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Book review: NX-OS and Cisco Nexus Switching

If you’re a networking engineer familiar with Cisco IOS and you’re asked to migrate to the Nexus platform, the NX-OS and Cisco Nexus Switching: Next-Generation Data Center Architectures book from Cisco Press might be just what you need. It’s targeted at existing Cisco IOS users and covers a wide range of topics, including layer-2 and layer-3 configuration (covering all routing protocols), IP multicast, security, high availability, serviceability, unified fabric (in less details than I would appreciate) and even the weird world of Nexus 1000V.

If you’re new to networking, you should start somewhere else; this book assumes you know the theory and the configuration basics and concentrates primarily on the differences between Cisco IOS and NX-OS. Sometimes it helps if you have experience with the Catalyst branch of Cisco IOS. I was struggling with the layer-2 chapter due to its reliance on Catalyst IOS knowledge; spending a bit more time explaining various interface types and how they all fit together would not hurt.

The skimming of important details is also one of the few drawbacks of this book. For example: session manager and device contexts are mentioned in passing; for me they could be two of the cornerstones of NX-OS improvements over Cisco IOS. Some of the topics were evidently thrown in post-haste (layer-2 data center interconnect gets half a page) and others could benefit from a more solid framework: Cisco TrustSec section never expands beyond few basic configuration commands and long examples that are useless without understanding the big picture and I’m still confused by the various virtual port types used by Nexus 1000V. The unified fabric chapter could also be a bit longer and more detailed.

The book has only two major omissions: OTV is mentioned in passing and IPv6 is not covered anywhere. The first omission is sad, considering that Cisco’s marketing has been promoting OTV for months (the book was published in June 2010 and I’ve seen the first Works-in-PowerPoint-Only configurations a while ago). I can only hope that the lack of IPv6 coverage (IPv6 is otherwise supported by NX-OS) doesn’t indicate an IPv6-ignorant mindset in Cisco’s Data Center business unit.

Even considering all the mentioned drawbacks (and every excellent book has a few), this is exactly the book you need if you’re asked to install a Nexus switch in the next few months ... and if you need a comprehensive overview of data center, server and storage technologies, there’s always my Data Center 3.0 for Networking Engineers webinar.


  1. Hello Ivan, I have just had a look at a few pages regarding OTV, which I had no idea about until now. I have found the following document by Cisco, it is quite interesting.

    Thank you.



  2. Ivan Pepelnjak16 July, 2010 14:59

    This one looks really good. Thank you!

  3. Cisco Live! breakout on OTV was also pretty good. If you have access to it, I'd highly recommend it.

  4. I'm disappointed by this book so far. The areas I went first were QoS, IPv4 multicast and NSF.

    QoS is wholly absent.

    Multicast is here, but seems fluffed out with introductory stuff, and is light on the Nexus-specific stuff that I needed, like the new to me PBR-based (policy route map) filtering of MSDP messages. Further, the book (incorrectly, I think) suggests that BGP is a prerequisite to MSDP.

    NSF gets a two-paragraph mention of what it's there for. No configuration/verification guidelines. The text claims interoperability with "most modern networking devices including IOS", without mentioning that NX-OS only supports the IEEE ratified flavor, leaving out in the cold the many versions of IOS that only speak the earlier Cisco-proprietary flavor.

    I confess that I'm not far into the book, and thus far have only attempted to use it as a reference document.

    So far, all of the information I've read here is either platform-independent (you have no business installing $500K devices if this is new to you), or it's the Nexus twist on an old trick, and is something new that I've already stumbled my way through with the CLI's inbuilt help features.


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