Update: Autodesk Multi-User Licensing – The End is Near

Update:

Since the below article was originally published, the Covid-19 virus has spread into the US. As a result, Autodesk has pushed back the dates. Multi-User Licensing purchases have been extended from May 7, 2021 to August 7, 2020. Retirement of multi-user licenses has also been moved from May 7, 2021 to August 7, 2021.

Interestingly enough, this changes was sold as a means to “simplify” things for end users. Now, Autodesk is pushing back the date because they don’t want to introduce a change during a difficult time. If the change were truly for “simplification” they should implement it anyway. But I suspect they know, it’s not going to simplify anything and its going to cost more.


Original Article follows…

This is the end of perhaps one of Autodesk’s last truly invaluable offerings. Decades ago it was free. Over the years it’s transitioned from a One-Time upgrade cost to an annual fee. Now it’s going away completely for most products.

Anyone that knows me knows I’ve spoken about how Autodesk can do what they want when it comes to Licensing. They’re in the driver’s seat. This is yet another example. All you can do is respond in the best manner possible.

What’s Happening?

Starting May 7, 2020 and renewals after that date, you’ll be offered an option to move to new “Per User” plans at a discounted rate. Much like the “Maintenance to Subscription” offer about 3 years ago, you’ll get discounted pricing that’s guaranteed not to increase more than 5% every other year through 2028.

While that doesn’t sound too bad on the surface, it’s a very shitty deal. I’ll explain why in a bit but it’s a deal you should take it none the less. Why? Because the alternative is going to be much worse.

If you don’t take up Autodesk on the offer during your next renewal come May 7, 2021 and after, you’ll no longer be able to renew those Multi-User plans. You’re done. Your choices are stop using Autodesk products or buy new subscriptions at full MSRP.

Why is the Deal Bad? It’s the Alternative That Sounds Bad.

I describe this as a shitty deal because it’s going to cost you in may ways. Most construction related engineers and architects can run 2.5 to 3 users per license in a multi-user configuration. The deal will allow you to get 2 named user licenses for each single multi-user license you trade in. This is described as being roughly a “similar price to what you’re paying today”. To make up any shortfall, you’ll be buying more “Named User” licenses at full MSRP to make up the difference.

What’s really bad is where a single license serves large numbers of users. Most often because it has very low or occasional use across a wide user base. I’d venture to say, our Point Layout license gets less than 20 hours use a year and it’s spread across 30+ users as it “floats” in a multi-user environment. Nobody will be buying multiple copies and dedicating them to that quantity of users. Your option is to direct all work requiring Point Layout to the few dedicated users. Autodesk licensing policy is now dictating your workflow. That’s not what’s best for your organization.

The only other alternative is to have an administrator log into the licensing portal and un-assign and reassign the license to users as they need. This is not the “Simplified” license management Autodesk says it is. The term they use is “Flexible User Access”. Something that use to just happen automatically is now an administrative task.

Why Are They Doing This?

Revenue. Plain and simple. As a publicly traded company, it’s their fiduciary responsibility to shareholders to maximize revenue. Especially when the rest of the software industry is moving in that direction and using similar models. Companies like Adobe and Microsoft. Microsoft doesn’t even consider you to have licenses of anything anymore. It’s all services. Windows is a service. Office 365 is service. The difference with Microsoft is I get a whole lot more for my money. I can get just about everything they offer for an enterprise for less than $100 per user per month. With Autodesk we pay $100/month per user to share PDF’s with Plangrid.

I suspect they also want to take more of an approach like Microsoft where they send you an Email letting you know who your top collaborators are and the number of hours of “focus time”. While those are interesting Emails from Microsoft, I don’t know anyone that’s changed their behavior because of them.

Where Can I Get More Info?

Donnie Gladfelter’sThe CAD Geek” blog gives a good summary. Neil Cross also has a good YouTube video outlining the changes.

Or you can get the details directly from the horse’s mouth along with a lot of misinformation and misleading statements here…

Announcement….
https://www.autodesk.com/campaigns/transition-to-named-user

Terms & Condittions…
https://www.autodesk.com/campaigns/transition-to-named-user/terms-and-conditions

Info-graphic…
https://damassets.autodesk.net/content/dam/autodesk/www/campaigns/tnu/20014-named-user-infographic.pdf

Autodesk Discussion Forum…
https://forums.autodesk.com/t5/subscription-changes/bd-p/6073

What’s Autodesk Saying That’s Misleading?

