Cisco ISE Upgrade Overview

This document describes how to upgrade your Cisco Identity Services Engine (ISE) software on Cisco ISE appliances and virtual machines to Release 3.0. (See the section "What is New in Cisco ISE, Release 3.0 " in Release Notes for Cisco Identity Services Engine, Release 3.0.)


Cisco ISE, Release 2.3 and later offer a new and enhanced Policy Sets window that replaces all the existing network access policies and policy sets. When you upgrade from an earlier release to Release 2.3 or later, all the network access policy configurations (including authentication and authorization conditions, rules, policies, profiles, and exceptions) are migrated to the new Policy Sets window in the Cisco ISE GUI. For more information on the new policy model, see the "New Policy Model" section in Cisco Identity Services Engine Administrator Guide, Release 2.3

Upgrading a Cisco ISE deployment is a multistep process and must be performed in the order that is specified in this document. Use the time estimates provided in this document to plan for an upgrade with minimum downtime. For a deployment with multiple Policy Service Nodes (PSNs) that are part of a PSN group, there is no downtime. If there are endpoints that are authenticated through a PSN that is being upgraded, the request is processed by another PSN in the node group. The endpoint is reauthenticated and granted network access after the authentication is successful.


If you have a standalone deployment or a deployment with a single PSN, you might experience a downtime for all authentications when the PSN is being upgraded.

Different Types of Deployment

  • Standalone Node—A single Cisco ISE node assuming the Administration, Policy Service, and Monitoring persona.

  • Multi-Node Deployment—A distributed deployment with several ISE nodes. The procedure to upgrade a distributed deployment is discussed in the following listed references.

Regenerate the Root CA Chain

In case of the following events, you must regenarate the root CA chain:

  • Changing the domain name or hostname of your PAN or PSN.

  • Restoring a backup on a new deployment.

  • Promoting the old Primary PAN to new Primary PAN post upgrade.

In the Cisco ISE GUI, click the Menu icon () and choose Administration > System > Certificates > Certificate Management > Certificate Signing Request. Click on Generate Certificate Signing Request (CSR). Select the ISE Root CA in the Certificate(s) will be used for drop-down list. Click on Replace ISE root CA Certificate Chain.

Upgrade Path

Single-step Upgrade

You can directly upgrade to 3.0, from any of the following releases:

  • Cisco ISE, Release 2.4

  • Cisco ISE, Release 2.6

  • Cisco ISE, Release 2.7

You can download the upgrade bundle from The following upgrade bundle is available for Release 3.0:

ise-upgradebundle-2.4.x-2.7.x-to-—Use this bundle to upgrade from Release 2.4, 2.6 or 2.7 to 3.0

Two-step Upgrade

If you are currently using a version earlier than Cisco ISE, Release 2.4, you must first upgrade to one of the releases that are listed above and then upgrade to Release 3.0.

Supported Operating System for Virtual Machines

Cisco ISE runs on the Cisco Application Deployment Engine operating system (ADEOS), which is based on Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL).

The following table shows the RHEL versions used in different versions of Cisco ISE:

Table 1. RHEL Releases

Cisco ISE Release

RHEL Release

Cisco ISE 1.3

RHEL 6.4

Cisco ISE 1.4

RHEL 6.4

Cisco ISE 2.0

RHEL 7.0

Cisco ISE 2.1

RHEL 7.0

Cisco ISE 2.2

RHEL 7.0

Cisco ISE 2.3

RHEL 7.0

Cisco ISE 2.4

RHEL 7.3

Cisco ISE 2.6

RHEL 7.5

Cisco ISE 2.7

RHEL 7.6

Cisco ISE 3.0

RHEL 7.6

If you are upgrading Cisco ISE nodes on VMware virtual machines, after upgrade is complete, ensure that you change the Guest Operating System to supported version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). To do this, you must power down the VM, change the Guest Operating System to the supported RHEL version, and power on the VM after the change.

In general, Cisco ISE upgrades with RHEL (Red Hat Enterprise Linux) OS upgrades (later version of Red Hat) take longer time per ISE instance. Additionally, if there are changes in the Oracle Database version in ISE, the new Oracle package is installed during OS upgrade. This may take more time to upgrade. To minimize the time for upgrades, you need to know if the underlying OS is upgraded during ISE upgrades.

Licensing Changes

Device Administration Licenses

From Cisco ISE, Release 2.4, the number of Device Administration licenses must be equal to the number of device administration nodes (PSNs configured for the device administration service) in a deployment.

If you are currently using a Device Administration license and plan to upgrade to Release 2.4 or above, TACACS+ features will be supported for 50 Device Administration nodes in Release 2.4 and above.

If you install a PAK generated from a new PID, Device Administration license count is displayed as per the quantity available in the PAK file. You can add multiple Device Administration licenses to your deployment based on the number of Device Administration nodes that you require. Evaluation license supports one Device Administration node.

Licenses for VM nodes

Cisco ISE is also sold as a virtual appliance. For Release 2.4 and above, it is recommended that you install appropriate VM licenses for the VM nodes in your deployment. You must install the VM licenses based on the number of VM nodes and each VM node's resources such as CPU and memory. Otherwise, you will receive warnings and notifications to procure and install the VM license keys in Release 2.4 and above, however, the services are not interrupted.

VM licenses are Infrastructure licenses, therefore, you can install VM licenses irrespective of the endpoint licenses available in your deployment. You can install a VM license even if you have not installed any Evaluation, Base, Plus, or Apex license in your deployment. However, in order to use the features enabled by the Base, Plus, or Apex licenses, you must install the appropriate licenses.

After installing or upgrading to Release 2.4 or above, if there is any mismatch between the number of deployed VM nodes and installed VM licenses, alarms are displayed in the Alarms dashlet for every 14 days. Alarms are also displayed if there are any changes in the VM node’s resources or whenever a VM node is registered or deregistered.

VM licenses are perpetual licenses. VM licensing changes are displayed every time you log in to the Cisco ISE GUI, until you check the Do not show this message again check box in the notification dialog box.

If you have not purchased any ISE VM license before, refer to the ISE Ordering Guide to choose the appropriate VM license to be purchased. If you have purchased ISE VM licenses with no Product Authorization Key (PAK) associated, you can request VM PAKs by reaching out to with Sales Order numbers that reflect the ISE VM purchase. This request will be processed to provide one medium VM license key for each ISE VM purchase you made in the past.

VM License Categories

VM licenses are offered under three categories: Small, Medium, and Large. These categories depend on the resources such as hardware appliances, RAM capacity and number of CPUs. For instance, if you are using 3595 equivalent VM node with 8 cores and 64-GB RAM, you might need a Medium category VM license, if you want to replicate the same capabilities on the VM. You need to install multiple VM licenses based on the number of VMs and their resources as per your deployment requirements.

The following table shows the minimum VM resources required for the VM categories:

VM Category

VM License Specifications


  • Minimum 16GB RAM and 12 CPU cores for SNS-3515 equivalent.

  • Minimum 32GB RAM and 16 CPU cores for SNS-3615 equivalent.


  • Minimum 64GB RAM and 16 CPU cores for SNS-3595 equivalent.

  • Minimum 96GB RAM and 24 CPU cores for SNS-3655 equivalent.


  • Minimum 256GB RAM and 16 CPU cores for MnT in clusters supporting more than 500,000 concurrent sessions.

  • Minimum 256GB RAM and 24 CPU cores for SNS-3695 equivalent.

For more information about the licenses, see the "Cisco ISE Licenses" chapter in the Cisco Identity Services Engine Administrator Guide.