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51 Shades of Cloud Licensing

“Cause you know sometimes words have two meanings“: Robert Plant reminds us when singing about the stairway to heaven. If he had known about the term “cloud licensing” at that time, he might have upped that number. Cloud licensing comes in so many shades, flavors, shapes, and sizes that having only two meanings sounds appealingly unambiguous. This article introduces the most common variants and CodeMeter’s solutions for them. The four basic constituents are an ERP system, license management system, license containers, and the protected and licensed application. All of them can exist either on premise or in the cloud, and many other combinations and permutations are conceivable.

The Swiss Army Knife of Licensing

CodeMeter offers a perfectly balanced and coherent solution for all these combinations. Even complicated mixed setups are not a problem for it, but rather an opportunity to shine. License creation is made easy with its standardized integration into ERP, CRM, or e-commerce systems, where the recipients send a ticket to redeem their licenses. The activation process is also designed to be adjusted for each given use case: Licenses can be activated automatically when their recipient is already known e.g. from the original purchase; if the intended user is not known when the license is first created, it can be activated and bound to the user when the user enters the ticket.

The Core Modules

CodeMeter License Central

CodeMeter License Central is the software developers’ go-to place for creating, managing, and distributing licenses. This is where licenses for their software products are configured and created, again with extensive automation capabilities by integrating a CRM, ERP, or e-commerce system. The developers also have the option to allow their users to move licenses or recover lost licenses, to change existing licenses, or to revoke licenses if need be.

License Portal

The license portal is an add-on module of CodeMeter License Central, designed to give end users round-the-clock self-service access to their licenses. Depending on the settings chosen by the developers, users can go to the portal to activate, move, or return their licenses or pick up any license updates from their vendor. These updates are enforced automatically and in the background before any other action can be done, and they cannot be skipped by users, making them the perfect vehicle for expanding or indeed withdrawing licenses. An API, called the Gateway, is also available to access the license portal from within a licensed application. The system makes license updates transparent, but unobtrusive for users who just want to get on with their software lives.

CodeMeter Cloud Lite

CodeMeter Cloud Lite is a server application that is used to provide licenses created with CodeMeter License Central for SaaS applications or software on mobile devices. When CodeMeter License Central first creates a license, it is not assigned to any user or device; it is only when the license is activated that it is sent to its intended device or bound to its intended user in the case of CodeMeter Cloud Lite. CodeMeter Cloud Lite does not have any user management system on board, but instead links up with the existing user management system of the vendor’s SaaS service.

CodeMeter Cloud

CodeMeter Cloud is the comprehensive solution for protecting and licensing mobile or cloud software. The licenses are stored in the cloud and can be accessed by their users on the go. All the users need is access data (in the form of a credential file) to get to their licenses in their CmCloudContainer.

CodeMeter Cloud Lite uses a barebones REST/SOAP licensing API, whereas CodeMeter Cloud works in full compatibility with regular CmDongles and CmActLicenses and has APIs for native, .NET, and Java applications. It also offers the automated protections of CodeMeter Protection Suite. An integration with an existing user management system is possible via the license portal, but it is not required by the system.

The server for CodeMeter Cloud is operated by Wibu-Systems as a ready-to-go turnkey service.

CmActLicense with SmartBind

A CmActLicense is an encrypted license file that is bound to a physical device or a virtual environment by cryptographic means. CodeMeter SmartBind is the technology with which CodeMeter recognizes the environment and creates the best possible binding. Should certain properties of the hardware change, the technology allows a defined level of tolerance. For virtual or cloud environments, the binding relies on the identifiers of the provider. Due to Wibu-System’s cooperation with the two leading providers, particularly reliable binding is guaranteed with Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure.

Use Cases

On-Premises Software Managed by the Cloud

The most common use case in B2B installations is conventional, locally installed software with a local license or a license kept on a server in the Local Area Network (LAN).

For this case, CodeMeter License Central and CmActLicenses are the preferred choice, with an optional license portal or an integrated activation wizard. CodeMeter License Central lets users activate, move, and possibly recover lost licenses by themselves. If a regular, but not permanent Internet connection exists, the checkpoint mechanism can be used to enforce regular license renewals. Should a license already be recovered on another device, the license at the first device would either be withdrawn or simply left to lapse.

SaaS Software

For licensing Software-as-a-Service that is hosted by its vendor, CodeMeter Cloud Lite combined with CodeMeter License Central are the right choice: Users can access and log on to the SaaS application via their browsers. In the background, the SaaS solution communicates with CodeMeter Cloud Lite to get up-to-date information about the licensed features and the license terms, such as expiry dates.

On-Premises Software in a Private Cloud

In this case, the vendor sells regular on-premises software, but the user has outsourced the IT infrastructure and uses only thin clients. The software itself is then run in virtual machines in a private cloud, e.g. AWS or Azure.

CodeMeter has two equally suitable options for this scenario: CmActLicenses with SmartBind could be used, since the cooperation of Wibu-Systems with Microsoft and Amazon promises high security and top reliability. The virtual machines can even be moved in this case. A CmActLicense would only be invalidated if a virtual machine is duplicated or reverted to a snapshot.

The other option is CodeMeter Cloud. The credential file needed to access the license container would be placed in the virtual machine, and since the licenses are tracked by Wibu-Systems itself, the virtual machines can be moved, copied, or reverted to the users liking – without ever allowing more licenses to be used than the user actually owns.

Mobile Online Usage of On-Premises Software

The users are always online and want to use their software on the go, e.g. moving between their office and home office.

This is the use case CodeMeter Cloud was made for. The credential file would be imported to all devices of the users, allowing them to access their software wherever they want. The number of licenses is carefully tracked in the cloud, so that e.g. a single-user license can only be used on one device at any one time. Should more than one user share the device, the credential file can be removed after use, using the license portal to manage the credential files. Typically, the necessary licenses are created with CodeMeter License Central.

Mobile Offline Usage of On-Premises Software

In this scenario, the users move between online and offline environments. For them to be able to start licensed software offline, precautions have to be in place to prevent the potential – unintentional or fraudulent – multiple use of a license. The typical solution is to give the users a certain number of licenses that they can activate offline on a certain number of devices in the form of CmActLicenses. This resembles the “On-Premises Software Managed by the Cloud” approach, but it requires a periodic connection to the Internet to use the checkpoint license model. These are licenses that can be activated on other devices when they or the device they were originally on are removed upon reaching a checkpoint. If users want to move on to another device without waiting for a checkpoint, they can deactivate it early by going through CodeMeter License Central.

Summary

CodeMeter has all shades and flavors of cloud licensing covered with its array of components. CodeMeter License Central offers a simple and standardized way to create licenses for all possible use cases. Licenses can be stored in any one of three ways: CmCloudContainers, CmCloudLiteContainers, and CmActLicenses. And Wibu-Systems’ experts are on hand to help design the perfect cloud licensing architecture to keep you from tripping up on the stairway into the cloud.

 

KEYnote 41 – Edition Spring 2021