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

Cisco IOS XE Gibraltar 16.11.x

There is somewhat of a major caveat when upgrading to IOS XE Gibraltar 16.11.1 that you must consider before upgrading.

When upgrading to IOS XE 16.11.1, on Cisco Catalyst 9500 Series Switches (C9500-24Y4C, C9500-32C, C9500-32QC, and C9500-48Y4C) . The default switchport state changes from a Layer 3 switchport to a Layer 2 switchport. Which means when you reload your switch with IOS XE 16.11.1, your switchports will be in a Layer 2 switchport state by default. This will break your routed infrastructure if you do not perform the pre-installation tasks!

The reason for this changes is to enable day 0 discovery when using Cisco Digital Network Architecture (DNA) Center (or Cisco DNA Center).

You have the option to change the L2 interfaces back to L3 by performing this manually or scripted. It’s completely up to you how you handle this step but Cisco does provide a step by step guide on how to script this procedure.

Below is the release notes for this version which includes the pre-installation procedures to ensure that after a reboot your Layer 3 ports maintain their Layer 3 state.

I will try to get my hands on a 9500 to perform this and will report it here. For the mean time please refer to the below.

IOS XE Gibralter 16.11.1 Release Notes

Mike

Converting Cisco IOS-XE Software from Bundle Mode to Install Mode

Recommended Releases for Cat9k

Today we’re are going to be converting a Cisco WS-C3850-24XS from a Bundle Running Mode to an Install Running Mode.

If you haven’t read my other post on operating modes for the Cat3k or 9Ks, look there first. Upgrading Cisco IOS-XE Software (Install Mode)

You can also review upgrade procedure for specific hardware.
Catalyst 9200 upgrade procedure or review Campus switching positioning with Catalyst 9Ks for a quick reference to determine what hardware is best suited for your campus.

I first want to show you the file(s) that each mode references. I’ll use the show version command to do this.

3850-1
3850-2

You can see from the previous output that the 3850 is running in BUNDLE mode. Secondly, the line that starts with ‘System image file is..” This line is the name and location of the booted Cisco IOS XE bundle file. Notice that this is a .bin extension.

3850-3
3850-4.PNG

Again using the show version command, in the previous output the 3650 is running in INSTALL mode. This time the line that starts with ‘System image file is..” is referencing the name and location of the provisioning file ‘packages.conf‘.

Let’s continue changing our Bundle running mode to Install running mode.

To do this, execute the command below in exec.

3850# software expand running to flash:

3850-5

I am executing this on a stack so you can see that the operation is expanding the bundle (.bin) file to switch 1 and switch 2. This is essentially unpacking .pkg files from the running .bin file on the switch.

Notice that the switch attempts to create a packages.conf file but it already exists, so it creates a file called ‘running-packages.conf‘. This isn’t a big deal. If you want your file to be named packages.conf, just rename the original packages.conf to something else before you run the above command.

After this finishes, we can view the flash:/ to see our pkg files.

3850-6.PNG

Here we see two .pkg versions, 03.07.04E.pkg and 03.07.05E.pkg. Which one is the most recent one? 03.07.05E.pkg is the most recent because that is the version we extracted from our current running cat3k_caa-universalk9.SPA.03.07.05.E152-3.bin file. Also, notice the running-packages.conf file.

Let’s change the boot system variable to reference our new .conf file.

3850-7

Note: Check to see if you already have a boot variable defined. Change it so that on next boot you load your packages.conf file and not the .bin file. Check the boot var with the command show boot to confirm.

Save your running config to start up and reload the switch.

After the reload, we can check our running mode.

3850-8

Lets clean up our flash directory.

3850-9

Here is the flash directory after we cleaned it.

3850-10

Mike