A lot actually. I don’t begrudge them for trying to maximize revenue. I’d do the same if I were them. Especially in light of an industry moving that way. They’re simply trying to modernize their business and revenue model like others have. Failure to do so would likely lead to more activist investors attempting to hijack the board much like Carl Bass had to contend with toward the end of his CEO tenure there. Activist investors on Autodesk’s board is not a good thing for customers.

What I really take issue with is their explanations and reasons that this is good for you. It’s the equivalent of sitting at the park, enjoying a nice ice cream cone on a hot summer day. All of the sudden a stranger appears. They take a big lick of your ice cream cone and proceed to tell you how they’ve just improved the flavor and you should enjoy it.

The other issue I have is it will eliminate a number of licenses and software for a lot of users. I don’t suspect that’s what Autodesk wants. But they really don’t understand how network licensing benefits users even when it’s not about sharing licenses.

Here’s my breakdown on what’s misleading…

“You’re Not a Number To Us”

Dedicated licensing is being sold as a way for them to give you a better user experience. This is just rubbish. Large customers (+$1M annual Autodesk spend) who have Enterprise TokenFlex accounts use network licenses for their enterprise. Everyone has access to everything, no limits. Network license usage is reported back to Autodesk on a “per user” (not computer) basis to determine the utilization. Simply put, providing an identified user experience can be accomplished without eliminating multi-user licenses. They just choose not to.

No more anonymous serial numbers

I’m not sure what that means. I haven’t had issues managing serial numbers for two decades before they allowed multi-seat standalone serial numbers. The mess back then was a result of poor reseller performance. The few remaining resellers are much more sophisticated today. They do a much better job of guiding their customers.

Streamlined Management

Where I work, I have 5 serial numbers, 7 Products and 50+ users/installs. Which would you rather manage? When they talk about “Flexible User Access”, they’re referring to the ability to log into their portal, un-assign a license and reallocate it to a new user. This use to happen automatically in a network license server environment. It’s now a manual process. That “one” license that floats to everybody, I’ll be performing that reassignment on a weekly basis if not daily sometimes. While folks are waiting for me, others are waiting on them for deliverables. Yet again workflow is interrupted due to Autodesk licensing policy and technology.

With dedicated user licenses I also now review every Email from HR about departures and terminations. Those Emails get reviewed against my user list in PlanGrid, BIM360, and now Autodesk Accounts. This wasn’t required with a multi-user setup.

“No More Managing Complicated License Servers”

They’re not complicated although a lot of folks seem intimidated by them. Resellers will gladly manage them for you. I spend less that 10 minutes a year on it. Once IT hands me a new server, I can stand it up in about 15 minutes.

License servers also allowed me to run a utility like JTB Flex Report and get highly customized data rich utilization reporting. I’ve begged for years for more robust reporting from Autodesk and it’s always been disappointing. Autodesk reporting always appears to provide value but only for those who don’t understand how Autodesk products work. It’s rare it actually provides the insight I want or need. Insight that allows me to gauge new production adoption or training needs or just volume of work types.

If you’re using multi-user licenses, I highly recommend purchasing JTB Flex Report now and start capturing data before your next renewal. This will give you the data you need to understand what to convert and what you can drop. No commissions or kickback to me. Just a long time user and fan.

No More Managing Multiple Deployment Types

Technically true but to be fair, there were only ever two. Stand-Alone and Multi-User. Either could be deployed as needed. Multi-User would just “work”. Stand-Alone would require activation..anyone could be logged in to do it. Now I need to log in “as the user” to get a system setup when on-boarding a new user.

Get 2 Trade In Licenses for Every Network License

Sounds like a deal until you realize you need more than that to replace the functionality of your multi-user license. Those will be purchased at full cost or you’ll go without. We’ll likely drop our Manufacturing Collection which provided us with Inventor and pick up Solidworks for our needs in construction.

In a construction firm, shop and field staff rotate quickly depending on workload and project phasing. Many “Could” use Autodesk software but don’t need it. They won’t get it any more. I’m not going to pay for multiple full licenses for an hour’s use a month.

