Autodesk Licensing & Price Increases

It’s no secret that Autodesk regularly changes their pricing structure. Here are some upcoming changes you should be aware of….

  1. NEW “Multi-User” Subscriptions for “Collections” will increase an estimated 33% on February 7, 2020.
  2. NEW “Multi-User” Subscriptions for “Single Products” will increase an estimated 14% on February 7, 2020.

It’s my understanding that existing multi-user licenses that are renewed are not subject to the price increase.

Reading between the lines, it appears Autodesk is slowly trying to eliminate network licenses. Obviously, they would rather sell you two licenses as opposed to have you share onE between two users.

Based on over a hundred hours of license usage research in my last two employers in the MEP Engineering and Construction space, here’s the breakdown I’ve seen…

  • 2 to 3 Engineers can share a single license (this is what Autodesk wants to reign in)
  • 1 to 1 User to License ratio for trade detailers
  • 1/3 of company users fall into the very low usage…”once or twice a month” or “once a week for a half hour” category (if you have enough network license capacity)

What Autodesk fails to realize (or ignores) is that there are a couple reasons network licenses are important even if you can’t share a license. Those are the last two of the above bullet points.

1) Very Low Usage

Users who “Would” use products but don’t “Need” then get access. This can lead to future sales if usage increases. It can also help promote product knowledge to a larger audience.

2) Licensing Usage Analytics

If you’re trying to migrate users from AutoCAD to Revit, or implement other product roll outs, analytics are important to gauge adoption. It also helps you plan for the future.

Yes, Autodesk has some analytics but they’re completely inadequate for anything truly meaningful. In fact, they’re often misleading which lends itself to over licensing…which they like. For a better reporting tool, check out JTB Flex Report.

A Word About Perpetual Maintenance Subscriptions

There’s still some folks hanging on to their old perpetual maintenance licenses. Let me tell you here and now that’s a waste of time and money. On August 31, 2019, Autodesk ended support for 2010 and older versions. There’s no guarantee your old products will activate into the future.

As a lot of customers are finding this year, 3 years in to subscriptions, it’s cheaper to convert to subscription than maintain a perpetual seat. Perpetual seats are anticipated to increase another 20%. Additionally, if you convert to subscription now, it’s still cheaper than a new subscription. Autodesk has announced that Perpetuals converted to Subscription will not have any more than a 5% increase every OTHER year through 2028. This means you’re converted seat will be cheaper than a new subscription for a long time.

Yet another reason is that Autodesk controls licensing. It’s 100% in their control. Let’s take Navis Manage as an example. You could keep hanging on to it but all they have to do is say it’s no longer a valid product…it’s ends of life. And your only option is to buy a full new subscription of this new “Navis Quantum” product (I just made that up….just like they can) that replaces it.

The last reason to switch to subscription now, it’s your last chance. I’m hearing that in May 2020, you’ll no longer be able to convert your perpetual license to subscription. This means they can jack up the perpetual maintenance as high as they want and if you don’t like it, you’re left dropping it and buying a full subscription seat. If you’v been around long enough, you know they’ll run a promotion here and there offering a discount to convert to the few remaining holdouts. But the promotional discounts typically only applies to the first year…every other year you’re paying the full subscription costs.

If you’re still on maintenance, consider switching before May. For more information on Maintenance to Subscription, check out this Autodesk FAQ.

PS: Autodesk’s Fiscal Year End is January 31. Now’s the perfect time to make the changes to your licensing. I always structure mine to renew in January for that reason.

Autodesk BIM360 Docs – Licensing Enforcement Starts Soon

My apologies for misleading headline, but I feel the issue is important enough to grab your attention with.

To start, I’m not aware of any upcoming enforcement action by Autodesk regarding their BIM360 Docs service. But that doesn’t mean it’s not coming. Project teams may get hit like a ton of bricks if they are not prepared. When it’s about to happen, nobody knows.

Dude! Why The Alarmist Tone?

If you’ve been around the Autodesk ecosystem long enough, you’ll know Autodesk has always supported enforcement of software licensing. It’s speculated the rise of AutoCAD’s popularity was because of the ease of pirating back in the day. But as Autodesk grew, so did their enforcement activities. These activities include software licensing audits of which I’ve participated in two (100% compliant I might add)

I’m a firm believer in Intellectual Property rights (IP) and applaud Autodesk’s efforts to protect their investment. With this I have no problem.

