Choosing Web & Mobile App Development Platforms: Fundamental Differences to be Aware of in Licensing Models

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Choosing Web & Mobile App Development Platforms: Fundamental Differences to be Aware of in Licensing Models

Demand for mobile enterprise apps continues to grow. Businesses seeking to mobilize their workforce turn to a variety of mobile and web development platforms to help them get the job done. Careful consideration is required when evaluating platforms for building mobile apps. When looking at platforms for building mobile and web business apps there are a number of key considerations:
  1. Does the platform have the fundamental capabilities to get the mobile app built?
  2. How long will it take to get the app built?
  3. What will it cost to get the app built in terms of application development resources (people and money?)
  4. What will my ongoing licensing costs be?
In many places on the Alpha Software site we explain how Alpha Anywhere 3.0 offers real benefits in terms of items A, B and C to develop mobile and web applications. In this article we would like to cover item D—the licensing costs.

There Are Two Fundamentally Different Licensing Models

  1. A user-based or named user pricing model. This model is used by SalesForce and most of the other mobile development platforms.
  2. A server-based or concurrent user pricing model. Alpha Anywhere uses this model.

What Happens in a User-based Licensing Model?

Once your app is built, there is a monthly (or yearly charge) for each user on the system, regardless of how often (or infrequently) they use the system. Each user of the app needs a license and the costs tend to add up quickly (even if the monthly charge/user is low) when you begin scaling your app(s) to serve larger sets of business users.  For example, let’s say you build an app for an alumni association of a university. There could be tens of thousands of people who will use the app, but most of these people will not be using the app (or more precisely hitting the server) at exactly the same point in time. In a user based pricing model, it does not matter that most users will not be putting load on the server at any given time. In this model, you would effectively end up being charged simply for providing users with the right to use the app, independent of how often they used the app or what load they put on the app. The other problem with this model is that it tends to work for internal apps in a company or organization where users can be authenticated. The model breaks down for external or public facing mobile or web apps because you don't know how many people will access it and counting and authenticating could be problematic.

What Happens in a Server-based Licensing Model?

In this model it does not matter how many people in total use the app at some point in time. All that matters is how many users are on the app at exactly the same time, i.e. concurrent users. When the number of concurrent users exceeds a certain threshold, only then will want add additional servers in order to handle the increased server load and therefore maintain performance. This model is increasingly attractive to customers who are scaling their business for two reasons. Firstly, these customers pay only for actual usage of the system. Therefore they are not bound by a fixed ​number of licensed users. This allows the business to scale at a much more reasonable cost (assuming the server license is reasonable). Secondly, if the mobile or web app is also intended for use by persons who are external to the company, then this model is the only practical model because it easily scales in either direction with the normal ebb and flow of load on the system at an affordable rate.​ ​In summary, when you are evaluating application development platforms, be sure to look carefully at the licensing model to see which model will work best - now and in the months to come.
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About Author

Richard Rabins
Richard Rabins

Co-founder of Alpha Software, Richard Rabins focuses on strategy, sales, and marketing. Richard also served as CEO of SoftQuad International from 1997 to 2001, when it owned Alpha. In addition to his 30 years with the company, Richard played a key role as co-founder, and served as president and chairman of the Massachusetts Software Council (now the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council), the largest technology trade organization in Massachusetts. Prior to founding Alpha, Richard was a project leader and consultant with Information Resources, Inc. (IRI), and a management consultant with Management Decision Systems, Inc. Richard holds a master's degree in system dynamics from the Sloan School at MIT, and a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering and master's degree in control engineering from University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. He has served on the boards of Silent Systems, Legacy Technology and O3B Networks, and is co-founder of Tubifi www.tubifi.com.

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