The other hit is user training. I’d typically give Multi-User licensed products to everybody. Some would then use breaks and lunch to learn new products like 3ds Max or Inventor. This helps organic growth of Autodesk products. If I have an ambitious user, it helps me add more capabilities and capacity and a lower cost. I’ve never had a contractor approve a 3ds Max license. But when I’ve had a user learn on their own, they magically are in demand once the company sees what they can do. That all goes away on our next renewal.

Option to Buy Premium Plans for Additional Value like Reporting and Single Sign-On (SSO)”

I spoke earlier about loss of meaningful reporting. Technically you’ll be able to get it direct from Autodesk. But you’ll be paying for it. $300 per subscription. For a firm with 100 subscriptions, that’s an additional $30k annually.

Autodesk also has a poor track record of license reporting. Anyone care to explain how BIM360 Docs licensing works? It’s confusing. Back in October 2017 when licensing enforcement of C4R was “Fixed”, project teams all over couldn’t work and reseller’s phones were ringing off the hook.

Today at work, my BIM360 Docs account says I’m using 110 of 30 licenses. Am I out of compliance? No. Just broken licensing and poor implementation of reporting of a confusing and inconsistent license structure.

Single Sign-On (SSO) on the other hand is a welcome and long overdue addition. But again, you only get it if you purchase the additional “premium” upgrade. It also remains to be seen how robust SSO will be. Does it simple enable/disable accounts? Or will I be able to provision licenses to different products using Azure Active Directory groups?

The real value of Single-Sign On is from a security standpoint. When a user leaves, they’re access is shut off. This isn’t really a risk with desktop products. Where it is a risk is with BIM360 and other cloud offerings. It’s unclear of SSO will apply to BIM360 out of the gate. I assume it will at some point.

What’s in it for Autodesk?

There’s a lot of reasons Autodesk might want “User” based licenses. Revenue is obviously one of them. But they’ve never streamlined anything and made it cost less. Instead the complicate things and then charge more to “simplify” them. This has been the cycle for over 2 decades.

I suspect as Donnie pointed out in his Blog, they want to drive insights from users and provide that for a fee. Take away your ability to gain insight yourself and instead you pay them for information about your data.

Quite frankly, I don’t trust Autodesk to provide that insight to our users or workflows. They’ve already taken away our data, it sits on the BIM360 accounts of the architect or general contractors. Not sure how I’m suppose to maintain the operations of an MEP system using BIM360 post construction when I don’t even have the data any longer.

The frequent mass layoffs and pivot from a desktop software company to a platform company really stagnated MEP contractors who use Autodesk Fabrication. MEP Contractors have been using digital models for over two decades. We did “BIM” before anyone else in construction was in 3d. Now, we use 4 year old CAM software because of multi-year defects that are not being fixed. Even if I used the latest version, that CAMduct software which outputs data to my new $1M coil line…guess how I communicate what file the operator needs to load? A black Sharpie marker. The software can’t even report the name of the file it just generated. The only other option is to hire a programmer for most firms who don’t have the capability to do it themselves (most don’t).

The Real Lost Value – Lost Users

Perhaps the real lost value in all of this in construction is the reduction of software access to users. We’ll have less people using less Autodesk software. Think this number is insignificant? My last employer (against my guidance) signed one of those $3.5M/3-Year Enterprise Tokenflex deals. (They’ve since dropped it).

As part of a TokenFlex engagement, you run their licenses for a trial period to gauge usage so you can forecast your purchase for 3 years. Autodesk’s abysmal analysis was simply add 5 of each license over 3 years. Didn’t matter if it was 150 seats of Revit or 1 seat of 3ds Max. They just added 5 to everything.

For this reason, I performed my own analysis. With a company directive to double in revenue, migrating users from AutoCAD/CADmep to Revit Fabrication Parts and rolling out Collaboration for Revit, my forecast was within %0.1 over the next two years.

