Lessons Learned, Rants, Software

Licensed to ill?

I get to do cool things with Plone. Sometimes I even get to do it together with cool friends. On one such occasion we are using a very capable PDF generator called PDFlib to generate print quality PDFs through Plone. The actual version we are using is PDFlib Personalization Server (PPS) version 6. PDFlib is license based. More precisely it costs money for PPS licenses. Fair enough. In the course of our project (iconic brand customer to be publicized at later stage) we discovered that we needed more production servers to balance the load, so more servers were ordered.

What we then learned is that the PDFlib PPS v6 does not exactly play nice with new dual core based servers; PPS v6 treats each core as one separate CPU, each requiring a separate license. That is to say the licensing costs per CPU per server has now doubled. The standard price of a single PPS license is € 1350,- (ca USD 1852,-) . In the meantime the current version of PDFlib has matured to 7 which requires only one license per server, albeit a more expensive one.

As PPS v6 is already running in a mission critical system, upgrading to v7 is not an option at this time. All the servers in our new data center have at least dual core Xeon CPUs, adding to the dilemma. I called PDFlib Germany thinking they would be sensible, having changed the licensing for the better with v7. No dice.

No retroactive license change for v6. No flexible migration deals. No nothing.

I could either upgrade all existing servers to the more expensive single server license v7 (and additional licenses for each new server) or buy a single v6 license for each and every core. I would not mind paying something for a single server license upgrade for v6, but the limited options provided by PDFlib at the moment are just plain stupid in my opinion; I have the choice between the plague or cholera.

Update: We are currently considering throwing out PDFlib and using Reportlab instead. Reportlab is lacking some features, but the added development needed to reportlab is possibly outweighed by the senseless PDFlib license costs. Further more, it would be cool to be able to add functionality to reportlab and release it back to the open source community!

Do you think this is a lame clever business decision by PDFlib? Let them know. Do you think I’m wrong? Let me know. Have you ever been left hanging from changes to hardware and/or licensing? I’d love to hear about your predicament and how you dealt with it.