Times Have Changed

Things have changed in recent years. Typical pirating of desktop software was either an intentional or negligent act. With current subscription models and cloud based services, piracy is a much smaller issue now that it once was. This new economy of subscription licenses and cloud services should render licensing concerns a thing of the past right? Wrong!

If you were a user of the old A360 based Collaboration for Revit platform (C4R), you might recall about October 2017 (if I recall correctly) many project teams across the US were unable to work. Call it an “oversight” or “defect”, call it what you want. The issue was C4R was not properly enforcing licensing. To be clear, it wasn’t enforced at all…until it was.

To make matters worse, your company could assign licenses to your users, or another partner on the project could provide the licenses. It’s not real clear where you’re ability to “use” C4R was coming from because even without a license, you could view the files on the web. Inquires to Autodesk would always result in no help citing privacy concerns.

Needless to say, once Autodesk “flipped the switch“, project teams all over had users unable to work until they procured more licenses. Autodesk responded that a notice was posted in the public Autodesk forums. It also wasn’t possible to Email everyone involved despite having Autodesk ID’s be the user’s Email address. Not sure how they said that with a straight face.

In short, Autodesk has a confusing licensing model, was not helpful to customers trying to understand their compliance, allowed easy inadvertent over usage and then pulled the plug. Oops. Guess we won’t do that again.

Looks Like Déjà Vu (All Over Again)

Did you know, BIM360 Docs licensing is also NOT being enforced currently. Additionally, license usage and counts are not available in your accounts portal either like your other products. Simply put, BIM360 Docs licenses are automatically assigned/unassigned as you add or removed project members on your BIM360 Docs account.

The only place to find your current status is from the Account Admin page and clicking on the Analytics menu. Here, you can see I clearly added 61 users when there’s only 12 licences available. Each users had NO functional limitations.

61 of 12 BIM360 Docs Licenses Used.

And it only gets worse from here. Any Project Administrator can add anyone to your account they want. In fact, you Want project administrators so they can efficiently on-board your team members. You may even make other trade partners outside your firm Project Administrators so they can on-board their own staff. The issue is, Project Administrators have no access to view licensing usage, only the Account Administrator which you don’t want to give wide access to.

So here you have a situation where you can easily become over consumed and not realize it. Autodesk assures me they do routine audits and allow people to “true up” or they shut the licenses down. But given past history, are you confident the right person will get notice? Are you confident enforcement won’t be turned on and your project won’t get shut down for a couple of days while your order is placed?

The Bigger Issue

For such a large company so focused on software compliance (historically), it seems very odd to me that this is the second “oops“. And it seems ironic that for something that should be so simple like Cloud Service licensing, that it can be so horribly confusing.

“BIM360 Docs licenses are automatically assigned. They don’t stay with the user. However, you get one for free with BIM360 Design which a user can take with them.”

Does the person managing your licensing know what that means?

And it’s just disappointing that it’s so easy to become “over-licensed” with very little visibility. They let everyone into the concert with no security, shut the door and just as the band start playing, announce they you all didn’t have enough tickets.

Call me a conspiracy theorist but it is starting to appear like this is an intentional deployment and utilization strategy. Get teams dependent on the product, then pass around the collection plate.

One Final Complaint

If you’ve heard enough, you may not want me to point out that Autodesk likely collects revenue for multiple of the same licenses for the very same users. Seriously, stop reading if you’d prefer to remain in the dark.

BIM360 Docs licensing (to be “legal”) requires licenses for every active member in an accounts membership list. If I host a BIM360 project for the entire team and the team wants to use BIM360 Docs, I need licenses for the entire project team. Sounds reasonable. But there are other projects hosted by other firms. My team needs access to those as well. Those firms are paying for licenses (if they’re legal) for my team…who already has licenses from my account.

The Conclusion – I Promise

In my opinion, there is no excuse for the confusing, sloppy mess that is BIM360 licensing. It’s not hard. Others like Adobe and Microsoft have figured it out.

I’m not someone who’s against BIM360. It’s done great things for project teams and workflow. Seriously! But somebody really needs to start raising awareness to these types of issues. While we’re all giddy little nerds with a cool new toy doing neat things, as an industry, we’re neglecting the legal terms and other business risks. It’s not as fun but it’s just as important. I hope others start raising these types of issues or I’d expect more of the same from Autodesk.

Rant Mode – OFF

Autodesk Product Install Order

Back in the day, I briefly worked for an Autodesk reseller. This particular reseller was classified as an “Education Reseller”. In short, this meant they were one of a few resellers that sold Autodesk products into the educational market (high schools, universities etc.).

