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May 31
Cisco Smart Licensing
Posted by Rick Wong

What is Cisco Smart Licensing

Lately, I have encountered some clients that are not familiar with or even confused with Cisco Smart Licensing. They are either are not from the Cisco world, have not had to work with Cisco licensing much or used to the traditional licensing model. Cisco is phasing out traditional licensing and this only add to the confusion. With traditional licensing, often a Product Authorization Key (PAK) is sent via snail mail or email to the customer.   This PAK is then used to generate a license in Cisco’s traditional licensing portal and then the license needs to be uploaded or entered via text into the device or system. Gone are those days. With Smart licensing the devices and systems contact Cisco to obtain an available license that authorizes usage and features.

How does it work?

When a customer makes a purchase from Cisco for a product such as a router, ISE or a Cisco Secure Firewall (formerly FTD) that requires a license, the Cisco reseller or VAR would assign the licenses for that product to the customer’s Company account with Cisco.   The licenses can then be managed via a Smart Licensing account that is authorized by the Company, usually via an account administrator. A new Smart account needs to be created if one does not exist.   If your company ever made any previous purchases for any licensed Cisco product, then your company is already in Cisco’s system. You can then create a Smart account to access your company’s licensing portal.

Create a Smart Account

To create an account, go to https://software.cisco.com

Cisco Smart Licensing

Cisco Smart Licensing

You will need to associate the company with the Smart Account you are creating.

Cisco Smart Licensing

Managing Licenses

After a new count is created you can then manage your company’s licenses.

Cisco Smart Licensing

From here you can view licenses and what licenses are being used, what is available or any licenses that are out of compliance. Go to Inventory>Licenses

Cisco Smart Licensing

License a New Product

To license a new device or system. You first must generate a token from the Smart portal.

Cisco Smart Licensing

Cisco Smart Licensing

Next Copy or Download the token and used it to authorize the device.   You can copy and paste the token since it just ascii text.

Here is the token in text:

Cisco Smart Licensing

Cisco Smart Licensing

Next, go to the device and use the generated token to register the device to allow it to communicate with the Smart Licensing Portal.  

Note that the token itself is not authorizing the licenses. It is just allowing the device to be able to access the Smart Licensing Portal to obtain an available license.   The license must be in the portal for the device to licensed.  


Here is an example of registering ISE for Smart Licensing. The generated token is used to register ISE.

Cisco Smart Licensing

We can see that Smart Licensing is in use and that our ISE licenses are in compliance.

Cisco Smart Licensing

If we go back to the Smart Licensing, we can see the licenses in use in the portal for ISE.

Cisco Smart Licensing

Benefits of Smart Licensing

Cisco licensing can be confusing if you don’t work with licensing much or coming from other vendors or even from the Cisco traditional way of licensing products. With more and more vendors using the subscription-based model for licensing products it make sense for Cisco to move to this model when the customer have more control and visibility into their licensing.

Here are some benefits of using Cisco Smart Licensing:

  • No more PAKs. You don’t have to remember where you put the PAKs. Did they come in the box or by mail? Or did they come via email?. The license will be in the Company account in the Smart Portal.
  • Rehosting licenses. You can rehost your own licenses most of the time without contacting Cisco. Technically, with the new licensing model the licenses are not tied to the device as with traditional licensing. If you release a license from a device you can apply that license to another device. With PAK licenses you need to contact cisco to rehost whenever you replace a device.
  • Convert traditional license to Smart license. With the Smart Licensing Portal, you can convert Traditional Licenses to Smart Licenses.
  • View license usage and compliance. In the Smart Portal you can now view what licenses are in use, available licenses, and what is not in compliance. This can help with budgeting for licenses.


As always if you have any questions on Cisco Smart Licensing for you and your business and would like to schedule a free consultation with us, please reach out to us at sales@lookingpoint.com and we’ll be happy to help!

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Written By:

Rick Wong, Principal Network Architect

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