EPLAN network license over the internet – cheap and dirty
As some of you might already have guessed I am doing electrical stuff in my employment, including electrical engineering. For this purpose our company utilised Eplan Electrical P8. Other examples for such an engineering software would be Elcad, AutoCAD Electrical or WSCAD and some more. Just Google for it if you want further information.
Eplan using USB dongles to protect their software from piracy. The dongle has to be connected to your computer in order to start the software and keep it running. Removing the dongle causing the software to stop working until you either reconnect the dongle or close it.
If you want to use Eplan on another PC you have to hand over your dongle. This is quite impractical especially if your company has multiple workstations in different places but does not want to invest in more of these quite expensive Eplan licenses.
The solution for this issue is buying a so called network license. You still will receive a dongle which has to be connected to any PC which later will serve as license server. Eplan utilizing DCOM services to achieve this.
So what is the issue?
Quite a while ago a company which has a very strong relationship with ours asked us if we could share one of our Eplan licenses with them so they could use it from time to time if we do not need it. My boss said “Yeah, sure, if you pay for the network license upgrade”. Until that point we did not have a network license.
They said yes and my boss asked me how we could implement that. Should not be a big deal as we had PCs running 24/7 which can be used as license server. A simple VPN should do the trick…
What the Eplan customer service did not tell us is that there are two types of network licenses: One that can be used without or across different domains. The other one is limited to work within one domain only. Without domain restriction obviously is more expensive.
So now we had a network license which could be used within one domain only. Fun fact: Our company is too small to even utilize a domain control server and the other had their own. This was the first time I had to busy myself with ADDC services.
I experimented with Windows Server 2016 and 2012 but they were expensive and just way too much for our purpose.
I ended up installing a Ubuntu server distribution within a VirtualBox container and Samba4 to act as a domain controller. This worked quite decent. Also being able to connect to it using RSAT makes it easy to add new users without too much trouble.
For the client I had to convince them to also install a VirtualBox container on one of their computers containing a Windows 7 installation with Eplan. This was necessary to avoid interfering with their own domain.
Why simply not using their own domain for this purpose? Easy answer: They did not let us do that.
Alright volks, that is it for now. I may add a second part to this containing some technical details like firewall configuration, how to add the virtual machine over VPN to the domain controller and such thing if anyone actually is interested in this topic at all. Probably not, too specific…