Ever since I heard that the Nexus 9K has 50% less code, I’ve been wondering what features were removed from the code. So I did my best to figure it out, since I haven’t seen a detailed features list from Cisco yet (early days and all that). I’ve also noticed that in general the Nexus team historically has put out long lists of supported features, leaving me thinking “yes, that’s great — but what is NOT on the list?” Anyway, the primary focus here will be what features the N9K supports today. We’ll get to that after a motivational detour (or some might say “pre-ramble”).
I think it may be useful to first touch on the question of what would motivate someone to buy a Nexus 9000, and what features would you want or expect? And even: what market(s) is Cisco aiming at? Two answers to that come to mind:
- High performance switch without all the fancy features at a competitive price point
- The option of future automation as part of ACI
Concerning the first of these, I’m thinking along the lines of the recent blog by Greg Ferro (@etherealmind), Response: ￼Help! My Big Expensive Router Is Really Expensive! (Substitute “switch” for “router”.) As in the N9K has less features, enabling a lower price? How much do I give up with “less features”?
If I were considering buying a Nexus 9K and planning to run NX-OS on it, I’d want to know the long-term prospects for support for NX-OS on that hardware. The same applies to ACI hopefuls: if I were buying into N9K with the hope of doing ACI, I’d want to make sure I had a solid NX-OS-based bail-out plan if I didn’t like ACI or things went sour for some reason. That maybe explains what Cisco is doing here: offer basic datacenter switching competitively to establish a baseline NX-OS platform and seed the market, creating a customer base for ACI when it is ready to ship. And competing more directly with unspecified competition with more generic switch features.
Another question that comes to mind (the cynical part?): is Cisco/Insieme pricing attractive with a goal of getting sites committed to ACI? As in, once you’re on an automated tool, it might be painful to migrate to other hardware or tools, i.e. vendor lock-in? (Yes, that thought was brought to you by the more cynical part of my brain. But others have raised this question previously in blogs and articles.)
Don’t get me wrong, so far I’m a huge fan of ACI. I think many of us are looking for a canned solution with vendor support, one that works with no need to do much software integration or programming. Having an API and hooks to simplify programming, sure, that’s the frosting on the cake. So any negative thoughts above are just me trying to think like a smart prospective N9K buyer.
So… say we’re considering buying into Nexus 9000 with the idea of interesting price and don’t need all the NX-OS fancy features … it’s time to check N9K features. I hope you find the following somewhat useful.
What Features DOES the N9K NOT Support?
Caveat: This is early days yet, and is based on my best effort research into the documentation. Either or both the documentation and I may be wrong. If you don’t like that, you can RTFM for yourself.
Here’s the short Not Supported list from the NX-OS 6.1 Release Notes:
- The Generic Online Diagnostics (GOLD) port loopback test
- An ERSPAN type destination
- An egress filter on an ACL-based SPAN
- All VLAN features of SPAN/ERSPAN
The Release Notes also state that the following features are not enabled in this release:
- Layer 2 and vPC
- FabricPath and OTV
- Fiber Channel
- Fiber Channel over Ethernet (FCoE)
That sounds like they could be added later, and R&D effort is focused on Must Have items right now. I would think FCoE and maybe FC would be likely candidates, to tie Storage in.
Some quick research into the CLI documentations shows that having multiple VDCs is not supported (yet).
- Only one VDC!
What Features DOES the N9K Support?
Well, that covered the clear list of negative items, and the Big Deal items. My next thought was to skim the documentation, and see what sorts of topics are covered, i.e. appear to be present. I’ve broken them out by the section of the manual I found them in. I compared to the N7K manuals to see which sub-sections got omitted. That is, I did a paper chase — but a High Quality paper chase! No, I didn’t do a deep dive into each topic — my curiosity level isn’t that high!
Fundamentals Config Guide
- Basic device management, file systems
- Config files
- Omitted: scripting with TCL, Python API
High Availability and Redundancy Guide
- Service-Level HA (restartability)
- Network-Level HA (NSF)
- System-Level HA (Redundancy, switchover)
- Omitted: ISSU
Interfaces Configuration Guide
- Basic Parameters
- L3 Interfaces
- Port Channels
- Omitted: Configuring L2 Interfaces, VPCs, IP Tunnels, QinQ
- VLANs, trunks, and all that. I’d sure hope the basics are coming soon. Maybe vPC isn’t as critical?
- See the very recent Network World article http://www.networkworld.com/reviews/2014/030314-cisco-nexus-279206.html, which says “Cisco doesn’t have the switching code ready quite yet”. The article also has some thoughts about “why Nexus 9K”. It concludes “… very beginning of a long road.”
Multicast Routing Configuration Guide
- Omitted: MLD, PIM6, IGMP Snooping, Performance Enhancements for VDCs
Quality of Service Configuration Guide
- Queuing and Scheduling
- Network QoS Policy
- Priority Control
- Monitoring QoS Statistics
- Omitted: Mutation Mapping, Fabric QoS Mapping, F-Series Modules, Local Policy Based Routing
Security Configuration Guide
- SSH and Telnet
- User Accounts and RBAC
- IP ACLs
- Password Encryption
- Keychain Management
- Control Plane Policing
- Rate Limits
- Omitted: FIPS, PKI, 802.1X, NAC, TrustSec, MAC ACLs, VLAN ACLs, Port Security
- Omitted: Dynamic ARP Inspection, IP Source Guard, Traffic Storm Control, Unicast RPF, CoPP
System Management Configuration Guide
- Smart Call Home
- Session Manager
- Online Diagnostics
- Onboard Failure Logging (OBFL)
- Omitted: CFS, PTP, NetFlow, EEE, XMLIN (convert CLI to NETCONF format).
Unicast Routing Configuration Guide
- Configuring IPv4, IPv6
- IP Services
- Basic BGP
- Advanced BGP
- Static Routing
- L3 Virtualization (VRF)
- Managing Unicast RIB and FIB
- Managing Route Policy Manager
- Omitted: WCCPv2, Policy Based Routing, GLBP, HSRP, VRRP, Object Tracking,
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