As you can imagine, a school would likely have most of not all the products. Back then, Autodesk provided a complete list of all the products and their recommended install order. Fast forward to today, they’ve either gotten incredibly lazy or in all their massive layoffs over the years, the domain knowledge is gone. I suspect both.

Autodesk’s Recommendation

Take a look at Autodesk’s current recommended install order from this link. which was last updated 6/6/2018 at the time of this writing. In the event the link changes, here’s what they say…

What’s wrong is that they tell you within the same product year, the install order doesn’t matter. This is outright false for many reasons. They try to note a couple “exceptions” stating that if there’s any add-ins, the base product should be installed first. But which products have add-ins to what other products?

CADmep is obviously running on top of AutoCAD so AutoCAD should be installed first. That seems obvious. But Navis also installs Exporters depending which products it finds and it doesn’t always show up in an Add-ins tab. So this is less obvious. Buy there’s also other dependencies that are even more obscure. Should you install Revit or Inventor? Should either go before or after 3ds Max? This is less obvious to most users.

This is really why someone would ask that question. It’s a real dis-service then to start out telling them it doesn’t matter. In fact, it matters most of the time, and it doesn’t matter as the “Special consideration”.

Determining The Real Install Order

There’s a few ways to handle this. If you’ve been around a while and had one of the old “Design Suites”, install in the same order as the Design Suite did. But note that this did change between product years and types of Suites. Plant Deign Suite 2013 for instance installed Autodesk before Revit where as Building Design Suite 2016 installed Revit before AutoCAD.

One of the other ways is to look at the install media folders to see if you can find any dependencies. Take for example 3ds Max. Look in the x86 or x64 folders and you’ll see references to Revit and Inventor.

This means we should install Revit and Inventor before installing 3ds Max. But what if we’re using both Inventor and Revit? Which of those goes first?

You’ll see the RXI folder in the install files. Hard to tell what it is. When you drill into the folder, there’s just a single MSI. If you right-click on it and select Properties and do to the Details tab, you can see it’s Revit Interoperability for Revit. Other folders deeper in the structure also confirm this by their naming,

Based on this findings, it suggests installing Revit first so Inventor can see it and install the Interoperability tools.

Here’s My Order

So, if you’re an Autodesk Fabrication user, here’s what I typically do (and why)….

  1. Revit (doesn’t seem to depend on anything else)
  2. AutoCAD (I can’t find a dependency for AutoCAD. But anything with an Object Enabler will want it here and it’s a core product so as a matter of safety, I install it early just in case)
  3. AutoCAD based Verticals like MEP, Arch, etc. (These use AutoCAD as its core. I’ve not checked dependencies between verticals but it’s likely safe to install them in any order. I usually do Arch first if I’m going to include it as MEP is built on top of Arch but it’s really not needed as MEP installs what it needs)
  4. Inventor (because of the Revit dependency covered earlier)
  5. 3ds Max (because of the Revit/Inventor dependencies)
  6. Navis – Freedom/Simulate/Manage (Navis exporters only install for products already installed so we install this toward the end)
  7. Fabrication CADmep (allows CADmep Object Enablers to install for Acad, Navis, etc.)
  8. Fabrication – EST/CAM/etc. (order doesn’t matter)

If there’s anything on the list you don’t use, just skip it. If you happen to install Navis before some of the dependent products, just use “Add/Remove Programs” in Windows Control Panel to modify the install to include new exporters or download the Exporter installs separately from Autodesk’s web site.

Time to Update FlexLM for Autodesk 2020 Products

For those running network licenses of Autodesk products, you can get a jump on your 2020 product roll-out by upgrading your FlexLM versions now.

Autodesk 2020 product versions will require FlexLM v11.16.2.0 or later. You can read more about it and download from Autodesk web site here.


To verify your version of FlexLM, browse to the install location on your license server and look for any of the following files…

Right-click on any of the files and select Properties. From the Details tab, look for the Product version line and verify the number is at least 11.16.2.0 or later.

If you have an older version, perform the following steps…

  1. Download the proper MSI installer from Autodesk’s web site here.
  2. Stop/Terminate the FlexLM service on your network license server.
  3. Backup the FlexLM files listed earlier in the event you have issues.
  4. Install the MSI locally on your computer and browse to location you just installed.
  5. Copy the files from your local install to the network license server install location.
  6. Verify the files properties to make sure they are the proper version.
  7. Restart your FlexLM license service and check it’s status.
  8. Test launching some Autodesk products to make sure licenses are being served properly.
  9. Options: You can then uninstall the MSI you just installed locally as it’s only purpose was to extract the FlexLM program files.
  10. That’s it. Your next step will be up update licenses once the products are released.

