IBM SPSS Advanced Analytical Products, including IBM SPSS Statistics and IBM SPSS Modeler, can be implemented and licensed in different ways. How your organisation invests in, licenses and implements these tools will depend on its requirements. This page explains and compares the options.
Licence length or term
The first thing that should be considered is the length of license commitment that will best suit your organisation. At its simplest, there are very short term license options (as short as 30 days if you only have a temporary requirements), mid term licenses (usually 12 months) or an outright purchase (when a license’s entitlement is bought outright). As with every investment decision this is a balance of affordability (short term commitments offer a much lower point of entry in terms of investment) and usage requirements (outright purchases often make financial sense in the longer term).
The best metaphor when thinking about license term is the decision making process you might go through when making a car purchase. For example, if your car use requirements are intermittent and very short term then a car sharing service like Zipcar might suit you best. If you require longer usage but don’t want the hassle and cost of outright vehicle ownership then you might go for car leasing over a 12 or 24 month period. If you use your car a lot, you have access to capital to invest and intend to keep it and maintain the vehicle over a number of years, then it is likely that an outright purchase would suit you and represent best value in the longer run. This is similar with SPSS software investment.
One caveat to that, based on our own experience, is that we are definitely seeing a trend now toward shorter term rental type approaches. Lots of customers may start with a short term commitment. Most common now is a 12 month rental cycle, providing an organisation with the balance of investment and uninterrupted access to the analytical tools they require.
To follow is a description of each of the options available for the suit of IBM SPSS tools:
Monthly Subscription Licenses (minimum 30 day term)
These are a relatively recent offering development from IBM. The Smart Vision Team think this is a great way to get started with SPSS or have the benefits of on demand access to the power of the SPSS tool set. We have created a separate set of resources on our website to describe and detail the benefits of the subscription offerings. You can listen and read all about that here.
Fixed 12 month term (annual rental)
It is also possible to purchase a license entitlement over a fixed 12 month term. This would provide your organisation with 12 months’ access to the licenses you have purchased. After the license period has elapsed the software will no longer be accessible unless the license term has been renewed. No data or other related assets would be lost or destroyed in the case of non-renewal of a fixed term license; but you wouldn’t be able to access the software anymore. This is a good balance of investment, consistency of access and allowing users to develop their analytical and data science skills through the regular use of a class leading data science and statistics tool set.
Perpetual licence (outright purchase)
Under the terms of a perpetual licence you pay a single one-off fee. This covers the cost of the software and your first year’s maintenance. At the end of the year you can opt to renew your maintenance contract if you wish, or you can let it lapse. Regardless of whether you choose to renew your support contract or allow it to lapse, you then have access to the software in perpetuity. If you allow support to lapse you and your organisation would no longer have access to support, maintenance or upgrades and patches.
Cloud and software as a service applications
IBM has developed a catalogue of analytical tools and components, many leveraging the SPSS capabilities as native cloud applications. These can be run in IBM Cloud (of course) making use of IBM Cloud Pack for Data infrastructure. This suite of cloud applications, under the broad banner of IBM Watson can also be run in third party and hybrid cloud environments, Smart Vision Europe has expertise in these applications too and you can read more about IBM Watson Studio here.
Client licence types
In addition to considering term length of client license you invest in (monthly, annual or perpetual), you also need to think about what kind of licence structure suits you best.
The client (i.e. desktop where the software is installed on specific machines) versions of both the Statistics and Modeler product lines are licensed in one of two ways. The difference between the two is related to how users can access the software licenses.
Authorised user licences
An authorised user licence is a local install on a specific personal computer and can only be used, locally, on that hardware. This type of licence is also known as a standalone licence or a named user licence. You can invest in multiple single user licences for installation throughout your organisation on as many personal computers as your organisation holds licenses for.
Concurrent user licences
Concurrent user licences (sometimes referred to confusingly as network licenses) offer greater licensing and user management flexibility. They allow anyone in the organisation to install and use SPSS on their local personal computer. The number of simultaneous users of a concurrent license is managed at a fixed upper limit that is dictated by the number of concurrent user licenses that have been purchased. For example, a two-user licence means two people can both be using the software at the same time but if a third person attempts to access, they will not be able to until one of the first two people releases the copy of SPSS they are using (a license is released by exiting the software on their computer).
To enable user access management like this, a licence manager application (a separate piece of software) is installed centrally on another computer that is visible on the network. It is the license manager application that governs simultaneous user access. Under the auspices of a concurrent license a license can also be ‘checked out’ or ‘commuted’. This allows a user to take a license off network, for example to work remotely on a laptop. Once back on the network that license can be checked back in and released for another user.
There is more information about how the SPSS license manager works here.