In short, I know Autodesk licensing VERY well and I know users and their usage patterns EXTREMELY well. We knew our engineers were 2.5-3 users per license. Piping, Plumbing and Sheetmetal detailers were 1-to-1. But there was another 1/3 of our user base that fall into the “part time” or “low usage” category. Their usage was low. Very low. Those ~200 regular users (120 Engineers, and 80 Detailers)….they had another 100 users. One day a month. 5 Minutes a day once every couple weeks. In Autodesk’s new “Named User” model, 1/3 of the users will loose access to licenses.

Any Yet More Cost

Companies that have a dedicated CAD or BIM manager will now need a dedicated license of everything though they rarely use it. No more floating licenses which allow them to fire up a product quick and solve a problem. Or they’ll need to take away the license of a user in need to give themselves access to troubleshoot an issue.

Added License Compliance Risk

Lastly, this is a huge licensing compliance risk. With all software being driven by only an Email address that doubles as an Autodesk ID any user can freely download and install the software at home or on a friends system. As long as they’re employed and have a license, IT compliance will be non-existent. I can’t stop it. I won’t even know about it.

Now it’s true, I can purchase a premium plan add-on and get reporting and SSO. Assuming the user (and their friends) aren’t using a glaringly obscene amount of hours, I simply won’t know. In a large organization, if that part time user wants to setup a friend or another business with your license, you simply won’t know unless you personally know that user.

Even if the employee leaves, a lot will still have access. Especially in union construction firms. Signatory employees in many firms are not handled through traditional IT channels. IT often struggles with terminating account access to IT systems and cloud services because people are Hired and Fired outside IT and HR’s control. Union contract dictates employment process so most HR departments are happy to step aside. Luckily, I don’t have this issue where I am now (our HR does a great job) but it exists in other firms. At my last job, I routinely reported users who weren’t employed but still had access…sometimes for years…when I ran across them.

Is There Any Silver Lining In All Of This?

Perhaps. As I said earlier, I’ve asked for better, more robust and sometimes just any reporting before. Over a decade I’ve attended countless “Customer Sessions” at Autodesk University covering these topics as well as surveys, phone calls and in person meetings.

Nothing has ever happened because lets face it, there will be zero additional customers buying Revit or Inventor because of license reporting. Usage reporting isn’t a purchasing factor. It didn’t have a product owner or a revenue stream and as such, received no attention from Autodesk.

Perhaps that will change now. I don’t want to pay an extra $30k a year just to remain license compliant, secure and informed about our users. But I likely will. And because there’s now a revenue stream behind it, perhaps Autodesk will finally give it the attention it’s long deserved.

Autodesk Multi-User Licensing – The End is Near

Update to the below article located here.


This is the end of perhaps one of Autodesk’s last truly invaluable offerings. Decades ago it was free. Over the years it’s transitioned from a One-Time upgrade cost to an annual fee. Now it’s going away completely for most products.

Anyone that knows me knows I’ve spoken about how Autodesk can do what they want when it comes to Licensing. They’re in the driver’s seat. This is yet another example. All you can do is respond in the best manner possible.

What’s Happening?

Starting May 7, 2020 and renewals after that date, you’ll be offered an option to move to new “Per User” plans at a discounted rate. Much like the “Maintenance to Subscription” offer about 3 years ago, you’ll get discounted pricing that’s guaranteed not to increase more than 5% every other year through 2028.

While that doesn’t sound too bad on the surface, it’s a very shitty deal. I’ll explain why in a bit but it’s a deal you should take it none the less. Why? Because the alternative is going to be much worse.

If you don’t take up Autodesk on the offer during your next renewal come May 7, 2021 and after, you’ll no longer be able to renew those Multi-User plans. You’re done. Your choices are stop using Autodesk products or buy new subscriptions at full MSRP.

Why is the Deal Bad? It’s the Alternative That Sounds Bad.

I describe this as a shitty deal because it’s going to cost you in may ways. Most construction related engineers and architects can run 2.5 to 3 users per license in a multi-user configuration. The deal will allow you to get 2 named user licenses for each single multi-user license you trade in. This is described as being roughly a “similar price to what you’re paying today”. To make up any shortfall, you’ll be buying more “Named User” licenses at full MSRP to make up the difference.

