Software licensing

The shift from perpetual to subscription licenses in network software has increased significantly in recent years. The subscription licensing model causes vendors to keep developing the product to stay at the forefront of the market, even though the total cost of ownership for consumers remains intact throughout the subscription term. Subscription licensing ensures that each SD-WAN license in an active device in the SD-WAN overlay includes newly developed innovative features at both the device and network levels.

One of the greatest challenges is to develop and implement a solution that provides access to the product with minimal effort, enables quick activations, provides detailed information on consumption to help customers track license usage, and adheres to the lowest operational requirements Monitors friction. The best software licensing model avoids imposing significant OPEX on the organization. An often under-recognized value that subscription licenses provide is predictability. Your licensing solution should provide comprehensive visibility into consumption. This is a key element in helping companies plan for growth and realize cost savings by avoiding unnecessary licenses.

A top-notch licensing solution should also be flexible enough to operate within a company’s existing procurement framework and its established processes and procedures. In this way, the framework for managing product subscriptions is already in place as the provider publishes new offerings tailored to meet a company’s future needs. The organization is not forced to adapt its operating systems and procedures for each new offer!

Enter Cisco Smart Licensing

Cisco SD-WAN is supported by flexible purchasing programs such as Enterprise Agreements (EA) and Managed Service Level Agreements (MSLA) as well as à la carte. These purchasing programs ensure that customers can keep pace with the growth of their infrastructure by removing the friction caused by the lack of required software licenses. For flexibility and simplicity (the two main goals of smart licensing), the solution monitors the level of compliance between activated licenses on a network and available license entitlements in an asset pool acquired through one of Cisco’s purchase programs.

The main components of Cisco Smart Licensing for SD-WAN are as follows:

  • Authorization pool

  • Subscription Management

  • Smart Account Policy

  • License assignment to the network

  • reporting

  • Reconciliation and Compliance


License entitlements and subscriptions are the result of a procurement journey (e.g. ordering a Cisco DNA subscription in the Cisco Commerce Workspace (CCW) or entering into an EA or MSLA contract). As soon as this journey ends, the licenses end up in a pool to be compared with consumption reports. Cisco Smart Licensing enables you to track license and subscription consumption. This enables customers to plan spend and renewals more efficiently, as this visibility eliminates the heavy lifting of a manual reporting process that is prone to human error and also encourages traditional software license over-buying.

Cisco Smart Software Management Portal (CSSM)

Think of the CSSM portal as a single pane of glass for Cisco Smart Licensing for all Cisco products. The CSSM portal graphically depicts the license entitlement pool, the management of subscription and reporting policies, the reconciliation of license usage reports, and the license compliance status based on the reconciliation. Find out more about the CSSM portal here. After Cisco integrated the CSSM portal with vManage, Cisco completed the final piece of the SD-WAN software licensing puzzle.

In a completely seamless process, automatic synchronization between CSSM and vManage allows the vManage GUI to display a view of the available assets from the CSSM license pool. This allows organizations to leverage licenses based on the latest updates to available licenses in the pool. And depending on the purchasing program, companies can now use vManage to quickly expand the network: A device can be licensed even though an entitlement was not purchased in advance! For example, an organization can leverage an EA contract that covers overconsumption through Cisco’s True Forward policy.

The synchronization provides insight into available licenses. However, it is the automatic reconciliation between the reported number of active licenses in the network and the available licenses in the CSSM that controls the compliance status report. Based on the subscription policy (prepaid or postpaid), the interval of the report can vary from monthly to yearly.

It should be noted that Cisco’s implementation of Smart Licensing for SD-WAN is not designed to enforce regulatory compliance by restricting configuration options, impairing device functionality, or preventing the establishment of limits for network expansion. This is not in line with Cisco’s subscription-based software goals. Cisco’s primary tool in promoting compliance with licensing requirements for subscription software is reporting. The CSSM and vManage-driven compliance reporting provides companies with comprehensive insights and will one day contain the actual metrics on function consumption.


Cisco Smart Licensing is designed and optimized to provide a comprehensive licensing solution that facilitates the fulfillment, monitoring and compliance of licenses for all purchase programs, license types and devices through a very user-friendly and straightforward process.

Other resources:

1. Overview of intelligent licenses: Cisco Smart Licensing website

2. SD-WAN release note: Release note for IOS-XE SD-WAN 17.5x

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