A couple of years ago we were in the market for a new switch.  A NetFlow capable Cisco switch would have been nice, but we didn’t want to spend that kind of money on a test environment.  A customer told us about the Nortel switch exporting IPFIX and we got pretty excited.  After a fair amount of investigation, we figured out that we would have to pay a bit more for the router license key which enabled the NetFlow/IPFIX.  We didn’t mind the additional cost as the price was palatable.

Just when we were ready to pull the trigger we decided to ask about the IPFIX support.  We wanted to confirm that it does 100% sampling as we wanted to replace our sFlow switch which only does packet sampling.  “Can I get it in writing” saved us from making a mistake. 

Get it in Writing
The sales team at Nortel was very good at helping us find someone within the company who was very familiar with the IPFIX export.  After a few emails we finally received something from an engineer that outlined how the 5500 series did round robin sampling and how the 8600 series did 100% capture.  For us, this was good and bad news.

The  cost of the 5500 series was at the maximum price that we wanted to spend and we didn’t want to end up sampling again.  The 8600 was just too much money.  After more searching, we found out that the Enterasys N series switch supported NetFlow and so we ended up with a brand new one.   The NetFlow v9 exports are 100% accurate and we love the switch.  I should note that we got a heck of a deal on the switch else, it would have been out of our price range as well.  Make sure you do your shopping!

The Future of Nortel?
We used to get a lot of calls about the Nortel IPFIX exports.  Customers would call in frustrated with the graphs not being accurate and needing to be educated on how the 5500 series is only sampling.  It’s difficult to give an accurate utilization graph without 100% capture.   If a switch manufacturer is going to perform sampling, they should export the total counters like sFlow so that the reporting software can subtract the samples from the total counters to give accurate reporting trends.

Hopefully now that Avaya has purchased Nortel’s Enterprise Solutions Business for $475 million, they will continue developing their IPFIX support.   I noticed that their latest documentation on how to configure IPFIX on a Nortel switch was updated on June 10th.   Michael McNamara posted a blog on the topic.

How to configure a Nortel switch to export IPFIX can be found on our web site as well.  NOTE:  A couple years back the Nortel 8600 was suffering from a hash overflow issue when exporting IPFIX.  I wonder if they have fixed it?  We have also posted several other blogs on Nortel’s IPFIX support.

Prior Nortel IPFIX blogs:

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Michael is one of the Co-founders and the former product manager for Scrutinizer. He enjoys many outdoor winter sports and often takes videos when he is snowmobiling, ice fishing or sledding with his kids. Cold weather and lots of snow make the best winters as far as he is concerned. Prior to starting Somix and Plixer, Mike worked in technical support at Cabletron Systems, acquired his Novell CNE and then moved to the training department for a few years. While in training he finished his Masters in Computer Information Systems from Southern New Hampshire University and then left technical training to pursue a new skill set in Professional Services. In 1998 he left the 'Tron' to start Somix which later became Plixer.


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