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

License Key

An alphanumeric sequence of 25 characters in groups of five that are separated by dashes. The license key encodes details for the product it is associated with, the license expiration date, the license capacity, and other information. The license key is entered in the system to activate the product it is associated with.


A set of functionality that you can purchase together as a group. Examples of products are vCenter Server, vSphere, and solutions.

Product Edition

A set of specific features that are associated with a unique license key. When assigned, the license key unlocks the features in the product edition. Examples of product editions are vSphere Enterprise, vSphere Standard, vCenter Server Essentials, and so on.


Functionality that is enabled or disabled by a license that is associated with a specific product edition. Examples of features are vSphere DRS, vSphere vMotion, vSphere High Availability, and so on.


A product that is packed and distributed independently from vSphere. You install a solution in vSphere to take advantage of certain functionality. Every solution has a licensing model specific for the solution, but can use the licensing infrastructure of vCenter Server for license management and reporting. Examples of solutions are vCenter CapacityIQ, vCenter Site Recovery Manager, vCenter Chargeback, and so on.


Any licensable object in vSphere. The license administrator in vSphere can assign one license key to one or multiple assets of the same type if the key has sufficient capacity. Assets are vCenter Server systems, ESXi hosts, and solution instances.

License Key Capacity

Amount of units that you can assign to assets. The units of a license key capacity can be of different types depending on the product that the license key is associated with. For example, a license key for vCenter Server determines the number of vCenter Server instances that you can license with the key.

License Use

The number of units that an asset uses from the capacity of a license key. For example, if you assign a per-virtual-machine license key to vCenter Site Recovery Manager, the license use for Site Recovery Manager is the number of protected virtual machines.