Anyone that has been involved with software license enforcement over the last 20 years will almost certainly have heard of floating licenses. The concept of a centralized license manager serving licenses out to waiting applications on a first come first served basis is pretty well known and understood. But as soon as you start thinking about that deployment model, you will probably start thinking about failure: failure of the license manager, failure of the network, failure of the software. When you have license manager providing centralized license control, you have a single point of installation, a single point of administration and a single point of failure. One crash, and hundreds, maybe even thousands of innocent workstations can’t get a license anymore. Work grinds to a halt. It sounds serious, right? Yet this is one of the most commonly ignored gremlins in software licensing.
One of the biggest challenges being faced by embedded device manufacturers is how to monetize the software component within their product offerings.
Historically, embedded end customers struggled with the idea that they were purchasing any ‘software’ when buying embedded equipment, even if it’s actually the embedded software that provides almost all of the great capability the end customer enjoys. They were simply buying a ‘box’ and that box did what they expected it to.
SafeNet recently exhibited at the 2013 Embedded World trade show in Germany, which was a first for us. I have to admit, before I arrived, my expectations for this show were not exactly overwhelming. This was certainly not a reflection on the event organisers, but more on the industry itself. I mean, how much gloss and glitter can you add to PCB’s, CPU’s and welding robots?
A topic I enjoy talking about is end customer experience. This is still a very much overlooked aspect of software licensing. We spend a lot of time talking about security and piracy protection, and we talk much less about how that security impacts the end customers, especially the legitimate ones!
Software Licensing in a traditional B2B world is a mature concept, familiar to many. The idea of utilizing technology to enforce the use of a software license has evolved over many years. We have even almost managed to cement some standardised terms along the way to help define what kind of license we are talking about – seat, volume, floating, site, and so on.
Software licensing today is far more than a mechanism for securing revenue streams. It is a business enabler, with software vendors experiencing significant increases in revenue from new selling and distribution models, as well as simply recovering losses from the ‘non payers’.
When mobile software applications first gained popularity, they were very much isolated from this licensing ecosystem. But now however, we are starting to see a clear convergence between the mobile and traditional worlds and there are two factors which are influencing this trend the most:
The ongoing debate around virtualization shows no signs of getting old. Virtualization has always created a ‘conflict of interests’ between those who worry about the technology (the software vendors) and those who enjoy the benefits it offers (the end customers of the aforementioned vendors).
There was a temporary sigh of relief in the world of automated license enforcement when new methods and techniques became available to bind software licenses in a more secure and reliable manner to a virtual machine . Almost overnight, all the concerns and fears of license duplication and misuse (albeit accidental or intentional) went away. The ultimate goal of eliminating the requirements for ISV’s to make a ‘VM/no VM’ decision at the time of deploying or activating their software was finally achieved. End customers could deploy applications where they liked, the vendors no longer had to care, and the world was a happy place.
Or so it seemed….
There are many virtualization related debates underway right now (even as you read this!), but one that I recently came across seemed to stand out above the others. It was all about who should be dictating the direction software companies should take to tackle software licensing and virtualization. Treating that topic independently, there are essentially 3 players involved: