When companies charge per core for their software, virtualized instances can be a loophole that customers can exploit to avoid paying licensing fees. Trying to help software publishers fight back, Flexera Software today introduced DRM software to help charge per instance instead of per core.

FlexNet Publisher 11.9 introduces the ability to detect when software is running on a Microsoft or VMware virtualization platform, allowing software appliances to keep track of their usage even when instances are packed into a single machine like sardines.

Coming up with a way for Flexera’s software to know when it is running in a virtualized environment was no small feat, said the company, which worked closely with both Microsoft and VMware to create such a capability in its software. That’s why FlexNet Publisher can only detect virtualization in VMware and Microsoft platforms, and not in KVM or in Xen environments.

Steve Schmidt, vice president of product management at Flexera, said, “We worked with VMware and Microsoft to understand what APIs to be looking at and how to detect that it’s running on a particular virtual machine, as well as to talk through that down to the virtualization layer.”

A basic package of FlexNet Publisher and its related software, FlexNet Operations, costs around US$10,000, with additional costs for additional licensing options.

The underlying goal of this new capability is to allow companies that sell software appliances to potentially ditch the hardware entirely. With appliances distributed as virtual machine images, the final hurdle for many companies is proper license control and billing.

And that’s Flexera’s primary reason for existing, according to the company: giving vendors remote control over their licensed software. Priya Rajagopalan, director of product management at Flexera, said that the new version of FlexNet Publisher opens up new sources of revenue for developers.

“I think many people are trying to modify their existing policies to see if they can make it fit in a virtualized environment,” she said. “Producers see this as a revenue opportunity. It allows usage-based pricing and the ability to rent capacity or capabilities out because of virtualization.”