Autodesk Announces the Retirement of Multi-User (Network) Subscriptions

Today Autodesk announced the discontinuation of multi-user (previously called network) subscriptions. As part of this announcement, Autodesk also introduced a trade-in offer for current multi-user customers in advance of all multi-user licenses being retired on May 7, 2021. This announcement comes less than a month after Autodesk increased the suggested retail price (SRP) of new multi-user licenses by approximately 33% on February 7, 2020.

As you might expect, there’s a lot to process here. To help customers understand this transition, Autodesk launched several resources for customers to communicate the change. The first of those resources is the following video:

In addition to the video above, Autodesk also introduced a landing page summarizing all things related to the transition to named-user subscriptions, and added an Autodesk Subscription Changes section on their user forums.

Before diving into the specifics of the announcement, a few essential points:

  • Except for named Autodesk accounts, all subscriptions will be single-user.
  • Autodesk will maintain its previous price assurance promises and increase prices by no more than 5% in odd-numbered years through 2028.
  • Beginning May 7, 2020, customers will receive 2 single-user licenses for every current multi-user subscription at a similar cost to what they pay today.

Why the change to named users?

With so many mid to large-sized organizations choosing multi-user subscriptions because of the benefits it provides to them, why is Autodesk making this change? The explanation offered by Autodesk is to provide a more relevant user experience. While it will be interesting to see how this goal is realized, but I think technologies like Microsoft’s MyAnalytics for Office 365 are a present-day example of where Autodesk is going with the single-user model.

Although future-looking benefits are great, it still leaves the question of how this shift benefits you today? The named-user model is being promoted as a simplification of existing licensing management. Since software access is granted to individuals, there are no serial numbers to manage and keep track of and is, therefore, a more accessible model for customers to manage.

By contrast, under the current multi-user model, customers must install, configure, and manage a FlexLM network license server of their licenses. Since license (LIC) files include but one product, each product or contract in your portfolio must be combined into a single LIC file. Additionally, software managers must create new license files each time Autodesk releases a new version of the software.

Whether the present-day management of multi-user licenses is a pain point for you will likely depend on the size of your organization. As someone who has managed or helped clients manage FlexLM license servers for roughly 15 years, none of this is a big deal to me. On the other hand, after supporting clients with network and multi-user subscriptions for approximately 10 years, I also appreciate how many Autodesk customers struggle with FlexLM.

While plenty of Autodesk clients are perfectly comfortable managing and maintaining their own FlexLM license server, I’d wager a majority of customers consult an outside resource, like their Autodesk Partner, for help with this. Recognizing this dynamic, if you’re Autodesk, it’s never a good thing when your customer has to consult a third-party to get the software they paid thousands of dollars for to run. Even if this change delivers little value to me personally, I do believe the change will deliver on the promise of simplifying what many views as the complex world of Autodesk licensing and installation.

Single-User Subscription Tiers

Since the perpetual license changes introduced in 2016, Autodesk has offered two subscription options to customers. Those options were single-user and multi-user. Under this model, single-user subscriptions were the least expensive way to gain access to Autodesk software, whereas multi-user subscriptions, while more expensive, offered the greatest flexibility.

Put another way, as the more expensive option, if you chose a multi-user subscription, you did so because the existing single-user option didn’t meet your needs.

To address at least some of these needs, Autodesk is introducing a second single-user subscription tier for customers. Autodesk is branding the current single-user subscription offering as Standard and the new tier targeted at larger businesses as Premium. As a solution focused on larger companies, the Premium tier will offer advanced administrative tools, security, and dedicated reporting.

As an upgrade to the Standard tier, the new Premium tier adds the following benefits:

  • View and export product usage with user details.
  • Single Sign-On (SSO)
  • 24 x 7 voice support

Every organization will value the benefits offered by Premium in different ways. Like choosing between single-user and multi-user subscriptions today, whether the value of Premium is worth the extra cost is a new purchasing decision customers must determine.

Introducing the Multi-User Subscription Trade-In Offer

A crucial part of today’s announcement is the trade-in offer designed to support customers in the transition from multi-user subscriptions to single-user subscriptions. Apart from the central objection regarding the retirement of multi-user subscriptions, the trade-in offer does at least check several critical boxes for existing customers. Most notable among those is promises made as part of the Move to Subscription (perpetual to subscription) program are being maintained.

Recognizing Autodesk is keeping their price assurance promises, what is the trade-in offer? Put simply, beginning May 7, 2020, you can trade-in your current multi-user subscriptions for twice the number of single-user subscriptions, thus establishing a 2:1 ratio. Additionally, as part of this switch, you’ll have the choice between a Standard or Premium single-user subscription.

