Concurrent vs. Named Users

Are you in the market for a new business intelligence (BI) tool? If so, one of the first things you’ll want to understand is how BI licensing models work. Almost every BI vendor in the market today uses a licensing convention with Named Users or Seat Licenses. The idea behind this license type is that every user who accesses the system has their own license that must be purchased in advance. If this immediately brings to mind dollar signs, you’d be right! This licensing method gets expensive – and fast!!! Picture this: If you have a total user base of 10,000 people, then that’s 10,000 users worth of licenses for most BI vendors. Most companies struggle to justify this cost (and rightly so) and end up eliminating licenses from the people who don’t need constant access in favor of keeping costs down.

Ideally, you find a tool that supports Concurrent User Licenses. This can save you a literal fortune in the long run and still ensure all your users have access to their data. Now, what exactly is the difference between Named and Concurrent Licenses? That’s precisely what I’ll cover in this blog. Below is a great way to understand the differences between Concurrent and Named Licenses and how they can be used to help you save money.


License to Thrill

Think of licensing in general like parking spaces. Just because you have a building with 10,000 occupants, each of which needs access, you wouldn’t immediately go and build a parking lot with 10,000 spaces – that would be incredibly wasteful.

Concurrent Licenses

The idea that you’d neverconsider building a 10,000 space lot for 10,000 people is the same reason why you should never purchase 10,000 licenses for your business intelligence tool. A good BI tool will be used by everyone who needs it, but it’s highly unlikely every user will need to use it at the same time. What this means, is that each user doesn’t need a dedicated license (much like each occupant wouldn’t need a reserved parking space).

Speaking of reserved parking spaces, parking lots use the concept of shared spaces, which is a great alternative to Concurrent Licensing. As people come and go into the building, they can park at any of the spacing available for public use. Hey, the guy in yellow, we need to talk about your parking…

If you have a business intelligence tool that supports concurrent licensing, you can buy shared licenses. Users who have access to the shared license can temporality consume said shared license when they need access to the tool. Once the user logs out of the tool (or gets logged out automatically due to inactivity) they will free up the shared license for someone else to use.

Named Users / Seat Licenses

Sticking with the same concept of the parking garage, a Named License is the expensive option that was described at the beginning. That being said, it still has its place. While it would be incredibly wasteful to build a parking lot of 10,000 spaces for a total of 10,000 possible occupants, we still often see parking lots using the concept of a Seat License in the form of – you guessed it! – reserved spaces. Sometimes there are occupants who need constant and quick access, and it’s valuable to them to have their own reserved spot so that they can get in and out of the building quickly and easily. The same is true for a business intelligence project. In a tool with a flexible licensing model, you can have Concurrent Licenses (or spaces) for the majority of users, and Seat Licenses (reserved spaces) for your priority users. These reserved spaces ensure that the people who really need access to the tool at any given time don’t have to wait for a space to become available.


A common concern with a Concurrent Licensing model is: what happens if you run out of Concurrent Licenses? If you run out of shared spaces, do the users who try to log in get locked out? For an internal project, that result isn’t necessarily a big deal, but if these users are your clients… well, that’s embarrassing and a risk you can’t take. In the case of most software, this assumption would be correct; you would be locked from using the tool until one of the Shared Licenses became available.

However, with Dundas BI, there is a unique concept – a unique licensing convention – called Elasticity, which eliminates that risk for you. Think of Elasticity as having an overflow lot such that if someone does come in and there's no space available for them, they can temporarily park in the overflow lot and not be locked out. With Dundas BI, the administrator receives a notification that the overflow is being used so that they have ample warning to right-side their licensing before they have a problem.

Mix and Match

Now that you know the differences between license types and the added peace of mind with Elasticity, you have a lot of options available to you. When planning your needs, be mindful of the fact that you can mix and match different license types in Dundas BI. At the beginning of your project, you might have only a few core users, and Named Users are a good way to control costs. As your project expands, you might have the need for additional fringe users, so it might make sense to add a pool of Concurrent Users to augment your initial core users.

Flexibility matters, both in the features that are offered in a product and in the licensing. Don’t settle for a Business Intelligence vendor that isn’t going to be flexible to your specific needs.

About the Author

Jeff Hainsworth

Jeff Hainsworth is a Senior Solutions Architect at Dundas Data Visualization with over a decade and a half of experience in Business Intelligence. He has a passion for building, coding and everything visual – you know, shiny things! Check out "Off the Charts... with Jeff", his platform for great content on all things analytics, data visualizations, dashboards, and business intelligence. There’s something for everyone!

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