software licensing

AWS instances, their ever-changing hostnames and the implications for software licensing

I’ve recently been doing some performance testing for a client and evaluating the use of dynaTrace for monitoring application performance under load. As well as an installation of dynaTrace at the client site, we have a demonstration/evaluation licence which is installed on an AWS cloud server. As well as being useful for client demonstrations, this gives us the opportunity to perform proof of concept exercises and “try things out” away from production systems.

Last week, in an effort to save on the cost of keeping the AWS instance up and running all the time, I decided to shut the server down using the AWS console. When I went back to the server and restarted it, I had the following error message in dynaTrace.

I did some investigation and I found that dynaTrace locks the licence key to the hostname of the server on which it is installed. This is all well and good in a normal environment, but I noticed that the name of the host server changed each time that I rebooted. When I installed dynaTrace, my machine name was ip-03a4d76 and when I restarted the server the name had changed to ip-0a3b11c9.

I looked at the server IP address and saw that as the server restarted (even though I was using an elastic IP address to address the server externally), the hostname changed when the private (internal Amazon) IP address changed. The hostname was a hexadecimal representation of the private IP address.

My IP address was and the hostname (which has since changed again) was ip-0a3b11c9 (0A = 10, 3B = 59, 11 = 17 and C9=201).

I spoke to the dynaTrace, the supplier of our software, and they told me that it can be tied to a MAC address, rather than a hostname if required, but that didn’t help me since I understand that MAC addresses change each time AWS instances restart. Instead I looked at ways of fixing the hostname and found that it was remarkably easy (when you know where to look).

On each Windows AWS server there is a program on the start menu called “EC2 Service Properties”. Run this program and uncheck the box “Set Computer Name”, you can then set a HOSTNAME normally which persists after each reboot. Your hostname-dependent software can then be reinstalled or re-licensed and you can relax in the knowledge that your software will run properly next time you restart your server.