License to Clone

Recently we’ve been considering the topic of client licensing for systems based on the “software agent” model. A software agent is an application deployed onto multiple systems, which often depends on a central service for reporting diagnostics or accessing some resource. A simple example might be an anti-virus product installed throughout a business, which communicates with a central system to update virus definitions.

Some Thales products are based on a software agent model and we sell licenses to customers depending upon how many installations they plan to make. Historically this has been a simple process to manage, as customers rarely scaled their systems overnight and there was plenty of planning time to allow for license purchase and installation. But in recent years, cloud computing has altered that dynamic and now customers might not even know how many servers they have installed; they scale dynamically to cope with demand.

With this context in mind, we decided to research existing license technology and find a new route forward. The resulting solution, ephemeral random fingerprints, is described in a long-form blog post, a short paper, or you can see the code on GitHub.

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