Upgrading Line Cards: Tips and Considerations

Upgrading line cards: Tips and considerations

As we discussed in a previous post, a network design that takes advantage of the modularity of blade-and-chassis switches can be quickly and easily upgraded to accommodate increasing bandwidth demands. Blade switches (or line cards) can be swapped out for new ones without a major network redesign or lengthy installation. But there are still several considerations and decisions that must be made before upgrading. In this post, we’ll walk you through some of the most important.

1. Plan, Plan, Plan

Planning is key when looking to upgrade line cards. Rushing through an upgrade out of desperation can lead to difficulties and challenges down the road. Therefore, we strongly recommend a thorough capacity management plan that sets a timeline for upgrades. This plan will set capacity percentage thresholds at which new options are explored, critical, and so on.

When putting together a plan, it’s important to consider continuous (average) capacity and its growth rate over a specified time horizon, as well as peak utilization. Generally, we recommend triggering the upgrade process if continuous usage is between 60% and 70%, although based on your growth rate, you may need to set the threshold as low as 50%. Be sure to monitor your growth rate and average peak closely; if the growth rate accelerates or decelerates, you will need to adjust your thresholds.

2. Know Your Backplane

Line cards can only be upgraded (e.g., from 1G to 10G) if there is available capacity on the chassis’ backplane. Verify that the backplane’s environmental and electrical specifications can support the new line card; will there be adequate power, airflow, and cooling? Check your uplink capacity, making sure that your new higher-bandwidth local ports won’t create a bottleneck at the uplink level.

3. Avoid Tunnel Vision

Given the dynamic nature of modern networking, it’s important to keep your options as open as possible. Be sure to look at what you currently have, and where you want to go, when it comes to your network bandwidth. In some instances, line cards currently near their capacity thresholds may be repurposed within your current network. In other instances, the blade-and-chassis switch (and its regular upgrade cycle) may not be the best solution in the future, and it might make sense to explore open networking switches. When exploring options, a cost analysis is necessary to determine the best course of action and appropriate solution.

Interested in learning more about upgrading your line cards? Contact Champion ONE today!

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