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Can anyone explain to me the use of supervisor modules in MDS 9000 series switches (MDS 9513 has 2 supervisor modules)?

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In the cisco world supervisor modules are the modules that run IOS they are where you do management (or supervisory) functions. The fact that it has two mean that they are redundant so you can lose on module and keep on running. You will generally see these in higher end "blade" type switches - specifically the Catalyst 4000 and 6500 lines.

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On this particular switch, the supervisor module contains the actual crossbar switching fabric. Each blade on this switch acts like a switch itself, with an "uplink" port connected to the backplane. The supervisor module contains the master switch that links all the blades together.

It also contains the CPU that runs the switch's operation system software. So it manages the operation and maintains the configuration of the switch. Higher level functions than mere switches are typically fully implemented in the supervisor, though is some cases some of those functions are distributed over the blades.

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