Network technologists at L.A.Care Health Plan had several conflicting ideas for its new LAN backbone: boost core LAN bandwidth to 10Gbps; segment the network into multiple departments; keep the infrastructure a flat Layer 2 topology; and spend as little as possible on new gear.
The nonprofit says it hit all these points when it took a chance on relatively unknown LAN switch maker Raptor Networks . After suffering through some technology growing pains with the 3-year-old start-up, L.A. Care built a resilient 10G Ethernet core on Raptor's stackable switches and clustering technology. The Raptor deployment also saved the organization more than US$250,000 compared with upgrade options offered by incumbent vendor Cisco.
Keeping network costs down was key for L.A. Care, which has around 350 employees and manages healthcare services for 750,000 low-income and elderly Los Angeles residents. But the network was facing a bandwidth crisis; a recent installation of Oracle Real Application Cluster (RAC) servers taxed the network, while the flat LAN setup caused other applications to slow down and interfere with each other, says Rayne Johnson, director of networks and security.
"With all of that, coupled with nightly network backups, we noticed server network slowdowns," Johnson says. "The main reason for that was because we were on a very flat LAN [a Layer 2 network, where all traffic was mixed]. I needed to segment the network better, according to our business needs."
Choices Johnson says he had from Cisco included upgrading to Layer 3 at the core, or upgrading to 10G in the core and using virtual LANs to segment traffic. Either move seemed to lead to a hardware upgrade to the Cisco Catalyst 6500 Supervisor 720 switch fabric module for the switches, as well as software and services upgrades.
Instead of moving up to the Catalyst 6509s -- which support multiple 10G links on a line card, and 32 10G ports total -- the organization installed four stackable 10G Ethernet switches from Raptor.
The Raptor ER 1010 switches are used to form L.A. Care's LAN core using a multipath Layer 2 mesh with multiple 10Gbps links. Overall, the Raptor network core cost around US$180,000 for hardware and installation, while Cisco had quoted a price of around US$500,000 for an equivalent network.
The ER 1010 switches each have 24 Gigabit fiber or copper ports, and six 10G Ethernet ports. The single-rack-unit boxes support Layer 2-4 switching and can run a proprietary modification of 10G Ethernet called Raptor Adaptive Switch Technology (RAST), which allows devices to be hooked together in multipath mesh at Layer 2. RAST is used in place of the Spanning Tree Protocol, which does not allow multihoming at Layer 2. (Switches can also be configured to run IEEE-standard Gigabit and 10G Ethernet).
RAST inserts switch routing information into unused header space in standard Ethernet frames, according to Raptor. This injected data provides heart beat and route path information among switches in a multi-10G cluster.
At L.A. Care, RAST binds the four core switches into a 30Gbps core, with three 10G Ethernet links connecting each switch in a multilink mesh. This setup allows multiple paths to exist among the core switches, and provides subsecond failover in case of a cable or switch hardware failure.
The Catalyst 6509s were moved to the LAN edge, where they connect user machines as well as aggregate other stackable switches from D-Link into the core.