Dots Connected #5: Optimize your license costs by influencing your Flexera licenses!

9th of an 18-post series, this “Dots Connected” didactic article gives you best practices on how to make Flexera licenses more clever, to compute an optimized license consumption. USD millions of licenses savings at stake!

4/3/20248 min read

Start with the right configuration.

Licenses, we saw in the last "dots connected" post, are the heart of the Flexera SAM reactor. You need to avoid misconfiguration as explained… and they will efficiently convert installed applications into license consumption, applying a myriad of license metrics, that you can influence if needed. will get a level of optimization.

By design, Flexera One ITAM optimizes license consumption, for instance with trying to always cover an installed application with the closest version license. Thus, when you have complex situations of unmaintained versions of licenses acquired and multiple versions of applications deployed (which was often the case for applications like Microsoft Visio or Project before the subscription model), the reconciliation algorithm iteratively computes an optimal consumption, “exhausting” the rights of version 10 of the licenses, with version 10, then 9, then 8 of the installed applications, then having version 9 of the licenses covering with its rights remaining version 9 installed applications etc... This is the license overflow mechanism.

As well, being able to reflect complex license terms, such as second deployment on a laptop or virtualization rights (for instance, an ESX server licensed for all its cores can cover unlimited number of SQL Server VMs), or sub capacity in virtualization rights (the ESX server will require less SQL Server Enterprise licenses than its cores if the sum of VM cores (applying a minimum of 4) is less than the ESX’s cores) are definitely strong elements of optimal license consumption.

All savings are reported in the Saving Through Product Use Rights report, located in the License Compliance / Optimization will list the saving allowed by use of downgrade, VMs installations etc.

But things can go further, you have the tools – Developed and productized by “NR” - to analyze!

Optimization has been my focus since the very first weeks I joined Flexera in 2013. And thanks to Kirk Clausen, who explained me how to create a custom SQL report in FlexNet Manager*. Kirk just changed my life and multiplied by 10 the interest of my Licensing Consultant job… Optimization has been my obsession, and the occasion for me to have nice multi million savings customers success story, particularly on Oracle and Windows Server.

*If you want to know more on custom reports and much more, you can access the SAM Best Practices Webinar I delivered on customizing Flexera One / FlexNet Manager. If you are a little bit techie that’s probably the most interesting of the 24 sessions for you!

If you open the SAM Optimization Hub, or the License compliance / Optimization folder of the reports, you will see that under my leadership, Flexera One ITAM has dramatically accelerated its value on optimization. Everything is explained in the ITAM Best Practice Hub on Flexera community, but this is worth getting a quick view of what you get on optimization… All this optimization value is the productization of reports that I created and shared on the Flexera Community as a Flexera Licensing Architect.

Windows Server Optimization

Windows server has multiple editions (Standard and Datacenter), can be licensed with System Center (Core Infrastructure Server (CIS)), has complex rules (90 day mobility rules for Windows Server Standard)... in the end, everybody tends to license ESX servers with Windows Server Data Center edition, or counts the number of VMs in clusters ("worst case") to decide when to use Windows Server or CIS Data Center or the Standard editions.

The Windows server Optimization report computes the optimal license needs based on the 90 day peak number of Windows Server VMs or the per VM rule introduced in October 2022, host per host. It also identifies when CIS is required. The report gives the total true up as well as the savings, host per host but also globally of the optimal license (when it is Standard edition) versus the classical and easy "Data center" edition choice.

SQL Server Optimization

SQL Server is a different story. SQL Server Enterprise can cover either Enterprise or Standard editions installations. A quick and expensive approach is to cover all VMs in a ESX with SQL Server Enterprise edition as soon as one VM is installed with the Enterprise edition.

The SQL server Optimization report computes the optimal license needs evaluating host per host the "everything in Enterprise editions" versus "each VM licensed separately with the installed edition". The report gives the total consumption, as well as the savings, host per host but also globally of the optimal license (when it is Standard edition) versus the classical and easy "Enterprise" edition choice.

Want to learn more?

I would recommend some of the recorded SAM Best Practices Webinar I delivered, that you can find in the Flexera Community

You can find the links to the 24 recorded Flexera SAM Best Practices Webinars in the "ITAM Best Practice Available in the Community" Flexera KB article.

Red Hat Enterprise Linux Optimization

RHEL, like Windows Server has a cheaper edition (Server edition) that requires more licenses if you have more VMs on an host and a more expensive (Data Center Node edition) that covers an unlimited number of VM. No mobility rule for using the RHEL Server node edition on ESX server but you have the constraint that a cluster must be consistently licensed in a unique edition.

