Sizing up: is your router too big?

Sizing up: is your router too big?

We recently completed a network review for a UK consumer and business ISP. They provide ADSL and VDSL/FTTC broadband services across the UK, and have a core network built up in two primary sites in London. They approached us with some queries about Cisco router management in a bid to lighten the load on their team, and to add 24×7 around-the-clock cover for any incidents.

During our review of their network, we noted the use of older generation Cisco routers, and in some cases the routers were way too “big” for the requirement, barely touching 5% utilisation during peak hours. Our primary concern was the power draw of the older routers; we’ve observed that latest-gen Mikrotik routers can process twice as much traffic as 5+ year old Cisco routers, and can do so with 5x less power draw. With utility power ever-increasing in cost, and heavy cooling requirements (90%+ of router power consumption turns to heat!) it’s typically cheaper to upgrade older kit rather than to keep it running.

Our second observation was the limited number of routers, each with masses of services running atop of them. For example, the customer had every router processing edge, core and LNS duties, rather than having separate routers per duty. This was a major concern because a router upgrade or failure would bring down a massive segment of their network at once, and even while fully operational, those routers were filling links by needlessly passing a lot of traffic between one another.

Our report back to the customer offered three different options:

Option 1

Continue as-is with the current network setup, simply bringing us aboard to help manage it.

Option 2

Add more devices to the existing network to properly segregate core, edge and LNS duties. Properly share transit and IXP links with all LNS’ and customers via dedicated core and edge routers. Increase network speed and capacity by correctly sharing transit and IXP links over all LNS’ and customers. Increase network resiliency with more devices.

Option 3

Rebuild the existing network with Mikrotik routers. Reduce Cisco license and mangement overhead. Achieve far greater network resiliency and capacity with routers 100% dedicated per duty. Decrease colocation footprint with physically smaller devices. Lower power consumption with newer-gen, efficient hardware.

Can you guess which option the customer chose? We’ll keep you updated on our progress: watch this space!

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