Licensed to thrill: One customer’s response to Cisco’s simplified software licensing

June 28, 2018 - 7 Comments

Organizations across the globe are increasingly harnessing the power of networks to fuel operations, serve clients, and achieve business outcomes. As they do so, they are employing the cloud, fortifying security defenses, creating valuable insights from vast amounts of data, automating tasks, creating great customer and employee experiences, and integrating gear from multiple vendors. In the process, they are also administering multiple software licenses, which can create operational challenges. Network management is not for the faint of heart. How can we simplify this for our customers?

Improving the software licensing experience is a common theme we hear from customers, and we’re making progress through Smart Software Licensing – like making product activation keys (PAKs) and license files more straightforward, freeing up license-to-device node-locking, and creating the flexibility to manage access and roles in group licenses. And, providing much greater real-time visibility into all software licenses and entitlements in a single location.

Kitty Cheeks manages our Customer Loyalty Survey Program and I’ve asked her to share customer feedback about Cisco’s Smart Software Licensing, and how you can take advantage of it as well.

Guest Author: Kitty Cheeks, Manager, Customer Listening

We recently talked to Verizon about their journey transitioning from Cisco’s legacy licensing model to Smart Software Licensing. While initially apprehensive to make the shift to the new model for fear of the unknown, Kris Pate, Principal of Verizon Enterprise Solutions finally embraced it. He’s now glad he did, and offered this testament:

“I had been dealing with Cisco licensing for many years, and while the old model worked, the lack of visibility was really painful. The move to Smart Software Licensing has been great, primarily because I can now give everyone on my team access to all of the licenses while I maintain all of the different privileges. Life is so much easier.” 

My team and I closely follow customer feedback captured through Cisco’s Customer Loyalty Survey Program. By asking the right questions and capturing sentiment, we identify positive and negative elements of our customers’ experiences that drive their level of loyalty. Then, using insights gathered, we collaborate with business groups across Cisco to identify opportunities to improve and strengthen customer relationships. Our goal is to have customers feel heard and close the loop so they learn how Cisco is applying their feedback.

On the issue of software licensing, survey results and customer comments were taking a downward turn – it was clear that there were multiple challenges and general confusion. Customers wanted simplification. Sharing that feedback with Cisco led to the development of Smart Software Licensing, which provides customers a better way to understand license ownership and consumption, plus a single location to view what licenses they own. And, most importantly, how licenses are being deployed within their networks.

We appreciate the input from Verizon and other customers whose candor helped us improve our software licensing approach and overall customer experience in this area. For more information, visit Cisco’s Smart Licensing Software Overview site for training, available products, roadmaps, and more. Got feedback? We’d love to hear it. Reach out to us at

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  1. Curt and Kitty,

    Thanks for the back story on Smart Software Licensing, and thanks for working to improve the customer experience.

  2. in a few years more than 74% of software applications and hardware licensing will cloud based. This is where the industry is going, consumers & businesses can either accept it or not. But either way it is happening and if they aren't on board they will soon be even if it means dragging them along kicking & screaming! Good post, thanks for your insight.

    • Hi Tyler, couldn't agree more. Cisco's evolution of licensing is a radical change from the past and positioned for the future.

  3. Great to see the strategy coming to market and making a big difference… smart licensing is a game changer for Cisco…

  4. The problem with Smart licensing is that it don't fit well in secure networks that air gaped from the Internet.I have customers who prefer the Perpetual licensing model because there is no need for internet access on OOB network.I know that there is satellite server but it is still need connectivity to the Internet that for some enterprise it is not allow by their security policy.I hope Cisco continue offering both Licensing models so the customers can choose the best one matches with their security policy.

    • Hi John,
      While Smart Software Licensing provides the most advantages in a connected world there are other options available that are in use today for the public and private sector including MSPs / GSPs / Large Internationals and Financial Institutions. You’ve discovered one option for partially connected air gapped networks using the satellite. We do recognize that there are other environments with no network connectivity. There is another option for isolated networks which provides full offline access – it’s called License Reservation. While it’s similar to PAK based licensing there are some advantages in using this option over PAK – primarily visibility into license ownership and the assignment into the Smart Account. It works by using copy/paste information between the product and to manually check in (and out) licenses.

      In whole, there are 5 options today:
      1 – Direct cloud access – Where the product sends usage information directly over HTTPS. No additional components are needed.
      2 – Access through an HTTP proxy – Cisco products send usage information over the internet via a proxy server. Any off the shelf proxy will work.
      3/4 – Access through an on-premise license management satellite (ITAM) – Cisco products send usage information to a locally installed satellite. Periodically the satellite exchanges information with Cisco to keep the satellite in sync. This can be in either a connected mode or manually in disconnected networks.
      5 – Full offline access (license reservation) – License can be checked out by copying information between and pasted (or typed manually in fully disconnected environments). Functionally equivalent to current node locking but with the advantages of Smart Licensing / Smart Accounts.

      Hopefully this answers your question. If not, let me know and I’ll be happy to discuss in more detail you.

      Thanks for your comments!!

      Tim Knapp

    • Totally agree with you!