Posts Tagged ‘MXL’

Force10 MXL: Firmware Upgrade

March 19, 2015

Uploading new firmware image

MXL switches keep two firmware images – A and B. You can set either one of them to be active. Use the following command to list firmware version of all stack members and see which one is active:

 # show boot system stack-unit all


To upload firmware you will need a TFTP server. You can use TFTPD64 (also called TFTPD32), which can be downloaded from Philippe Jounin page here .

If the active firmware image is in A, upload new firmware to B. You’ll also be asked if you want to upload firmware to all switches in the stack.

# upgrade system tftp:// b:


At the time of upgrade the latest version was 9.7. This version was 2 weeks old and wasn’t recommended for use in production. Version 9.6 had a major bug. As a result version 9.5SP2 was chosen for the upgrade.

Double-check that new firmware has been successfully distributed to all switches:

 # show boot system stack-unit all


Backing up startup config

Make sure you do not miss this step. If something goes wrong and switch looses its config, you’ll have to recreate all configuration from scratch. Imagine the consequences.

# copy start tftp://

Reloading the stack

Once firmware is uploaded and config is saved, reload the stack. Be mindful that it’s a disruptive procedure and all links connected to the stack will go down. A reboot shouldn’t take more than a couple of minutes, but make sure you do that after hours.

# conf t
# boot system stack-unit all primary system b:
# exit
# copy run start
# reload

Confirm that the active firmware image is now B. And that concludes the switch stack upgrade.




Force10 MXL: Initial Configuration

March 14, 2015

Continuing a series of posts on how to deal with Force10 MXL switches. This one is about VLANs, port channels, tagging and all the basic stuff. It’s not much different from other vendors like Cisco or HP. At the end of the day it’s the same networking standards.

If you want to match the terminology with Cisco for instance, then what you used to as EtherChannels is Port Channels on Force10. And trunk/access ports from Cisco are called tagged/untagged ports on Force10.

Configure Port Channels

If you are after dynamic LACP port channels (as opposed to static), then they are configured in two steps. First step is to create a port channel itself:

# conf t
# interface port-channel 1
# switchport
# no shutdown

And then you enable LACP on the interfaces you want to add to the port channel. I have a four switch stack and use 0/.., 1/.. type of syntax:

# conf t
# int range te0/51-52 , te1/51-52 , te2/51-52 , te3/51-52
# port-channel-protocol lacp
# port-channel 1 mode active

To check if the port channel has come up use this command. Port channel obviously won’t init if it’s not set up on the other side of the port channel as well.

# show int po1 brief


Configure VLANs

Then you create your VLANs and add ports. Typically if you have vSphere hosts connected to the switch, you tag traffic on ESXi host level. So both your host ports and port channel will need to be added to VLANs as tagged. If you have any standalone non-virtualized servers – you’ll use untagged.

# conf t
# interface vlan 120
# description Management
# tagged Te0/1-4
# tagged Te2/1-4
# tagged Po1
# no shutdown
# copy run start

I have four hosts. Each host has a dual-port NIC which connects to two fabrics – switches 0 and 2 in the stack (1 port per fabric). I allow VLAN 120 traffic from these ports through the port channel to the upstream core switch.

You’ll most likely have more than one VLAN. At least one for Management and one for Production if it’s vSphere. But process for the rest is exactly the same.

The other switch

Just to give you a whole picture I’ll include the configuration of the switch on the other side of the trunk. I had a modular HP switch with 10Gb modules. A config for it would look like the following:

# conf t
# trunk I1-I8 trk1 lacp
# vlan 120 tagged trk1
# write mem

I1 to I8 here are ports, where I – is the module and 1 to 8 are ports within that module.

Force10 MXL Switch: Stacking

March 3, 2015


There are two typical scenarios for stacking MXL’s – within the chassis and across the chassis. In both cases it’s recommended to use ring topology. Daisy chaining is also supported, but not desirable because of the lack of redundancy.

In this post I will be describing the more common case, which is intra-stacking. For inter-stacking configuration you can refer to Dell or Force10 documentation.



In my case I have four MXL switches in bays A1, B1, B2, A2. Cabling is simple, you basically daisy chain all switches and then plug the last switch to the first one.

