Routers in Data Centers

Steven King sking at
Sat Sep 25 17:16:14 UTC 2010

On 9/25/10 5:35 AM, Richard A Steenbergen wrote:
> On Sat, Sep 25, 2010 at 03:11:25AM -0400, Steven King wrote:
>> Cisco uses their own ASICS is their higher end flag ship devices. 
>> Devices such as the Catalyst 6500 series or the 2960 switches. You 
>> pretty much singled out all the major players, including those who 
>> have been bought out (Foundry by HP) and claimed they do not provide 
>> their own, yet 3rd party flawed ASICS. I am actually surprised you 
>> didn't mention HP, Linksys or Dell as they are the most guilty of 
>> using 3rd party ASICS and shotty software. If you are buying data 
>> center grade equipment from these vendors, it will be quality hardware 
>> backed by their support (if purchased) such as Cisco's SmartNet 
>> agreements.
> My point was that every major vendor, even the ones who normally make 
> their own in-house ASICs, are also actively selling third party silicon 
> (or in some cases complete third party boxes) in order to compete in the 
> "cheap" "datacenter optimized" space. Folks like HP and Dell were never 
> in the business of making real routers to begin with, so them selling a 
> Broadcom reference design with 30 seconds of search and replace action 
> on the bundled software is not much of a shocker. The guys who do a 
> better job of it, like Foundry (who was bought by Brocade, not HP), at 
> least manage to use their own OS as a wrapper around the third party 
> hardware. But my other major point was that almost all of these third 
> party ASICs are sub-par in some way compared to the more traditional 
> in-house hardware. Many of them have critical design flaws that will 
> limit them greatly, and many of these design flaws are only just now 
> being discovered by the router vendors who are selling them.
> BTW, Cisco is actually the exception to the "datacenter optimized" boxes 
> being third party, as their Nexus 7K is an evolution of the 6500/7600 
> EARL ASICs, and their third party hw boxes are EZchip based ASR9k's. Of 
> course their Nexus software roadmap looks surprisingly similar to other 
> vendors doing it with third party hw, go figure. :)
Cisco definitely is doing some interesting things with the Nexus. Have
you seen the virtualized version?
>> Moral of the story, do your research on the devices you plan to 
>> implement and ask for data sheets on how the features you need are 
>> handled (in software or hardware). I know Juniper and Cisco provide 
>> such documentation for their devices. Quality hardware, however more 
>> expensive, will give you less trouble in the long run. You truly get 
>> what you pay for in the networking industry.
> It takes a pretty significant amount of experience and inside knowledge 
> to know who is producing the hardware and what the particular issues 
> are, which is probably well beyond most people. The vendors aren't going 
> to come out and tell you "Oh woops we can't actually install a full 
> routing table in our FIB like we said we could", or "Oh btw this box 
> can't filter control-plane traffic and any packet kiddie with a T1 can 
> take you down", or "FYI you won't be able to bill your customers 'cause 
> the vlan counters don't work", or "just so you know, this box can't load 
> balance for shit, and L2 netflow won't work", or "yeah sorry you'll 
> never be able to do a double stack MPLS VPN". The devil is in the 
> caveats, and the commodity silicon that's all over the datacenter space 
> right now is certainly full of them.
I agree it takes a significant amount of experience to know that
informatin off the top of your head, but I am able to find block
diagrams, and part information for 98% of Cisco's hardware. Old or new.
One needs to do their research on the device to know if it meets their
needs. The caveats are everywhere I agree, even some of the experienced
network guys get tripped up with them if they aren't careful. Planning
is the key to overcoming these problems.

Steve King

Senior Linux Engineer - Advance Internet, Inc.
Cisco Certified Network Associate
CompTIA Linux+ Certified Professional
CompTIA A+ Certified Professional

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