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Wired Networks Thread, Help Upgrading Network Backbone in Technical; Hey, I am the IT Admin for a private school with about 600 students. We have 7 servers, 200+ workstations ...
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    Help Upgrading Network Backbone

    Hey,
    I am the IT Admin for a private school with about 600 students. We have 7 servers, 200+ workstations and are slowly implementing a campus wide wireless solution (Aerohive). However, my switches are as old as dirt and I am needing to upgrade all my switches and uplinks between the them. I was wondering if someone could suggest some switches and also what speed switches I should use. Currently everything this 10/100 and the wireless traffic is starting to bog down the network. Thank you for any suggestions. Also, I have a somewhat modest budget prob less than $15,000.

    Thank you for any help,
    Michael

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    FN-GM's Avatar
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    How many actual switches are you looking at? Are they all in one location?

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    Michael's Avatar
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    Most switch replacements these days are based on gigabit to the desktop and/or gigabit to each wireless AP too, using PoE or PoE+. This requires CAT5e or better to work best. As for makes, I'd look at HP or Cisco, (ideally high density) with 48 ports and 10Gbps uplinks using SFP+ modules. A good example of this is the HP 2910al (J9148A).

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    Quote Originally Posted by mgreen4117 View Post
    Hey,
    I am the IT Admin for a private school with about 600 students. We have 7 servers, 200+ workstations and are slowly implementing a campus wide wireless solution (Aerohive). However, my switches are as old as dirt and I am needing to upgrade all my switches and uplinks between the them. I was wondering if someone could suggest some switches and also what speed switches I should use. Currently everything this 10/100 and the wireless traffic is starting to bog down the network. Thank you for any suggestions. Also, I have a somewhat modest budget prob less than $15,000.

    Thank you for any help,
    Michael
    You didn't say what brand switches you currently have or what knowledge you have in-house or have easy access to (Cisco, HP, etc.)

    However, value for money in Education I would go for an HP Procurve solution. Based on the number of clients and students you have, I would recommend a 5406zl modular switch for your core and 2910s for edge switches. This will give you Gigabit speeds for clients and the ability now or in the future to use 10GbE uplinks from the core to edge switches.

    Your budget is the limiting factor here and I would ask for more money for your network infrastructure. I would bet you have as much or more invested than this in your Aerohive WiFi network than you've been given for your core switching infrastructure, which is a bad idea. It's like giving a $1,000 car a $5,000 paint job.

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    $15,000 for some switches? I mean, that's what you are talking about, right? Not the re-cabling etc?

    I was pointed to HP procurve as well and I think it is good advice.

    However when I did our core n/w (400+ pupils, Ruckus wireless APs) I chose the Cisco Small Business switches from the SG-300 range. I believe (although will stand corrected) that these are the highest spec switches you can get from cisco before reaching into the enterprise class of equipment which would mean you need a support contract from cisco to get firmware upgrades etc.

    Anyway the proof of the pudding etc. The switches (2 x SG300-28, 2 x SG300-10MP & 1 x SG300-10) have been faultless in set up and performance and do everything that is required by us.

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    Quote Originally Posted by catch21 View Post
    $15,000 for some switches? I mean, that's what you are talking about, right? Not the re-cabling etc?

    I was pointed to HP procurve as well and I think it is good advice.

    However when I did our core n/w (400+ pupils, Ruckus wireless APs) I chose the Cisco Small Business switches from the SG-300 range. I believe (although will stand corrected) that these are the highest spec switches you can get from cisco before reaching into the enterprise class of equipment which would mean you need a support contract from cisco to get firmware upgrades etc.

    Anyway the proof of the pudding etc. The switches (2 x SG300-28, 2 x SG300-10MP & 1 x SG300-10) have been faultless in set up and performance and do everything that is required by us.
    I'm not sure I would put the SG-300s in the same category as the HP ProCurve 5406zl or 2901al that are being discussed. They don't run Cisco IOS and are rebadged Linksys as far as I'm aware although with a Cisco web GUI (no CLI last I checked). I've heard both good and bad about the SG-300s. Good in that they seem to be solid and reliable, but bad in configuration around VLANs and more advanced setups. I haven't used the Cisco small business switches for a couple of years though so maybe my knowledge is out of date.

