Cisco UK & Ireland Blog

Demystifying Cisco ONE

May 31, 2016

I have recently been involved in a couple of Cisco ONE deals – both Campus and Data Centre, and it has indeed been a very interesting journey. Having wrapped my head around this new licensing model, along with its caveats and some not so obvious advantages, I believe I can now offer some advice based on my experiences. Let’s have a look.

To start with, what Cisco ONE is all about?

One of the salient points of Cisco ONE is the simplification of both software ordering and maintenance. Instead of hundreds of possible a’la carte features, we have just two bundles: Foundation and Advanced (with a third, Security-oriented bundle coming soon), each of which groups the most common features for their respective tiers. Such a bundle purchase can get you a number of features at the price of roughly just two, and is the obvious choice when you are poised to purchase feature-rich kit.

The other aspect of Cisco ONE is license mobility – provided you have an active Software Support Service (SWSS) contract, you can migrate the licenses you purchased to your new kit at refresh, without paying for them again.

Sounds simple? It sure does. When looking into some of the details, though, things can appear complicated.


Typical reaction when discussing Cisco ONE details for the first time

Let’s dispel some of the confusion. Just to be clear, I do not intend to go too much into detail here – instead, I will focus on some hints that I believe may be useful for anyone considering Cisco ONE, and in general can make life easier for customers and partners.

  • License portability requires the SWSS contract; this is independent from HW support contract (such as SmartNet), and can in fact be purchased even without HW support contract
  • Cisco ONE Wireless LAN Controllers (WLCs) can be used as High Availability (HA) WLCs without any additional licensing (i.e. no HA SKU required)
  • Cisco ONE Access Point licenses can be migrated between IOS and Aire-OS WLCs
  • There is a time-limited promotion (valid until August 2016) to migrate from existing Access Point (AP) licenses to a Cisco ONE 5520 WLC – both adder and base licenses on existing WLCs can be migrated, and the promotion offers significant discounts
  • Cisco ONE includes Prime Infrastructure Lifecycle and Assurance licenses; for Access Points, it also comes with ISE endpoint licenses – the thing to keep in mind here is that the quantity is not 1, but 25 endpoint licenses per AP; the case for either Prime Infrastructure or ISE can significantly strengthen the economic case for Cisco ONE
  • You do not have to use the Prime Infrastructure licenses to manage the devices they were originally bundled with – this gives you additional flexibility when utilising your licenses
  • There are excellent Cisco ONE bundles available with Catalyst 3850 switches with Cisco APs, where the total price, including licenses, can be lower than just buying the hardware outside the bundle

All the above being said, I will be the first to admit that Cisco ONE is not a silver bullet, and I simply would not propose this licensing model where it does not make sense. These circumstances can happen when all you need is a bare-bone box, or one with a very narrow feature set. In such cases, all the extra features would be wasted, thus not justifying the expenditure.

On the other hand, there are a couple rules of thumb where Cisco ONE becomes almost a no-brainer. One of them is L3 access switching, the other threshold being L3 DC switching (basic L3 for N7K/N9K or advanced L3 for other Nexus switches). Another case can be made for storage licenses on the Nexus switches (where applicable) – Cisco ONE can unlock an entire chassis’ worth of storage ports at a significantly reduced price.

Cisco ONE is available for campus (switches, WLCs and APs), Data Centre (switches and servers) and WAN (routers).

To sum it all up, a comparison to the traditional, a’la carte model could go like this:


Feature-by-feature a’la carte choice vs. ready to go bundles

Yes, there will sometimes be cases where we prefer to get our hands dirty and do it ourselves – and there is nothing wrong with it. Just keep in mind that, when utilised correctly, Cisco ONE can help simplify licensing and support contracts, all the while reducing Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) and protecting customer’s investment at refresh. When understood, it is a great tool to help make our customers’ lives easier – that is why I would encourage everyone to give Cisco ONE a closer look.

Leave a comment


  1. Very interesting subject, appreciate it for putting up. “The friendship that can cease has never been real.” by Saint Jerome.