Have an account?

  •   Personalized content
  •   Your products and support

Need an account?

Create an account

Cisco Smart Licensing and Smart Accounts FAQ

Island of Content

Available Languages

Download Options

  • PDF
    (620.1 KB)
    View with Adobe Reader on a variety of devices
Updated:November 6, 2020

Available Languages

Download Options

  • PDF
    (620.1 KB)
    View with Adobe Reader on a variety of devices
Updated:November 6, 2020



Q.  How is Cisco changing its approach to software licensing?
A.  Cisco is transforming the end-to-end software lifecycle to make our customers’ experience better and easier. A major part of this change is a move away from Product Activation Key (PAK) licenses to Smart Licensing to make the license registration process faster and more flexible. At the heart of the transformation is Smart Licensing and Smart Accounts, which offer streamlined purchasing and software administration.
Q.  What is Smart Licensing?
A.  Smart Licensing is a flexible software licensing model that simplifies the way you activate and manage licenses across your organization. The Smart Licensing model makes it easier for you to procure, deploy, and manage your Cisco ® software licenses. To use Smart Licensing, you must first set up a Smart Account. Watch a short video on Smart Licensing.
Q.  What is a Smart Account?
A.  A Smart Account is a central repository where you can view purchased software assets, register and report software use, and manage licenses across the entire organization. Comprehensively, you can get access to your perpetual and active subscription software licenses through your Smart Account.
Smart Accounts are required to access and manage Smart License-enabled products. Creating a Smart Account is easy and takes less than five minutes. Create a Smart Account on cisco.com. Learn more about Smart Accounts in a short video.
Q.  What is a Limited Use Smart Account?
A.  A Limited Use Smart Account is a simplified Smart Account with just enough features to satisfy Small and Medium-Sized Business (SMB) customer needs. SMB customers that do not have a company domain email ID and use a public email domain can request a Limited Use Smart Account to manage their Smart License-enabled products. Watch a short video on Limited Use Smart Account for SMB customers.
Q.  What are the benefits of Smart Licenses?
A.  With Smart Licenses you get:

1.     License flexibility. Your software is not node-locked to your hardware, so you can easily use and transfer licenses as needed.

2.     Easy activation. Smart licensing establishes a pool of software licenses that can be used across your entire company; no Product Activation Keys (PAKs) are needed.

3.     Simplicity. Leave inconsistent licensing entitlements and management behind. Cisco is standardizing smart licensing across all products.

Q.  What are the benefits of a Smart Account?
A.  Smart Accounts offer a simple-to-use, centralized, and organized solution to license management. With a Smart Account, you get full visibility and insight into all of your Cisco software assets deposited into the Smart Account (including PAK licenses and Enterprise Agreements). When Smart Accounts are used with Smart Licenses, the benefits include:

      Real-time visibility - You can view all of your software licenses, entitlements, and users across the organization.

      Centralized management - A single location gives authorized users the ability to see all license entitlements and move licenses freely through the network as needed.

      Telemetry - Download reports of purchased, in-use, and available software, have better utilization management, and more efficient software use and budget planning.

      Organization - Virtual accounts provide the flexibility to organize licenses by department, product, geography, or other designation— whatever makes the most sense for your company.

Q.  How is Smart Licensing different from traditional PAK-based licensing?
A.  The following table highlights the differences between traditional PAK-based licenses and Smart Licenses.

Table 1.        Traditional Licenses comparison to Smart Licenses

Traditional Licenses

Smart Licenses

Limited view

You do not know what you own. You need to access multiple portals and tools to view information about your software assets.

Complete view

You have a complete view of your software assets. License and device usage is easily managed from a single interface.

PAK registration

You must manually register each device. A device can only be unlocked with a license key.

Easy registration

No PAKs are required for unlocking a device. You can easily activate devices.

Device-specific licensing

Licenses are specific to only one device (also referred to as node locking).

Company-specific licensing

  Our flexible licensing feature enables use of licenses across devices.
  Licenses can be pooled and applied to applicable devices in any grouping as designated by your company.
  You can consume licenses beyond the original purchase and reconcile overage usage at a later, agreed-upon date to speed execution and reduce the friction in the procurement cycles.
Q.  How does Smart Licensing work?
A.  Instead of using Product Activation Keys (PAKs), Smart Licenses establish a pool of software licenses in a customer-defined Smart Account. Smart-licensed products that can access a Smart Account on software.cisco.com via a secure transport will self-register upon configuration and activation with a single token, removing the need to visit a website and register products individually with separate PAKs. Customer networks that cannot use a connected, direct-registration method can use the on-premise Smart Software Manager (SSM) so that product registrations can occur in a local network. SSM link: https://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/buy/smart-accounts/software-manager.html.

