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ASR9000/XR Understanding Route scale





In this document we'll discuss how the route scale of the ASR9000 linecards work. There is a significant difference between the first generation linecards known as Trident based vs the next gen linecards that are Typhoon based.


In this article you'll find guidance to identify if you have a Trident or Typhoon linecard, what the scale type really means and what it affects, how the rotue scale parameters work on Trident and how the route scale is different on Typhoon.


Do I have a Trident or a Typhoon linecard?

The following linecards are Trident based:


40G series:


A9K-8T/4 (8 port 10GE oversubscribed linecard)




80G series:


A9K-16T/8 (16 port 10GE oversubscribed linecard)


Regardless of the scale version denoted by the suffix -L, -B, -E


The following linecards are Typhoon based:





and the ASR9001


Regardless of the scale version denoted by the suffix -TR, -SE


SIP-700 is CPP based


What is the difference between the L/B/E type of the cards?

All ASR9000 linecards come in different scale versions with different price points. The scale version does NOT affect the route scale.

Also the architectural layout of the linecard is the same and all features supported on one type of the linecard is supported on other scale versions also.


So what is precisely different then between these line card scale types?

The following picture gives a layout of the Network Processor (NP) and the memory that is attached to it.


Screen Shot 2012-06-28 at 10.25.22 AM.png

The lookup or Search memory is used for the L2 MAC table (in IOS terms "CAM" table) and by the FIB (Forwarding Information Base, eg where the CEF table puts the forwarding info).


The L/B/E cards change the Stats, Frame and TCAM size and therefore derive a different scale based on:


Stats memory:

     Interface counters, QOS counters, EFP counters.

     The more stats memory I have, the more QOS Policies I can have, the more interfaces/EFP's/Xconnects etc I can support on this card.


Frame memory:

     Used for packet buffering by QOS

     The more frame memory I have allows me to buffer more packets in the queues



     Used by vlan to interface matching (eg I get a vlan/combo in and to which subinterface does that match the closest), ACL scale and QOS      matching scale.


The SEARCH memory is not changing between L/B/E hence the Route or MAC scale remains the same between these cards.


To Sum up: The difference between L/B/E (for Trident) or TR/SE (for Typhoon) mainly affects the:

  • QOS scale (Queues and Policers)
  • EFP scale (L2 transport (sub)interfaces and cross connects)


What does not change between the types is:

MPLS label scale, Routes , Mac , Arp , Bridgedomain scale


What about these hw-module scale profile commands on Trident ?

The Trident linecards provide a great amount of flexibility based on the deployment scenario you have.

As you could see from the above description, the search memory is not affected by the scale type of the linecard.

Considering that the ASR9000 was originally developed as an L2 device, it divided that search memory shared between MAC and Route scale

in "favor" of the MAC scale leaving a limit route capability.


With the ASR9000 moving into the L3 space we provided scale profiles to effectively adjust the sharing of the Search memory between L2 and L3 in a more user defined manner. So by using the command


RP/0/RSP1/CPU0:A9K-BOT(admin-config)#hw-module profile scale ?

  default  Default scale profile

  l3       L3 scale profile

  l3xl     L3 XL scale profile


You can move that search memory in favor of L2 or L3:


       "default" or L2 mode                l3xl mode

Screen Shot 2012-06-28 at 10.37.11 AM.pngScreen Shot 2012-06-28 at 10.37.30 AM.png

Which inherently means that the increase FIB scale goes as the cost of the MAC scale and in the following manner:


Screen Shot 2012-06-28 at 10.42.11 AM.png


1) This scale table is Trident specific.

2) Some values are testing limits eg IGP routes, some are hardware bound

3) The EFP number is dependant on the scale type of the linecard (E/B/L), which this tries to show is that the EFP scale is not affected by the HW profile scale command.


Typhoon Specific

Typhoon has a FIB capability of 4M routes. Typhoon uses separate  memory for L2 and L3 and therefore the profile command discussed above  is not applicable to the Typhoon based linecards.



Understanding IPv4 and IPv6 route scale

As you can see in the scale table above the number of IPv6 routes is half of the number of ipv4 routes. v6 routes consume more space in the FIB structures and the system calculates in this manner that the number of v6 routes consumes twice as much as the number of v4 routes.