Stack roles and unit numbers

When stack is built each switch is assigned an ID starting 0 and a role in the stack. There are three roles: Master, Standby and Member:

  • Master – is the switch you’ll use for all configuration. If you currently have IPs assigned to all your MXL switches, all of them except for one will be reset and only the Master will be accessible via SSH.
  • Standby – is the switch which takes over if Master switch fails. Master switch IP address is transferred to Standby in a failover scenario and stack continues to be managed via the same IP.
  • Member switch provides port capacity and doesn’t play any additional roles in the stack.

When you plug cables in, assign stack ports and restart the switches, they will go through election process and automatically pick up roles, as well as IDs. There’s an algorithm that assigns stack IDs and roles, which switches follow. But this algorithm has nothing to do with interconnect bay IDs in the chassis or order in which you cable the switches. You end up with pretty much random numbering.

If order matters, then you’ll have to reboot switches one by one in a particular order to have the desired IDs assigned. In that case IDs are assigned sequentially in a controlled fashion.

Stack configuration

If you don’t have any additional 40GbE modules in slots 0 and 1, then you’ll end up with two QSFP+ ports in a built-in module – ports 33 and 37 (refer to my Force10 MXL Switch: Port Numbering post for port numbering details). All you need to do is to designate them as stack ports on all switches, save config and reboot.

# stack-unit 0 stack-group 0
# stack-unit 0 stack-group 1
# copy run start
# reload

By default each switch is unit 0 in its own stack and stack-group is basically just a 40GbE stack port. You can have maximum of six such ports numbered from 0 to 5. To check that stack ports have been enabled run:

# do show system stack-unit 0 stack-group configured


It could be that your 40GbE ports are in quad 10GbE mode and are not shown. You’ll need to convert them back to 40GbE mode to proceed. To show the list of available ports type in the command below. Switch shows empty expansion slots as stack ports as well (port 0/41 and 0/45), which is a bit confusing.

# show system stack-unit 0 stack-group


After a reboot, switches will join the stack and get a role and an id. This process is automatic by default. To see if stack ports have come up after a reboot type:

# show system stack-port status



In my example I let switches to go through election process and select roles and IDs on their own. If you want to control the assignment process refer to Dell and Force10 documentation for instructions.

Now you may wonder if unit IDs are assigned automatically, how do you know which stack unit corresponds to which chassis bay ID. The hint for that is to show system inventory and map them by the Service Tag ID which is also shown in the Chassis Management Controller:

# show system brief
# show inventory

Force10 MXL Switch: Port Numbering

February 26, 2015

This is a quick cheat sheet fro MXL port numbering schema, which might seem a bit confusing if you see a MXL switch for the first time.


Above is the picture of the switches that I’ve worked with. On the right we have a 2-Port 40GbE built-in module. And then there’re two expansion slots – slot 0 in the middle and slot 1 on the left. Each module has 8 ports allocated to it. The reason being that you can have 2-Port 40-GbE QSFP+ modules in each of the slots, which can operate in 8x10GbE mode. You will need QSFP+ to 4xSFP+ breakout cables, but that’s not the most common scenario anyway.

As we have 8 ports per slot, it would look something like this:


This picture is more for switch stacking, but the rightmost section should give you a basic idea. One of the typical MXL configurations is when you have a built-in 40GbE module for stacking and one or two 4-Port SFP+ expansion modules in slots 0 and 1. In that case your port numbers will be: 33 and 37 for 40GbE ports, 41 to 44 in expansion slot 0 and 49 to 52 in expansion slot 1.


As you can see for QSFP+ module switch breaks 8 ports in two sets of 4 ports and picks the first number in each set for 40GbE ports. And for SFP+ modules it uses consecutive numbers within each slot and then has a 4 port gap.

Port numbering is described in more detail in MXL’s switch configuration guide, which you can use for your reference. But this short note might help someone to quickly knock that off instead of browsing through a 1000 page document.

Also, I’ve seen pictures of MXL switches with a slightly different port numbering: 41 to 48 in slot 0 and 33 to 40 in slot 1. Which seems like a mirrored version of the switch with a built-in module on the opposite side of it. I’m not sure if it’s just an older version of the same switch, but keep in mind that you might actually have the other variation of the MXL in your blade chassis.