Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board

Why not more apps use license server scheme?

In my work I've seen that the most effective anti-piracy and software distribution method for non web-apps used in corporate world is by using license server (eg. FlexLM, Elan) thingy.
We can just create a GPO distribution of the apps, and then just let the floating license scheme take care of the usage. I mean we don't have to NOT install the software because of license limitation, or installing the software WITHOUT having to exceed the license that we have.

What do you guys think? Why not more applications use this scheme?

Claudio Ranieri
Wednesday, April 7, 2004

License servers are easily bypassed.

Brad Wilson (
Wednesday, April 7, 2004

Yes I think network-based license servers are probably the easiest way to handle certain types of licenses (like only N copies allowed to run concurrently, or for N hours each day, whatever). They aren't any more fool-proof though. FlexLM is cracked often. But if all you care about is keeping honest customers honest, then it's a fine way to go. (oh, also make sure the licensing software *works* - bugs in licensing have got to be 10x more annoying than bugs in the software itself)

Dan Maas
Wednesday, April 7, 2004

Consider its effect on performance too. For example, we had ClearCase clients and a server on our LAN, but with its license server somewhere away over the WAN ... and the resulting run-time performance was underwhelming.

Christopher Wells
Wednesday, April 7, 2004

License servers can also be super annoying if you're trying to do something you know is legal but the license server doesn't.

I've never seen a copy protection scheme that wasn't either very annoying to use, or prevented me from using the software legally.

Wednesday, April 7, 2004

I'm currently working on a such a scheme.  Generally they fall into the keeping the honest people honest realm.  This isn't too bad as most of our customers when reminded that they have exceeded their number of licences, pay the additional license cost.

christopher baus (
Thursday, April 8, 2004

Geek -->
"License servers can also be super annoying if you're trying to do something you know is legal but the license server doesn't."

Care to give example?

Thursday, April 8, 2004

Like the application crashed , or someone logged out and the app doesn't unlock the licence if it recieves a shutdown message.
Or a licence server which keeps a licence locked for 12 hours after an app stops responding or insists that every other user closes their app before you can recover a stuck licence.
Or a licence server which locks itself to the CPU id of the server so when you try and upgrade you get into a circus between Sun / Sun support / Licence manager support and the software company about getting the licence moved.

This is what I remember of Autocad and mathematica on SunOs when I was in grad school.

If any one knows of a Windows+linux licence manager that works ( and is cheap ) let me know.

Martin Beckett
Thursday, April 8, 2004

Dear god I stopped upgrading Mathematica precisely because of the licensing. I was tired of calling them up to get a new code every time I had to reinstall for any reason.

As I said, licensing bugs are the worst. If someone pays you to buy your software, and they can't use it, you've got a serious problem.

BTW I prefer licenses being locked to MAC addresses rather than other hardware. At least you can change a MAC address in an emergency. (and this doesn't really count as a "hack" of the licensing system, since you'll have all sorts of problems if two machines on your LAN use the same MAC)

Dan Maas
Thursday, April 8, 2004

Where I work we try to avoid software using license servers because it adds one more "single point of failure."  If the license server goes down (or the connection to it), then you're out of luck.

Thursday, April 8, 2004

I agree with the folk here.

Licencing servers are a b*tch to administer. They add more complexity, bandwidth overhead (some are really bad with clients polling continuously). 

Go the dongle route, although even that is not infallable.

Thursday, April 8, 2004

We had to abandone a simulation package in the past because of persisting problems with the licence server (flexlm).

Just me (Sir to you)
Thursday, April 8, 2004


That problem is easily solved with redundant servers.

christopher baus (
Thursday, April 8, 2004

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home