Now when we state that we have 1M FIB scale in the L3 mode. We should read it as 1M credits.

Then knowing that a v4 route consumes 1 credit and an ipv6 route consumes 2 credits, we can compile the following formula:


Number of IPv4 routes + 2 * the number of IPv6 routes <= Number of credits as per scale profile


Typhoon Specific

This logic of v4/v6 scale is the same for Typhoon, but with the notion that Typhoon has 4M credits


Understanding Subtrees

One concept that was referenced in the scale table is the SUBTREE. Subtree is a method of implementing a Forwarding Information Base. Trident uses this implementation methodology.


While the route scale in say the L3 profile is 1M ipv4 routes, it depends which VRF the routes are in based on their tableID and what the subtree size is.


Table ID's 0 to 15 have a subtree assigned per /8. That means that they can reach a 1M route scale individually as long as you don't exceed the number of routes per subtree size. In L3 mode the subtree size is 128k. That means in order to reach the 1M route scale I need to assign 8 /8's filled with 128K each to reach that one million routes.


Note the route scale mentioned is the sum of all routes together combined of all vrf's


VRF table ID's higher then 15 to the max vrf scale only have one subtree total which means that the route scale for those VRF's is 128k tops in L3.


IPv6 routes have one subtree period, meaning that V6 cannot have more then the subtree size as directed by the scale profile configured.


The following picture visualizes the subtree.

Each subtree can point to either a non recursive leaf (NRLDI) or a recursive leaf (RLDI)


  1. You can have 4 (or 8, requires admin config profile and has some pps implications) recursive ECMP (eg BGP paths)
  2. Each of those recursive can point to 32 non recursive paths (eg IGP loadbalancing)
  3. Which in turn can be a bundle path with 64 members max.

Screen Shot 2012-06-28 at 11.15.10 AM.png


How to find the tableID of a vrf


Note that tableID's are assigned only when you enable an IP address on one interface that is member of the vrf.


RP/0/RSP0/CPU0:Viking-Top#show uid data location 0/0/CPU0 gigabitEthernet 0/0/0/2 ingress | i Table
Fri Apr  9 16:24:32.878 EDT
  Table-ID:           256


RP/0/RSP0/CPU0:Viking-Top(config)#vrf GREEN


RP/0/RSP0/CPU0:Viking-Top(config-vrf)#address-family ipv4 unicast
RP/0/RSP0/CPU0:Viking-Top(config-vrf-af)#int g0/0/0/12
RP/0/RSP0/CPU0:Viking-Top(config-if)#vrf GREEN

RP/0/RSP0/CPU0:Viking-Top#show uid data location 0/0/CPU0 gigabitEthernet 0/0/0/12 ingress | i Table
Fri Apr  9 16:22:40.263 EDT
  Table-ID:           512


Table ID assignment:


1) when an RSP boots, tableID assignments start at 0. (verified in labs)

2) ID zero is reserved for the global routing table. (given)

3) The first 15 tableID’s can carry > 128K* routes, given that no more than 128k* routes per subtree(/8) (given limitation)

4) Understanding that reconfiguring a VRF would increment the tableID values (verified in lab), and might eventually push it out of the preferred table space.

5) No more than a total of 1M routes per system (or as defined by the scale profile), regardless of in which tableID these routes are.

6) In order to reach that of 1M route scale, the command hw-module profile l3 or l3XL needs to be configured.


If you have <15 VRF’s configured, reloading would still result in the fact that these tableID’s will get in the larger table space (tableID assigned <15).

Although one vrf may not get assigned the same tableID value after reload, but this is not interesting from a user perspective.


NOTE1: table ID is a 16 bit value, that is byte swapped. So tableId 1 has value 256, table id 2 has value 512 etc


NOTE2: We're working on an enhancement to make a vrf "sticky"  to a particular tableId so you can make sure that this vrf will always  get the higher route scale. Track: CSCtg2546 for that.


*NOTE3: 128k or 256k depending on the scale profile used. Some older pre 401 releases had a smaller subtree size of 64k.

Typhoon Specific

Typhoon uses the MTRIE implementation for the FIB and therefore the above Subtree explanation and its associated restrictions do NOT apply to linecards using the Typhoon forwarder.



