What: Shares of enterprise-software provider MicroStrategy (NASDAQ:MSTR) soared on Thursday following the release of the company's fourth-quarter earnings report. Despite a year-over-year decline in total revenue, MicroStrategy beat analyst estimates and reported a double-digit rise in license and subscription revenue. At 11 a.m. ET, the stock was up about 20%.

So what: MicroStrategy reported quarterly revenue of $143.5 million, down 4% year over year but a few million dollars higher than the average analyst estimate. Revenue from product licenses and subscription services rose 20% year over year to $49.1 million, while revenue from product support and other services declined 5.8% and 27.8% respectively. License and subscription services accounted for 34.2% of total revenue during the fourth quarter, up from 27.4% during the prior year period.

Net income came in at $3.38 per share, up from $1.99 per share during the fourth quarter of 2014. Despite the lower revenue, a higher gross margin and lower operating expenses led to the rise in earnings. The company cut back on spending dramatically during 2015, with sales and marketing spending down 34%, and R&D spending down 37%. This led to full-year earnings of $9.18 per share, up from just $0.44 per share during 2014.

Now what: MicroStrategy's revenue has been essentially flat for the past five years, and while earnings rose dramatically during the fourth quarter and the full year due to cost-cutting, the company will need revenue growth in order to grow earnings in the long run. The 20% rise in license and subscription revenue is an encouraging sign, but this tends to be lumpy, with a 15% drop during the third quarter. Investors will need to wait and see if this growth is sustainable, or if it's just another fluctuation.

Timothy Green has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends MicroStrategy. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.