How Cisco Simplified Its Complex Licensing Structure

Christopher Lentz | February 06, 2014 05:25 PM

For years Cisco has used the same complex, and often uncomprehendable, licensing structure. For those of us who have had to deal with this, the nightmare is all too real. Those who have not dealt with it should imagine a world of complete chaos. Let's look at the changes Cisco made and how they plan to help companies using their products for the future.

In the Beginning

When the Cisco IOS was originated, each device had its own operating system that was tailored to the specific needs and hardware of that device. This meant that each model, and even submodel had their own IOS image. If that weren't enough to complicate matters, each device then had several advanced options that could be purchased like Security K9, Voice, and Advanced Data. Each of these had their own image as well. So for a single device you could have at least 4 licensing options. Multiply that by the incredible number of Cisco devices and you have quite the list indeed.

Keep It Simple

KISS or "Keep It Simple Stupid" was one of the very first things I learned in college when studying computer systems. That logic was to be applied to troubleshooting, development, and every other facet of the industry. I guess Cisco finally got the memo after decades of ripping out hairs and screaming in IT rooms around the world. Now Cisco's new licensing architecture allows for a single "Universal Image" for all their new devices. This UI has all of the advanced feature sets built into it but not enabled by default. This means that for each model of product there is now only a single IOS image that is needed, creating a much more admin-friendly approach to licensing. 

Trying Advanced Features For Free

Another great thing about Cisco's recent change in its licensing is the ability for companies to enable advanced feature sets to try out for an evaluation period. After the period expires, you are advised to purchase the new advanced feature set from Cisco. This Right-to-Use license is on a trust basis, meaning that Cisco is not currently tracking it. However, if there is one thing I have learned in the IT business, it is that you don't want to come face to face with the Software Alliance and their teams of highly skilled forensic investigators.

So if you were once a scared IT admin when it came to Cisco licensing, it is time to come out from under the bed and see the new light that has been given to us.


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