Dawn Wright and Marcia Brett

2 Years and Counting: Site License Adventures at Oregon State University

Oregon State is now in its second year of a site license with ESRI. Many facets of site license administration are reviewed here from the perspective of centralized coordination and support, and distributed funding. This paper describes the Oregon State experience (campus size ~15,000, 19 colleges/departments and 16 labs/institutes/centers participating in the site license), and may provide a framework for site license implementation and campus-wide networking for campuses similar in size and GIS clientele. Issues addressed are: identifying funding sources, distribution and communication procedures, inventorying, and various support mechanisms (technical, training, emotional, etc.).

Quick Reference

Funding the Campus Agreement
Current Setting
Administering the License


GIS technology, including software, hardware, databases, and personnel, provides extremely important tools for the research and instructional needs of the Oregon State University (OSU) campus. An informal, campus-wide survey performed in 1995 revealed that OSU users were duplicating resources and spending very large sums of money for software licenses, databases and technical support. At the time, licenses for ESRI products were owned by the Departments of Geosciences, Forest Sciences, Forest Resources, Fisheries & Wildlife, Bioresource Engineering, Oceanography, Statistics, and the off-campus OSU Hatfield Marine Science Center. These units had paid well over $35,000 in maintenance fees. Crop & Soil Science, Rangeland Resources, and Horticulture were currently using other GIS packages, but had a need to move to ESRI products in order to meet their research needs. These departments, as well as Civil Engineering and Agricultural and Resource Economics, wanted and needed to purchase ESRI GIS products. Some were unable to purchase any licenses at the time, while others did not have the ability to purchase the quantity of products that they needed without some kind of site license. The decision to pursue a campus licensing agreement with ESRI was predicated on the simple fact that money talks! The annual $25,000 cost of the ESRI site license was about $14,000 LESS than the equivalent cost of maintaining the existing licenses on campus. In addition, as a site license does NOT differentiate between instructional use and research, it saves the campus a significant amount on non-instructional purchases.

While Oregon State is recognized as a leading center for GIS research and instruction in the Pacific Northwest, it was poorly organized to support and disseminate the tools to those disciplines that urgently needed them. The campus was at a crossroads. By pooling resources, the University could save a large sum of money and still disseminate the technology to a much wider user group. As is the case on many other campuses, GIS is a tool that is being widely used in all disciplines, from basic to applied research. There probably isn't a department at any university that couldn't eventually make use of GIS. In Oregon, many of our state, federal, and private funding agencies (e.g., EPA, Department of Environmental Quality, Department of Forestry, the Bureau of Land Management, private timber companies, consulting firms, etc.) are either using ESRI products or planning to purchase them. OSU's ability to use the same product in our research and education programs puts us in a better position to attract research dollars and quality students. The only way to economically provide such access was through a site license.

Funding the Campus Agreement

Getting campus administrators to see the wisdom of a site license was fairly easy. Getting them to actually fund it in the midst of a budget crisis was an entirely different matter. The rationale was clear enough (excepted from the original 1996 funding proposal): As we began to investigate the mechanisms for funding the agreement, we considered three possible scenarios (Patterson and Shirley, 1994):
  1. A centralized funding source for the entire campus.
  2. A "primary unit" within the university that funds the yearly fee and allows others to "buy in" to the license, thus defraying their overall cost.
  3. A "shared burden" approach based on objective measures to allocate costs (such as number of licenses requested, CPU types, grant funding uses of software or number of users).
Based on experiences at the University of South Carolina, considered at the time by ESRI to be the "model" campus for GIS site licenses, we didn't want to consider the notion of fragmented funding (i.e., individual departments chipping in toward the $25,000) as this leaves dangerous implications for future growth. As almost 70% of GIS usage on the OSU campus is for research, it was thought that allocating moneys from indirect cost accounts within our Research Office would be an appropriate and successful approach. This would assure that the $25,000 per year would benefit all participating departments, both large and small. Without this stability, it would be too difficult to meet the demands of a recurring annual cost. However, we were stymied by the discovery that our Research Office does NOT fund recurring costs of ANY kind.

We then turned to a hybrid "centralized/distributed" model, a compromise between the extremes of centralized funding in the best of all worlds, and fragmented funding. The Contracts and Customer Service departments at ESRI graciously allowed us to roll over the maintenance fees that the campus had already paid for that year ($11,000). The remainder came from OSU Information Services ($7000), and the Colleges of Science ($2000), Forestry ($2000), Engineering ($2000), and Agriculture ($1000). With this hurdle passed we were on our way.

To the best of our knowledge, the campus installed approximately $200,000 worth of software in 1996-'97 under the first year of the site license. The following are the number of research installations per College in during that year (i.e., licenses for various products on individual machines):

Agricultural Sciences113
Science 151 (136 of which were in Geosciences)
College of Oceanic & Atmospheric Sciences (COAS)50
Forestry 281
Biological Computing Consortium*40
*The Biological Computing Consortium is made up of 10 departments, mostly in the College of Science.