Update Tip

You don’t actually need to install the MSI files to extract out the FlexLM program files and daemon executable. There’s a free/open source utility called LessMSI which will extract files from an MSI file.

You can download LessMSI from here. Using this utility, you can use either a command line version or GUI to extract files embedded in an MSI file without installing it. An image if the program’s dialog is shown below showing the contents of the FlexLM MSI file.

Autodesk Selling Previously Abandoned Product

While applicable to my career over a decade ago, I normally wouldn’t cover news on ArtCAM. It’s not relevant in my current professional life. However I find this interesting and noteworthy which is why it caught my eye. 

ArtCAM History 101

In 2014, Autodesk acquired a CAM software developer named Delcam. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delcam)  Delcam was based in the United Kingdom and wasn’t as widely known as some of the big players like MasterCAM, Gibbs, Esprit or any number of others. Delcam was different. Instead of a few well selling products, they had a vast portfolio of CAM smaller solutions for niche markets like jewelry and footwear. 

Autodesk on the other hand is a large volume software company. They don’t do “niche” very well. The smart play was to leave Delcam alone. This lasted for a few years but that recently ended.  

One of their more popular products was ArtCAM. I supported it at one of my past employers over a decade ago. Earlier this year, Autodesk announced they were discontinuing ArtCAM to the dismay of it’s users. This was no surprise as Autodesk has a long history of acquiring software and companies and realigning or discontinuing products. You can see a list of most of them on Steve Johnson’s blog here…https://www.cadnauseam.com/autodesk-graveyard/

Departing from Historical Actions

What I do find noteworthy, and I’m just getting around to write about it now despite being month old news, is that they made the decision to sell it off. ArtCAM will continue but from a new company. This typically doesn’t happen. You either take the hit and migrate to what Autodesk wants or you find another product. This time, the product will continue but with a new company and name…Carveco. http://carveco.com/

Why do I find this interesting? It’s no surprise that Autodesk has pretty much abandoned new development of Fabrication CADmep, ESTmep and CAMduct. All their efforts are focused on Revit’s Fabrication parts. While that eliminates the need for CADmep for many, there’s still no clear public strategy on ESTmep or CAMduct. It would be nice if they took those products and found a way to spin them off. Granted, it’s harder in this case. They share a common data platform (the Fabrication Configuration) and content with Revit now. None the less, I’m sure there’s a lot of smaller firms that could make a good run of it. They’d just have to partner with Autodesk a little differently than in typical. 

What do you say Autodesk CEO Andrew Anagnost? You’re company helped fracture the MEP industry with your purchase of MAP software in 2012. Only now do we see several 3rd parties emerging and targeting the MEP contractor. How about giving one or two of them a shot…to continue with the value we see in these products?  

Autodesk University 2018

It’s been a couple weeks since Autodesk University so I thought I’d reflect and recap some of my thoughts.

For starters, I don’t often toot my own horn but I was right. 5 Months ago, one of Autodesk’s Technical Marketing Manager’s posted to LinkedIn how Autodesk University was “Joining forces” with the MEP and Structural Fabricators be eliminating the Monday MEP & Structural Fabricator’s Forum Monday pre-conference with the rest of Autodesk University and replacing it with the “Connect and Construct” pre-conference.

I commented then that this was marketing spin, that there would be less focus on Autodesk Fabrication. I was right. I typically run into 120-130 people every year at Autodesk University. This year I don’t think I broke 80. I’d say only 10% of the MEP contractors I typically run into were there this year. As expected, there were many less Autodesk Fabrication sessions and a lot more BIM360 sales pitches.

You can read the original LinkedIn post and my comment here. It did get me a private Email from Autodesk asking why I was negative toward the event that I was speaking at. As I told them, I’m not negative, but I do feel obligated to correct misconceptions they’re spreading. My industry peers are expecting Fabrication technical content as they’d received in the past and they weren’t getting it this year. Most elected to go to Applied Software’s MEP Force conference instead or skip all together.   

There were some compelling keynotes from what I heard  (I skip most, too crowded and I can watch online after if I hear they were good), but if you’re a larger progressive MEP contractor, you really didn’t learn a lot from the Connect and Construct summit IMO. They still are trying to tell people that BIM is something we should be doing and we should be using BIM360 this or that. A lot of promises of what the future holds…mining intelligence from your models. I couldn’t help but think…”We had that with Autodesk Fabrication but you broke it by not finishing Revit’s Fabrication Parts and stopping development of CADmep, ESTmep and CAMduct.   

