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Identity: A more user-friendly approach to licensing

Esri has launched the new Identity Licensing model that assigns GIS access and capabilities to the user across various devices. Also termed as the Named User Licensing, this model will put the onus on the organizations to govern who is using GIS and how, in order to keep it relevant and cost-effective.

In the past few years, you’ve probably noticed how GIS use has transformed significantly – from a point solution to a platform. A platform that serves the needs of the entire organization and its array of stakeholders—employees, clients, managers and the list goes on.

Keeping our customers’ varying requirements in mind, Esri has modified its licensing strategy. Not only is it now aligned with the changes happening in the software industry at large, but it also accommodates the changes in the breadth and depth of our product offerings. More importantly, it ensures maximum value for our customers.

This change in licensing process will be a gradual process, but it is already underway. Let me walk you through the current licensing process and explore how the new Identity model will create new opportunities for you and your organization.

Where we were

Concurrent Use licensing has been a popular way of licensing ArcGIS Desktop software and extensions for some time. It has worked quite well in the narrow scope of the client-server model of GIS; that is, heavy-duty desktop applications accessing local data, or data served up from a centralized server or database. The software is run on a high-end workstation where certain functionalities are used only occasionally. Concurrent Use licensing served the client’s purpose well as it was relatively easy for them to predict where and how the software will be used.

Accessing GIS data from outside the GIS desktop was also quite centralized and predictable. Web services fed by the data were accessed by browser clients, but the functionality was mostly limited with “view only” permissions.

As per the client-server model, you bought the license for the machine on which the GIS software was run, rather than for the person who was using the software. You were licensing based on “where” the software was being used, not “who” was using it.

Where we are

Today, we are seeing a big shift in the way GIS is used in organizations. GIS is moving to a more distributed model—accessing GIS data from devices, tablets—and GIS capabilities are being integrated with other systems. GIS web services now do so much more than simply deliver data. You can now perform many functions in a browser, such as analyzing or editing data, which could only be done on a desktop a few years ago.

Moreover, the very nature of GIS applications is also changing radically. The robust GIS desktop is not going away, but new GIS applications, which are focused on specific tasks or workflows, have made their debut across organizations. Examples are applications that run in the field on phones and tablets, dashboards that provide real-time updates, and plug-ins to other applications like spreadsheets, design packages and BI tools.

With an ever-expanding array of choices for GIS applications out there, GIS is now being used by many more people than just the GIS professionals in any given organization. This means we must integrate control over users’ access to data, as well as the functionality they need to get their job done. Control isn’t about restricting access to some data or functionality; control is about enabling users to collaborate and share data in a way that balances access with security and privacy.

This clearly indicates that organizations need to govern “who” is using GIS, “how” they are using it and “what” will it cost them.

How does this impact the licensing process?

To meet the requirements of this fast-emerging usage pattern of GIS, a new mechanism had to be put into place for licensing and distributing the software. This is where Esri introduced the concept of Identity into the platform. The Identity model turns licensing around from the old model. Identity is about assigning access and capabilities to the user, not the machine.

Identity licensing will enable users to collaborate and share data in a way that balances access with security and privacy.

Identity licensing will enable users to collaborate and share data in a way that balances access with security and privacy.

We recognize that the user is more important than the machine. With the new licensing model, implementing Identity provides a flexible means of managing users of your GIS software. This in turn helps to ensure that the GIS meets that user’s needs, whether the user is an experienced GIS power user, or a casual viewer of GIS data, or somewhere in between.

The Identity model basically says, “This is Chris. Chris can see this data, but not that data. Chris has access to this tool, but not that tool.”

What This Means

As I mentioned in the beginning, Esri is evolving its licensing strategy. This does not mean that Concurrent and Single Use licensing will suddenly go away.  New products and technologies from Esri will leverage Identity.  For example, when using Collector or Survey123 for ArcGIS, or ArcGIS Maps for Office, there is no additional cost for these products, but they require an Identity to be used. There are some premium applications—Insights and GeoPlanner for ArcGIS—that do have a cost. But this cost is relatively small (compared to a desktop seat), and these premium apps are assigned to an Identity.

ArcGIS Desktop tools—both ArcMap and ArcGIS Pro—continue to leverage either the Concurrent or Single Use seat model.  Optionally, ArcGIS Pro can be licensed as a premium application; that is, the ability to run Pro and its extensions can be assigned to an Identity.  At 10.6 (expected at the end of 2017), ArcMap will also have the option of being licensed through an Identity, helping customers make the transition to the new Identity model.

Join the Conversation

Over time, Esri will transition all its product licensing to the Identity model.  But this will be a gradual process and will be done in such a way as to minimize the impact on users. If you are current on maintenance and leverage Concurrent Use licenses for your desktop tools today, you’ll be able to use them at 10.5.1 and at 10.6. Beyond that, we want to hear from you.

This is a transition period, and one that creates new opportunities. Share your thoughts below on how we can make this a smooth transition, and a positively transformational one, for all GIS users.

About the Author

Chris North is the Director of Technology Adoption for Esri Canada. With over 20 years of experience in geomatics, Chris is an accomplished GIS professional who brings an in-depth understanding of enterprise GIS and technology trends to the company. He has a master's degree in GIS from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and an undergraduate degree in geography from Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. Chris is also a graduate of the Cartography Program at Sir Sandford Fleming College, Ontario. He is the recipient of several industry awards and continues to be involved with many industry groups.

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