Monitoring L3 Scale

You can use SNMP for this by pulling the route summaries for EACH vrf or using the CLI command as follows:


RP/0/RSP0/CPU0:A9K-TOP#show route vrf all sum




Route Source    Routes    Backup    Deleted    Memory (bytes)

connected       1         1         0          272

local           2         0         0          272

bgp 100         0         0         0          0

Total           3         1         0          544


VRF: test


Route Source    Routes    Backup    Deleted    Memory (bytes)

connected       0         1         0          136

local           1         0         0          136

bgp 100         1         0         0          136

Total           2         1         0          408


VRF: private


Route Source    Routes    Backup    Deleted    Memory (bytes)

static          0         0         0          0

connected       1         0         0          136

local           1         0         0          136

bgp 100         0         0         0          0

dagr            0         0         0          0

Total           2         0         0          272


The number of routes is provided per source (IGP/BGP etc) and for the FIB that doesn't matter.

Also the memory that is presented is XR CPU memory and is not the memory that is used by the hardware.


Because of the Trident subtree implementation, if you want to be accurate you need to count the number of routes in the VRF table ID's

0-15 (and tableID0 being the global routing table) on a per /8 bases.


Show commands


This is the global view as to how things are implemented.


  • The RIB, routing information base solely resides on the RSP and is fed by all the routing protocols you have running.
  • The size of the RIB can grow as far as memory scales.
  • The RIB compiled a CEF table which we also call the FIB, forwarding information base which is distributed to the linecards
  • The linecards complete the FIB entries with the L2 Adjacencies (eg ARP entries which are isolated to the linecards only, UNLESS you have BVI's when those L2 ADJ's are shared on all LC's)
  • The complete entry is then programmed into the NPU.



Screen Shot 2012-06-28 at 11.00.49 AM.png


Screen Shot 2012-06-28 at 11.01.04 AM.png


Screen Shot 2012-06-28 at 11.01.12 AM.png

Screen Shot 2012-06-28 at 11.01.19 AM.png

Screen Shot 2012-06-28 at 11.01.27 AM.png


Summary view

The easiest way to verify and validate resources for the linecard is via this command:


RP/0/RSP1/CPU0:A9K-BOT#show cef resource loc 0/1/CPU0

Thu Jun 28 11:02:41.855 EDT

CEF resource availability summary state: GREEN

CEF will work normally

  ipv4 shared memory resource: GREEN

  ipv6 shared memory resource: GREEN

  mpls shared memory resource: GREEN






Using the ASR9000 as a Route Reflector

This can be done no problem. A route reflector is generally never in the forwarding path of the traffic. This means that we can put all the routes in the RIB and not install them in the FIB based on a policy.

We can use the table-policy under the BGP config to pull in an RPL that denies the installation of routes into the FIB.

Then we can use the RP CPU memory for reflecting routes as far as memory scales.

How far we can go?

Depends on the Paths, attributes, size of the attributes and whether you have the high or low scale RSP memory version.

Numbers can be anywhere from 7M to 20M, depending.

ARP vs MAC scale and understanding adjacencies

This is a topic I noticed leading to some confusing. It is important to understand the difference between MAC vs ARP scale.


While MAC refers to what we know in switches as the "CAM" table, so basically the mac learning forwarding table, ARP scale refers to the number of ARP adjacencies that an L3 router can hold to complete the mac rewrite string to forward traffic to its L3 peers.

MAC scale is defined by the L2 bridging tables and is subject to scale differences on Trident LC's depending on the hw-module profile ran, whereas on typhoon the MAC scale is in a separate forwarding table (switching table) that is limited to 2M macs tops.

ARP scale

The ARP scale is something tricky, while the hardware forwarder has lots of mem available to complete the forwarding adjacency, the software may not. Few details:

ARP is local to the linecard, e.g. it serves no purpose for an ingress linecard to know what the ARP entry for a destination is that lives on another linecard. Since the ingress linecard would just forward the traffic over to the destination LC, it doesn't need to know the ARP/mac address of the destination interface.

This allows for a great scale improvement! ASR9000 has been tested with 128k of those ARP adj per LC! that is massive already, but not bound by that number.

