Floating vs Usage Based Licensing

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Version: Deadline 8.0


Deadline 8 continues to support the traditional Floating license model, and adds support for a new Usage Based licensing model (UBL). These licensing models are not exclusive of each other, which means that they can be used separately or together, across local, remote, or cloud-based render nodes. The question we wish to explore is this: Which licensing model is best for you?

This post is meant as a brief introduction to the new world of choice in licensing our upcoming Deadline 8.0 Release, including the three different ways to consume UBL. As always, we welcome and recommend joining the current Deadline 8 beta and reading the Deadline 8 beta documentation to experience it for yourself!

Learn more about cloud rendering here.


The traditional floating license model involves acquiring permanent or temporary licenses from Thinkbox Sales, and running the floating license server on your network. Just like Deadline 7, you still require one floating license per render node. So if you have 50 render nodes, you will require 50 floating licenses.

This licensing model is still the recommended option for render nodes that are active the majority of the time. For example, it is more cost-effective to purchase permanent floating licenses for dedicated render nodes on a local render farm that are typically rendering more often than not.


The new UBL model allows you to pre-pay for on-demand render time by the hour by visiting the Thinkbox Store (currently open to Deadline 8 beta testers only). After purchasing render time, the render nodes will consume this render time on a per-minute basis, and they will ONLY do so while they are rendering jobs (they will not consume this render time when they are idle or offline). So if you purchased 24 hours of render time, you could render with 1 render node for a day, 2 render nodes for half a day, 12 render nodes for 2 hours, etc. Visit the Usage Based Licensing page on the Deadline website for more information.

This licensing model is recommended for render nodes that are utilized on a temporary basis. For example:

  • Cloud-based render nodes. If you use them to expand your on-premise render farm, you’ll only use UBL for the time they spend rendering, just like you’ll only pay your cloud provider for the time that your instances are running.
  • On-premise rental machines. If you bring in 50 physical machines for 3 days, it could be more cost effective for them to use UBL, rather than rent floating licenses for the week.
  • Artist workstations. If artists add their machines to the farm periodically, it could be more cost effective for them to use UBL, rather than purchasing permanent licenses for them.

As mentioned above, it’s often benefical to combine UBL with the existing Floating licenses you already have in place. Note that there are three different ways to consume UBL, which are as follows, and the option you choose will likely depend on security considerations.


The Cloud License Server (CLS) is hosted by us in your Thinkbox Customer Portal, and the Deadline Worker connect to it via a URL, which means that your render nodes must have access to the internet.

There are many benefits to using the CLS:

  • You do not need any additional services running on your local network in order to use UBL.
  • Any render time purchased from the Thinkbox Store can be automatically mapped to your CLS, which means your render nodes can start using that render time without any manual steps.
  • By associating all UBL render time with a single CLS, you can share it across on-premise, remote office and cloud-based render nodes in various regions.

However, if giving all render node machines access to the internet isn’t an option for security reasons, there are a couple of alternatives which are described below.


When using UBL with a CLS, it is normally required that all render nodes have access to the internet. However, this is not always possible due to security reasons. One alternative is to set up a CLS proxy on a single machine that does have internet access, and have the Deadline Worker point to it instead.

Our documentation walks you through the steps of installing and configuring a CLS Proxy using HAProxy on an Ubuntu 14.04 machine (note that this can be a physical or virtual machine). While there are probably many ways to set up a CLS proxy, this is the solution we have tested and we can confirm it works.


If using a CLS or CLS Proxy is not possible, there is still the option to use the Local License Server (LLS). The LLS is a local application that you install and run on your local network, and unlike the CLS Proxy, it is a direct replacement for the CLS. In other words, the LLS is responsible for managing your render time entitlements, and is not simply redirecting your Deadline Worker to a license server in the cloud. It periodically syncs with your Customer Portal to pull down entitlements and send usage data back up.

One benefit of using the LLS is that the syncing process can optionally be done offline, so neither your render nodes nor the LLS need access to the internet. The data required for an offline sync can even be transferred to and from your LLS machine using a thumb drive. So if you ever need to use UBL while on a submarine in the middle of the ocean, you’re all set!


Finally, we leave you with an example of how traditional floating and usage based licensing models can be used together in a hybrid farm.