License keys have a certain amount of capacity. For hosts, capacity is based on the number of processors in the host. For vCenter Server, capacity is based on the number of instances of vCenter Server. However, the licensing of solutions can be based on processors, asset instances, virtual machines, etc.

The examples that follow might not apply to all solutions.

Though licensing is applicable to solutions as well as ESX/ESXi hosts and vCenter Server, solutions licensing management is too variable and, therefore, specific to each solution to be discussed in general terms. For information about licensing a specific solution, see the documentation for that solution.

For most vSphere products, when you purchase vSphere licenses, you must consider the total number of processors, not hosts, that will run the products. You can assign and reassign the processor capacity to any combination of hosts. For example, suppose you purchase a 10-processor vSphere license key. You can assign the 10-processor license key to any of the following combinations of hosts:

Five 2-processor hosts

Three 2-processor hosts and one 4-processor host

Two 4-processor hosts and one 2-processor host

One 8-processor host and one 2-processor host

Special considerations include:

Dual-core and quad-core processors, such as Intel processors that combine two or four independent CPUs on a single chip, count as one processor.

You cannot partially license a multiprocessor host. For example, a 4-CPU host requires 4-processors of vSphere license key capacity.


From the ESX/ESXi license perspective, a CPU is a processor with a physical processor in it. When you purchase a license, you select the edition, the number of CPUs, and the maximum number of cores per CPU. For example, if you purchase an enterprise license with 100 CPUs, you must also choose the maximum number of cores per CPU. For example, you might select a maximum of 2 cores per CPU, 6 cores per CPU, or 12 cores per CPU. The choice depends on the type of hardware on which you are installing ESX/ESXi.

Products for which you purchase a license for each instance require a single unit of license key capacity, regardless of the number of processors in the machine. The vCenter Server is an example of a product that requires this type of license. If you purchase a vCenter Server license key with a capacity greater than one, you assign one unit of the capacity to each instance of vCenter Server.