Extending the product life cycle with embedded licensing

April 1, 2011 OpenSystems Media

2CPU Tech, a manufacturer of secure processors, faced customer demand for different levels of functionality, operations, and security at different life cycle phases. As Vikram notes here, in the process of working with a third-party software licensing and entitlement management vendor, CPU Tech developed a list of criteria for meeting its customers’ licensing and pricing model needs.

With the recent surge in cyber security threats, it’s no surprise that military, government, and other sectors are eyeing secure processors and anti-tamper devices, which can help protect software and systems from reverse engineering.

In the military/defense technology community, projects and initiatives have extensive and complex government reviews and milestones. Therefore it is common for defense products and solutions to have a five-to-ten-year (sometimes longer) life cycle. Because of these long life spans, CPU Tech often found its customers did not need all product capabilities during all phases of a project. For example not everyone working in integration, test, or manufacturing needed to understand sensitive design details. Nor should everyone be allowed access to such details. To cite another example, there are times in a product life cycle when some security settings might be “locked down” for the remainder of the program. Also, some programs are “compartmentalized.” Compartmentalization gives engineers and users different access rights. This is all familiar territory for CPU Tech, which understood the various ways that its customers wanted to use and access CPU Tech processors. However, the company had no way to license, price, or allow access to support compartmentalization and other requirements.

Customers pressed CPU Tech for more flexible software licensing and pricing models. Needing an easy and efficient way to differentiate levels of functionality, operations, and security to customers at various stages of the product/project life cycle, CPU Tech began by identifying the following requirements for software licensing and entitlement management:

  • Feature-based and role-based licensing and pricing models
  • Provide embedded-node-locked and floating licensing capability
  • Offer both offline (for machines operating in a classified area) and web-based activation
  • Simplify complex product life cycle management
  • Ability to automate the customer activation process

Ryan Kenny, responsible for product marketing at CPU Tech, explained, “With our Acalis Sentry Security Server solution we needed to offer our customers both feature-based and role-based functionality. Our solution can be operating in many different environments with different feature sets enabled or disabled, such as in development, manufacturing, security configuration, and security audit environments.” He added, “In each environment and use case, different people with different roles and security requirements operate the device. And in each use case, there are different feature sets enabled and disabled based on security and operations needs. For instance, customers may alternate between ‘call-back’ registration and standalone licensing and activation, depending on where they are in their development cycle.”

Early on CPU Tech determined it needed to engage with a third-party software licensing and entitlement management vendor. With its focus on its core competencies the company had no desire to develop a homegrown licensing solution, preferring to partner with an embedded software licensing and entitlement management provider. CPU Tech followed up on its initial list of criteria by describing key characteristics of the workable licensing approach:

  • Appropriate and adequate cryptographic encryption for license key protection and storage
  • Small memory footprint
  • Support for processor architecture
  • Support for embedded operating systems – needed to be OS independent, and easy to port
  • Support for programming language
  • Performance and reliability
  • Easy to manage and track the license entitlement
  • License activation automation
  • Integration with other management systems, such as Salesforce
  • Acceptable total cost of ownership

After researching its options, CPU Tech chose the FlexNet Producer Suite for High-Tech Manufacturers from Flexera Software. Ryan noted, “Flexera Software’s embedded software licensing and entitlement management solution enables CPU Tech to protect our intellectual property and allow the customer to operate in a classified/secure area without Internet access. We needed a solution that enables a solid revenue model without expanding our manufacturing costs.”

“With Flexera Software [see Figure 1] we can now easily upgrade and downgrade our customers without deploying additional hardware as well as offer them licensing and pricing models based on roles and features,” he added.

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Figure 1: Matching roles/modes to customer design model.

Embedded licensing technology and entitlement management will enable CPU Tech to realize a reduction in manufacturing costs and to better manage its Acalis product life cycle. Now CPU Tech can offer a single version of its hardware and simply control the hardware capabilities and features based on roles and features. In addition, the licensing adds a valuable security layer in user activation, making sure only those entitled are able to activate the product.

“Flexera Software’s embedded licensing technology enable us to protect CPU Tech and customer intellectual property,” Ryan commented, adding that “with its entitlement management solution we expect to see clear savings in the operations area by being able to easily upgrade/downgrade capabilities on the hardware. We will be able to bring products to market faster and tailor subscription licenses to meet customers’ unique requirements, helping us to better serve our customers.”

For CPU Tech, flexible software licensing and entitlement management allows for cost reduction and revenue models that matches customer needs and processes. In the past, much of what were security “rules” to be enforced through audit are now enforced by embedded licensing and entitlement management.

Vikram Koka is the vice president of research and development at Flexera Software, where he is responsible for engineering for the FlexNet Producer Suite for High-Tech Manufacturers. Prior to joining Flexera Software, Vikram was the chief architect for Macrovision across all its product lines, including the DRM, video, and game distribution offerings, in addition to software licensing. Vikram has held senior engineering or technical management positions at large companies such as Silicon Graphics (SGI), and LSI Logic as well as startups such as CellMania and SmartDB. Prior to Flexera Software, Vikram’s background included mobile, ecommerce, enterprise applications (both hosted and on-premise), databases, and distributed applications. Vikram has an MS in electrical and computer engineering from the University of California at Santa Barbara, and a BS in electronics and communications engineering from Osmania University, Hyderabad. Vikram currently has four patents pending and was one of the early contributors to the GNU Debugger (GDB), a popular open source debugger.

Flexera Software flexerasoftware@eastwick.com www.flexerasoftware.com

Vikram Koka (Flexera Software)
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