A concurrent license also enables SPSS to be installed in a virtual or cloud environment, whilst also governing user access. This means that your organisation could have users access a concurrent license in your organisation’s private cloud infrastructure or via a secure cloud infrastructure on a commercial cloud environment e.g. IBM cloud, Azure, AWS, Google Cloud etc. This type of install can also bring benefits of data security as data is not being downloaded and processed on local computers, and it can provide a more scalable implementation as SPSS benefits from the additional processing and computing resources that may be available in a cloud environment. Cloud or virtual environment install also minimises the local personal computer management and maintenance that your organisation needs to worry about because everything can be installed and managed centrally.
What licensing option is right for you or your organisation?
Which of these options you choose will be influenced by the characteristics of your team. It really depends on your specific requirements.
- Depends on whether you have full time or part time users – if you are looking to invest in SPSS for a larger pool of users (say more than 3) and those users are only likely to require access to SPSS intermittently, then a concurrent user set up can often be financially and practically beneficial
- Depends on the size of your team – as with the example above, servicing and supporting an SPSS user group of 5 or more is often better approached through the concurrent license model
- Depends on information security and technology infrastructure – if your organisation is committed to cloud infrastructure and is moving away from local software installs then again the concurrent license may make sense
- For smaller organisations and where SPSS usage is restricted to a small team or individuals then an authorised user license approach may make most sense
There is no ‘one size fits all’ answer to the question of authorised user versus concurrent user. The best approach is to discuss requirements with the team at Smart Vision Europe, consider the relative advantages of each, including budgets and a preferred option will generally become apparent quite quickly.
Client or client/server installation?
Local client installation
SPSS products are ‘fat client’ software products. This means that you can install a version locally on any individual user’s computer (often referred to as the client machine) and that user can then access data on that computer (for example as a flat file or a range of flat files) as well as data that resides in any other location to which the user can connect their computer (for example a network drive or using database connectivity protocols such as ODBC (Open Database Connectivity).
For many applications the local (client) install option (whether going for authorised users or concurrent user licenses) will cater for all your analytical requirements. However, there are also situations where an organisation may require different software set up. This is often where an organisation may consider using client/server architecture.
Client / server installation
In this configuration the local client install of IBM SPSS (Statistics, Modeler or both) will connect to a copy of the equivalent software that is designed to run on a server. The server is just another computer on your organisation’s network (likely to be of a higher specification with more processing and storage capacity than a typical client machine) to which multiple client machines can potentially connect.
Which option is right for me?
Whether you go for one of the local client installation licenses or a client/server installation depends on the way in which you intend to use SPSS and what type of analysis you’ll be performing. Whether you need it really depends on the data volumes you wish to analyse, how your users are using SPSS products and how you need to govern usage.
It is not likely that you will need the server version if you are analysing small samples of data, however a server licence or perhaps a concurrent license installed on a virtual server / cloud environment will improve your productivity if you are analysing large data volumes or running analysis directly against a database or data lake. Bear in mind that it is often the width of data (how many variables / fields) you have rather than the depth (how many records) which influences processing times as well as the types of procedure you are likely to run. In general, you will probably find the client/server option more suited to your needs in the following kinds of situations:
- If you need to analyse large volumes of your organisation’s data (large numbers of variable and many rows) or are performing particularly complex analysis requiring a high degree of processing power to be able to run.
- If you’re running data management and manipulation tasks using structured query language (SQL) – Modeler Server can request that SQL is run within the database, offering another approach to making the whole process more scalable.
- If you need to make use of the processing capacity of the ‘database tier’ of your organisation’s IT infrastructure. Often a company’s databases or data warehouse will run on large and powerful dedicated servers. Increasingly database software includes modelling algorithms. Modeler Server can leverage this database capability through a technique called ‘in database mining’. In this context the model building can be run inside the database where processing can be completed even more quickly.
- If you need to run scheduled batch and automated processes, such as having a whole analytical process run overnight when lots of processing capacity is available.
What is the cost of a client/server installation?
The cost of a client/server installation of SPSS Statistics or Modeler is influenced by two elements:
- The cost of the client licenses – this is a number of users who will be using the client software.
- The cost of the server license – this cost is calculated on the processing capacity of the server (or virtual server) that you intend SPSS to run on. The basic principle is that the more powerful the server, the more you would need to pay for the server license.
In practice most clients can meet their processing requirements through use of the client only set up and in many cased, where more demanding analytical processes are established, through use of concurrent licensing. The team at Smart Vision Europe will discuss options with you and if appropriate we will run benchmarking testing for you to establish precise performance measure before you make any investment.
You can download the full IBM SPSS installation guide as a PDF here.