vCenter Server provides licensing infrastructure that you can use for management and reporting of licenses that apply to ESXi hosts, vCenter Server, and certain solutions such as vCenter Site Recovery Manager, vCenter CapacityIQ, vCenter Chargeback, and so on.

Licensing in vCenter Server is implemented using license keys. You can assign one license key to multiple licensable objects of the same type if the key has enough capacity. However, you cannot assign multiple license keys to a single licensable object. For example, you can assign one license key to multiple vCenter Server systems in a Linked Mode group, but you cannot assign multiple license keys to a single vCenter Server system.

ESXi 5.0 hosts, vCenter Server 5.0, and solutions have different licensing models.

ESXi 5.0 hosts are licensed with vSphere 5.0 license keys that have per-processor capacity with pooled vRAM entitlements. You can assign a vSphere 5.0 license key to multiple ESXi 5.0 hosts if the key has large enough processor capacity to cover all physical processors in the hosts. When you assign a vSphere 5.0 license key to an ESXi 5.0 host, the amount of processor capacity of the key that is consumed is equal to the number of physical processors in the host. vRAM is defined as the memory that is configured to a virtual machine. vRAM entitlements are pooled across all in-use vSphere 5.0 license keys of the same product edition for a single vCenter Server system or a Linked Mode group. A license key is in use if it is assigned to at least one host. The amount of vRAM capacity that each in-use license key contributes to the pool of its vSphere edition is equal to the processor capacity of the key multiplied by the base vRAM entitlement of the corresponding vSphere edition. The vRAM capacity of the pool is consumed only by powered-on virtual machines that run on ESXi 5.0 hosts. Each powered-on virtual machine consumes an amount of vRAM that is equal to its configured memory. If a virtual machine is configured with memory greater than 96GB, the vRAM usage for the virtual machine equals to 96GB. For details about vRAM and how to apply the licensing model for ESXi 5.0 hosts, see Licensing for ESXi 5.0 Hosts.

vCenter Server 5.0 systems are licensed with vCenter Server 5.0 license keys that have per-instance capacity type. A license key for vCenter Server determines the number of vCenter Server instances that you can license with the key.

Solutions are licensed depending on the specific usage and licensing needs of each solution. For example, vCenter Site Recovery Manager, vCenter Capacity IQ, and vCenter Chargeback are licensed on a per-virtual-machine basis.

The licensing infrastructure in vCenter Server provides functions that you can use to implement and monitor the licensing models of ESXi hosts, vCenter Server, and solutions.

The licensing infrastructure in vCenter Server uses specific terminology and definitions to refer to different licensing-related objects.

ESXi 5.0 hosts are licensed with vSphere 5.0 license keys. vSphere 5.0 license keys have per-processor capacity with pooled vRAM entitlements. vRAM entitlements of vSphere 5.0 licenses are pooled across all assigned vSphere 5.0 license keys of the same product edition for a single vCenter Server system or for a Linked Mode group.

vCenter Server 5.0 systems are licensed with vCenter Server 5.0 license keys that have per-instance capacity.

Solutions can have different licensing models depending on the specifics of every solution.

Upgrading the ESXi or vCenter Server software may require changes in the licensing configuration of ESXi hosts or vCenter Server.

All license keys of ESXi hosts, vCenter Server and solutions are kept in the vCenter Server license inventory. vCenter Server systems in Linked Mode share a common license inventory.

You can control which users can view and manage license resources.

Use the license portal to get upgraded license keys, downgrade license keys, combine the capacity of multiple license keys, divide the capacity of a single license key, view the change history of your license keys, and find lost license keys.

License management is centralized. You can use the vSphere Client to manage all licenses that are available in the license inventory of a vCenter Server system or a Linked Mode group.

You can view the use and capacity of the license keys that are assigned to assets for a period that you select.