Managing your Smart Licenses

Q.  How are Smart Licenses managed?
A.  You can self-manage license deployment throughout your company using the Cisco Smart Software Manager (CSSM). Smart Software Manager is a cloud-based tool that maintains a record of your purchased Smart Licenses on each product. It allows you to group licenses in Virtual Accounts (license asset pools). The system maintains real-time status of license usage after products are registered and activated. The user is notified by alerts (expiring, expired, insufficient), event logs, and summary emails as to the status of licenses in the Virtual Accounts. A user’s preferences allow for choosing notifications of software assets. Watch a short video to learn how to manage Smart Licenses. SSM Link: https://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/buy/smart-accounts/software-manager.html
Q.  What software products offer Smart Licenses?
Q.  Can Classic PAK-based licenses be converted into Smart Licenses?
A.  You can convert Classic PAK-based licenses to a Smart Entitlement (if a Smart License equivalent is available). The license conversion can be performed in the License Registration Portal (LRP) or in Smart Software Manager (SSM).

      In LRP, go to the ‘PAKs/Tokens’ tab, select ‘Actions’, then ‘Convert to Smart Entitlement’.

      In SSM, go to the ‘License Conversion’ tab to convert Classic Licenses to Smart Licenses.

Watch a short video on converting Classic licenses to Smart Licenses.
Q.  Can I transfer licenses across devices?
A.  For Smart License-enabled products, you can go to CSSM at software.cisco.com to transfer licenses across compatible products through Virtual Accounts. These activities can also be managed via APIs, https://apidocs-prod.cisco.com/?path=requestapiinfo
Q.  What is the process to register and activate a Smart License-enabled product?
A.  To register and activate a Smart License-enabled product:

1.     Create an initial token for the device in CSSM (Cisco Smart Software Manager), navigate to software.cisco.com then click on Smart Software Licensing, login using your Cisco username and password. Next click on the ‘Inventory’ tab and look for the ‘General’ tab, there you will see a button labeled ‘New Token’, click and follow instructions.

2.     Enable the ‘Smart Call Home’ feature on the product so that it can send the product serial number, and package software in-use information to CSSM.

3.     Set the token on the product, using the command, “(exec) license Smart register idtoken”.

4.     The product connects to CSSM and a notification is received about the activation.

5.     The software instance for the product appears on the CSSM portal.

Q.  Do I need a direct Internet connection to use Smart Licenses?
A.  Yes, the default tool for Smart Licenses is the cloud-based Cisco Smart Software Manager (CSSM) at software.cisco.com. However, for customers who want to keep the operational activities of their software within their protected network, we offer an on-premise version of the Cisco Smart Software Manager, (SSM) on-prem. The SSM on-prem is a free, virtual-machine-based download that replicates the cloud-based CSSM user experience but keeps all communications on premises. Once a month, the SSM satellite synchronizes with the SSM, with either a network-based transfer or an offline manual transfer. Watch a video on Cisco Smart Software Manager (SSM) satellite.
Q.  How is licensing information reported back to Cisco?
A.  Cisco Smart Software Licensing offers several flexible deployment options for reporting software license usage data, depending on the security posture required for your environment. Choose to use one or more of the following methods to transfer data from different systems:

      Direct cloud access (default) - Cisco products send usage information directly over the Internet or through a HTTP proxy server. No additional components are needed.

      Access through an on-premises license server -Cisco products send usage information to a locally installed Smart Software Manager (SSM) on -prem server. Periodically, information is exchanged automatically in connected environments or manually for disconnected environments.

      Full, offline access—license reservation – Specific license reservation is a method that uses copy-and-paste key information between the product and software.cisco.com to manually check software in and out of the license asset pool. This functionality is equivalent to PAK-like node locking, but with Smart License tracking

      Smart Licensing Using Policy - This method uses a software use reporting method rather than a per product registration method. Upon configuration, software use reports are created on each product. Then the product can either push the use report to a Cisco DNA Center controller, a SSM onprem, the new Cisco Smart Licensing Utility windows application (CSLU), a customer’s generic file server or 3rd party Network Management System or the report can be pulled from the above mentioned systems using APIs/CLIs. <insert API details for products and CSSM>. This method is new and available on some Cisco products, go to this link to view available products, See a complete list of Smart License-enabled products on cisco.com.

