Can the Cisco Catalyst 9600 Really Replace the Catalyst 6000 Series?


If you have worked in networking and with Cisco equipment, you have probably heard of the Cisco 6500 Series switches. Myself, I have worked with them pretty regularly as well as other Catalyst 6000 series switches such as the 6880’s as well. These switches are workhorses, not to put it lightly. They run strong, stable, and can run for a long time without issue. So many companies have used them for years without any issues. Just as technology changes, the switching backbone candidates in Cisco’s library of devices are now changing as well. Introducing, the Cisco 9600 Switching Platform:

The Cisco Catalyst 9600 series of switches is meant to be your replacement for the older 6000 series switches you currently have. With a new offering of linecards, there is no doubt that this switch has the capacity and throughput needed to be the backbone of your network. There are a few features I wanted to call out about this new switching platform that I am personally very excited about.

Improved Throughput and Capacity

At first, people may look at their Catalyst 6509 or 6513 and wondering how this 8RU switch will be a replacement for them. The linecards are what makes this switch special. By being capable of greater throughput, there are some exciting features to these linecards that allow them to replace switches with larger footprints.

There were two fiber cards that were introduced with this switch. The first is a 24 port card  (C9600-LC-24C) with QSFP ports capable of either 100 or 40 Gbps speeds. They are grouped into port-groups of two and can either offer 2 x 40 Gbps speeds per port-group or a single 100 Gbps port. These ports are also very dynamic in that they have some other options for speeds as well. With the use of a QSA (QSFP port adapter) these ports can run at 10/1 Gbps as well. I also asked and it was confirmed that breakout cables could be used at well with these QSFP ports.

The other line card that was introduced is the game-changer though I think. It (C9600-LC-48YL) has 48 ports that are all capable of either 25/10/1 Gbps at the same time, meaning all ports can be active at max speed at the same time. There are no port-groups or shutting down of certain ports when certain speeds are used. They are all capable of running at 25 Gbps speeds simultaneously. This is the capacity and throughput that makes this chassis special and a valuable resource.


There are a lot of features that are mentioned at this launch of the Catalyst 9600 switching platform. Specs on throughput are something that a lot of people focus on as well as how to “future-proof” the device as well. One of the things mentioned is that these linecards are nothing more than just wires and interfaces essentially. This platform relies on the supervisor for everything that it does. In the event you want to upgrade the switch, you could switch to a new supervisor and actually gain new performance specs and features for the linecards as well. The key here is that the Supervisor is king when it comes to the Catalyst 9600 series.


The installing, cabling, and configuration of switches are the enjoyable things we, as network engineers, get to do. There are a few more features that I really like about these new switches that make them unique and interesting. First off is the fan tray. We all know cables can get in the way if you need to remove the fan tray in cases of a failure, so this tray is reversible and able to be managed either via the front or the back of the chassis. A simple, but beneficial feature. The other couple of unique features are around tracking and manageability. The hardware is outfitted with blue LEDs and RFID chips as well. The LEDs can be turned on if you need to enter a datacenter and track down a specific switch. The RFID chips are used with RFID scanners to be able to take a quick inventory of the hardware that is used in each switch. Again, these are simple, but very useful features.

I want to leave you with a video presentation from Catalyst Principle Engineer Shawn Wargo on the new Catalyst 9600 Series of switches. He is one of the people that knows the ins and outs of this platform and was able to explain it all very well. I highly recommend this video to learn about this new switching platform:


  1. I know this is a year old, but as of version 17.1, 4x10G breakout cables are still unsupported. Also, using the CVR-QSFP-SFP10G adapter in one port of the port group prevents you from using a 40G in the other. This severely limits the versatility of the 100/40G line card when looking at future expansion vs current needs.


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