Tech Tuesday: FlexNet Licensing, Part 2

Howdy, folks, and welcome back for another Tech Tuesday! Last week, we talked a little about FlexNet Publisher, the copy control method used in Isograph’s software. The discussion focused on basic license activation. Now, this makes sens for standalone, or node-locked, licenses. With this licensing type, the license is hosted and used on a single computer, such as a desktop computer. But for license servers, there’s another piece to the puzzle.

Let me back up a bit. Isograph’s software can be licensed as standalone or floating. Floating licensing allows you to share a limited number of licenses among many users. So, for instance, you could have two licenses for Reliability Workbench, but have five people who all have access to the software. This type of licensing can be more cost-effective; since licenses can be shared, the total number of licenses needed can be reduced. When one person isn’t using a license, someone else can.

 

When Availability Workbench is started on a client machine, this is the dialog that is displayed, allowing the user to select which modules to use.

When Availability Workbench is started on a client machine, this is the dialog that is displayed, allowing the user to select which modules to use. It also informs users how many licenses are available.

Now, in order to set this up, the floating license must be activated on a host computer, typically a network server. This computer will then become the license server, and automatically manage the licenses. Many companies have a FlexNet license server already configured, but even in these cases, there are a few things to keep in mind when configuring a license server for Isograph’s software.

Firstly, even if a FlexNet license server has already been installed and configured for other FlexNet-enabled products, you will still need to run the installer for the Isograph product, and choose to install the FlexNet license server components. For legacy products, such as AttackTree+, NAP, FaultTree+ 11, and AvSim+ 10, this is necessary in order to find out the composite host ID, which you’ll remember from last time is what the license certificate is based on. For newer products, such as Availability Workbench, Reliability Workbench 11, and Hazop+ 2013, it’s necessary to install the license activation utility, which is where you plug in the activation ID for online activation. For all products, installing the Isograph license server component is required to install the Isograph vendor daemon, which is one of the necessary components of FlexNet licensing.

The custom installation options for Availability Workbench 2.1. If using on a license server, you MUST choose to install the FlexNet License Server component to the local hard drive.

The custom installation options for Availability Workbench 2.1. If using on a license server, you MUST choose to install the FlexNet License Server component to the local hard drive.

The second thing you’ll need is the FlexNet license manager. Most server administrators who’ve worked with FlexNet before are familiar with LMTOOLS, the License Manager toolkit used to configure the licensing service. However, according to Flexera™, the company that develops FlexNet Publisher, LMTOOLS is at end-of-life. This means they’ve stopped future development on it. Their new, preferred tool for configuring a license server is called LMADMIN.

Isograph, going forward, is still supporting both LMTOOLS and LMADMIN. We recommend LMADMIN for users who are configuring a FlexNet license server for the first time. For any users still using LMTOOLS, however, I tend to recommend sticking with it, rather than upgrading. This is particularly the case since LMTOOLS and LMADMIN are incompatible with each other. A license server cannot run both at the same time. That means, if you want to upgrade to LMADMIN for one of your FlexNet-enabled products, all FlexNet-enabled products must be switched over to the new license manager.

The LMTOOLS service configuration page.

The LMTOOLS service configuration page.

My personal opinion is that LMADMIN is a much more feature-rich tool for configuring a license service. LMTOOLS was nice for its simplicity. No installation was required; you could simply drop the lmtools.exe onto your server, run it, and have the license service configured and running inside 30 seconds, if you knew what you were doing. LMADMIN requires a bit more setup; it has it’s own installation, and it acts like a web service: you access the LMADMIN interface through a web browser. This means there’s more overhead (and more opportunities for things to go wrong!) during setup, but once it’s going, it’s a very powerful utility for configuring license services. As I mentioned, it uses a web service interface, so you can remotely access it; you no longer have to edit license files to set things like what port numbers should be used; and the user interface provides much more information about the service, versions, and ports in use. I suppose from that, you can tell why I like it more. In my primary job providing technical support, when I’m assisting a user to configure a license server, it’s much easier for me to collect information and diagnose errors if the user is on LMADMIN.

The LMADMIN vendor daemon configuration page.

The LMADMIN vendor daemon configuration page.

Either way, both of these license manager packages are supported by Isograph and can be used to configure your floating licenses. Once the license server is configured, you’re free to install the Isograph software package on any client machines. The clients will connect to the server to access a license.

