Complex Enterprise Software Licensing Case Study: FICO

FICO Corporation’s FICO® scores are the most widely used consumer credit scores in the world, with more than 100 billion scores sold since their introduction in 1989. First released in the U.S., the FICO® score has since become the global industry standard for objective, profitable risk assessment.

The FICO® score analyzes and summarizes credit bureau information into a highly predictive risk assessment, allowing lenders to instantly and dramatically improve the quality of their lending decisions. Banks, credit card companies, lending institutions and international credit bureaus in 22 countries worldwide use the FICO® score to evaluate credit worthiness and risk.

FICO had been using a simple in-house license manager to protect new installations of the FICO® score, but as new implementations quickly spread around the world, they decided they needed a more sophisticated system for managing the licenses they sold worldwide. These licenses are based on the volume of scores calculated, with the volume being self-reported by the end-user. A major challenge with the product installations was that the typical end-customer has no direct Internet connectivity from the systems where the application is running and IT resources were limited due to a full workload and other high priority projects. Implementing Agilis software into the FICO® score software provided a relatively straightforward process requiring a minimal time commitment from IT, a secure licensing procedure and a periodic process for transferring data back to FICO in a quick and easy fashion for analysis.

In addition to the above, FICO also required comprehensive auditing and reporting mechanisms in the license server, for both operational and business intelligence purposes.

After reviewing the various licensing solutions on the market, FICO chose the Orion Network Licensing Platform from Agilis Software. “We liked the granularity Agilis offered with their offline activation approach”, said Steve Delman, Software Development Senior Manager for the project. “They also supported a majority of our platform needs: multi-platform Java, C/C++ on Windows, Linux and Unix, and C#”.


The architecture developed with Agilis comprises an Orion Server hosted at FICO, with the Orion client software integrated into the FICO® score application to perform the license verification and usage tracking at the customer site. The usage data is securely logged by the Orion client library on the customer’s machine, and periodically uploaded to the hosted Orion Server using Orion’s offline activation mechanism from any web browser. Each installation has multiple transaction counters tracking and time-stamping a variety of functions in the FICO® score solution.

Around the world, new FICO customers often have overbooked IT departments, so they want a straightforward implementation process, software that is easily maintained, and a system that efficiently executes repetitive tasks. Orion’s browser-based offline activation with weighted-composite checkout capability allows FICO’s customers to upload an entire month or quarter’s data in one operation from any web browser. The customer sends the data to FICO, after which FICO visits the self-service web page for the hosted Orion Server, and uploads the file created by the Orion client. Upon receiving an updated activation record from the Orion server, FICO delivers the new activation record to the customer which extends the software license period on the designated machine for a subsequent designated time. The customer also has the option to conveniently relocate their license to a different machine in self-service mode via Orion’s secure offline deactivation/reactivation mechanism.

All upload activities are captured in the Orion server’s audit trail. Orion’s built-in reporting system enables FICO to run comprehensive operational and business intelligence reports against the captured data and events.

Security has to be robust, as the usage data is being captured by FICO to ensure compliance: “Agilis’s proprietary master-slave hidden file mechanism protects the usage data from attacks such as state rollback and system clock tampering, and of course all data kept locally is encrypted. Orion’s offline data upload mechanism uses public-key cryptography to ensure confidentiality, authenticate the user, and protect against man-in the-middle attacks,” said Brian Peterson, Software Development Lead for FICO.

Brian also notes: “We couldn’t afford to take any performance hits. When a user runs our application to deliver a credit score they need it right away. We used Orion’s batch-mode data logging to meet our performance goal.”

While FICO knew at a high level what they wanted to do from the very beginning, the details were designed in collaboration with Agilis consultants. It was a collaborative effort between the two companies, especially regarding the connectivity, security and throughput challenges. “We have a great working relationship with Agilis,” said Brian Peterson. “We go to Agilis with a problem and issues, and Agilis comes back almost instantly with answers and a solution.”

“Agilis have been very responsive to our issues,” added Steve Delman.

FICO’s offline usage-based license management is one of the most sophisticated implementations Agilis has seen to date. Several ideas for product enhancements resulted from the joint implementation work, and have been built into the Orion Platform as standard features.

The first customer installations occurred in early 2008 at customer sites in Mexico and Japan. They went smoothly, with just minor issues related to write permissions that were quickly resolved. Orion-based licensing is now part of FICO’s standard solution, affirmed Steve Delman: “We intend using Orion for all future FICO score deployments”.

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