Cisco Catalyst 6000/6500, Aim at Enterprise Network & Service Provider Networks

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The Cisco Catalyst 6000/6500 family represents the flagship of the Cisco Catalyst switching product range. The switch is aimed at the enterprise network and also at service provider networks. The Catalyst 6000/6500 is chassis-based, which means that it consists of the same fundamental components as a Catalyst 4000/4500 switch (i.e., chassis, supervisor engine, and switching modules), which are now discussed in more detail.

Cisco 6500 series-Cisco 6509


Catalyst 6000/6500 Chassis

The chassis provided by the Catalyst 6000/6500 series switches vary across the Catalyst 6000 and Catalyst 6500 family. The differences between the Catalyst 6000 series chassis and Catalyst 6500 series are listed below:

  • Backplane— Both the Catalyst 6000 and Catalyst 6500 contain a shared 32-Gbps backplane; however, the Catalyst 6500 also supports an upgrade to a 256-Gbps crossbar switching matrix by adding an optional switch fabric module.
  • Scalability— The Catalyst 6000 is provided only in a 6-slot chassis (6006) and 9-slot (6009) chassis, while the 6500 provides 3-slot (6503), 6-slot (6506), 9-slot (6509), and 13-slot (6513) chassis options.


Figure 1-9 and Figure 1-10 shows examples of the Catalyst 6000 and 6500 chassis (the Catalyst 6006 and 6509).

Figure 1-9 The Catalyst 6006 Chassis

The Catalyst 6006 Chassis


Figure 1-10 The Catalyst 6509 Chassis

Catalyst 6509 Chassis


Supervisor Engines

The Cisco Catalyst 6000/6500 switch family consists of three Supervisor engines, which each vary in terms of functionality and performance:

  • Supervisor 1A— Provides support for advanced security and QoS features, as well as MLS-based (Multilayer switching) Layer 3 switching. The Supervisor 1A supports a backplane capacity of 32 Gbps and a Layer 2/Layer 3 forwarding rate of up to 15 Mpps.
  • Supervisor 2— Provides support for advanced security and QoS features, as well as CEF-based (Cisco Express Forwarding) Layer 3 switching. The Supervisor 2 also supports the switch fabric module (SFM), which increases backplane capacity from 32 Gbps to 256 Gbps and supports a Layer 2/Layer 3 forwarding rate of up to 210 Mpps.
  • Supervisor 720— Provides support for advanced security and QoS features, as well as advanced CEF-based Layer 3 switching. The Layer 3 switching engine supports IPv6 routing, network address translation, GRE tunneling, and MPLS all in hardware. The Supervisor 720 includes a crossbar switching matrix (formerly provided via the separate SFM in conjunction with the Supervisor 2), which provides a backplane capacity of 720 Gbps and a Layer 2/Layer 3 forwarding rate of up to 200 Mpps (IPv6) and 400 Mpps (IPv4). The Supervisor 720 also includes PFC3 and MSFC3 daughter cards (discussed later), which provide the Layer 3 switching capabilities of the Supervisor.


All supervisors can be installed in redundant pairs, ensuring maximum availability in the event of an active supervisor failure. Any additional add-on modules that extend system performance or functionality (e.g., SFM, PFC daughter card, and MSFC daughter card) can also be installed in a redundant configuration, ensuring the highest levels of availability


You have learned that the Supervisor 2 engine supports the SFM; each Supervisor also supports two types of add-on modules onboard the Supervisor itself (i.e., daughter cards), which extend the functionality and performance of the supervisor engine to provide the features and performance described above. These daughter cards are described as follows:

  • Policy feature card (PFC)— The PFC provides Layer 3/4 intelligence, allowing for advanced security and QoS features to be applied based upon the Layer 3 and Layer 4 parameters of traffic. The PFC also provides the hardware forwarding engine when Layer 3 switching is enabled with the addition of an MSFC. The PFC can be installed just by itself, without the MSFC (discussed next).
  • Multilayer switching feature card (MSFC)— The MSFC is essentially a router on a daughter card, providing full Layer 3 routing functionality and enabling the Catalyst 6000/6500 to perform Layer 3 switching. In a Layer 3 switching configuration, the MSFC provides the control plane component of L3 switching (i.e., populating and maintaining the routing table), while the PFC provides the data plane component of L3 switching (i.e., rewriting frame and packet headers and switching routed packets to the appropriate egress port), which means you must have a PFC installed before installing an MSFC. The MSFC also allows the switch to operate in native IOS, where the Supervisor and MSFC are managed via a single Cisco IOS-based management interface, integrating Layer 2 and Layer 3 switching management (similar to the Catalyst 3550 EMI and Catalyst 4000/4500 Supervisor 3/4).