The Red Hat Enterprise Linux Optimization Report compares for each cluster the cost of using one or the other option, computes the optimal cost and provides the saving when the optimal license for a host is Server Node edition.

Another angle of optimization is not how to count the best way but how to modify your virtualized architectures or your subscriptions to save money. This is what the SAM Optimization Hub calls: “Optimize by taking action”. This is slightly out of scope here because the saving will be obtained by a change and not a different way of calculating consumption, but I can’t resist to the joy of introducing these two reports I am particularly proud about and that bring massive value to who understand them and takes action  

Oracle Optimization reports

Oracle, with the terrible "soft partitioning rule", can cost you millions if you make the mistake of having a VM with an expensive option in a large cluster. The Optimum Virtualized Target Architecture for Oracle Options report provides the ideal Oracle VMWare architecture, with all VMs consistent installed and used options regrouped in specialized clusters. report provides the full details of this target architecture along with the consumption saving. 4 other Oracle Optimization reports are delivered in Flexera One, particularly comparing the costs of different levels of partitioning (Cluster, vCenter...).

Named users subscriptions

Finally, The Named Users Subscription optimization report provides a user per user analysis of the installed and used applications, in the context of active subscriptions for all named users licenses.

It will also provide recommendations for downgrades and financial analysis on savings for Adobe and M365.

So… reports are cleverer than licenses? How can we influence calculations?

First, given the complexity of optimization and all corner cases that a report can skip, but not the license consumption (existence of legacy Windows Server 2012 that should cover clusters deployed with old Operating Systems etc) I don’t blame the license algorithm that has always impressed me, not to factor the “what if” and optimization analysis of the reports.

There are fortunately ways to influence license calculations, and these ways have also dramatically evolved under my product management.

(Intelligent) Restrictions:

Many of the optimizations are around choosing the best edition for the virtualization situation… high density clusters will typically be good to cover with Windows Server Datacenter, Red Hat Linux Enterprise For Datacenters or SQL Server Enterprise. So, if you spend enough time analyzing your IT estate with the optimization reports described above you can then focus the licenses to cover the relevant environments for an optimal license cost.

Before the intelligent restrictions introduced in 2023R1, there were ways to use Enterprise Groups (Locations, corporate units or cost center) to restrict licenses.

With intelligent restriction, you can even use a report, starting from the inventory device or user object, to define a dynamic target that will be re-calculated before each reconciliation. Typically, for a Windows Server Standard license: all Computers (Physical server) in Windows Server Standard and all VMs belonging to Cluster A, B and C.

Attention regarding restriction:

  • You should try to have your restriction reports disjoint to make sure you force what server consumed from what license.

  • Pay attention not to create unlicensed installations with restrictions. Let’s imagine in an environment where Cluster A, B and C have Windows Server VMs, that you restrict Windows Server Standard license to Cluster A and Windows Server Datacenter license to cluster C… all Windows Server of cluster B will stay under the radar and your license consumption will be under-estimated.

  • Two reports I developed and productized as a Product Manager in the SAM Operations Hub monitor this possible issue: License Issues Analysis and License Compliance and Unlicensed Products risks

(Intelligent) Allocations and Exemptions

Another feature I introduced in Flexera One ITAM in 2023 R2 was the Intelligent Allocation and Exemption, where you can allocate or exempt servers from consuming according to reports. Typically, if your US IT operations are fully covered with MSDN but not your French Operations (French tend to be stingy sometimes 😊), a perfect report for intelligent exemption will be: “All non-production servers in the US data center and US IT managed Cloud instances”. We quickly understand here that allocating or exempting servers is another way to influence license consumption. More information in the Using allocations and exemptions for an optimal license position SAM Best Practice Webinar. Remember allocations can be simple (allocated => an application must be present so that the device consumes in priority from the license) or permanent (an allocated device will consume from the license, installed or not with an application in scope of the license).


If you are an advanced Flexera ITAM practitioner and didn’t learn a lot reading the previous lines, you can use advanced automations (using directly SQL or reading / writing back into the Cloud instance after a scripting step in a local instance as described in the Allocation Automation Example for FNMS Cloud KB article I wrote a while ago in the Community. Here, there is no more limit, you can mimic the logic of the reports, allocate, host per host (which in complex to do in the intelligent restriction that is better fitted for a global (cluster level) restriction…) Constantly, your licenses will consume the optimal way, and all reports (charge back, consumption etc) will reflect this optimal consumption… this is the Grail.