Image via CrunchBase
It’s a funny thing, technology. Some of us can’t get enough of it and spend hours tinkering with gadgets and tools, adjusting our RAM and our dynamic source routers. Then, there are some people who can’t imagine ever being able to do anything so fiddly and technical. They might have an iPad and a state of the art phone, but ask them what platform it runs on and you’ll get a blank expression.
There’s nothing wrong with that. After all, we can’t be good at everything. Some of us are great at understanding computers and some of us – well, some of us aren’t. Say the word ‘data packet’ or ‘hop drive’ to the uninitiated and you’ll know exactly what it feels like to be a technological whizz. The question is – do you know how many data packets a router can handle in an hour?
Cisco Systems Gigabit Switch Router. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The answer might very well surprise you. Or not, considering you’re a computer whizz. According to HowStuffWorks.com journalist Curt Franklin, millions and millions of traffic packets must be sent all at one time, even just to keep up with the demands of a fast private network. Some of the world’s largest routers are manufactured by Cisco Systems Inc – a company that specialises in large scale networking hardware.
The very biggest router that Cisco makes is the Gigabit Switch Router 12016 and this piece of equipment can handle a staggering amount of traffic. It’s the sort of hardware that’s regularly used to strengthen or update the very backbone of the internet, so you know that the amount of data packets it can handle is going to be impressive. At its upper limit, the Gigabit Switch Router 12016 can handle 320 million bits of information per second and move 60 million data packets per second too. So, if you multiply that figure by sixty – you’ll be left the total amount of data packets moved in one hour. It’s three billion and six hundred million, if you’re interested.
In order to achieve this, the Gigabit Switch Router 12016 uses a series of specially designed switches that tie multiple processors together. It is used to power some of the most advanced supercomputers on the planet and it is very much at the forefront of IT technology. That’s precisely why its 200-MHz MIPS R5000 processor can be used to help generate the special effects in Hollywood movies – it really is that powerful.
It’s true that modern software can now cope with a huge amount of information, says Boston Globe journalsit Hiawatha Bray. It’s also a source of endless wonder that a machine can independently decide which outbound connection each data packet should take. It can only do this, however, with the help of a sophisticated configuration table.
English: Linksys WRT54GL Polski: Linksys WRT54GL (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
A router will scan its given destination address and match that IP address against the rules of its own specially designed configuration table. These rules will inevitably state that packets belonging to a particular group of addresses must be sent off in a very specific direction, say the experts at SuperUser.com. Then, the router will evaluate the performance of the main connection in that direction against an alternative set of rules. If the performance of that connection is satisfactory, the data packets will be sent. If it is not, another direction and set of rules are checked and then another – until a satisfactory route is identified.
Photo supplied by Cisco Systems Inc. of a 1800 Series Router. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
This complicated and rather delicate process happens in the tiniest fraction of a second. It occurs millions of times per second. If that’s not enough to impress you, what is?
Author Bio: Eva has been a computer engineer for sixteen years. She can usually be found blogging IT advice on her personal website or playing with her border collie Sims. She recommends Comms Express for top quality, reliable computer networking equipment.