    In not sure what the HPs cost in Alabama, but here in OZ the 5406zl comes in around 12k and 2910al is bit under 3k. Of course everything is more expensive here than the states - including Australian wine! Figure that one out...

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    SYNACK's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by seawolf View Post
    I'm not sure I would put the SG-300s in the same category as the HP ProCurve 5406zl or 2901al that are being discussed. They don't run Cisco IOS and are rebadged Linksys as far as I'm aware although with a Cisco web GUI (no CLI last I checked). I've heard both good and bad about the SG-300s. Good in that they seem to be solid and reliable, but bad in configuration around VLANs and more advanced setups. I haven't used the Cisco small business switches for a couple of years though so maybe my knowledge is out of date.

    In not sure what the HPs cost in Alabama, but here in OZ the 5406zl comes in around 12k and 2910al is bit under 3k. Of course everything is more expensive here than the states - including Australian wine! Figure that one out...
    Might be doable in the states, one of our suppliers managed to get a hold of non education US pricing for hp gear and it was something like a quarter to a third of what we had to pay even with edu discount. It is a completely different world price wise without the 'not in the states' mark up which is extreme.

    The hp 5406 or 5412 are great core switches and so are the 2910al for the edge, rock solid, good featureset and the big thing is that it has a lifetime warranty and free software updates.

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    Quote Originally Posted by catch21 View Post
    $15,000 for some switches? I mean, that's what you are talking about, right? Not the re-cabling etc?

    I was pointed to HP procurve as well and I think it is good advice.

    However when I did our core n/w (400+ pupils, Ruckus wireless APs) I chose the Cisco Small Business switches from the SG-300 range. I believe (although will stand corrected) that these are the highest spec switches you can get from cisco before reaching into the enterprise class of equipment which would mean you need a support contract from cisco to get firmware upgrades etc.

    Anyway the proof of the pudding etc. The switches (2 x SG300-28, 2 x SG300-10MP & 1 x SG300-10) have been faultless in set up and performance and do everything that is required by us.
    IOS updates are avaialble for the Catalyst Witch range without a support contract and fixed config switches have a limited lifetime swap out warranty.

    We run entirely CISCO across both sites.

    Rob

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    As my budgets have been again cut, I´m going the refurbished way. "HP renew" switches with HP´s lifetime warranty (A5800, A5500-HI, or A5500-EI/E4800 + dual PSU for core, as those are ~50-60% below former public tendering prices) plus fanless Zyxel GS1910-24 for edge, it´s cheap, it has ACLs, it has a working loop prevention and IGMPv3 snooping plus an ugly non CLI with no SSH or telnet server running. But I already started a feature request with Zyxel. They promised to get it into the next firmware which will be released this year according to support team. Hopefully they keep their word.
    Last edited by snoerre; 1st August 2013 at 08:35 PM.

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    I've used both the SG series and the Procurves, and I would take the Procurves every time. My main issue with them is that the SG's son't run the Cisco IOS, and yes, they are rebranded Linksys. With the HPs you get a decent command line interface, and they have proven time after time to be more reliable than my SG's (my SG's fall over when you turn syslogging on).

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    Keep 100mb to the desktop, regardless of what people might say against me on this, you don't need 1GB to the desktop. If you gave them gigabit to the desktop you'd be looking at 10GB backbone, which for your size school you don't need unless you foresee some huge increase in machines + users in the coming years. Plan for 10GB by buying things that support it, but don't bother with it, that way support for it is there if and when you need it.

    Don't get cisco switches unless you have some experience or training in them, HP are simpler to manage, make sure you get managed switches not unmanaged ones as ideally you'll want to start using vlans to limit your broadcast traffic eventually. Oh and don't look at netgear etc and think "but they're cheaper they'll do" they're cheaper for a reason!

    1GB backbone with a trunk to more saturated areas will be more than sufficient for most areas. Ideally a trunk to the servers as well, are you virtualised at all?

