You’re having a great day so far. You had an awesome start, and now you’re finally ready to tackle that big project that you’ve been wanting to do. You get your workstation ready, pull up your email, and then BAM! Dozens of software access denied notifications and user complaints greet you.
Work interruption due to software license denials is the enemy of many businesses and organizations that rely much on their engineering and design applications. And CIOs and IT managers are tasked with the almost insurmountable job of balancing user demands against their limited IT budget. Understanding the truth behind each denial is key to effectively addressing this issue. Here are 13 most common reasons why software access is denied, and tips1 on how to fix them.
The effects of interruptions on worker’s productivity, energy and work satisfaction cost an estimated $588 billion a year in the US.– Basex Research
1. Maximum Number of Licenses Already Reached
Once empty, the license pool simply won’t accommodate more checkout requests. Two common ways to fix this problem is (a) buy more licenses or (b) optimize license usage.
Buying new licenses is the classic approach. However, the increasingly tight business environment demands competitiveness where every expense must have a consequent business value and returns. It is now widely understood that the key to a more effective license management system is having a deeper understanding of the true software usage. With this understanding, the second solution was born: license usage optimization. Now more than ever, real-time monitoring and historical usage analytics are becoming indispensable in effective software asset management.
As solutions, purchasing more licenses and license usage optimization may either complement or contradict each other, depending on the tools you have and how you use them.
In some cases, however, there were license servers that were observed to “leak” licenses. That is, users were notified of license shortage when, in fact, not all the available licenses were checked out. In such cases, a service restart may temporarily fix the problem.
2. Server System Problems
In the early 80s, software licenses were dominantly node-locked. It was not until 1989 – when the first software license server was trademarked – that the software industry realized the need for a supple licensing system and management. Today, floating license and its primary technical requisition – license server system – are the default means in accommodating the growing software needs of both public and private organizations.
Roughly three decades later, these systems are still far from perfect. Although problems on servers aren’t very frequent, the denials – Invalid Data Returned from Server System and Cannot Connect to License Server System – are still common to users. Keep in mind that these problems are impairments to the data communication system between the license server and the client.
The first problem appears when the client is running on old, obsolete programs and system configurations, or when there is a third-party blockage between the license server and the client machine, such as firewall, security restrictions, or other anti-virus programs. Some quick fixes include:
(a) upgrade the client to a newer version,
(b) uninstall the problematic software then reboot the machine; and
(c) search for fix or patch to download.
The second problem usually occurs when the license server is offline or when it hasn’t been started yet; there is a mismatch between the MAC addresses of the license file and the server; and the license manager is misconfigured because of a third-party software. First, check whether the server is online or offline. Run lmutil lmstat -a on the server, and if successful, then the server is active. If not, then check if the port listed in the server’s lmutil output matches that of the client’s. As for the third-party issue, close the firewall or uninstall the problematic software then reboot the machine. These methods in configuring server-based licenses through firewall may also come in handy.
Many other license server problems occur in different environments. It is important for companies to tailor fit the best license server model for their software assets.
3. License Server and Feature Compatibility
Traditionally, the software industry has had a happy time imposing addons to their customers for all the business reasons. The evolution of licensing models backed by the growing software market has led to more reasonable setups, where features and upgrades are optional. Still, we can’t ignore the fact that updates keep our software alive. Companies ought to purchase them to keep up with the pace of innovation. The transition process from one update to the next subjects the product vendors, their customers, and every involved asset in-between into constant adjustments. For this reason, feature updates have been a popular source of financial burdens arising from technical bugs, a.k.a. denials due to Unsupported Feature and Unsupported Version of a Feature.
For Unsupported Feature, tools successfully connect to license servers, but these servers fail to host the features that the client is trying to use. Clients connected to multiple license servers may also experience this. Exclusive features offered only to professional or upgraded edition licenses are inaccessible via standard licenses. This should be resolved by upgrading the licenses. There is also the possibility that the client is specifying the wrong server on the search path. To resolve this, check the path and match license syntax before proceeding with the connection. Note also that the search path may be used to specify multiple license sources. This link may be useful for further instructions.
For Unsupported Version of a Feature, tools successfully connect to license servers that host the features requested by the client, but not the right version. Usually, this means that the user is trying to access an older license with a current tool. A relevant reason to this is when the release date of the product being used is ahead of the maintenance date mentioned in the license file. Users may see this message in the license server logs regardless of the checkout status. When checkout was successful, it’s okay to ignore the popups. If not, then maintenance must be applied. Try this step-by-step instruction on how to generate or regenerate license keys.
4. Expired Features and Product
“Licensing for this product has stopped working.” Errors like this happens mostly on beta or prerelease programs that have been running for the maximum time indicated in the trial period. This can also mean that the feature specified has expired. If all the features in the license file expire, the server will fail to start.
Some solutions for this include: (a) applying the license service update; (b) resetting permissions on the licensing service data folder; and (c) reinstalling the software. Of course, if the license really expired, then renewal and renegotiation is much needed.