Q.  How does Cisco manage personal data?
A.  We are committed to being transparent about how your data is collected, transferred, and protected across our offerings. Privacy data sheets describe the processing of personal data, or personally identifiable information, by specific solutions. Read the security data sheet to learn more about the processing of personal data (or personal identifiable information) by Smart Licensing and Smart Accounts.
Q.  How does licensing enforcement work?
A.  Enforcement measures are typically added to virtual products and any trade controlled licenses. However, in general Cisco does not design licensing compliance to adversely affect a customer’s network operations. Cisco licenses use the identical Smart Agent in each of our Smart enabled products allowing for standard state transmission of the device license status. For licenses that are trade or export controlled, the device must have a valid license prior to usage, which is mapped to the serial number of a product. For non-trade or non-export controlled software, license status for any violation (such as insufficient licenses), is governed by the individual product to determine its enforcement actions.
Enforcement actions, if present, are normally on software-only products that are typically subscription-based. A complete list of products and their enforcement actions are published at this link. The product family matrix will show products that have soft enforcement where new configuration is restricted until licenses are available. A smaller number of products that offer throughput features require restrictions above 250M for trade and export controlled compliance.
Q.  How can it be ensured that a customer is informed directly and well in advance if Cisco is going to change the restricted operating mode behavior in a certain product (or adds a restricted operating mode to an existing product in which such mode was not implemented before)?
A.  Cisco will continue to notify of any changed or new functionality via product release notes. The product manages and Cisco field representatives will work together to ensure this information is communicated in advance.
Q.  In case of serious or persistent failures/malfunctions of Cisco’s central Smart Licensing infrastructure, how are negative effects on Smart Licensing-enabled products in use by customers prevented? Are there emergency plans and what are the escalation channels?
A.  Cisco is correcting all known problems with licensing software to avoid these situations. Increased testing of various scenario’s is being performed. In the event of a failure, Cisco TAC (Technical Assistance Center) is the escalation channel, as well as field teams. Recently, a new interface for creating licensing-specific incidents Support Case Manager was introduced for general problems, but escalations should go through TAC.
To open a case,

1.     Go to: www.cisco.com/go/scm

2.     Click on open new case, select software licensing on the left bottom and license management (or other category as appropriate) – See picture below with numbers.

3.     This will create a case and you will receive an email with case # and case information. Please refer case # in all your communication with Cisco.

Support Case Manager

New deployment method: Smart Licensing using policy

Q.  What is Smart Licensing Using Policy?
A.  The Smart Licensing Using Policy is an evolved version of the Smart Licensing. Starting with IOS-XE 17.3.2/17.4.1 all product running these versions of software will only support Smart Licensing Using Policy. PAKs and Specific License Reservation (SLR) keys will persist through the upgrade and remain intact unless explicitly removed.
The Smart Licensing Using Policy simplifies the day-0 operations for customers. The product will not boot in evaluation-mode, per product software registration is not required, and on-going communication every 30 days with the Cisco cloud is not required. However, license use compliance does require software reporting. Reporting is and can be done:

      From Cisco factory. when all new purchases include a Smart Account on an order

      Using Cisco DNA Center on-prem controller (December 2020 release)

      Smart Software Manager (SSM) on-prem (February 2021)

      Cisco Smart Licensing Utility (CSLU) lite-windows application

      Via APIs/CLIs for any 3rd party system

      Directly to a Smart Account

Q.  Which platform and software release supports Smart Licensing Using Policy?
A.  The Cisco Polaris IOS-XE release 17.3.2/17.4.1 targeted CCO 30th October 2020 and later releases will support Smart Licensing Using Policy for the following Cisco products.

      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.

Q.  What are the key differences between Smart Licensing and Smart Licensing Using Policy?

Smart Licensing (Previous)

Smart Licensing (post-November release)

Mandatory evaluation mode

No registration, No evaluation mode

Day0 registration to CSSM or satellite per device for software compliance

Allows un-enforced license change, but reporting required

On-going license reporting every 30 days

Customer-specific reporting policies

SLR/PLR for off-line customers

1.     Supports SLR/PLR for brownfield

2.     No SLR/PLR for greenfield

Software compliance is a pre-use per device activity requirement

Software compliance is managed on-change, automation tools provided to assist with SW compliance

Export Control Flag method for crypto feature enablement is no longer approved for use by Global Export Trade.

Design supports Global Export Trade Software use requirements for 100% compliance with US Commerce

Q.  What is different in CSSM with IOS-XE version 17.3.2?
A.  In CSSM, users will no longer need to register devices prior to use. However, to set up automated reporting a Cisco tool, API reporting, or direct connection from a product using a trusted connection to CSSM can be used. Alternatively, users can manually upload software use records (RUM reports) directly to CSSM via the Upload Usage Data button under the Reporting and Usage Data Files tabs. An active Smart Account is required in order to submit software use RUM reports.
Q.  How often is reporting required?
A.  For Perpetual licenses

      Report is required within 90 days only when there is a change in software use.

      However, if there is no change in software use than no report is required ever. We do recommend uploading software use reports of all products that have been upgraded to a Smart Licensing Using Policy release in order to establish a software use baseline against purchased assets in order to have an accurate accounting going forward.

For Subscription licenses

      Reporting is required within 90 days if there is a change in software use from what was purchased. A true-forward accounting will occur for products under an Enterprise Agreement, true-up accounting and quotes for over-use will be prepared for invoicing

Q.  How else can users perform usage reporting?

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

    Scheduled by the CSLU for transmission to Cisco.