Overall, I think the week as a whole was better than last year. I skipped many of my scheduled classes as I was busy talking with others in hallway conversations. This is really why I go and where I get the most value.

If you’re interested in reviewing any of the material presented at Autodesk University, all the 2018 sessions are now online at this link

Key Takeaways

  • Seems to be a lot of 3rd party activity in the MEP contractor space finally after Autodesk’s acquisition of MAP fractured the market. Both GTP’s Stratus product and FabPro1 are making some compelling workflow applications. I’m also aware of about 5 or 6 different Revit based spooling tools either released or nearing release.
  • Biggest issue for 3rd parties in the MEP contractors space….Autodesk’s lack of enhancing the underlying Fabrication platform. They’e laid off anyone that knows what we need and why…only 4 programmers remain from the original MAP team rumor has it. Most of the 3rd parties have larger teams focused on MEP than Autodesk does now. 
  • Seems to be some increasing acknowledgment by Autodesk that they screwed up a bit with the MEP contractors. It remains to be seen if they do anything about it. There’s several things in play that I can’t speak to (NDA) but I remain hopeful at some point things will start moving again.
  • Seems to me more people looking to get into the ITM content space. Iv’e had so many conversations I can’t recall what I can and can’t say so I won’t go into details. We’ll see how it goes….it’s a tough platform as the content is not agnostic and highly dependent on each company’s configuration. Recall what I said about 3rd parties hampered by Autodesk not enhancing the Fabrication platform? This is a perfect example.
  • Outside of the MEP Fabrication world, lot of talk about automation. Hailing from Manufacturing myself, I’ve seen parallels coming for years. Manufacturing leads construction by 10-20 years in just about everything…Parametric modeling, Lean, Product LifeCycle Management (Mfg’s “BIM”). Nice to finally see after spending most of my career working for Manufacturers of construction products and not working for a construction firm manufacturing. 
  • Most striking takeaway….the large volume of contractors employing their own programmers. One General Contractor of about 3000 employees had 10 full time programmers. And it’s not limited to GC’s….a lot of my peers in larger MEP contractors have full time programmers. I suspect this trend will continue as Autodesk is moving too slow and the data each firm really needs is highly unique to their blended data (in and out of BIM).
  • Forge Devcon (formerly Dev Days) was interesting. The Monday developer conference Dev Days was always my highlight of AU. Then others started piggy backing onto Monday…Conceptual Design Forum, MEP Fab Forum, etc. Working in MEP I had to attend. While I’m disappointed the MEP Fab Forum went away, I’m also glad as I was able to attend some Forge Devcon sessions. That reminds me, I need to start getting back into development.
  • Less technical and more “Whitepaper” or “Customer Stories” than ever. Seems like a lot more sessions showing you what people are doing but not how they are doing it. Maybe this is what people really want but I really miss some of the hard core technical content you use to get. It’s still there but in less quantities….or I’m just bad at selecting sessions to attend.
  • Not sure I’ll speak again after over a decade of doing so. There’s less technical sessions…I prefer doing those as opposed to the philosophical “here’s how BIM should work” type of classes. The products our industry needs and uses Autodesk doesn’t promote and they audience is just not there. I could talk about Revit but it’s the same as it was last year with minor improvements. Nothing that would fill a 60 minute session unless I wanted to show all the 3rd party tools and custom code you need to write to finish where they left off. I’ll likely submit a few proposals next year anyway. We’ll see where it goes.

Autodesk Acquires PlanGrid

Today, Autodesk announced their acquisition of PlanGrid. You can read the press release from Autodesk here…http://adsknews.autodesk.com/pressrelease/autodesk-to-acquire-plangrid.

This doesn’t really seem like a surprise. PlanGrid has a large and active user base where as competitor Fieldwire seems like they’ve had trouble competing and gaining significant market traction. 

What is a surprise to me, is that typically these types of “big” announcements are typically given in Las Vegas during Autodesk University, not the week following. I suspect that in this case, an announcement of this type would have distracted from the other BIM360 related messaging Autodesk was trying to deliver.

Why Would PlanGrid Sell?

