Vendor Pushes 'token-based' Licensing Model

Aspen Technology, maker of software and services for the process manufacturing industry, is employing a token-based licensing model that eschews traditional approaches and can allow customers to parcel out license resources in a more efficient manner.

Instead of perpetual licenses, Aspen customers purchase a given amount of "tokens" that authorize the use of various application modules, which require varying numbers of tokens.

Ashish Shah, director of automation process technology in the energy and chemicals group at Fluor, a global engineering, procurement and construction company, said the system is working well for him because of the round-the-clock, round-the-world nature of Fluor's work.

"We have people in different offices. Not everyone is doing similar things at the same time," he said. "It gives us much more flexibility."

"It also allows us to use the software more widely, so we don't have to dedicate the software per office or per group," he added.

But AspenTech's model hasn't necessarily led to lower total cost of ownership, Shah said: "I would say it probably hasn't lowered the cost as much as it has allowed us to maximize the use of the software." The cost of tokens are determined during negotiations, he said.

AspenTech recently released a Web-based management console that enables users to analyze token usage by automatically keeping log files and generating standard or customized reports. In addition, the console enables customers to try out new modules by downloading temporary license keys.

The company also offers a "peak demand" feature that adds additional tokens when demand is high. A maximum limit can also be set.

The peak demand system enables customers to proceed with projects "without worrying about denials encountered in conventional licensing systems," Aspen said in a statement.

"That helps us," Shah said. "We don't have to go through another set of negotiations to add more tokens."

AspenTech's approach appears to be fairly unique, at least for now, according to one observer.

"It's not that common in the industry, but may grow as vendors implement token models for access to certain Web services," said Ray Wang, an analyst with Forrester Research.

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