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Foundry XMR/MLX Experience - Update

  • From: Robert Boyle
  • Date: Mon Mar 12 22:16:18 2007

Hello all,

In December 2006, I asked for input from people on their experience with Foundry since we were leaning toward them for our new core router standard for our current backbone upgrade cycle. About 50 people replied and asked me to update them with my choice and information I gathered since they were also considering Foundry. We also looked at Juniper and Cisco's offerings, but they weren't competitive in the price/performance ratio and Juniper's annual maintenance fees were astronomical and their sales people arrogant. The feedback on Force10 from people who said they were also looking at them was that their software was not mature or stable enough and their financial picture was questionable while the hardware per port cost was higher than Foundry. I never contacted Force10 based on the premilinary feedback I received from their actual users. Everyone who actually used Foundry loved their boxes. Two people said stay away from Foundry, but upon further inquiry, one had not actually personally used any Foundry gear and the other had a problem, but never contacted Foundry support for help. Foundry openly admits that they had some quality problems in the past with certain older hardware models which had a bad ASIC production run and those issues have been addressed and the customers made whole. That certainly seems to be the case based on the feedback I received. I am very pleased with the current generation of hardware. We also liked the fact that the Foundry CLI language is basically IOS with a Santa Clara accent which minimizes staff training requirements. We love our Cisco gear, but it just isn't price competitive for high density and line rate without any oversubscription. I also don't like the imminent, uncertain, and nebulous maybe/maybe-not IOS feature-set code-base split between the 7600 and 6500 series platforms. We evaluated a Foundry MLX, but we decided to purchase an XMR which is the big brother of the MLX. The main difference between the MLX and the XMR is that the XMR will take 1 million routes in the CAM vs. 512k for the MLX. The XMR also has a higher limit on the number of BGP peers and it has more RAM. Both models run the exact same code. The XMR will also so MPLS and IPV6 routing (in hardware) without any special feature licenses. You buy the box and you can do anything it is capable of. I like that way of doing business too. Our evaluation period was flawless. We didn't run into any bugs and the box just worked as advertised. In fact, I copied and pasted a Cisco config to get the box up and running and I think I only had to change 3 or 4 lines. We told Foundry we also wanted 100Mbit SM SFP support and BFD support and they were both included in the new release of the software. It works with ISIS, BGP, and SNMP without any issues at all. We have been very pleased. They work with any SFP optics although the official position is that only factory optics are supported. We just purchased four XMR routers which we will be deploying shortly. The MLX which has been in production for almost 3 months has had zero issues interoperating with our Cisco gear including 7200s and 6500s speaking ISIS and BGP. Foundry's support team goes above and beyond. They have been extremely helpful with any questions and they really want to make sure their customers are happy and willing to recommend their products. I have been converted. We are also planning to roll out MPLS once the routers are in place. POS cards are out now too in OC12/OC48 and OC192. The chassis is 40GE and 100GE capable and will support the cards once they are released.

Here are some quotes which I received:

"We're looking at replacing our current routers as well. I'm currently looking at Force10 (E600), Foundry (XMR), and Juniper (MX960). Since we're primarily a commodity internet shop, we don't need MPLS today, which is the only reason I'm considering Force10. We use Foundry for L2 today and have had great luck using 3rd party SFPs. We buy all our SFPs from Calix (OEM'd Finisar)."

"Like every vendor, Foundry has it's quirks but they're putting real efforts into getting things handled. We've worked closely with them for the past 3 years and helped them understand better how to move from enterprise support into the ISP market. They're still doing a little catch up in code but getting there pretty fast. I'd venture that by the end of 2007, they will have every bit of feature support you could find from juniper or cisco. Many of the most important things for even a large network are there now and are being beaten to hell and back in various people's networks. The end result is that the bugs that make it in there are getting ferreted out pretty fast."

"A summarization of the answers you receive would be great. We have a few of the MLX16 and MLX8's in our lab right now, but not in the same capacity that your using them, so I can't comment on the number of BGP peers and how they handle it. We're testing MPLS currently, mainly VPLS functions, and soon will be doing several gigs of IP video with Multicast, and hopefully MSDP and Anycast RP. Currently, they don't have BFD support for either OSPF or IS-IS, but our SE is checking on the software release dates. Also, we just got in some Ineoquest boxes that can generate/monitor 10Gb of IP video, so we can at least put some stress on our links." (BFD is now supported in 3.3)

"I don't know much about Foundry other than I see them installed in racks semi frequently (more and more these days). We're taking on a project in Q1 to upgrade or replace all of our Cisco Cataylst switches. We're going to do a full market eval, but from what I've seen so far I highly doubt we'll be sticking with Cisco Cataylst switches (they're too big and bulky and just not very Service Provider focused)."

"MLX should work. XMR will go slightly farther (more CAM for routes). Foundry will have different bugs from Cisco."

"I cannot speak exactly for the MLX, however we have used Foundry gear for several years now and have seen little to no problems. In our network we have NetIron40Gs and BigIron RX8s in the core. They have supported so far several million routes of BGP across 15 eBGP peers. Scaling the number of peers should not be a problem since on the MLX you have more TCAM for supporting a huge number of routes and peers on each line card. We have also found that 3rd party SFPs and XFPs have not been a problem at all unless they are Cisco. Since I do not run ISIS, I cannot comment on that at all, we run OSPF and have found no problems there either. Hope it all works out for you."

"********* uses XMR's in their core network (practically identical to MLX)"

"As Bevan indicated, we haven't pushed these too hard yet. We did push them with a SmartBits analyser early on to test some specific QoS things (which came up clean), but haven't stressed them in production yet. One gotcha is that the code doesn't support hit-less software upgrades yet - the newly released code supports hitless upgrades for quite a few features, but not for MPLS. It's coming - just not there yet. We're not using them to take multiple full BGP views in a transit-like configuration, so your mileage may vary."

"The hardware is pretty stable, we've only had a handful of hardware swaps in 3 years of use. The software is about as stable as any software... although they tend to move on to new feature versions rather quickly and don't necessarily have deep support on older versions. That being said, they will roll a bug fix into a version you need if you request it. Their TAC is so-so. Sometimes you'll get a great tech and sometimes you'll get a lazy one. If you work their system you'll get what you need. Also, their SE's are very involved and tend to be dedicated professionals who will do whatever it takes. We got the MG8's very early in the product life-cycle. At one point we had a strange problem. Foundry sent the product engineer to ********* to troubleshoot the issue in person. We just had a hardware line card fail. While the TAC didn't RMA it properly, the SE/Sales team saw that things weren't getting handled properly and our Salesman flew the replacement down (we're in *****, they're in San Jose) personally to make sure we had it in time. When we decided to go with Foundry, their service was a key element of our decision. They've overall lived up to the hype."

So far we have also been very pleased. I'll send out another update once we get our XMRs deployed and MPLS enabled.


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