What made PlanGrid strong in the market is the ease of use and field adoption of their platform. Plain and simple, field personnel liked it and used it, It doesn’t really matter what something costs if it doesn’t get used. PlanGrid had a platform that was used. My guess is they sold because what better way to finish than on top. In the end, what were they doing that Autodesk couldn’t do, or soon do with their BIM360 Docs platform? I know several companies that pay more annually for PlanGrid than their entire Autodesk product lines. In some cases PlanGrid renewals were double Autodesk. And for what? Storage and viewing?

As Autodesk continues to build out their BIM360 platforms, and users increasingly adopt services like BIM360 Design (formerly Collaboration for Revit), it wouldn’t take long before people started asking why they were paying so much when BIM360 Design published to BIM360 Docs already and seemingly did the same thing?

Where would PlanGrid differentiate itself? When we take an intelligent model and publish it to a PDF, we’re loosing a lot of information. Any more intelligence PlanGrid would try to add is attempting to recreate what was once there but lost. Not to mention, adding more functionality would start to move PlanGrid away from the core principals that made it strong…simplicity. In the end, I think PlanGrid chose to end on a high note before an eventual decline.

What Does This Mean For Autodesk?

When Autodesk acquires a company, they do it for one or more of the following reasons…

  • Buy interesting technology they don’t have
  • Buy the talent of the firm who’s doing interesting things and employ them to do the same for Autodesk
  • Kill technology that’s driving the market in directions Autodesk doesn’t like
  • Buy the customers

For Autodesk, I don’t really think they care about PlanGrid’s technology or development teams. Not that they aren’t good tools and people, but Autodesk has their own. Instead of having to OCR PDF’s to automatically hyperlink them, you should be able to create the PDF from this intelligence already in Revit. There’s really no point in trying to recreate lost intelligence (PlanGrid) when you already have it captured (BIM360). 

Instead, I think Autodesk wanted the user’s. It’s the quickest way to increase your BIM360 Docs usage which is where I think the users will be migrated to. If not BIM360 Docs, perhaps a more streamlined tool for field communication that uses BIM360 Docs as it’s storage platform.  

What Does This Mean For Users?

Lower software costs. I know, I know. They’s not something you typically get from an Autodesk acquisition but paying double for a PDF sharing platform than all your other Autodesk services certainly won’t continue. I predict the price will drop, they’ll then “realign” duplicate platforms and move everyone to BIM360 because PlanGrid no longer “makes money” and they’re done. That’s what happened in the past in similar situations like Autodesk Fabrication being acquired from MAP software. We in the MEP world know how that worked out…new development halted, fixes released at a glacial pace and updates almost non-existent. Move to Revit or fall behind. I think you’ll see that dynamic play out w/PlanGrid as well. 

For now, I’ll enjoy not paying double to share PDF’s because PlanGrid says we have tens of thousands of sheets on a project we use when the reality is we’re only looking and a handful of sheets for a project team that’s using PlanGrid. While a good product which we do use, our usage numbers have never been what they’ve suggested. I wonder if Autodesk fell prey to some of those technically accurate but misleading usage stats as well. 

Autodesk Concurrent Usage Restriction

A couple months ago I posted about a “business rule” Autodesk had which restricted a user from using more that 2 titles of their Collection on the same computer at the same time. The original post can be read here. This wasn’t a technical limitation rather a legal restriction. The “rule” essentially stated that you couldn’t run more than 2 products at the same time for the same user on the same computer. This would be like Microsoft saying you couldn’t use Email, Word and Excel all at the same time. I asked several trusted Autodesk resellers, my Autodesk insiders and other industry peers and it seems this restriction wasn’t very well known, In fact, not a single person I asked was aware of the “rule”

Back in January when I first raised the issue, I was in the middle of a contract renewal and it was Autodesk’s fiscal year end. As a result, there were several Autodesk regional reps raising the issue internally at Autodesk. I had hints back then (unofficially) that they were reassessing the policy and would likely remove the restriction. I’m now happy to report that as of March 29th, the policy restriction has been officially removed.

It was reported in the “Moving to Subscription” forum as a followup to my initial complaints and concerns. You can read the entire forum thread here.

If you look at Autodesk’s Collection Licensing support article here, you can see the restriction struck through and updated.

I’m a tough critic of Autodesk’s policies and their sales practices. But I have to admit, this was fairly quick action on their part considering their legal team was likely involved. They historically haven’t made concessions based on customer pressure very often and when they have, it sometimes comes very slow. In the use case I gave them, I discussed how an MEP firm running Fabrication CADmep would need 3 licenses, One license of CADmep, one for the AutoCAD session it was running on and Navis.