Neither the product nor their updates come cheap. Some may be cheaper or more expensive than others, but we’re still talking thousands of dollars per license. Plus, it’s not easy for organizations to change from one product to another. More so when using engineering software that require mastery. Nobody expects the engineers, architects and programmers to learn all the marketed software out there. With changing products out of the question, companies are left to ask, ‘What features do we really need?’
A smart solution would be to reallocate budget from unused and underutilized features to the popular and useful features and upgrades. This move not only declutters the licensed environment, but also provides opportunity for cost savings. There are few tools that implement mechanisms on fetching rigorous data from licensed environments. These tools can measure workstation activities including those from keyboard and mouse. Rarer still, some tools have the capability to measure activities from I/O devices and the CPU itself ̶ a feat that determines true usage indeed!
5. User Host on EXCLUDE List for Feature / User Host not on INCLUDE List for Feature
NOT INCLUDE and EXCLUDE are one and the same, right? Well yes, considering that both indicate that either the client’s username, hostname, or display name is limited from accessing a product. Both are also configurable via the licensing software in use. The difference, though, is that an EXCLUDE line in the options file means that the client is not allowed to access the product, while a NOT INCLUDED syntax in the log file means that reservations for priority users or groups were made. This restricts out-group clients from accessing the product(s).
The idea behind including and excluding users is so that administrators could configure license permissions based on projects, locations, priority users and more. This capability prevents denials of priority users, while the opposite happens to out-group users ̶ talk about regulating hotspots and shaking off bottlenecks.
So, to resolve this denial, consider contacting the license administrator. This probably requires an explanation on why access to the software is necessary for the user.
From this perspective, it is obvious how this setup directly impacts user behavior for better or for worse – the former being favored. Now more than ever, people analytics becomes central to almost everything done in management, leadership, and HR. Every program designed, every incentive rolled out, and every structural change or organizational challenge faced should be informed by data. Considering this, SAM tools have been improving mechanisms to detect user habits, such as license hogging and license camping. For starters, it may sound complicated, but experts have already devised innovative glorious solutions on how to increase productivity through software asset management.
On a more technical note, users may also check whether the in-use license server starts up with an options file. The path to the options file may be seen in your license file as the fourth field on the VENDOR or DAEMON line, like this:
– VENDOR ibmratl /path_to_ibmaratl_daemon /any_paty/any_name.opt.
If the path is omitted from the VENDOR or DAEMON line, the vendor daemon automatically scans for a file named vendor.opt in the same directory as the license file. Solutions to this include:
(a) updating the options file as appropriate, then stop and restart the lmgrd in the license server; and/or
(b) run the lmreread utility to force the VENDOR daemon to reread the options file.
The syntax may include any of the following: EXCLUDE, EXCLUDEALL, EXCLUDE_BORROW, INCLUDE, INCLUDEALL, INCLUDE_BORROW, MAX, and RESERVE. Restrictions may be based on USER, HOST, DISPLAY, INTERNET, or PROJECT.
6. Clock Difference too Large between Client and Server
A denial under this reason generally means that the system date, time, or zone (TZ) might be set incorrectly. Also, it might be due to system files that have more recent creation date than the current time on the system. Or the time zone variable may be set incorrectly on platforms that support it. To be clear, the license manager is set to accommodate different time zones. However, it should be noted that between the license server and the machines, four hours is the maximum offset time tolerable.
Since this denial reason involves both the server and client workstation, then it is possible that adjustments on either or both sides may be needed. The server and client must be synchronized to the Greenwich Mean Time. There are complications that may arise between clients on different operating systems. Try this discussion on how to sync time between servers and workstations. This one might help as well.
7. License Server Machine is Down or not Responding
Almost everyone understands this message right away. Over the past 60 years, computer sales have increased from 2,000 units shipped in 1960, to 900,000 in 1980, to 7 million in 1990, to over 15 million by 2003, to over 62 million per quarter in 2017. With such a restless production and shipment, it is obvious how computers, like all other machines, ought to undergo regular configuring, repair, maintenance, obsolescence or breakage, and ultimately, replacement. In fact, research shows that a computer’s base price typically represents less than 20% of its total cost of ownership (TCO). Building and maintaining an accurate inventory of hardware, software and appropriate licenses is an important step in reducing technical cost.
One way to address this issue is to use proactive tools that would report on deficiencies and overkills on hardware expenditure and whatnot. These programs were especially developed to monitor and inventory hardware assets as part of ITAM. Eastern countries have found greater use for this than their western counterparts, but it’s good to know that they are available. These tools have been popular in effectively reducing hardware costs.
Now let’s look at some technical ways to troubleshoot this problem. First, make sure that all the machines are active and operational. If they are, then check the configuration of client machines on floating licenses. The problem may also be in the configuration/connection of the client machine, so check that as well. Firewall issues may also be involved in this. This error is also known to occur in license servers running on multiple license systems. Resolve this crisis by specifying the port number located at the end of the SERVER line in the license file.
