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 Operations Manager, 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 hosts, vCenter Server, and solutions have different licensing models.

ESXi 5.x hosts are licensed with vSphere license keys that have per-processor capacity. You can assign a vSphere license key to multiple ESXi hosts if the key has large enough processor capacity to cover all physical processors in the hosts. When you assign a vSphere 5.x license key to an ESXi host, the amount of processor capacity of the key that is consumed is equal to the number of physical processors in the host. For details about how to apply the licensing model for ESXi hosts, see Licensing for ESXi Hosts.

vCenter Server systems are licensed with vCenter Server 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 Operations Manager 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 hosts are licensed with vSphere licenses. Each vSphere license key has a certain processor capacity that you can use to license multiple physical processors on ESXi hosts. When you assign a vSphere license key to a host, the amount of processor capacity that is consumed is equal to the number of physical processors in the host

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

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

Evaluation mode licenses are available by default for every asset. While in evaluation mode, you can explore all the features of the product that is associated with the asset.

VMware vCloud Suite 5.1 combines multiple components into a single product to cover the complete set of cloud infrastructure capabilities. When used together, the vCloud Suite components provide virtualization, software-defined datacenter services, policy-based provisioning, disaster recovery, application management, and operations management.

License and evaluation period expiry lead to consequences that prevent you from performing certain operations in the vSphere environment.

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.

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 use the license management function in the vSphere Web Client to manage the licensing of the assets in your vSphere environment from a central place. You can add license keys in the vCenter Server inventory, assign license keys to multiple assets at a time, view information about the available products and licenses, and export licensing information in a CSV file.

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

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

The license use data in an exported report and the data that you view in the license reporting function are interpreted differently. The license use data in an exported report contains the license usage snapshots that vCenter Server has collected over a certain time period. The license use data that you view in the license reporting function is aggregated from the license usage snapshots.