Evolving Smart Licensing, what’s coming and when?

Does anyone else feel like they need a Ph.D. in Cisco licensing?! Good news is that there are some changes coming to help make our lives easier.

Most of you are likely familiar with Smart Licensing. However, you can go here if you need more information. During Cisco’s transition to subscription-based licenses, Smart Licensing (SL) was introduced. Cisco believed Smart Licensing would streamline the way customers activate and manage Cisco licenses across the organization. Transitioning from the traditional PAK based licensing method to SL wasn’t the only goal for Cisco. Amongst others, it served as a way to combat the grey market gear. The thought was that upon purchasing a product from Cisco, a Smart Account would be associated with the order, which in return would entitle the organization to their licenses, products, and services.

A Smart Account is hierarchical and serves as the top-level domain for the organization. You can further organize your Smart Account into sub-accounts, known as “Virtual Accounts.” It is very much structured, like a domain. A “DEFAULT” Virtual Account serves as your catch-all bucket and is persistent and can’t change.

After Cisco launched the new licensing model, they found that the customers purchasing processes became complicated, increased their operational overhead, and challenged their security practices. Therefore, Cisco took this feedback and decided they needed to evolve SL to be less detrimental. 

You can find the current list of Smart License enabled products here

Introducing Smart Licensing Using Policy

Starting with IOS-XE 17.3.2/17.4.1 all products running these versions of the software will only support Smart Licensing Using Policy. These currently include. 

  • Cisco Catalyst 9000 series switches. 
  • The routing platforms such as the ASR1K, ISR1K, ISR4K. 
  • The Next Generation virtual routers starting with Polaris IOS-XE release 17.4.1 
  • Cisco Catalyst 9800 Series Wireless Controllers and APs. 
  • Internet of Things (IoT) Next Generation platforms such as Industrial Router IR 1101, Industrial Ethernet IE
  • 3200/3300/3400 and any Next Gen IoT products will also adopt Smart Licensing Using Policy. 
  • Collaboration products; CUBE, SRST, and CME with their November release.

With Smart Licensing Using Policy you can expect: 

  1. The product will not boot in evaluation-mode (see screen shots below)
  2. per product software registration is not required
  3. And on-going communication every 30 days with Cisco isn’t needed.

Registering a device before use and on-going communication is going away. However, reporting to Cisco may still be a pain point. The good news? Reporting is only required if there is a change in software level for Perpetual or Subscription. Changing software levels doesn’t happen too frequently, so it may not be too big of an issue. 

For example, if you purchase a Catalyst 9120 access point with DNA Essentials from the factory and 30 days later, you realize you need EasyQoS. You’d have to change to DNA Advantage, which means you now need to report this change to Cisco. 

This change would need to be reported within 90 days to Cisco. 

What happens if you don’t? Most of the products will turn into a nag box, sending out syslog/alarm notifications. However, you should review the enforcement rules specific to the particular device to avoid potential interruptions.

You can find the enforcement rules per product here

Reporting

You can report to Cisco in a couple of different ways. 

1. New reporting utility called Cisco Smart Licensing Utility (CSLU): which is a small Windows application that can be configured to send the data to Cisco in with a push or pull operation. 

2. Cisco DNA Center controller with Cisco Smart Licensing Utility (CSLU): Cisco DNA Center has connectivity to Cisco Smart Software Manager (CSSM). Periodically, exchange information with Cisco to keep in sync with CSSM. 

3. Offline: where the data is taken off the device onto a storage and then uploaded into CSSM.

In the end, not having to register a product before makes sense but reporting may be still be cumbersome. I’m thinking theres a way you could script this with Python.

Here’s a screen shot of pre IOS-XE 17.3.2 and post IOS-XE 17.3.2.

Mike

Smart Software Licensing Overview. (2020, November 26). Retrieved from https://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/products/software/smart-accounts/software-licensing.html

Cisco DNA Software Subscription Matrix for Wireless. (2020, November 17). Retrieved from https://www.cisco.com/c/m/en_us/products/software/dna-subscription-wireless/en-sw-sub-matrix-wireless.html?oid=porew018984

(n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.cisco.com/c/dam/en/us/products/collateral/software/smart-accounts/smart-licensing-feature-roadmap-by-pf-external-v20201102.xlsx

(n.d.). Retrieved from https://software.cisco.com/download/home/286285506/type/286327971/release/1.0.0-2

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