There are a few stipulations when it comes to:



You can figure that if the egress interface is a bundle-E or a BVI the arp adj needs to be present on multiple linecards and specifically those that hold members in that bundle or carry EFP (Ether flow points or l2transport interfaces in a say Bridge domain) in the scenario of BVI.

SW processing of ARP

XR software stores the ARP table in what we call shared memory, this is basically a RAM disk (if you're familiar with the old DOS technology) that can technically grow as far as memory goes on the LC. It means that the limit of 128k ARP entries is a "soft limit" and can go farther, but requires the right amount of memory on the LC to be avaiable. Some deployment profiles take more LC memory and therefore may not grow as far as we'd like.

ARP is received by the NPU as a "for me" packet and punted by LPTS to the LC CPU for processing.

There is a single queue which holds all of the arp requests and replies.

The CPU utilization is a factor also to determin the processing capability and scale for ARP.

Packet forwarding with BVI and Bundle

When forwarding over a L3 (routed) adjacency, we obviously need to know the destination mac address to complete the layer 2 header. When the router port is connected to a server, the dmac will be the server's mac address, in the case of a peering router, it will be the mac address of the remote interface. That is all standard and simple. Because an egress linecard does all the encap for this layer 2, there is no need for an ingress linecard to know what the arp entry is for a destination interface, that increases the scale.

When it comes to bundle and bvi, the ARP entry has to be replicated to those locations that have members in the bundle for instance. The following pictures explain:

BVI processing with EFP's on different linecards:

Here you can see that every linecard that has a routed port, needs to know the ARP entry, so in BVI all linecards will see the ARP entry tied to a BVI (that means L2 destinations -> EFP's).

Bundle forwarding with members on multiple linecards

In bundle when running as a L3 routed interface the ingress linecard does the processing as normal, determines the egress interface, which is a bundle in this example and then determines that the member to be selected can be on either one or the other LC. It forwards that packet to the fabric and to the destination linecard that holds the member of the bundle.

In this case, all inecards that have a member in the bundle need to know the ARP address to complete the forwarding mac rewrite and L2 headers.

How to verify

To verify how many ARP entries a linecard holds we can use this command:

RP/0/RSP0/CPU0:A9K-BNG#show adj summary location  0/0/cPU0
Wed Jan 27 17:10:56.465 EDT

Adjacency table (version 1284) has 66 adjacencies:
     28 complete adjacencies <<<< learnt adj's from remote destinations
      0 incomplete adjacencies
     38 interface adjacencies <<<< local adj's that are bound to my interfaces
      0 deleted adjacencies in quarantine list
     19 adjacencies of type IPv4 <<< by AFv4 address family
         19 complete adjacencies of type IPv4
          0 incomplete adjacencies of type IPv4
          0 deleted adjacencies of type IPv4 in quarantine list
         14 multicast adjacencies of type IPv4
      4 adjacencies of type IPv6 <<<< and here for ipv6
          4 complete adjacencies of type IPv6
          0 incomplete adjacencies of type IPv6
          0 deleted adjacencies of type IPv6 in quarantine list
          4 multicast adjacencies of type IPv6


Ultimately the ARP scale for an asr9000 device or XR in general is dependent on a few things:

  • the number of L2 devices attached (which will grow in bridge domains)
  • if there are bundle or BVI in play (that will need to hold AND replicate entries across linecards)
  • how much free memory is available on the linecard

ARP scale *can* grow, but there is another factor: LPTS. LPTS defines a policer for ARP requests (and learning). XR does passive learning meaning that if we see a request FROM a host, we "learn" that host and add it to our table. This is awesome because now we don't need to ask for the hw-addr for that host that we learnt and saves messaging. However that will increase the table size. And then we're back with the stipulations mentioned earlier; how much memory do we have available.

Although ARP has significant improvements in XR 5.3.1, since it is a single threaded process more can be done, which we are planning for. For instance, making ARP multi-threaded (though work), or applying queue management for handling better the volume of incoming requests.

Remember that LPTS policers values are set per NPU, so if you have an LC with multiple NPU's, the total forwarded rate can be a multiplication of the configured value byt he number of NPUs on that LC.

