Whereas MLS relies on hardware-based caching to perform shortcut switching, the Catalyst 8500 relies on hardware to perform the same tasks as a traditional router, only faster. To accomplish the extremely high throughput required in modern campus backbones, the 8500s split routing tasks into two functional groups. The job of running routing protocols such as OSPF and EIGRP for purposes of topology discovery and path determination are handled by a general-purpose, RISC-based CPU (these are often referred to as "control plane" activities). The job of doing routing table lookups and data forwarding is handled by high-speed ASICs (this if often called the "data plane"). Combined, these create a very fast but feature-rich and flexible platform.
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