and contains the values of the license servers for the client to use. For example, here is an entry for two servers:

@license_server_A.mydomain.gov;@license_server_B.mydomain.gov

This example directs the client to request a license from license_server_A, then license_server_B. The list of servers can be unique to each client or the same. The number of entries defines the number of license servers available. There are no limits to the number of servers, however 2-3 are typical for most organizations. The order can be used to load balance the servers.

Migrating 2020+ Releases

Starting with 2020 releases, a command line utility is used to change the license type for a product. On Windows the utility is found here:

%CommonProgramFiles(x86)%\Autodesk Shared\AdskLicensing\Current\helper

The utility name is called AdskLicensingInstHelper. Get details related to the license utility.

Like the previous file-based examples, the utility can be used to edit the license platform or reset it. For example, issuing the following command will change the license type for AutoCAD 2020 from maintenance to single-user subscription:

AdskLicensingInstHelper change -pk 001L1 -pv 2020.0.0.F -lm USER

The tool can also be used to change to multi-user and set the license environment simultaneously. This mitigates the need to manually edit the aforementioned environment variable.

Licensing Reference 

View the official reference documentation for managing client licenses.

Additional Information 

For more information, visit the Autodesk Knowledge Network. Contact Autodesk support specific to your maintenance or subscription contract for additional help and support.

Gregg Lagnese is a 30+ year veteran in the US Federal space. At Autodesk he has provided software and services solutions to civilian, DoD, and Intel communities for the last 14 years. Gregg specializes in customizing Autodesk solutions to meet the unique needs of the US Government and ensuring compliance with Government regulations.

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