Tuning of LPTS policers may be necessary to help XR deal better with the volume of ARP requests.




Cisco Employee

the setting applies to the whole chassis.

the thing is al linecards, all npu's have the same mac and fib table, regardless of whether they need it or not. so the setting needs to be the same for all LC's.

ps note: 423 is end of life, do consider an upgrade.




Is it possible somehow to prevent a label allocation to prefixes, received from eBGP peer (full inet table)? I have the same problem with Trident  that label table runs out because all available labels are assigned to received bgp prefixes. I am trying to put full table into vrf but I don't need any mpls forwarding for that. IOS XR allows to enable a vrf under a bgp instance only if I enable "address-family vpnv4 unicast" globally under that bgp instance, and then starts to assign labels to received prefixes


Cisco Employee

hi! yup you can do that.

under the router bgp you can do a label per vrf in the label-allocation-mode config section.

another option is that under mpls ldp you can provide a label policy for allocation whereby a route-policy can be used to either assign/apply a label or skip it for those prefixes matched (or not).



Bryan Garland
Cisco Employee

So usually in most MPLS core networks, you only need a label for the PE addresses.  For this we usually recommend using host-route only for label allocation.  This would greatly minimize the label allocation.  

mpls ldp
 allocate for host-routes



Cisco Employee

Typhoon and Tomahawk support 2M mac-addresses. Are there different mac address scaling limits within a bridge-domain?

Cisco Employee

the mac addresses referenced is the bridge domain mac learning resource,

all macs can be in a single BD (yikes :) or spread across multiples, there is no limit to how many

macs a BD can hold but you can configure the number of mac's that a BD can hold so that starvation can be prevented. there is a default limit of a number of mac's inside a BD that is 4k or so, but as mentioned you can (re)configure that.

the actions for mac exceed include log, drop, flood or a combination of that.



Cisco Employee

Thanks so much Xander for the prompt reply! Helpful as always!

Leonardo Gama

Hi Xander,

Another great doc. 

Do you know when will be released the EoL notice for the card A9K-1X100GE-TR?


Cisco Employee

hi leonardo,

the announcement will go out end of March 2017 and the actual end of sale will take place March 2018.

the recommended path would be to use the MOD200/400 with the 2x100 or 1x100 MPA.




If we like to buy one ASR 9006 (Refurbished) with the following specs:




Can we use them as an Edge Router ? We have 4 different internet supplier, Can we load 3/4 Full routing table on it. 

We know very little about cisco and don't do too much policy on router.

Please suggest. 

Cisco Employee

yeah that will work. the card you mention can carry 1.3M routes. the platform and features are specifically targeted for core and edge deployments so you're all set on that!

if you can get your hands on a typhoon based linecard (mod80/160, 24x10, 36x10) you have a little more runway in terms of lifespan, pps, bw/performance.

the 8t-E card you are looking into is no longer supported after XR5.3.4 (current extended maintenance erelease)




Hi Xander,

Is 9001-LC a SE or TR?

What is the TCAM size of ASR 9001? How many ACLs in 9001? Does 9001 supports object group for creating ACL?

Warm Regards



ASR 9001 supports BNG features, which means that it's SE based.

Here is a screenshot where you can see what resources are available on ASR9001.


Hi Xander...


Was hoping if you could five us some "under the hood" input regarding an implementation of a single "A9K-24X10GE-1G-TR" vs “A9K-MOD160-TR” with “A9K-MPA-8X10GE” + “A9K-MPA-20X1GE... From a port-density/cost benefit relationship, the line card approach seems to clearly beat the MOD approach but there might be some catch there (which is why we're looking for some additional expertise on the product)... This is to be deployed on different modular ASR9Ks as pure "P" routers where only MPLS is needed...


Besides the 240:200 over-subscription on the "A9K-24X10GE-1G-TR", there's no additional detail info on line card's datasheet link that could tell us if there're other downsides of going with the line card over the MOD... On the datasheet you will also find the following comment: "The line card also offers the flexibility to support certain mixed 1G and 10G configurations."... We're curious to understand that "certain" keyword there since the datasheet does not clarify better what it really means...







Do "mode big" command under vrf configuration has any effect on ASR9001 (typhoon)? Does it still sticks vrf ID under 15?