What’s really bad is where a single license serves large numbers of users. Most often because it has very low or occasional use across a wide user base. I’d venture to say, our Point Layout license gets less than 20 hours use a year and it’s spread across 30+ users as it “floats” in a multi-user environment. Nobody will be buying multiple copies and dedicating them to that quantity of users. Your option is to direct all work requiring Point Layout to the few dedicated users. Autodesk licensing policy is now dictating your workflow. That’s not what’s best for your organization.

The only other alternative is to have an administrator log into the licensing portal and un-assign and reassign the license to users as they need. This is not the “Simplified” license management Autodesk says it is. The term they use is “Flexible User Access”. Something that use to just happen automatically is now an administrative task.

Why Are They Doing This?

Revenue. Plain and simple. As a publicly traded company, it’s their fiduciary responsibility to shareholders to maximize revenue. Especially when the rest of the software industry is moving in that direction and using similar models. Companies like Adobe and Microsoft. Microsoft doesn’t even consider you to have licenses of anything anymore. It’s all services. Windows is a service. Office 365 is service. The difference with Microsoft is I get a whole lot more for my money. I can get just about everything they offer for an enterprise for less than $100 per user per month. With Autodesk we pay $100/month per user to share PDF’s with Plangrid.

I suspect they also want to take more of an approach like Microsoft where they send you an Email letting you know who your top collaborators are and the number of hours of “focus time”. While those are interesting Emails from Microsoft, I don’t know anyone that’s changed their behavior because of them.

Where Can I Get More Info?

Donnie Gladfelter’sThe CAD Geek” blog gives a good summary. Neil Cross also has a good YouTube video outlining the changes.

Or you can get the details directly from the horse’s mouth along with a lot of misinformation and misleading statements here…

Announcement….
https://www.autodesk.com/campaigns/transition-to-named-user

Terms & Condittions…
https://www.autodesk.com/campaigns/transition-to-named-user/terms-and-conditions

Info-graphic…
https://damassets.autodesk.net/content/dam/autodesk/www/campaigns/tnu/20014-named-user-infographic.pdf

Autodesk Discussion Forum…
https://forums.autodesk.com/t5/subscription-changes/bd-p/6073

What’s Autodesk Saying That’s Misleading?

A lot actually. I don’t begrudge them for trying to maximize revenue. I’d do the same if I were them. Especially in light of an industry moving that way. They’re simply trying to modernize their business and revenue model like others have. Failure to do so would likely lead to more activist investors attempting to hijack the board much like Carl Bass had to contend with toward the end of his CEO tenure there. Activist investors on Autodesk’s board is not a good thing for customers.

What I really take issue with is their explanations and reasons that this is good for you. It’s the equivalent of sitting at the park, enjoying a nice ice cream cone on a hot summer day. All of the sudden a stranger appears. They take a big lick of your ice cream cone and proceed to tell you how they’ve just improved the flavor and you should enjoy it.

The other issue I have is it will eliminate a number of licenses and software for a lot of users. I don’t suspect that’s what Autodesk wants. But they really don’t understand how network licensing benefits users even when it’s not about sharing licenses.

Here’s my breakdown on what’s misleading…

“You’re Not a Number To Us”

Dedicated licensing is being sold as a way for them to give you a better user experience. This is just rubbish. Large customers (+$1M annual Autodesk spend) who have Enterprise TokenFlex accounts use network licenses for their enterprise. Everyone has access to everything, no limits. Network license usage is reported back to Autodesk on a “per user” (not computer) basis to determine the utilization. Simply put, providing an identified user experience can be accomplished without eliminating multi-user licenses. They just choose not to.

No more anonymous serial numbers

I’m not sure what that means. I haven’t had issues managing serial numbers for two decades before they allowed multi-seat standalone serial numbers. The mess back then was a result of poor reseller performance. The few remaining resellers are much more sophisticated today. They do a much better job of guiding their customers.

Streamlined Management

Where I work, I have 5 serial numbers, 7 Products and 50+ users/installs. Which would you rather manage? When they talk about “Flexible User Access”, they’re referring to the ability to log into their portal, un-assign a license and reallocate it to a new user. This use to happen automatically in a network license server environment. It’s now a manual process. That “one” license that floats to everybody, I’ll be performing that reassignment on a weekly basis if not daily sometimes. While folks are waiting for me, others are waiting on them for deliverables. Yet again workflow is interrupted due to Autodesk licensing policy and technology.