One last thing to keep in mind; all these components—the license manager utility, the license manager service (LMGRD), the vendor daemon, and the client software—all have their own files and versions. Flexera™ has defined a hierarchy for version numbers:

  • Version of LMTOOLS must be ≥
  • Version of LMADMIN/LMGRD, which must be ≥
  • Version of the Isograph.exe vendor daemon, which must be ≥
  • Version of FlexNet used by the client application, which must be ≥
  • Version of the activation utility.

Isograph’s latest products, Availability Workbench 2.1.1 and Reliability Workbench 11.1.1, both use version 11.11.1.1 of the FlexNet Publisher. What this means is that if you have an existing license server running, say, version 11.2 of LMTOOLS, you will need to upgrade the version of LMTOOLS on your license server in order to use the latest versions of those products. Isograph has download packages for version 11.11.1.1 of both LMADMIN and LMTOOLS available on our website. Please contact us to get either of these packages.

I realize I got a bit techy here, but that’s the name of the column. Join me next week when we conclude this series. I’ll talk a little bit about some of the more common issues that we’ve encountered while helping users with license servers.

Reliability 2.0 paper “Monte Carlo Simulation as an Aid to Optimization”

This spring there will be a lot of activity in Las Vegas. Some will be calculating their losses from March Madness, others will be finishing Spring Break with a yard of ale on the strip and David Wiseman and I will preparing to present our paper “Monte Carlo Simulation as an Aid to Optimization” at this years Reliability 2.0 conference. Reliability 2.0 Agenda April 7-11, 2014

Monte Carlo simulation techniques allow computer programs to emulate plant behavior and quickly assess the effects of alternative PM policies. In this presentation we will demonstrate how to optimize PM intervals. We will also show how simulators may be used to optimize spare part storage levels – a vital consideration when restocking is subject to long lead times. Such optimization techniques can help to reduce maintenance and spare part storage costs, while taking into account safety, operational and environmental risk.

WeibullCurve

 

Isograph will be supporting this years Reliability 2.0 event by presenting 2 papers and exhibiting at the conference.

Tech Tuesday: FlexNet Licensing, Part 1

Howdy, folks! Welcome back to another Tech Tuesday. For our US clients, I hope you enjoyed your President’s Day weekend. I certainly did enjoy spending the day with my new daughter.

I’m back in the office and it’s business as usual, now, so I thought I’d take this time to write about the copy protection used by Isograph.

Isograph’s software uses FlexNet Publisher by Flexera Software. This is a very popular copy protection tool, used by many companies, such as Adobe, to maintain copy control. Most companies, it seems, already have a FlexNet license server set up. Some of our users also remember it when it was called FLEXlm or Flexible License Manager, and was developed by Macrovision. Either way, it’s a very commonly-used tool.

Isograph has used FlexNet licensing in our products since 2004, starting with our Network Availability Program (NAP) v1.0. In 2007, with the release of Availability Workbench 1.0, we switched to what is known as FlexNet trusted storage services. Now, the latest releases of Availability Workbench, Reliability Workbench, and Hazop+ all use trusted storage services via FlexNet 11.

See, the FlexNet that most people are used to uses what is known as certificate-based licensing. In this method—used by our legacy programs, such as NAP and AttackTree+, and older versions of Reliability Workbench, FaultTree+, and AvSim+—a license certificate, typically just a text file with a long code in it, is used to activate the software. This text file is created by Isograph based on some information from the computer that the user intended to have licensed. Many software vendors use the MAC address, or network address, but Isograph’s certificate licenses used the “composite host ID” which was based on several internal components of the computer, including the hard disk and network card. This way, the license file would only activate a single computer—the one it was created for. To activate the computer, the license file just had to be placed in the program’s directory.

A typical license file. This identifies the computer for which it was created (the "COMPOSITE=" number), the program it will activate ("FTP" = FaultTree+) the version (11.0) and the expiry date (16-Mar-2014).

A typical license file. This identifies the computer for which it was created (the “COMPOSITE=” number), the program it will activate (“FTP” = FaultTree+) the version (11.0) and the expiry date (16-Mar-2014).

The drawback to certificate-based licensing is that it’s difficult to move the license; it’s generated for a specific machine, so to move the software to another machine, you had to contact Isograph for another license. And because this could be abused, we typically asked for a written statement saying that you would delete your old license when you received the new one. We also ran into a few issues in some cases, where changing the computer’s components would result in the license no longer working. For instance, switching from a wireless to a wired network, or plugging a laptop into a docking station would fool the FlexNet service into thinking that it was now on a different computer, one that had not been licensed.

