By terryh on May 16, 2005
I guess I always thought of license enforcement as a "necessary evil". Something that we (Sun Microsystems) need, in order to make money from our Sun Studio compilers and tools, but not something that directly benefits our customers. Over the years, we've moved from a fully-featured network-based licensing system to a simple local serial-number. Until very recently, I thought that this was a universally positive thing. The old system caused quite a lot of support calls, and had features that many customers disliked.
However, just recently we've started to hear feedback that our current minimalist license enforcement isn't enough. Some customers would like better reporting and possibly enforcement of license usage. It might be that this is being driven by the requirements of the Sarbanes-Oxley act. In any case, some companies have been advised that they have a fiduciary duty to ensure they comply with the license terms of the software they use in their business. Our current enforcement policy — which in practical terms works out to "go ahead, we trust you" once you purchase the product and get the serial number — isn't helping them meet this duty.
So I'm currently scratching my head over how to help the customers with these requirements, while not making life worse for the rest of the world. Most likely we will end up with an optional auditing feature in the IDE, and do reporting/enforcement on a per-seat basis. The overhead of doing it for each invocation of the C compiler is probably too large. We are trying to set up some meetings with customers to flesh out their exact needs, but as usual if anyone out there in blog-land has comments, feel free to email me.