When your business is deploying Cisco 9800 Wireless LAN Controllers (WLCs), it also needs to acquire the required cisco wireless controller licenses. Since most professionals working on Cisco WLCs have lots of confusion about their licensing, we are going to share the most frequently asked questions and their answers to help you understand things about licensing model of Cisco WLCs better.

Should I license the Cisco 9800 WLC itself?

No. There is no need to license the Cisco 9800 WLC itself when there are no access points activated on it. If you are going to join the Access points to 9800 controllers, then you will need licenses for the access points only and licenses for each AP is mandatory. However, you need to know that it is the 9800 controller that communicates with Smart Licensing and that verifies the licensing of all attached access points.

Which licenses do I need for APs joined to Cisco WLC?

Every access point joined to the 9800 controller needs two licenses, namely, AIR Network license and AIR DNA License. When you purchase them, you can find them in your smart account and both of these licenses can be configured to be either Essential or Advantage level.

Can we use different licensing levels for all access points joined to the same 9800 WLC?

No. Since the license level is configured at the controller level, all access points must have the same license level. Once you change the license level, it is also essential to reboot so that everything works the same way.

What is Cisco 9800 WLC Evaluation License?

Cisco 9800 WLC Evaluation License allows you to use all of the functionalities of the 9800 controller for 90 days. If you don’t renew it before expiration, you will get Syslog messages and notifications to properly license your controller. However, these messages and notifications don’t affect the functionality of your controller. Even with improper licensing, your wireless LAN controllers will be fully functional. When the evaluation license expires, you cannot reset it.

Where can I download the license file for the 9800 WLC?

There is no licensing file for the 9800 WLCs because these controllers rely on SMART LICENSING which doesn’t need license files.

How can I get the 9800 WLC licensed?

You can get your 9800 controllers licensed in three different ways. You can use Cisco Smart Software Manager - CSSM (where a controller requires the internet connection), Specific License Reservation -SLR (also called offline licensing), and an on-premises satellite server.

How do I deploy Smart License for the 9800 WLCs?

CSSM makes it easier to purchase, deploy, track, and renew Cisco software. This allows you and Cisco to view your hardware, software entitlements, and services in the CSSM interface. Smart Software Licensing helps set up a pool of software licenses or entitlements to be used across the entire company in an automated and flexible manner. Pooling is also useful because it eliminates the need to re-host licenses and you can manage license deployment across your company on your own.

How do I deploy CSSM licensing for the 9800 WLC?

Licensing the 9800 WLC with CSSM requires you to have two things:

  • A functional DNS server
  • Access to tools.cisco.com

When you finish the configuration of your controller, it will create a connection with the smart licensing servers and send reports of license consumption to the server every 8 hours.

You can place the 9800 WLC behind NAT and it does not require to have a public IP address. You can also specify which physical interface to use when communicating with smart licensing servers.

The use of http(s) proxy is also permitted.

The licensing procedure is almost similar to the single controller setup.

How do I activate Cisco 9800 WLC Smart Licensing?

Here is how to register, activate, and enable Smart Licensing for the 9800 WLC:

  • To register your product, first, you will need to register a token, which is stored in the Product Instance Registration Token Table associated with your Cisco smart account.
  • You can create a new token by going to your smart account and clicking on New Token. Enter the required details and select the checkbox for export-controlled functionality. You can click Copy to copy the new token.
  • To activate Smart Licensing on the WLC, navigate to Management > Software Activation > License Type.
  • Choose the Smart-Licensing type and enter the DNS server IP address. This IP address will be used for resolving the Smart License and Smart call-home URLs in the profile. Click Apply.
  • Then, Management > Smart-License > Device Registration and choose the action registration.
  • Register your WLC by entering the copied token ID.
  • Check the status of Registration and Authorization under Management > Smart-License > Status. You can see the device in the CSSM portal under the Product Instances.
  • When APs are joined to the WLC, entitlements are requested one time in 24 hours and the entitlement status can be viewed by going to Management > Smart-License > Status.
  • Once the product is registered, you no longer need the token and can be revoked and removed from the table. These tokens stay valid from 1 to 365 days.

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