Chapter 1. Understanding Red Hat Subscription Management

While Red Hat products are available through a GNU Public License, Red Hat supports its products through a subscription-based license. Support includes:

  • Downloadable content and updates
  • Access to the knowledge base
  • Support for your product

You can view information about your product subscriptions through the Customer Portal. Red Hat provides an organization-wide methods to track the software products and subscriptions deployed across an account.

Red Hat Subscription Management (RHSM) allows administrators to know:

  • Which products are available to your organization
  • Which subscriptions and entitlements you have used
  • Which products are installed on your systems

RHSM allows administrators to identify the relationship between their systems and the subscriptions used by those systems from two different perspectives:

  • All active subscriptions for an account and which systems are consuming them
  • All systems profiled within the inventory and which subscriptions they are consuming

RHSM can perform many of the tasks of the on-premise tools including:

  • Registering systems
  • Attaching and renewing subscriptions
  • Retrieving system facts, contract information, and UUID

1.1. Understanding the Red Hat subscription process

For large environments, highly-secure environments, and many other situations, a hosted arrangement is not feasible. Companies need a way to attach subscriptions and deliver software content locally. In that case, an organization entry with an on-premise subscription management application such as Red Hat Satellite is added to the inventory in RHSM. The list of attached subscriptions is defined in a manifest, which outlines all of the subscriptions, products, and content repositories for that organization.The subscription management application then directly manages all of the systems and units at its local site. This has performance benefits by lowering bandwidth, and it offers significant management benefits to administrators by allowing local and flexible control over subscription management.

Before you can register your systems with RHSM, you need an active subscription and available entitlements. Subscriptions can be purchased through the Red Hat Store or by contacting Sales directly. After purchasing, you may need to wait 10 minutes before the subscriptions show up in the Customer Portal. After you successfully purchase the subscriptions you need to manage your Red Hat products and services, you register the subscriptions with RHSM. Finally, you attach individual subscriptions and entitlements to the systems that can use them.

1.2. Common terms used with Red Hat Subscription Management

Red Hat Subscription Management uses specific terminology around the registration, usage, and tracking of your subscriptions.

Table 1.1. Common terms for RHSM


Activation key

A key created by an organization administrator with pre-configured settings that can be applied to a subscription on a new system during registration


Assigning a subscription to a host system for a Red Hat product, which consumes one or more entitlements based on the system architecture and the product being attached


A feature in RHSM and Subscription manager that allows Red Hat to scan for and automatically attach a subscription based on the system’s architecture


One of a pre-defined number of allowances a user has for registering their systems against a Red Hat Product


Updates that correct previously mistakes not caught before a software release

Organization administrator

Role that can manage users and control their access and permissions on an account


A contract between Red Hat and a customer for a fixed period that provides access to content support, and the knowledge base