Without a MSFC, the Catalyst 6000/6500 Supervisor engines operate the CatOS operating system. When you add a MSFC, by default, the Supervisor still runs CatOS and the MSFC runs Cisco IOS (this configuration is known as referred to as hybrid IOS). You can then configure the switch to operate in native IOS mode, where the Supervisor and MSFC are managed by the same Cisco IOS management interface, as long as the switch has an MSFC installed.

There are three generations of PFC and MSFC modules, with various combinations of Supervisor engines and different versions of PFC and MSFC modules making it a reasonably complex task to understand which features are supported in each configuration. Chapter 6, “Layer 3 Switching,” discusses the features of the various Supervisor, PFC, and MSFC configurations in more detail.


Switching Modules

On the Catalyst 6500/6000, you can purchase three types of line cards:

  • Classic— A classic module connects to the 32-Gbps shared backplane only.
  • Fabric-enabled— A fabric-enabled module connects to both the 32-Gbps backplane and also has an 8-Gbps full-duplex connection to the 256-Gbps crossbar switch matrix (requires Supervisor 720 or switch fabric module installed).
  • Fabric-only— Connects only to the 256-Gbps crossbar switch matrix via dual 8-Gbps full-duplex connections (requires Supervisor 720 or switch fabric module installed).

Even though there are three types of modules, all modules can communicate with each other, even if they are attached to different switching backplanes (e.g., classic and fabric-only cards are not connected to the same bus). In this situation, an interconnection between the crossbar switching matrix is interconnected with the shared bus backplane allows classic cards and fabric-only cards to communicate. Table 1-8 lists some of the LAN switching modules available for the Catalyst 6000/6500.

Table 1-8. Cisco Catalyst 6500/6000 Switching Modules

Module Part Number Description
WS-X6148-RJ-45 48 x 10/100BASE-T RJ-45 ports
WS-X6148-RJ-45V 48 x inline powered 10/100BASE-T RJ-45 ports
WS-X6148-RJ-21 48 x 10/100BASE-T with RJ-21 Telco connectors
WS-X6348-RJ-45 48 x 10/100BASE-T RJ-45 ports (Enhanced QoS)
WS-X6348-RJ-45V 48 x inline powered 10/100BASE-T RJ-45 ports (Enhanced QoS)
WS-X6348-RJ-21 48 x 10/100BASE-T with RJ-21 Telco connectors (Enhanced QoS)
WS-X6548-RJ-45 48 x 10/100BASE-T RJ-45 ports (Fabric enabled)
WS-X6548-RJ-45V 48 x inline powered 10/100BASE-T RJ-45 ports (Fabric enabled)
WS-X6548-RJ-21 48 x 10/100BASE-T with RJ-21 Telco connectors (Fabric enabled)
WS-X6408A-GBIC 8 x 1000BASE-X
WS-X6416-GBIC 16 x 1000BASE-X
WS-X6316-GE-TX 16 x 1000BASE-T
WS-X6516-GE-TX 16 x 1000BASE-T (Fabric enabled)

Perhaps one of the best features of the Catalyst 6000/6500 switch is the capability to extend switch functionality well outside the bounds of pure LAN switching and Layer 3 switching. The Catalyst 6000/6500 not only provides LAN switching modules, which allow for high-density 10/100BASE-T, 10/100/1000BASE-T, and 1000BASE-X deployments, but also provides a wide range of other modules called services modules that extend and enhance the functionality of the Catalyst 6000/6500. The following lists some examples of the services modules available for the Catalyst 6000/6500 switch:

  • Firewall services module (WS-SVC-FWM-1-K9)— Essentially a PIX firewall on steroids, this module provides up to 5 Gbps firewall throughput, ensuring advanced security features can be implemented in the network without compromising performance.
  • IPSec virtual private network (VPN) services module (WS-SVC-IPSEC-1)— Provides up to 1.9 Gbps of triple DES VPN performance, ensuring private data can be protected without comprising performance.
  • Intrusion detection system module (WS-SVC-IDS2BUNK9), also known as IDSM)— Analyzes traffic from multiple VLANs for intrusive activity that might indicate an attack against the network, generating alarms and configuring security devices to block attacks. The latest IDSM can analyze up to 600 Mbps of traffic.
  • Content switching module (WS-SVC-CSG-1)— Provides intelligent application-layer load balancing for web server farms and other application server farms, providing enhanced performance, availability, and scalability.
  • Network analysis module (WS-SVC-NAM-x)— Provides intelligent network monitoring using Remote Monitoring (RMON) and network statistics using NetFlow capture.