As you can see from the graphic above, pricing for a Standard single-user subscription will be about the same as what you’re paying today. By contrast, customers have the option to upgrade to a Premium subscription for $300 per new subscription.

Do pay attention to the way Autodesk is advertising the Premium upgrade option. The $300 upgrade price is based on new single-user subscriptions, not your existing multi-user subscriptions. Put another way, the cost to upgrade one multi-user subscription to a Premium single-user subscription is $600.

The Cost of Moving to Single-User Subscriptions

Looking ahead to the pricing example shown below. While Autodesk is providing a cost-neutral path for customers to migrate to single-user subscriptions, maintaining many of the business benefits of multi-user will be a considerable price increase. In the example above, a client with 5 multi-user subscriptions today would pay approximately $3,000/year more to maintain comparable business benefits they enjoy today.

This $3,000/year price increase on 5 multi-user, now 10 Premium single-user subscriptions assumes your licensing utilization follows a 2:1 ratio. Under the current multi-user subscription model, it’s not uncommon for customers to achieve a 2.5:1 or even 3:1 license utilization ratio. If your current license utilization exceeds 2:1, you’ll need to purchase new single-user subscriptions at today’s SRP to maintain the level of access you have today.

Multi-User Subscription with Move to Subscription Promotional Pricing

Using the hypothetical customer with 5 multi-user subscriptions to the AEC Collection as an example. Under the trade-in offer, they now have 10 single-user licenses they paid $3,000/year to upgrade to Premium. If they attained a 3:1 license ratio under the multi-user subscription model, an additional 5 single-user subscriptions are necessary to maintain their current level of access.

According to the Autodesk website, the current SRP for a new single-user subscription to the AEC Collection is $2,825/year. That cost does not include the additional $300/year cost for the new Premium single-user subscription offering. Adding that cost, a new Premium single-user subscription to the AEC collection is $3,125/year.

Based on that forecast, 5 new Premium subscriptions to the AEC Collection would cost $15,625/year. This is on top of the $3,000/year cost to upgrade their current multi-user subscriptions to the Premium tier. Therefore, the costs of our hypothetical client achieving a 3:1 ratio on 5 M2S multi-user AEC Collection subscriptions would increase by approximately $18,625/year.

Added together, this hypothetical customer would need to invest $24,550/year to maintain the level of access they have today for a cost of $5,925/year. That’s an increase of nearly 315%!

Multi-User Subscription without Promotional Pricing

Now to be objective, the above example is the worst-case scenario and does leverage promotional pricing offered through Autodesk’s Move to Subscription program. Before the 33% multi-user subscription price increase on February 7, 2020, a new multi-user subscription to the AEC Collection was approximately $3,125/year.

Using the pre-February 2020 multi-user subscription cost as guidance, a customer would pay $15,625/year for 5 multi-user subscriptions to the AEC Collection. Upgrading those licenses to Premium would cost the same $3,000/year outlined above, and bring the cost of 10 Premium single-user subscriptions to $18,625/year. Finally, the projected cost to add 5 new Premium single-user subscriptions is $15,625/year.

Taking advantage of trade-in pricing and adding 5 Premium subscriptions to maintain a 3:1 ratio, this hypothetical customer would pay $34,250/year. That’s a forecasted increase of approximately 120% to maintain their current level of access to Autodesk software.

In summary…

As always, it’s important to note the scenarios outlined in this post are for reference purposes only and represent only hypothetical pricing scenarios. Everyone has a slightly different portfolio of Autodesk subscriptions, and those subscriptions likely include a mix of promotional pricing, such as Move to Subscription. For an accurate breakdown of how Autodesk’s retirement of multi-user subscriptions will impact your business, it’s best to consult your Autodesk reseller. Likewise, it’s worth mentioning reputable Autodesk resellers will work hard to build out the most economical solution for your business.

Finally, I encourage you to visit the customer page explaining the program on the Autodesk website. In addition to providing an overview of the program, it also includes a list of Frequently Asked Questions surrounding the specifics of the program. Lastly, Autodesk also launched a new Autodesk Subscription Changes forum where you can ask your questions to the community.

Donnie Gladfelter
Donnie Gladfelter

Donnie is author of the book and Autodesk Official Press, AutoCAD and AutoCAD LT: No Experience Required, a columnist for AUGIWorld Magazine, Autodesk University speaker, and former member of the AUGI Board of Directors.


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