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ONTAP Licensing in 8.2 to 9.9.1

Last Updated:


Applies to

  • ONTAP 9.0 to 9.9.1
  • Data ONTAP 8.2 to 8.3


For licensing in 9.10.1 and higher, see: ONTAP 9.10.1 and later Licensing Overview
ONTAP Licensing

What is the difference between 'Entitled' and 'Licensed'?

'Entitled' means that the customer has purchased a software entitlement for a specific controller, and NetApp business systems contain proof of the entitlement (e.g., Support Site shows the feature related to the controller). If NetApp and/or Partner business systems do NOT show an entitlement for a specific feature (e.g., CIFS), the controller is most likely not entitled to use that feature.

'Licensed' (which is a term often seen in ONTAP and management tool user interfaces) means a license key has been installed on a controller for a particular package or feature. 

Is a Cluster Base Key required to create a Single-Node Cluster?

Yes, a single-node Cluster requires a Cluster Base Key to run the create cluster command.

How will a customer know if the nodes are uniformly entitled? Is there an easy way to keep track?

The presence of a license key is not necessarily proof of entitlement for the entire cluster.  The Cluster Uniformity policy is a business policy that is different than the license enforcement implementation.  For ease of use, a single license key will enable a feature across an entire cluster, but the Cluster Uniformity policy requires that ALL nodes in the cluster be entitled for that feature, regardless of whether a key is installed on each node. For more information, see the Software Licensing Guide.

The output of the system license entitlement-risk show command in ONTAP (and on the System Manager “Licenses” page in the “Entitlement Risk” column) identifies if a feature is at risk of being in compliance with the Cluster Uniformity policy (note this function only identifies if a RISK exists, it does not identify if a compliance breach is actually present).  The output shows each feature licensed on the cluster, and whether there is no risk, a medium risk, or a high risk that the feature is non-compliant with the Cluster Uniformity rule (“unlicensed” and “unknown” are also possible states for a specific license).  If a feature shows a medium or high risk, you should verify the entitlement for each node, and take actions to eliminate the risk (e.g., install missing license keys).

You can verify the proof of entitlement on the NetApp Support site.  In the Software Licenses section, search for each Controller Serial Number that is in the cluster (the first results should include all the controllers in the cluster, but this might not always be the case). The results will display the Data ONTAP features entitled to each controller. It will also provide the related license keys which, if missing from the cluster, can be installed to eliminate the elevated risk status.

What about software support scenarios; what happens if a customer does not have entitlements to a feature on the controller they are calling about?

The support team will check to see if the customer is entitled to support and then check to see if the controller in question is entitled to the software feature with the issue. If the customer is not entitled for the feature on the controller, the support team will inform the customer that they are operating the feature out of compliance, and to contact their Sales team for assistance in rectifying the issue. They will then provide support, but they will not provide a permanent license key for the feature (however, they might provide a temporary license key). Furthermore, the support team will notify the appropriate Sales team.

How does a customer break a cluster into multiple clusters? How do cluster base keys get assigned for new clusters?

You will need to request a new Cluster Base Key through the Sales team. In most cases, you will need additional hardware to create the new cluster and the new Cluster Base Key will be generated with that order. If no new components are needed, the Sales team can submit a request for just the new Cluster Base Key, which is a no-charge item.

If you believe you have a situation where new license keys are required, see KB article What is the procedure to request License Keys for different versions of Data ONTAP?

How does ONTAP enforce the license keys?  

ONTAP does not check the license keys during the installation. The license keys can be added before the entire cluster is assembled, or after.  ONTAP will validate the installed license keys against the Controller Serial Numbers in the cluster at the time the cluster is fully assembled and booted up. If there are license keys installed that do not match a Controller Serial Number, error messages will be displayed. The emphasis in ONTAP is to ensure easy setup and non-disruptive operation of the cluster.

Obtaining new node-specific keys for the existing systems?

New license keys are not required for an upgrade.   If you believe you have a situation where new license keys are required, see KB article What is the procedure to request License Keys for different versions of Data ONTAP?

How can a customer tell if a controller is using upgraded license keys or matching-version license keys?

When you upgrade ONTAP on a controller, the license keys "carry forward" to enable the associated features non-disruptively. However, when you run the license show command, or if you view the license information in System Manager, upgraded licenses are displayed as ‘Legacy’ licenses. This is the indication that the feature is operating with upgraded license keys. 

Evaluation Licenses

How does a partner obtain ONTAP evaluation license keys for a customer?

Currently, ONTAP evaluation license keys can only be generated by NetApp employees through the Support Site, therefore partners must work with their NetApp contacts to obtain 'eval' keys for their customers. While the forms for requesting some evaluation license keys are internally accessible only, the license keys produced are intended for external use for NetApp business purposes.

Use the following Cluster Base eval Key along with the feature eval keys provided by NetApp:

Cluster Serial Number: 1-80-000099
Description: External "Eval" Base license, mandatory for cluster create and/or initial cluster setup   

How long can a user evaluate ONTAP features?

ONTAP evaluation license keys provide approximately 90 days of feature use. You can extend an eval by requesting and installing a new eval key with a later expiration date.

Are ONTAP evaluation license keys node-specific?

No, ONTAP evaluation license keys can be installed on multiple controllers.

What is the licensing process to convert my evaluation system to a production system (i.e., running with purchased licenses)?

Simply install your purchased Cluster Base Key, and then install the purchased feature license keys on each controller in the cluster. Nothing happens to the features configured with demo licenses even when the demo period has expired, the permanent keys takes precedence. License removal is non-disruptive. The license cleanup or license remove commands can be used to remove unnecessary demo licenses.


NetApp provides no representations or warranties regarding the accuracy or reliability or serviceability of any information or recommendations provided in this publication or with respect to any results that may be obtained by the use of the information or observance of any recommendations provided herein. The information in this document is distributed AS IS and the use of this information or the implementation of any recommendations or techniques herein is a customer's responsibility and depends on the customer's ability to evaluate and integrate them into the customer's operational environment. This document and the information contained herein may be used solely in connection with the NetApp products discussed in this document.