With dedicated user licenses I also now review every Email from HR about departures and terminations. Those Emails get reviewed against my user list in PlanGrid, BIM360, and now Autodesk Accounts. This wasn’t required with a multi-user setup.

“No More Managing Complicated License Servers”

They’re not complicated although a lot of folks seem intimidated by them. Resellers will gladly manage them for you. I spend less that 10 minutes a year on it. Once IT hands me a new server, I can stand it up in about 15 minutes.

License servers also allowed me to run a utility like JTB Flex Report and get highly customized data rich utilization reporting. I’ve begged for years for more robust reporting from Autodesk and it’s always been disappointing. Autodesk reporting always appears to provide value but only for those who don’t understand how Autodesk products work. It’s rare it actually provides the insight I want or need. Insight that allows me to gauge new production adoption or training needs or just volume of work types.

If you’re using multi-user licenses, I highly recommend purchasing JTB Flex Report now and start capturing data before your next renewal. This will give you the data you need to understand what to convert and what you can drop. No commissions or kickback to me. Just a long time user and fan.

No More Managing Multiple Deployment Types

Technically true but to be fair, there were only ever two. Stand-Alone and Multi-User. Either could be deployed as needed. Multi-User would just “work”. Stand-Alone would require activation..anyone could be logged in to do it. Now I need to log in “as the user” to get a system setup when on-boarding a new user.

Get 2 Trade In Licenses for Every Network License

Sounds like a deal until you realize you need more than that to replace the functionality of your multi-user license. Those will be purchased at full cost or you’ll go without. We’ll likely drop our Manufacturing Collection which provided us with Inventor and pick up Solidworks for our needs in construction.

In a construction firm, shop and field staff rotate quickly depending on workload and project phasing. Many “Could” use Autodesk software but don’t need it. They won’t get it any more. I’m not going to pay for multiple full licenses for an hour’s use a month.

The other hit is user training. I’d typically give Multi-User licensed products to everybody. Some would then use breaks and lunch to learn new products like 3ds Max or Inventor. This helps organic growth of Autodesk products. If I have an ambitious user, it helps me add more capabilities and capacity and a lower cost. I’ve never had a contractor approve a 3ds Max license. But when I’ve had a user learn on their own, they magically are in demand once the company sees what they can do. That all goes away on our next renewal.

Option to Buy Premium Plans for Additional Value like Reporting and Single Sign-On (SSO)”

I spoke earlier about loss of meaningful reporting. Technically you’ll be able to get it direct from Autodesk. But you’ll be paying for it. $300 per subscription. For a firm with 100 subscriptions, that’s an additional $30k annually.

Autodesk also has a poor track record of license reporting. Anyone care to explain how BIM360 Docs licensing works? It’s confusing. Back in October 2017 when licensing enforcement of C4R was “Fixed”, project teams all over couldn’t work and reseller’s phones were ringing off the hook.

Today at work, my BIM360 Docs account says I’m using 110 of 30 licenses. Am I out of compliance? No. Just broken licensing and poor implementation of reporting of a confusing and inconsistent license structure.

Single Sign-On (SSO) on the other hand is a welcome and long overdue addition. But again, you only get it if you purchase the additional “premium” upgrade. It also remains to be seen how robust SSO will be. Does it simple enable/disable accounts? Or will I be able to provision licenses to different products using Azure Active Directory groups?

The real value of Single-Sign On is from a security standpoint. When a user leaves, they’re access is shut off. This isn’t really a risk with desktop products. Where it is a risk is with BIM360 and other cloud offerings. It’s unclear of SSO will apply to BIM360 out of the gate. I assume it will at some point.

What’s in it for Autodesk?

There’s a lot of reasons Autodesk might want “User” based licenses. Revenue is obviously one of them. But they’ve never streamlined anything and made it cost less. Instead the complicate things and then charge more to “simplify” them. This has been the cycle for over 2 decades.

I suspect as Donnie pointed out in his Blog, they want to drive insights from users and provide that for a fee. Take away your ability to gain insight yourself and instead you pay them for information about your data.

