Production postmortemThe evil licensing code

time to read 3 min | 496 words

A customer gave us a call about a failure they were experiencing in their production environment. They didn’t install the license that they purchased for some reason, and when they tried to install that, RavenDB will not run.

There is what this looked like:


Once I had all those details, it was pretty easy to figure out what was going on. I asked the client to send me the Raven.Server.exe.config file, just to verify it, and sure enough, here are the problematic lines:

<add key="Raven/AnonymousAccess" value="Admin"/>
<add key="Raven/Licensing/AllowAdminAnonymousAccessForCommercialUse" value="false" />

This is the default configuration, and this failure is actually the expected and desired behavior.

What is going on? This customer was running RavenDB in a development mode, without a license. That means that the server is open to all. When you install a license, that is a pretty strong indication that you are using RavenDB in production. It is actually common to see users installing the development mode in production, and registering the license at a later date, for various reasons.

The problem with that is that this means that at least for a while, they were running with “everyone is admin” mode, which is great for development, but horrible for production. If you install RavenDB for production usage (by providing a license during the setup process), it will set itself up in locked down mode, so only users explicitly granted access can get to it. But if you started at development installation, then added the license…

It is common for customers to forget or actually be unaware of that setting. And not setting it is going to end up with a production installation that is open to the whole wide world.

When that happens, that tend to be… bad. Over 30,000 instances that are wide open bad.

Because of that, if you are running a license, and you had previously installed the development mode, you need to make a choice. Either you setup anonymous access so only authorized people can access the database, or you explicitly decided to grant everyone access, likely because you are already running in secured environment.

Error reporting from services is a bit hard, because there is no good way to send error messages to the service managers. But in the event log, we can see the actual error with the full details.


More posts in "Production postmortem" series:

  1. (23 Mar 2020) high CPU when there is little work to be done
  2. (21 Feb 2020) The self signed certificate that couldn’t
  3. (31 Jan 2020) The slow slowdown of large systems
  4. (07 Jun 2019) Printer out of paper and the RavenDB hang
  5. (18 Feb 2019) This data corruption bug requires 3 simultaneous race conditions
  6. (25 Dec 2018) Handled errors and the curse of recursive error handling
  7. (23 Nov 2018) The ARM is killing me
  8. (22 Feb 2018) The unavailable Linux server
  9. (06 Dec 2017) data corruption, a view from INSIDE the sausage
  10. (01 Dec 2017) The random high CPU
  11. (07 Aug 2017) 30% boost with a single line change
  12. (04 Aug 2017) The case of 99.99% percentile
  13. (02 Aug 2017) The lightly loaded trashing server
  14. (23 Aug 2016) The insidious cost of managed memory
  15. (05 Feb 2016) A null reference in our abstraction
  16. (27 Jan 2016) The Razor Suicide
  17. (13 Nov 2015) The case of the “it is slow on that machine (only)”
  18. (21 Oct 2015) The case of the slow index rebuild
  19. (22 Sep 2015) The case of the Unicode Poo
  20. (03 Sep 2015) The industry at large
  21. (01 Sep 2015) The case of the lying configuration file
  22. (31 Aug 2015) The case of the memory eater and high load
  23. (14 Aug 2015) The case of the man in the middle
  24. (05 Aug 2015) Reading the errors
  25. (29 Jul 2015) The evil licensing code
  26. (23 Jul 2015) The case of the native memory leak
  27. (16 Jul 2015) The case of the intransigent new database
  28. (13 Jul 2015) The case of the hung over server
  29. (09 Jul 2015) The case of the infected cluster