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Catalyst 6500: Old Car or Super Soldier?

- October 18, 2011 - 3 Comments

Recently, bloggers have alternately compared the Catalyst 6500 to the fifteen-year old car they finally got rid of and to a super soldier for the new millennium. Which is it? Being a Cisco employee, I might be a bit biased. And, being a car guy, I’m really tempted to pick apart the old car analogy, but I think my Detroit roots might start to show. And that’s not what this is about. So let’s look at old device vs. established platform.

If I bought one of the first Apple Macintosh computers in 1984 (was it really that long ago?), I’d have no expectation that it would meet my needs today. But, looking at a good percentage of my peers, it’s apparent that no one questions whether the Mac is a viable platform. It has evolved, creating a unique cache and a loyal following.

That’s a comparison that fits the Catalyst 6500… Cisco Ca6k  Infographic

It’s clearly an established platform. With more than 44,000 customers and 700,000 chassis, it clearly has a loyal following. And the latest release, with the Supervisor Engine 2T, is just one more step on the path of continuous improvement for the platform that includes a number of firsts and a series of patents that have made the Catalyst 6500 the network services platform. Rapid adoption of the Sup 2T only reinforces the point.

What’s next? There’s a roadmap that will enable the platform to retain its leadership position in campus networks. Stay tuned. More news is coming soon.

Oh… about that “super soldier” comparison…

We really appreciate it. But we prefer “the reliable services workhorse for today’s campus networks.” What do you think?


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  1. Hello M. Proefke, I agree with you that the 6k is a great platform but I don't agree with the IPV4/IPV6 parity or at least not on the current release. We are stuck deploying ipv6 because there are "as of today" no support for IPV6 routing protocol when using vrf's. I am waiting for this for more or less 1 year now. Having some experience with Nortel device, I can say as well that it is very rare to have a Cat6k or line card to have an hardware problem, really impressive.

    • Hi Luc, Can you elaborate more on what you mean by "I don’t agree with the IPV4/IPV6 parity or at least not on the current release. We are stuck deploying ipv6 because there are “as of today” no support for IPV6 routing protocol when using vrf’s." I assume that you are explicitly referring to Sup720, since Sup2T only began shipping in July... The Catalyst 6500 absolutely DOES support IPv6 in VRF context, both on Sup720 & Sup2T. In fact, that capability is built directly into the PFC/DFC FIB TCAM hardware. The 6500 supports IPv6 with both VRF-Lite & MPLS (6VPE/6PE)... Now (as you've noted) each individual feature (or more commonly, individual options / featurettes) may only become VRF-aware in certain software versions (some still forthcoming...), but even those few exceptions have a committed software roadmap! :)

  2. A note on Ethan Banks' link below... yes, a Cisco perspective... First, Ethan, thanks for your link. Dialog is always a good thing. On the path to 40G, we've proven that the 6500 is 40G capable. See And while Cisco doesn't publicly disclose roadmaps, this is a platform with a real future. Stay tuned.