The feedback I received through resellers pushing their Autodesk partner managers for answers came back quickly in mid-January exactly how many users globally fell into that scenario. I was impressed how quickly they started analyzing the scope and impact to their company and users. Hats off to Autodesk for squashing this ridiculous rule. For the first time in over 25 years of dealing with Autodesk, their sales and legal teams came together and did the right thing.

Beware: Autodesk Subscriptions, Industry Collections and Trust

Everything Must Change

It’s no secret that Autodesk is moving to an annual subscription model. There’s a number of reasons Autodesk tells you it’s for the flexibility and benefit of the customers. Some of these benefits include…

  • Predictable annual licensing costs
  • Lower initial cost for procurement (no more large initial upfront cost)
  • Flexible licensing model (add/drop licenses as your business needs)
  • Ability to release product updates anytime

All these benefits are true, legitimate reasons a customer would want to move to a subscription model. If you look at the current pricing promotions, converting existing licenses to the Industry Collections looks very financially attractive.

A number of years go, Adobe rolled out subscription licensing. Revenue suffered for a couple years and then rebounded. Customers were no longer making large upfront purchases but as time went by and subscriptions increased, revenue rebounded and higher profits ensued. And because revenue wasn’t tied to an annual “release” cycle of software updates, it’s a more predictable and stable revenue stream. It’s no wonder Autodesk is following in Adobe’s footprints. As a business, they’d be foolish not to and even as a customer, I don’t begrudge them to make a profit and give them more flexibility in running their company.


The Problem

When Adobe made the transition, revenue was significantly impacted and returned in a couple years. Autodesk is seeing the same thing with one key difference. Autodesk has underwent 11 straight quarters of losses. Adobe never lost money. Clearly, Autodesk’s customer base isn’t as understanding and you see a lot of public facing criticism in public forums against being forced into this model.

Part of the problem is the longevity of the data Autodesk customers produce compared to Adobe. Autodesk customers often maintain engineering or product documentation for decades. That pretty marketing graphic made from Adobe products likely isn’t managing product or building data 2 decades later.

The other part is Autodesk’s horrible track record with pricing. Autodesk isn’t a software company, they’re a sales organization and they’re very good at it. They have a history of squeezing the re-seller channel, taking over their major accounts and competing with their third party partners.

Here’s a few examples…

  • Autodesk tells their re-seller channel they’ll partner with them on major accounts. The fact is many find themselves frozen out of the discussions, especially if there’s any hint of looking out for the customer’s interest.
  • It was very common to be able to “upgrade” your annual maintenance contracts to higher end software. To go from AutoCAD to AutoCAD Mechanical or AutoCAD MEP or was cheaper or only slightly higher than staying on AutoCAD. When your maintenance contract was up for renewal a year later, you then see the deferred price increase you just were hit with. If you wanted to “downgrade”, you paid a fee, typically the cost difference between the two products.
  • When Autodesk stopped selling the Revit MEP Suite, they rolled out the Building Design Suite. If you were already on the Revit MEP Suite, you were grandfathered in could maintain your contract. It was during this time the sales channel was running a “promotion” to upgrade and telling customers they should act fast before they were enforced to upgrade at a higher price. The problem, a) The Design Suite promotions ran almost continually to show vertical product sales increases to Wall Street and b) They would “uplift” customers to the Design Suites for free a mere 6 months later. One company I worked with, Autodesk tried to sell over $300k in upgrades this way only to get them for free months later. They claim they didn’t know but how could they not? I’m just a dumb customer, I knew…because it’s happened before.
  • Autodesk had their sales staff and resellers promoting selling Perpetual licenses “while you can still get them”…and customers did. All the while I suspect they knew they’d just increase the maintenance subscriptions to more than the annual subscriptions. Your “savings” in cheaper annual renewals just was wiped out.

If you look at the various changes has made over the last 2 decades, rolling out maintenance subscriptions and finally making them mandatory to replace upgrade charges or rolling their new annual subscription model, you’ll notice a common theme. All of these changes create an “Artificial Crisis” for customers which results in collecting as much as they can while delivering as little as possible,  Given their track record of deceptive and misleading sales, it’s no wonder customers have a lack on trust and are resisting these changes.


What Should You Do

Customers like to think they have control. Autodesk likes them to think that as well. But the fact is, you don’t. I hear a lot of talk from customers about maintaining their existing perpetual licenses and resisting the move to subscription, Personally, I think that’s misplaced.