    Uploaded offline.

    Sent by product instance as per policy.

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.

Requesting and managing Smart Accounts

Q.  Who needs a Smart Account?
A.  All Cisco customers need a Smart Account. Smart License-enabled products must have a Smart Account assigned in a Cisco Commerce Workspace (CCW) order before the order can be placed. Products that require a Smart Account are indicated by an ‘SA’ icon and ‘Smart Account Required’ message in red at the line level. Without a Smart Account, you cannot use the Smart Licenses that you purchase.
Q.  How can I request a Smart Account?
A.  Getting a Smart Account is fast and easy. Log into Cisco Software Central with your cisco.com ID and initiate a request for a Smart Account by clicking ‘Request a Smart Account’ under the ‘Administration’ tile. Creating a Smart Account takes less than five minutes. You can also initiate a request for a Smart Account when ordering in CCW.
Learn more about creating a Smart Account in a short video. Create a Smart Account on software.cisco.com.
Create a Smart Account
Q.  Where do I view and manage Smart Licenses?
A.  Once a Smart Account is created, you can access and manage your licenses assigned to your Smart Account through ‘Smart Software Licensing’ on Cisco Software Central. Management of the Smart Account administration and creation of new Virtual Accounts is done through the ‘Administration’ section on Cisco Software Central.
Q.  Do Smart Accounts cover all licenses?
A.  Smart Accounts provide full visibility into all types of Cisco software licenses except for Right-To-Use (RTU) licenses. The greatest benefit of a Smart Account is achieved when consuming a Smart License.

      For Smart Licensing, no PAKs are needed and it’s easy to order and activate Smart Licenses.

      For Classic PAK-based licenses, you gain enterprise-wide visibility of PAK licenses and devices assigned to the Smart Account.

      For Cisco Enterprise Agreements (EA), you benefit from simplified EA management, enterprise-wide visibility and automatic license fulfillment.

Q.  How do I access the different license types?
A.  Smart Accounts are the gateway to three different portals:

      For Smart Licenses, there is the Cisco Smart Software Manager, where Smart Licenses are stored and managed.

      For Classic Licenses, there is the License Registration Portal, where Classic Licenses are deposited and managed.

      For EAs, the EA Workspace is a tool where customers can manage their Enterprise Agreement licensing activities all in one place.

Virtual Accounts

Q.  What is a Virtual Account?
A.  Virtual Accounts are subaccounts within your Smart Account. They are used to internally organize and manage licenses based on your company’s specific needs. Virtual Accounts can be set up by department, product, geography, or other designation that best fits your company’s business model. When a Smart Account is created, a corresponding default Virtual Account is automatically created at the same time. Additional Virtual Accounts for Customer Smart Accounts are created in Cisco Software Central.
Q.  Why do I need Virtual Accounts?
A.  Virtual Accounts help you organize your Cisco assets in a way that is logical for your business. The most common use of a Virtual Account is to provide access and allocate specific licenses to different departments or geographies while maintaining an overall view of the organizational usage. There is no limit to the number of Virtual Accounts you create. Watch a short video on Virtual Account creation and best practices.

Smart Account roles

Q.  What is new in Smart Account?
A.  Smart Account will support nested structure where you can create up to 10 levels of Virtual Accounts. It gives you an ability to create multiple virtual accounts based on geography, buildings, departments, products etc.

Smart Account

Q.  What are the customer Smart Account roles?
A.  There are five roles for Smart Accounts:

1.     Smart Account approver – The approver is able to edit Smart Account properties, view all users, accept agreements, and view event logs. The approver cannot perform any license management activities.

2.     Smart Account administrator – The administrator is able to edit Smart Account properties, add and edit users, add and edit Virtual Accounts, accept agreements, and view event logs. The Smart Account administrator can perform license management activities for the entire Smart Account.

3.     Smart Account user - Similar to a Smart Account administrator, this role allows access to all Virtual Accounts. A Smart Account user can perform licensing activities but cannot create new Virtual Accounts or perform user management activities.

4.     Virtual Account administrator – This role is similar to the Smart Account administrator, except that this administrator is limited to assigned Virtual Accounts. This role allows the administrator to add and edit users to assigned Virtual Accounts, view event logs for assigned Virtual Accounts, and view account agreements. The Virtual Account administrator can perform all license management activities for the assigned Virtual Accounts.

5.     Virtual Account user – This role is similar to a Smart Account user, except that this user is limited to the Virtual Account the user is assigned to. They can perform licensing activities for the selected Virtual Accounts, but they cannot add new users.

Learn more

Q.  Where can I learn more?

      To learn more about Smart Licensing

      To learn more about Smart Accounts

      To create a Smart Account

      Smart Licensing data sheet

Learn more