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Understanding Cisco Licenses: What Are the Differences and How Do They Work?

Posted by Integrity Global on Feb 19th 2019

Cisco Licenses: Understanding the Differences Between Licenses and How They Work

Cisco Licenses: Understanding the Differences Between Licenses and How They Work

Regardless of which manufacturer or product line you’re talking about, dealing with licensing can quickly turn into a headache. Whether you’re installing new hardware or adding used hardware to an existing system, it’s important to ensure that you install the correct licenses. This is the only way to ensure that your hardware performs optimally and provides you with the feature set you need.

When it comes to Cisco hardware such as routers and switches, the sheer number of licenses available for download from the Cisco website can be dizzying. How do these licenses work? And, more importantly, how do you know which license you need for your particular piece of hardware? What are the most important differences between them?

Below, we’ll first discuss how Cisco licenses are structured. Then, we’ll take a look at the differences between licenses. We’ll also offer some insight into Cisco part numbers, as correctly identifying a part is essential for getting the right license.

Cisco IOS Licenses

Cisco’s IOS, or Internetwork Operating System, is the software you’ll find used on the vast majority of Cisco switches and routers. Earlier hardware utilized the CatOS system; however, IOS is now widely used by the latest Cisco hardware.

While some manufacturers treat software and licenses as separate entities, Cisco essentially bundles the two together. Think of it this way: when you install IOS onto a router or switch, you’re effectively installing a license at the same time.

Installation of an IOS license is easy. The IOS is provided as a single image file. All you have to do in order to install it is download the image, copy it to the hardware in question, and then reboot the hardware using the image. Rather than downloading a patch or an update for the IOS image, updating your system involves simply downloading a new IOS image and replacing the existing one with it.

The Differences Between Cisco Licenses

The challenge when it comes to Cisco licenses, then, isn’t installing them: it’s figuring out which one you need for your hardware, and what sort of feature set you ought to include.

A particular series of Cisco hardware -- for example, a series of Cisco routers -- might include a dozen individual models. But rather than sharing a single IOS image, these models often use different IOS images that are unique to them.

Previously, Cisco would also sell different versions of each IOS image in the form of various feature sets. For example, the same model of router might have included a number of different IOS image options. One IOS image would come with basic IP features; another would income the IP base plus voice; and another might include the IP base, voice, and data packages.

More recently, Cisco has introduced a so-called “universal IOS image” for many of its routers. This image includes the ability to run various technology packages, including the IP base package, a data package, a security package, and a unified communications package. As an end user, you have the ability to download the license key for a particular technology package via the Cisco License Manager and subsequently activate the technology package on your hardware.

Enhanced technology packages about the IP base package includes various advanced features, such as:

●Dynamic routing protocols, including Open Shortest Path First (OSPF), Enhanced IGRP (EIGRP), and Border Gateway Protocol Version 4 (BGPv4)

●Policy-Based Routing (PBR), including flow redirection

●Protocol-Independent Multicast (PIM)

●Distance Vector Multicast Routing Protocol (DVMRP)

Private VLAN (PVLAN)

Which License Do I Need?

In order to determine which Cisco license you need, you’ll first have to decode the part number associated with the hardware in question.

We’ve put together a helpful guide for decoding Cisco part numbers. This guide should help you sort through the long string of letters and numbers that you’ll find on your Cisco router or switch. Note that the last letter of the part number refers to the IOS image associated with it, such as IP base, IP services, and LAN base.

So, there you have it: you now have the knowledge you need to find the right license for your Cisco hardware, as well as an understanding of the differences between different IOS licenses.

And remember: if you’re looking for Cisco hardware, IGS stocks a wide selection of used and refurbished Cisco hardware including Cisco switches, routers, servers, and more. We inspect each and every refurbished item we sell to ensure that it meets the highest quality standards. Our team of knowledgeable customer service representatives can help you find the part you need: chat with us now for assistance!