Autodesk wants you on subscription and that’s where you’ll go, sooner or later. You don’t have a choice without switching software, Want to Upgrade, Downgrade, Cross-grade to another product, move from Standalone to Network Licensing, you’ll have to go on subscription. Unless you don’t want to pay more annually to maintain your perpetual licenses than it would to go to subscription, you’ll move…sooner or later.

Willing to stick it out? Feel free but in industries like construction that are really evolving with new technology workflows and require all team members to be on the same page to leverage collaborative project workflows it’ll be tough to do. Even with the evolution of technology to the cloud and big data analytics, other industries are going to be hard pressed to not upgrade. How many people do you know running AutoCAD r14 or even 2008 for that matter?

Still not convinced and plan on hanging onto your perpetual licenses forever? Good luck. That “Navisworks Manage” you have you’re free to run forever as long as you can find the hardware that will run it. In fact, you can’t even buy a maintenance subscription anymore because we at Autodesk stopped making it. You’re welcome to buy a subscription to our new “Navis Quantum” anytime however,

If you’re really dead set on maximizing that initial investment you paid for your perpetual licenses, you really have only one option…stop paining maintenance subscription now. Ride it out a couple years and buy subscriptions when you need them. They’ll be running a promotion sooner or later. With a fiscal year end of January, the new years is always a good time to negotiate pricing.


What’s the Future Hold?

So let’s just assume you’re on annual subscriptions down the road. What can you expect next?

Because you can add/drop licenses easily with annual subscriptions, they’re easy to scale with your business. When business is good, so is Autodesk. But what if there’s another recession and people start dropping licenses?

While most resellers and Autodesk are promoting Industry Collections, there’s a little know catch that every contact I asked either in the reseller channel or at Autodesk didn’t know (and I asked many). The Industry Collections limit you to running 2 concurrent products for the same user on the same computer. If you’re in the Mechanical Electrical and Plumbing construction industry, it’s common to run AutoCAD, with CADmep (runs in AutoCAD) and Navisworks at the same time…maybe ever Revit too.

You literally can’t find information on the FAQ’s regarding this restriction and the sales people are telling you that you can drop your Navis and CADmep licenses and migrate your Revit/Acad to an AEC Collection and save money and licenses without disclosing this restriction.

The only place you find information is on the Knowledgebase (if you search for “concurrent usage”)…

https://knowledge.autodesk.com/search-result/caas/sfdcarticles/sfdcarticles/Industry-Collections-Licensing.html

Or in a single Discussion group post by Autodesk…

https://forums.autodesk.com/t5/installation-licensing/industry-collection-licensing-basic-information-amp-licensing/td-p/7250896

It’s not found in the other countless pages and links your most often referred to. Reading closely, you’ll notice, one talks about the restriction generically and the other only pertaining to network versions. Autodesk re-sellers don’t have access to Collection licenses (only individual products) and can’t even test. So hows this work and how does it apply?

Upon much research by myself, my industry colleagues and Autodesk, come to find out it’s not a “technical” limitation rather a “policy” that’s not enforced with technology. So, what happens if/when…

  • They start enforcing the policy?
  • They perform your next license audit and see you use more products that you should concurrently?
  • The economy slows and their revenue drops so they implement a “no concurrent usage” policy?

As you can see, Autodesk is in complete control and your only option once on subscription is to pay or or stop using the software. There is no longer a perpetual license to fall back on.

Ok, fine, you can just buy an extra Navis or Revit subscription. But those need to be assigned to a specific user who also has access via the Collection. Or if you’re preference is network licensing, forget it. Revit and Navis are no longer able to be purchased with network licensing unless on a subscription.

If you don’t think it’ll happen, think again. For the second time in just a few short months, Collaboration for Revit isn’t enforcing licensing. The first time this happened, when they turned it on many users were left without access to their projects and unable to work. They should have had licenses, true but C4R configuration and setup is not straight forward. It’s common to grant access to people in a project. They may not realize you also need a license provisioned in another system. In fact, it’s very easy to have multiple licenses assigned to the same user from different companies essentially giving Autodesk double revenue and you’ll never know.

Given their misleading tactics in the past, how do you know this disabling of license checking isn’t intentional in an effort to get people to start using and depending on the software only to force a purchase down the road? It’s well known that AutoCAD was as popular as it was due to the easy of piracy back in it’s infancy.

So in summary, there’s really only a few practical options,..

  1. Give in and move to subscription, you’ll be there anyway eventually.
  2. Drop your maintenance subscription now if you can and ride it out a few years
  3. Move to another product/vendor.
  4. Maintain your perpetual contracts and pay more than any other option,