Not surprisingly, the department of Geosciences was a major user of the license during the initial year and has always had a huge investment in GIS. In recognition of this, and in light of the Research Office's policy on recurring costs, the Chair of Geosciences, provided $2500 from departmental funds to support the license renewal for our second year. He also proposed allocating the remaining costs to units based on their use of the license, as reflected in the installations noted above (less the Geosciences number for the College of Science). Listed below is how the $25,000 cost was shared for the 1997-'98 site license:

Department Original Plus Use
Information Services $7500/year 0 7500
Research Office $7500/year 0 0
College of Science $2000/year 100 2100
College Forestry $2000/year 1955 3955
College of Engineering $2000/year 1805 3805
College of Ag.Sciences $2000/year 790 2790
COAS $2000/year 350 2350
Dept. of Geosciences* 2500
TOTAL $25,000 25,000
*The Department of Geosciences is within the College of Science.

And so our "centralized/distributed" model has slipped along the continuum closer to fragmentation, but at least it has not descended to the level of individual departments or research units. However, we continue to urge individual department chairs to strongly encourage their Deans, as well as the Vice Provost of Information Services, to remember that the contract will require yearly attention.

Current Setting

Campus usage at this time is still estimated to be 70% research, 30% instructional. Listed below are the departments that are current, active users of the site license. The number following the department name is the estimated number of users (NOT actual licenses) for the products they have ordered under the site license. Users include researchers, graduate and undergraduate students, staff, and faculty.

Agricultural & Resource Economics - 12
Biological Computing Consortium - 40
Bioresource Engineering - 16
Botany and Plant Pathology - 1
Columbia Plateau Conservation Research Center (CBARC) - 2
Civil Engineering - 23
COAS - 30
College of Engineering - 213
College of Forestry - 172
Computer Science - 7
Crop & Soil Sciences - 36
Eastern Oregon Agricultural Research Center (EOARC) - 2
Entymology - 7
Environmental Remote Sensing Applications Laboratory (ERSAL) - 3
Fisheries & Wildlfie - 25
Forestry Science Lab - 102
Forest Research Lab - 2
Geosciences - 136
Hatfield Marine Science Center (HMSC) - 10
Horticulture - 6
Klamath Station - 1
Oregon Climate Service - 8
Pauling Papers, Valley Library - 3
Northern Willamette Research & Extension Center (NWREC) - 4
Political Science - 2
Public Health - 2
Radiation Center - 7
Radiation Safety - 1
Rangeland Resources - 22
Statistics - 2
Seed Certification Program - 8
Zoology - 6
The Valley Library - 64

Administering the License

One of the first decisions made with respect to administering the site license was determining the best method for distributing the initial deliverables. With so many users on campus, access to and distribution of these resources was a matter warranting considerable thought and preparation, necessitating a dedicated coordinator. Once again, in the best of all worlds, funds would be available to hire a systems analyst solely for the position of "ESRI site license coordinator," whose job it would be to oversee the acquisition, inventory and support of ESRI products, and to transcend departmental and institutional bureaucracies in raising the $25,000 yearly maintenance fee (e.g., Patterson and Shirley, 1994). At OSU with one campus coordinator being an untenured assistant professor and the other a full-time researcher, it has been a challenge to maintain effective support procedures, as well as to maintain accurate and current inventories.

Distribution of Software

One of the most important procedures instituted at OSU for quick and efficient distribution of software was the use of a locally- accessible, password-protected Novell network server. CD platters sent by ESRI are made available on this server, from which qualified users (usually departmental computer administrators) can download ESRI software at their convenience. This server is currently being used for the distribution of Users obtain the needed ESRI product registration numbers for installation of these products by sending an empty email message to an account on campus that sends back the numbers using the Unix vacation utility. In this way we also have an automatic record of who has downloaded PC software from the server. We will take steps to limit the account to the "orst.edu" domain. As most of our users on campus are PC and Mac afficionados (mostly Windows 95), this has been very easy to facilitate and manage. For the smaller Unix and NT community, CD-ROM media are checked out to users with the understanding that they must return the media within 1-2 days so that the next user may have access. General software distribution guidelines are outlined on the
OSU ESRI Site License Web Site at www.geo.orst.edu/esri_distrib.html#soft.

Keycodes, Keys, and Requesting Additional Products

For hardware key and keycode requests, users are encouraged to join and send messages to a mailing list that has been set up for OSU users of the ESRI site license. This listserv (arcinfo@mail.orst.edu) is used to share information about updates, scheduling of new orders, for the sharing of user questions, and as a way to find out if others want to order products at the same time. For example, if 5 users across campus find out via the listserv that they all need to order Unix Arc/INFO keycodes, they can submit a single order directly to the campus purchasing agency, and decide among themselves how they are going to split the $250 transaction fee. In this case they would probably submit 5 accounting index numbers to the purchasing agent so that each of 5 grants would be charged $50. General keycode and hardware key guidelines are outlined on the OSU ESRI Site License Web Site at www.geo.orst.edu/keycode.html.

User order additional CD-ROM copies of software through our campus purchasing agent. They can order additional copies of documentation or tutorials (at 40% off list price) by calling the ESRI desktop center directly and specifying the OSU site license customer number. Guidelines to these effects are outlined on the OSU ESRI Site License Web Site at www.geo.orst.edu/site2.html#prices.