But as I mentioned, starting in 2007, we moved to FlexNet trusted storage licensing. In this method, rather than you giving us an identifying number from your computer, we simply give you a code called an activation ID. To activate your license, you simply copy and paste this code into the software, and it will connect to our license server over the internet and activate your license. Once this initial connection and activation is complete, no further contact with our servers is needed.

The license activation screen. Just plug in the activation ID we sent to you, press activate, and—Bob's your uncle—the software is licensed. Be sure to hang on to the activation ID, as you'll need it if you want to move the license to another computer.

The license activation screen. Just plug in the activation ID we sent to you, press activate, and—Bob’s your uncle—the software is licensed. Be sure to hang on to the activation ID, as you’ll need it if you want to move the license to another computer.

The advantages to this are many; you don’t need to wait on us to activate or move a license. If you decide you’d rather move the license to another computer, you can do it yourself very simply. It also works well with upgrades. Previously, if you needed an upgrade license, we would ask for written confirmation that you’d deleted your old licenses. Now, you can just return your licenses over the internet, and we’ll be able to see that you’ve done that. In fact, with the latest version of FlexNet publisher, upgrades can be done automatically. We’ll issue you an upgrade activation ID and when you activate it, your previous-version licenses will be automatically returned.

For users without an internet connection, which is common with servers or secure computers, trusted storage licenses can also be activated via request and response files. Basically, the same information that’s sent via a web connection can also be sent via email. You’ll enter the activation ID into the software, and generate a requestXML file, which you’ll email to us. We use this file to create a responseXML file which we send back to you. You’ll process this response file and the license is activated. Licenses can also be returned and re-hosted using this method.

The FlexNet Ops console. From here, we can create an activation ID for you, process a request file to generate a response file, and view the license activation history. We can only tell the date and time that a license was activated or returned, and if it was activated via the internet or request/response files. We can't see any information about the computer that activated it, such as IP address, host name, or your passwords.

The FlexNet Ops console. From here, we can create an activation ID for you, process a request file to generate a response file, and view the license activation history. We can only tell the date and time that a license was activated or returned, and if it was activated via the internet or request/response files. We can’t see any information about the computer that activated it, such as IP address, host name, or your passwords.

And for users with highly-secure computers, from which you can’t remove any files—this is common for top secret government or military contractors—we can still fall back on certificate-based licenses, where you’ll only need to send us the MAC address.

Next week, I’ll talk more about FlexNet license servers, the newest version of the FlexNet publisher server software, and the differences between LMTOOLS and LMADMIN for configuring the server.

FaultTree+ (IEC 61508) Training April 29th and 30th, 2014 Deerpark Texas

We are happy to announce that Dow Chemical will be hosting Isograph’s FaultTree+ IEC 61508 training again this year in Deerpark Texas near Houston on April 29th and 30th, 2014. Last year’s class sold out quickly so be sure to save a spot in this class. Depending on your industry there are several adaptations of the IEC 61508 which include: the ISO 26262 for automotive, the IEC 61511 for SIS in process safety, the IEC 61513 for Nuclear power, IEC 62279 for Rail Software as well as many others. Basically if you are calculating System Integrity Levels (SIL) or Safety Instrumented Systems (SIS) we have you covered.

This two-day course will give users a brief overview of fault tree methodology, then focus on the many features in Reliability Workbench 11.1 designed to assist with safety instrumented system/safety instrumented function analysis according to IEC standard 61508.

For more information on our course schedule and course descriptions please refer to our website: Isograph FaultTree+ training .

 

Tech Tuesday:

Congratulations to our North American Technical Lead, Joe Belland, who is out on paternity leave for a couple weeks. If your curious about what Joe is up to we had him breakdown his week in the fault tree diagram below. Although Joe will be missed for the next few weeks its business as usual here at Isograph North America. Joe and our support team will still be responding to support questions via email support@isograph.com and Jeremy Hynek will be answering Joe’s phone 949 502 5749.

Joe wasn’t able to write his weekly column before his baby girl was born, but he did put together this Fault Tree explaining why he might be in and out of contact for the next few weeks.

A very serious and professional use of a $7000 software product.