Getting to Grips with MathWorks Licenses

Let’s face it – managing engineering software licenses is not an easy task. License managers who deal with traditional administrative products, like Microsoft Office, do not understand the complexity of ensuring a balance between highly skilled users of the software and the cost of a seat that can be more than a monthly or even an annual salary. The sheer size of the engineering software market, with thousands of products and vendors, guarantees that no one can be an expert in optimizing all the products in the organization’s software portfolio. Some toolsets require special attention because of the variety of uses available and the differing requirements of their users. One such vendor offering is MathWorks. We had so many companies approaching us for help in managing their MathWorks licenses above and beyond the assistance that LicenseAnalyzer 2022 provides, that we developed a point solution for MathWorks

Companies invest in MathWorks for the main software tools, MATLAB and Simulink, which gives the impression that the license management should be simple. However, what creates the complexity and can lead costs to spiral, is the extensive set of toolboxes that can be used in conjunction with either product, ranging from MATLAB’s Deep Learning Toolbox to Simulink’s Design Optimization Toolbox. Each toolbox has a cost and adds value to specific types of work, ranging from requirements definition and physical modeling aids for Simulink to mathematics and AI add-ons for MATLAB. To really understand what utility, if any, each toolbox has for the organization, it is necessary to evaluate the problem from two viewpoints:  

  • Who uses MathWorks, how frequently they use MATLAB and/or Simulink and which toolboxes they access; and,
  • Identifying actual past toolbox usage, licenses held, and whether they can be pared down to fit a genuine need. 

We have run a 2-part webinar series on these subjects which can be replayed on registration at the links listed at the end of this article. In these webinars, we go through a step-by-step strategy for achieving MathWorks optimization. What we will discuss here are some important aspects on the human side that improve efficiency starting from the initial contractual agreement.

Caveat Emptor (Let the Buyer Beware)

We all have experience with license-hogging, where a user logs in and locks a license and then forgets or omits to release it, and the standard remedy for this is to have a license-harvesting policy. We had an unusual situation where the contract with MathWorks stipulated that license harvesting was not permitted and that the customer would be in breach if they did so. We will not reveal how we got around this barrier, as it is discussed in the first webinar, but do be mindful of any potential restrictions that the contract may place on your software use.

Change the Culture on MathWorks License Usage

Yes, culture does eat strategy for breakfast, but we recommend the carrot versus stick approach when it comes to informing and educating users on how to be both productive and yet economical in using software licenses. Many users do not realize that there is a cost attached to each time they log in to an application. Staying logged in while attending a meeting, or even overnight, so that the application is ready when they come in the next morning directly affects the company’s bottom line. Run an educational series, following up with a software harvesting policy and implementation, rather than enforcing license harvesting without any explanation. Admittedly, this is wielding the stick, but there will be cooperation rather than resentment.

Another very effective way of reducing unnecessary costs is the application of monthly chargebacks to the business units using the software. When the project manager or department manager is faced with the bill, he or she will ensure compliance so that the cost to his area of responsibility is dramatically decreased. Again, this should be implemented with prior consultation. The actual identification of chargeback usage and costs requires a license management tool, like our LicenseAnalyzer 2022, or in this case, our Analyzer for MathWorks® Licensing. It is not a job for spreadsheets.

Understand your User

Most engineering software can be effectively managed using concurrent licensing. While the license types that are a good fit for your organization are very dependent on your unique business model, you might find that your best MathWorks solution requires more than one license type. For instance, if you have very skilled power users, who require ready access to MATLAB or Simulink, then a named user license, which grants them dedicated use, is probably the best option (but please do analyze whether they need a dedicated license based on historical usage).

Other users, ranging from occasional to moderate users, can have access either via an independent or a dedicated computer license or the traditional concurrent user license, all of which MathWorks offers. There is also a pro-rated license, which is suited to larger enterprises. It categorizes users based on usage, and charges are raised depending on which user profile they fit.

We have not gone into detail here, as a full explanation is given in the first webinar, but it is vital to evaluate what type of users you have, how often they access the products, and which products they really need before you go into a deep dive on optimizing your Toolbox costs.

Understand your MathWorks License Usage

Open iT’s point solution offers you an in-depth look at the historical use of MathWorks toolboxes. You can quickly identify idle licenses and excess purchases from the reports. These licenses can then be removed from your MathWorks portfolio after a discussion with your local vendor. Where use is fragmented or very occasional, you should determine if the product was in fact used or was logged into accidentally and not required. You might also find that you have a shortage of licenses in a particular toolbox (or even MATLAB or Simulink). If this is not a problem of peak demand or a clash of time of use where you are a multinational working across the globe, both of which can be managed, you may need to acquire some additional license. However, your user community will usually make it very clear that you need more licenses as soon as they find themselves being denied access!

Again, we are not going into the depths of toolbox optimization because the second webinar explains it all quite clearly. We encourage you to watch each webinar (approximately 35 minutes each) to get an in-depth insight into how you can save on MathWorks license costs.

Part 1: MathWorks Toolboxes: How to Optimize in any Licensing Model 

Part 2: Implement a Cost Reduction Strategy for your MathWorks Toolboxes 

You can also schedule a free demo to see how we can optimize your MathWorks licenses.