Maintaining Inventories

Maintaining an accurate and current inventory of products and participants is key to the successful management of a site license agreement, particularly in the case of Unix and Windows NT products. Inventory control should include not only maintaining records of product dissemination but also platform support, identification of current and future user needs, and organizational direction (Patterson and Shirley, 1994). Creation of a relational database, as exemplified by the University of Arizona site license (Hawks and Wissler, 1997) is an approach that OSU is working toward. At present, we keep a database of sorts current on the OSU ESRI Site License Web Site at www.geo.orst.edu/license_db.html.

Campus Communication

Users across campus are most interested in hearing about product availability, product updates, and bug fixes. This has been most easily and efficiently accomplished via our campus-wide listserv. We constantly encourage new users or (old users who haven't been paying attention) to subscribe. The listserv has ocassionally been used to announce seminars or other events of interest, and useful tidbits. We also refer users to the main site license web site at www.geo.orst.edu/site_license.html which keeps updated information on

In terms of seminars and the like, OSU is also sorely in need of a campus forum once or twice a year where users can meet face-to-face, share ideas, and keep colleagues abreast of their GIS activities. Also needed are workshops designed for specific purposes, such as quick training or addressing of particular topics, e.g., serving software over a local network or using the more advanced features of software (e.g., a survey of ESRI-derived and public domain extensions for ArcView).

Support Mechanisms

Our ESRI contract stipulates a campus-wide designation of three individuals who are authorized to call ESRI tech support for problems with site license software. Moreover, they are to be the primary contact with ESRI for general user support and software updates. These representatives are encouraged to take technical training from ESRI (at 40% off the list price) and are able to attend the annual user conference free of charge. Currently there is one technical support representative from the department of Geosciences, the College of Forestry, and the department of Crop and Soil Science.

The representatives from Forestry and Crop and Soil Science are listed in the contract as temporary. They have not committed to such an undertaking due to their current workloads. As one can surmise, technical support roles can quickly balloon to Superman proportions. Forestry and Geosciences are currently the biggest users of ESRI software on the OSU campus so it makes sense that someone from those departments plays a role. It has been expected that, as with other widely-used software on campus, questions to these three individuals should not come randomly from anyone or everyone, but should go through a channel where each department or unit has a person to deal with local questions, and only those people call the three "specialists". Under the terms of our site license agreement, software support and maintenance services are provided by ESRI on an annual basis. This includes technical support by telephone, regular software updates and new releases, documentation changes and updates, electronic mail service, quarterly newspapers, and the opportunity to participate in ESRI's annual User Conference, as well as regional user group meetings.

We also inform the campus community of other alternatives that may lighten the burden of the three technical support specialists. Oftentimes users may bypass ESRI technical support altogether and post queries themselves to one of ESRI's listservers:

ESRI-L          esri-l@esri.com
ARCVIEW-L arcview-l@esri.com

Thorough answers sometimes return more quickly via this route and may sometimes be as helpful as official advice from ESRI technical support. Information on ESRI-L and ARCVIEW-L as well as various technical notes, links to an online discussion forum, and an Internet Relay Chat can be found at nt1.esri.com/community/community.cfm.


Oregon State's experience with the ESRI site license agreement has overall been very positive. The campus has saved several tens of thousands of dollars in maintenance costs and acquired hundreds of thousands of dollars-worth of software. Many units on campus that could never have dreamed of purchasing GIS software now have access for several of their students and faculty. Our major task in the next year is to improve channels of communication so that we

The University of Oregon, Western Oregon University, and several community colleges are interested in partnering with us in the site license, which may give rise to a statewide site license agreement with ESRI. And so our adventures are likely to continue!


We would like to thank Sherm Bloomer, Sheldon Ladd, Fred Horne, George Brown, Thayne Dutson, Jim Moore, and Joy Hughes for providing timely financial support for our site license. Earlene Ferris, Mark Nash, George Lienkaemper, and Greg Gaston have been indispensible in helping to administer the license on campus. ESRI personnel Mike Phoenix, Lee Ross, Rebecca Dorsey, Matt Sculuca are thanked for their continual support which has always always been offered with the highest degree of pleasantness and professionalism.


Hawks, M. M., and Wissler, C., 1997. Development of an institutional approach for university site license management and distributed user support, Proceedings of 17th Annual ESRI User Conference, San Diego, CA, Paper 293.

Patterson, T. and Shirley, W. L., 1994. Establishing and maintaining an Arc/INFO support network for university site license clients, Proceedings of the 14th Annual ESRI User Conference, Palm Springs, CA.

Dawn J. Wright
Assistant Professor
Department of Geosciences
104 Wilkinson Hall
Oregon State University
Corvallis, OR 97331-5506
Telephone: 541-737-1229
FAX: 541-737-1200
Email: dawn@dusk.geo.orst.edu

Marcia Brett
Senior Faculty Research Assistant
Department of Crop and Soil Science
3057 Agriculture & Life Science Building
Oregon State University
Corvallis, OR 97331
Telephone: 541-737-0870
Fax: 541-737-5725