Quite frankly, I don’t trust Autodesk to provide that insight to our users or workflows. They’ve already taken away our data, it sits on the BIM360 accounts of the architect or general contractors. Not sure how I’m suppose to maintain the operations of an MEP system using BIM360 post construction when I don’t even have the data any longer.

The frequent mass layoffs and pivot from a desktop software company to a platform company really stagnated MEP contractors who use Autodesk Fabrication. MEP Contractors have been using digital models for over two decades. We did “BIM” before anyone else in construction was in 3d. Now, we use 4 year old CAM software because of multi-year defects that are not being fixed. Even if I used the latest version, that CAMduct software which outputs data to my new $1M coil line…guess how I communicate what file the operator needs to load? A black Sharpie marker. The software can’t even report the name of the file it just generated. The only other option is to hire a programmer for most firms who don’t have the capability to do it themselves (most don’t).

The Real Lost Value – Lost Users

Perhaps the real lost value in all of this in construction is the reduction of software access to users. We’ll have less people using less Autodesk software. Think this number is insignificant? My last employer (against my guidance) signed one of those $3.5M/3-Year Enterprise Tokenflex deals. (They’ve since dropped it).

As part of a TokenFlex engagement, you run their licenses for a trial period to gauge usage so you can forecast your purchase for 3 years. Autodesk’s abysmal analysis was simply add 5 of each license over 3 years. Didn’t matter if it was 150 seats of Revit or 1 seat of 3ds Max. They just added 5 to everything.

For this reason, I performed my own analysis. With a company directive to double in revenue, migrating users from AutoCAD/CADmep to Revit Fabrication Parts and rolling out Collaboration for Revit, my forecast was within %0.1 over the next two years.

In short, I know Autodesk licensing VERY well and I know users and their usage patterns EXTREMELY well. We knew our engineers were 2.5-3 users per license. Piping, Plumbing and Sheetmetal detailers were 1-to-1. But there was another 1/3 of our user base that fall into the “part time” or “low usage” category. Their usage was low. Very low. Those ~200 regular users (120 Engineers, and 80 Detailers)….they had another 100 users. One day a month. 5 Minutes a day once every couple weeks. In Autodesk’s new “Named User” model, 1/3 of the users will loose access to licenses.

Any Yet More Cost

Companies that have a dedicated CAD or BIM manager will now need a dedicated license of everything though they rarely use it. No more floating licenses which allow them to fire up a product quick and solve a problem. Or they’ll need to take away the license of a user in need to give themselves access to troubleshoot an issue.

Added License Compliance Risk

Lastly, this is a huge licensing compliance risk. With all software being driven by only an Email address that doubles as an Autodesk ID any user can freely download and install the software at home or on a friends system. As long as they’re employed and have a license, IT compliance will be non-existent. I can’t stop it. I won’t even know about it.

Now it’s true, I can purchase a premium plan add-on and get reporting and SSO. Assuming the user (and their friends) aren’t using a glaringly obscene amount of hours, I simply won’t know. In a large organization, if that part time user wants to setup a friend or another business with your license, you simply won’t know unless you personally know that user.

Even if the employee leaves, a lot will still have access. Especially in union construction firms. Signatory employees in many firms are not handled through traditional IT channels. IT often struggles with terminating account access to IT systems and cloud services because people are Hired and Fired outside IT and HR’s control. Union contract dictates employment process so most HR departments are happy to step aside. Luckily, I don’t have this issue where I am now (our HR does a great job) but it exists in other firms. At my last job, I routinely reported users who weren’t employed but still had access…sometimes for years…when I ran across them.

Is There Any Silver Lining In All Of This?

Perhaps. As I said earlier, I’ve asked for better, more robust and sometimes just any reporting before. Over a decade I’ve attended countless “Customer Sessions” at Autodesk University covering these topics as well as surveys, phone calls and in person meetings.

Nothing has ever happened because lets face it, there will be zero additional customers buying Revit or Inventor because of license reporting. Usage reporting isn’t a purchasing factor. It didn’t have a product owner or a revenue stream and as such, received no attention from Autodesk.

Perhaps that will change now. I don’t want to pay an extra $30k a year just to remain license compliant, secure and informed about our users. But I likely will. And because there’s now a revenue stream behind it, perhaps Autodesk will finally give it the attention it’s long deserved.

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?