8. The Desired Vendor Daemon is Down or Not Running
In this error, tools can contact the license server, but the vendor daemon does not respond. This only means that the application daemon crashed. In this case, the program may intermittently function due to conflicts on already active processes. If the client machine is using a host name instead of an IP address to refer to the license server, it is possible that the client machine is failing to connect with the IP address for that name.
To remedy this:
(a) check if the license manager is running on the server machine and if it is serving the appropriate license for the software being launched;
(b) check if the client machines run on proper configurations;
(c) check firewall configuration;
(d) check host ID; and
(e) configure client processes as necessary.
In some cases, the problem is solved by changing the license server and vendor daemon TCP port from the license server machine. The corresponding links provide more details for some solutions listed here.
9. License Manager Problems
License Manager Can’t Initialize: No SERVER Lines in License File. This problem is commonly caused by a corrupted license format. More specifically, the license file is missing the server line because it has been edited or accidently removed. Check the license.dat file to see if the USE_SERVER line is empty or incomplete. There may be a missing hostname in the license file. If so, redownload the original license file from possible sources online.
The denial might also be caused by a node-locked license that doesn’t have server lines. To fix this, just stop the license manager. This example shows how to start or stop your license managers. Lastly, some licenses (e.g. laptop licenses) do not have server lines because they don’t need license managers. Another possible reason, except for those node-locked licenses, is that the license manager may be running.
License Server Manager Startup Failed: CreateProcess Error. Here, the license manager has launched and parsed the license. It tries to launch the vendor daemon but is unable to locate the executable. Having this error indicates that the license file has an incorrect path and that the binary has also failed to locate it in its own directory. To resolve this, edit the license file license.dat and update the DAEMON line to point to the correct path for your binary. For example, DAEMON MLM “C:\Program Files\MATLAB\R2010b\etc\win32\mlm.exe“. Restart the license manager to apply the changes. Here are more ideas on how to fix license manager problems.
10. Multiple License Server Systems Running
This usually happens when multiple license servers and different applications are run from the same machine. Using the same license files on different servers is not allowed. Also, if the lmgrd has been closed perfunctorily, it is possible for programs to keep running.
To remedy this, merge the license files and host them from a single instance of the server software. Moreover, check for overworked instances of the product, then terminate them. This can be done through the Task Manager in Windows.
11. The TCP Port Number in the License is Already in Use
This means that the port on the SERVER line of the license file is being used and it usually happens when the lmgrd process is already running. Sometimes, the server succeeds to run but fails to keep running or to stay active also because of another application using the port. A configuration issue, particularly on the hostname, may also be causing this problem. Alternatively, OS settings may be blocking the ports, which is more common in Linux clients. Lastly, if the license manager crashed, the OS may be holding the port. This is when the license server restarted too soon after a shutdown.
For solutions, first, look at the license file and check if the port number is not in use by another process. Run the netstat – anp command to verify this. Any output indicates that there is a port conflict. To fix the hostname, verify if the hostname is listed in /etc/hosts. Here is an example of the hostname syntax:
The myserver.oldcompany.com is the hostname. The same error may occur if the file is missing the 127.0.0.1 or the ::1. For the misconfiguration in Linux, verify if the SELinux is either disabled or permissive by running cat /etc/sysconfig/selinux. Set the SELINUX status: to permissive — SELINUX=permissive. Otherwise, if the status doesn’t appear, try running sestatus-v while logged in a root. Lastly, for crashed or still-loading license ports, wait at least a minute from the time of shutdown before restarting. This gives the operating system some time to recognize configurations of the license port and make it available.
12. Invalid License Key / Inconsistent Authentication Code
For this case, it is important to know that incorrect server hostnames and MAC addresses generate incorrect license files. Furthermore, inconsistencies between license increments, including the license files, server hostnames, and MAC addresses, may also cause authentication conflicts. The license file may have been edited, too. Remember that only a few sections of the license file can be edited, changing any other section will result in one error or another.
A basic solution would be to try to verify that the server information listed in the license file matches the details on the System Settings tab in LMTOOLS. It may also be efficient to just re-host the license. This quick guide shows the basic steps in re-hosting licenses. For a wrongly edited license file, try re-downloading the license file from an online source. Note that the license files of some products, like Autodesk, may not be manually edited without invalidating former license files. For such products, you may have to submit a request to the vendor to get a new license file.
13. Invalid Code Error
Unfortunately, this error message is not very informative. It is usually caused when the server passed a node-locked license. As mentioned, this configuration is not supported. This error is only detected when the client attempts to use the license and not when the license is parsed.
Confirm this by running lmutil lmstat -a on the either the server or any client. If a node-locked license is present on the server, the lmstat output will include one or more lines similar to this:
There are a bunch of ways to minimize the backlash when errors such as those mentioned above occur. However, these errors are better avoided than fixed. For one, streamlining processes for operating system patches, security updates, and data back-up and maintenance may always be beneficial for most complex systems such as software license environments. Standardizing equipment, software platforms and configurations would also help in futureproofing the system. Most of the above problems would be highly unlikely if these practices are implemented. Here is a very good take in understanding technology costs.
Learn more about effective ways of handling denials.
1These will work on FLEXlm. Other license managers may require different procedures.