As you can see from the preceding, the Catalyst 6000/6500 is not just a LAN switch; it is a platform that can integrate LAN switching features with advanced security, application, and network management features.


Catalyst Operating Systems

Today there are two main operating systems that are used on Cisco Catalyst switches:

  • Catalyst Operating System (CatOS)
  • Cisco Internetwork Operating System (Cisco IOS)

You are most likely familiar with Cisco IOS; Cisco IOS is the popular operating system installed on nearly all Cisco routers and is a very mature, feature-rich, and extensible operating system that offers Cisco customers significant value-add and return on investment. Historically, Cisco acquired a few major switch vendors in the early- to mid-1990s, which resulted in the introduction of what is now known as CatOS. CatOS is used to operate the following platforms:

  • Catalyst 2900/4000/4500 with Supervisor 1/2
  • Catalyst 5000/5500
  • Catalyst 6000/6500

CatOS has a very easy to use command-line interface and has traditionally supported bulk administration tasks much more effectively than Cisco IOS. These are important features when configuring a device that potentially has more than 500 ports.



The ability to perform bulk administration tasks has been addressed in later releases of Cisco IOS.

Unlike Cisco IOS, which has many configuration modes and different commands, CatOS provides three basic types of commands:

  • set— These commands apply some configuration to the switch. For example, the set system name command is used to configure the switch name.
  • clear— These commands remove some configuration from the switch.
  • show— These commands display configuration status information, which allows you to verify the operational configuration.

Other commands are used for system management, such as copy and write; however, for configuration tasks, you will only ever use the set and clear commands and then use show commands to verify your configuration.



Many chassis-based CatOS switches support optional Layer 3 routing modules (e.g., Catalyst 5000/5500 RSM, Catalyst 6000/6500 MSFC), which include their own Cisco IOS. This means that the module essentially just uses the switch chassis for power and network connectivity, with management of the module performed separately from the Supervisor that runs the switch. When CatOS is used to manage the Layer 2 switching component, and Cisco IOS is used to manage the Layer 3 routing component, the switch is said to be managed using hybrid IOS, because two different operating systems (CatOS and Cisco IOS) are used to manage the switch.

Cisco plans to eventually phase out CatOS, moving all switching platforms to Cisco IOS, which will allow for a uniform management interface across all Cisco switches and routers, as well as better integration of Cisco switching and routing features.

Today, the following platforms are based upon Cisco IOS:

  • Catalyst 2900XL/3500XL
  • Catalyst 2950/3550/3750
  • Catalyst 4000/4500 Supervisor 3/4
  • Catalyst 6000/6500 with MSFC running native IOS

As you can see from the preceding list, the Catalyst 4000/4500 and Catalyst 6000/6500 switches can either run CatOS or Cisco IOS, which leads to the question: Which operating system should I run? On the Catalyst 4000/4500, the operating system is tied to the type of Supervisor engine, and normally the much higher performance capabilities and integrated Layer 3 switching capabilities of the Cisco IOS-based Supervisor 3/4 engines make them the obvious choice. It should be noted, however, that many features are still present in CatOS that are not present in Cisco IOS and that many new features are first released into CatOS code before Cisco IOS. This applies also to the Catalyst 6000/6500, where you can use either CatOS or Cisco IOS regardless of the Supervisor engine installed.



Although CatOS still leads the development efforts in terms of new features over comparative Cisco IOS features, Cisco has indicated that this is short lived, with a goal of introducing feature parity and then focusing on the development of new features on Cisco IOS.

Although Cisco IOS might be the way of the future, for now and many years to come, there still exists a large deployment of CatOS-based switches. This means you must ideally be proficient in both Cisco IOS and CatOS if you want to design, implement, and support Cisco switched networks.


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