A very large financial institution recently wanted to install some new line cards in several of its Catalyst 6509 switches. It should have been a simple procedure.  

It turned into a nightmare. Because of this…

switch# show version

Cisco Internetwork Operating System Software

…[details removed]

System uptime is 5 years, 18 weeks, 8 hours, 23 minutes
System returned to ROM by power-on

Admit it; you don’t see a problem do you? Neither did the network guys at this bank. In fact they regularly had competitions to see who could find the switch or router on the network with the longest uptime. Almost five and a half years since this one had been reset—fabulous!

No, it isn’t fabulous. It shows that the people supposedly in charge of looking after this network aren’t doing their jobs. If this device hasn’t been reset for over five years, that means there’s no way its IOS is up to date. It’s had no maintenance releases or bug fixes applied, the code’s old, and it won’t support the latest features or hardware.

And that was their problem. The line cards they wanted to install weren’t supported by this old code, so they had to upgrade the supervisors before the cards would be recognised. And they would have to upgrade in two stages, as it was too big a leap to go from the existing code to the new code. And they weren’t sure if some of the existing (very old) line cards would work properly with the new code. And the business needed the new line cards installed immediately. And the Change Control people were not at all happy about the potential outages, and didn’t want to approve a change window.

All for what could have been a ten minute job to slot in a card, if someone had spent a bit more time maintaining and upgrading the equipment rather than playing ‘search the uptime’.

Okay, there’s the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” view, which is perfectly valid, within reason. Nobody wants unnecessary upgrades and outages. But you have to draw the line somewhere—and five years is well over that line. Managing and maintaining this network includes keeping it at a decent code level, and making sure that the software and hardware is supportable. Apart from anything else, if you ever report a problem, you just know that the first thing that Cisco TAC is going to say is to upgrade the code before they will even look at it.

So stop with this macho posturing—“My switch has been up longer than your switch”. This isn’t something to be proud of—quite the reverse, since it shows that your network is getting so little proactive maintenance.