Autodesk Software Goes Subscription-Only in 201625 Aug, 2015 By: Robert Green
CAD Manager Column: With major licensing policy changes on the way, it’s essential to make a plan for how you’ll purchase seats of AutoCAD and other software titles.
I've received many questions about the big changes in 2016 licensing terms from Autodesk. These policies will force companies to make financial decisions with long-term impacts by January 2016, so you must start planning now — while you still have time to get your management on board. In this edition of the CAD Manager's Newsletter, I will address these questions and give CAD managers some key pieces of information for planning purposes. Here goes.
Note: I realize that not everyone reading this uses Autodesk software, but if Autodesk's changes take hold, it is reasonable to assume that other CAD software vendors will implement similar policies, which will require similar planning strategies.
Transition to Rental Software
If you've been following the past few editions of the CAD Manager's Newsletter, you're already aware that Autodesk will no longer sell individual products, such as AutoCAD, under "perpetual licensing" terms after January 2016. Starting next January, an annual rental plan — what Autodesk calls a desktop subscription — will require you to rent the software in monthly or yearly installments. More comprehensive software suites, where multiple programs are bundled together, are not subject to the new policy yet, but are slated to make the transition in 2017, according to press releases from earlier this year.
Before we delve deeper into evaluating the transition from perpetual to rental licensing, let's clarify the vocabulary involved. In addition to defining the key terms below, I include a reference price for each type of plan, based on an AutoCAD-only license. This way we'll have a consistent set of terminologies and a reference point so we can perform cost analyses.
Perpetual license: This is the traditional "buy it once" software license we've all purchased in the past. For a single seat of AutoCAD, the perpetual license cost is currently $4,195.
Maintenance subscription: Often simply called "subscription," this is the annual support contract for perpetual licenses that entitles you to all updates to the product. The maintenance subscription keeps your perpetual license up to date and gives you access to utilities and cloud services, provided you renew it each year. The single-seat AutoCAD maintenance subscription cost is $545 per year.
Desktop subscription: This is Autodesk's term for software rental. If you renew your desktop subscription each year, you are entitled to all updates, utilities, and cloud services. A single-seat AutoCAD desktop subscription costs $1,680 per year.
What Are Your Options?
If your company licenses individual Autodesk software products, here are your options going forward:
New perpetual licenses. To purchase a new perpetual license, you'll need to buy it prior to January 2016, and place the license on maintenance subscription when purchased, in order to to keep the perpetual license active for the future.
Existing perpetual licenses with subscription. If you have licenses already and those licenses are on a maintenance subscription plan, then you can continue to maintain your subscription for the "foreseeable future," according to the Autodesk web site.
Expired perpetual licenses. If you have old licenses that are no longer on maintenance subscription, then you'll need to upgrade the perpetual licenses and add maintenance subscription to keep the licenses current in the future.
When subscriptions lapse. If you don't get perpetual single-product licenses current and on subscription by January 2016, you'll be able to keep using the software but you'll no longer be able to upgrade it. In this scenario your perpetual license is deemed expired, so you'll have to move to software rental in the future.
Upgrade to suites. A less-defined option for upgrading is to convert a single product — such as AutoCAD — to a suite-based perpetual license. For example, if you'll want Revit licenses in the future but not more AutoCAD licenses, then upgrading to a suite-based license with Revit included would be a way to avoid software rental. I've not yet seen a comprehensive summary from Autodesk, so it is worth asking your reseller for details. Keep in mind that it sounds like plans are set for those suite-based products to become subscription-only the following year.