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Differences between routing and smart routing

I am fairly new to the networking world with a year of experience in configuring Cisco routers and switches and integrating small segments of LAN's.

I have been hearing a lot about smart or intelligent routing. What are the differences between plain old routing and smart routing and what are typical scenarios where smart routers would benefit over a just a router, are smart routers more expensive and also how do the configs differ?
Intelligent routing is a method of determining the best path to send your traffic over based on real-world performance or cost of the path, as opposed to the traditional routing methods, which only select paths based on configured in policy and network topology information. This is mostly implemented in the BGP world, where normal BGP will typically select the best path based on the number of Autonomous Systems (ASes) between the BGP router and the destination, intelligent routing would test each available path for performance and then make a decision on how to route traffic based on a combination of actual performance and cost information.

Intelligent routing hasn't been implemented directly in routers at this time, and will likely stay that way. Instead it has been implemented as a separate appliance that communicates with your existing BGP speaking routers to optimize performance and cost. The cost of intelligent routing is, of course, very dependant on whom you buy it from, and whether you pay for it as an inexpensive monthly service, or a large upfront investment for hardware. Typically when purchased as a service, an enterprise can see ROI in the first month, which is what is really important.
(Answered by Brandon Ross, VP of Operations, Sockeye Networks.)

This was last published in October 2002

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