The Cisco Nexus 9000 – 10 Cool Features

So, the smart guys and girls in San Jose have been working day and night (literally) to bring you Cisco’s latest Nexus switch family – the Nexus 9000. It includes both the modular 9500 and the Top-of-Rack 9300. I wrote down 10 of coolest features that came to mind that I feel are worth sharing.

  1. There is no midplane. That’s right, if you remove the line cards, fans, and fabric modules, you would leave a hole large enough to pass a small child through – perhaps a hobbit even. You can literally see right through the chassis. Why would we do this? Well, the midplane introduces two challenges to designing a chassis because a) the midplane will need to be replaced for a technology shift from 40G to 100G and b) even though it’s extremely rare, a bent pin on a midplane is a pretty large service event. In a previous life, I worked for a manufacturer where I learned about a contagious datacenter pandemic called “bent pin disease”. It happens when a pin is bent on a midplane and someone inserts a device into that slot. That device is forced into place with the bent pin causing damage the connector on the device itself. The operator realizes it’s not fitting properly and removes it and tries it in another chassis (troubleshooting 101). Because the device has a messed up connector, it damages the pins on the second chassis and this is how the disease spreads from chassis chassis and device to device. Very painful. No midplane – no problem.
  2. Native 40G technology. Need I say more?
  3. Common Image – Both the modular (9500) and Top-of-Rack (9300) boot from the same image file. How is this a benefit to you as the customer? Well, if we find and fix a bug on the 9500, there is no lag in the bug being fixed on the 9300. Pretty cool.
  4. Single System Image – When I said image “file” in #3 above, I meant exactly that – file, as in a singular file. No more kickstart and system images that are a pain to find and match when a switch is down and time is tight.
  5. Improved Patching – We can now patch a bug to an executable or a library inside the image without a whole new system image. This should speed the time to release updates.
  6. XMPP support – Add your switches to your favorite IM client (jabber, messenger, AIM, etc) and simply send an IM to a switch to collect info like “show run int eth 0/1” and get the results instantly.
  7. SMTP Destinations – Tired of logging your SSH session, collecting a switch config, and then attaching the log file to an email? Now you can simply run a command like:
    show run | email <from> <smtp-host> <subject>
    and the switch will email the results of the command to the address specified. You can also pre-define the email configuration using the command ‘email’ while in configuration (conf t) mode.
  8. Linux BASH Shell access – you heard that right. It’s no secret that the OS running under Nexus is a hardened linux. And now we’ve given you access to the actual bash shell so that you can do things like cron jobs, check available system resources (meminfo, ps), etc. From configure mode, type:
    feature bash
    then from exec mode type:
    run bash
  9. In a single 9508 chassis, you can have 288 40G ports or 1152 10G ports. This is achieved via the ability to take a single 40G port and split it into 4 distinct 10G ports using a special break-out cable.
  10. 40G “BiDi” (pronounced bye-dye) – a Cisco exclusive offering that gives you 40G speeds over existing MMF installations in your DC. No need to rip out all you existing fiber to run 40G! These new optics allow you to upgrade your Ethernet network to the latest 40G technology and not bear the burden of new fiber runs. And if that savings isn’t enough, I bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the price of these optics!

Thanks for stopping by. I hope to find time to write more in the coming months and keep you updated of all the cool technology available in this new line of datacenter switches.


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