    My method to this is this:
    Desktops - in this case 100mb
    Switch to switch connectivity - 1GB to end user 48 port switches or trunks to 8 - 16 port distribution switches
    Switch to server connectivity - ideally more than 1GB though it depends on the servers role. If you're virtualised then definitely 2.

    HP 2510-48 are good 48 port end user switches

    What core switch do you have at the moment?
    Last edited by mrbios; 1st August 2013 at 09:46 PM.

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    @mrbios, I agree with you completely and we're keeping Fast Ethernet to the desktop here for now for the same reasons... we are also similarly sized to the OP.

    However, and just because it's been topical here, there is one scenario that does seem to point towards gigabit to the desktop, and that is wireless networking.

    We have 11 APs distributed around the site. Each can easily handle a classload of 30 devices or so, as far as the AP itself is concerned, but ultimately the switch port it feeds back to is Fast Ethernet. That means you're sharing 100Mbps between 30 devices. In that scenario, it does seem nicer to be able to say, "We'll be able to share 1000Mbps between 30 devices and it doesn't matter which switch cabinet the AP ultimately feeds back to as they're all Gigabit."

    It's of particular note if you do what we're doing and have a laptop/tablet trolley with an additional AP on top that's designed for use with just those devices at a particular time, so you have wireless anywhere regardless of your coverage around the site... but again, that idea only works well if you can guarantee that any network point you plug it into in a classroom has sufficient bandwidth to allow for it!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ephelyon View Post
    @mrbios, I agree with you completely and we're keeping Fast Ethernet to the desktop here for now for the same reasons... we are also similarly sized to the OP.

    However, and just because it's been topical here, there is one scenario that does seem to point towards gigabit to the desktop, and that is wireless networking.

    We have 11 APs distributed around the site. Each can easily handle a classload of 30 devices or so, as far as the AP itself is concerned, but ultimately the switch port it feeds back to is Fast Ethernet. That means you're sharing 100Mbps between 30 devices. In that scenario, it does seem nicer to be able to say, "We'll be able to share 1000Mbps between 30 devices and it doesn't matter which switch cabinet the AP ultimately feeds back to as they're all Gigabit."

    It's of particular note if you do what we're doing and have a laptop/tablet trolley with an additional AP on top that's designed for use with just those devices at a particular time, so you have wireless anywhere regardless of your coverage around the site... but again, that idea only works well if you can guarantee that any network point you plug it into in a classroom has sufficient bandwidth to allow for it!
    Got to be honest, that's the first time i've heard of anyone doing that (AP on a laptop trolley) makes sense to have the AP on 1GB but then this is why i have fixed APs everywhere, so i can give them 1GB regardless of user location. What with BYOD becoming more and more popular and the need for schoolwide wireless coverage the AP with the trolley will get less popular.

    I could argue that maybe you should change the way you're providing wireless coverage rather than your infrastructure, afterall one is more important than the other.

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    It's a budgetary thing mainly. We have no money for expanding the infrastructure, either wired or wireless.

    The 11 APs (that we had £3K for a couple of years ago) cover the site but only butter-thin. Adding an AP onto the trolley means I can include it in an overall quote for "providing a trolley-load of tablets as a bookable ICT suite for classroom use" plausibly without causing an upset. But you're right, it's not the ideal solution. We need a "dollar signs" emoticon here...

    So presumably in your scenario you have APs in certain locations that happen to have 1GB switches serving them, while not all switches are in fact 1GB. We're not in that position; we had no money for a site survey so the APs had to be positioned arbitrarily in locations that seemed to provide decent enough coverage, but then you can't guarantee all the available cabs will have 1GB switches in them...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ephelyon View Post
    It's a budgetary thing mainly. We have no money for expanding the infrastructure, either wired or wireless.

    The 11 APs (that we had £3K for a couple of years ago) cover the site but only butter-thin. Adding an AP onto the trolley means I can include it in an overall quote for "providing a trolley-load of tablets as a bookable ICT suite for classroom use" plausibly without causing an upset. But you're right, it's not the ideal solution. We need a "dollar signs" emoticon here...

    So presumably in your scenario you have APs in certain locations that happen to have 1GB switches serving them, while not all switches are in fact 1GB. We're not in that position; we had no money for a site survey so the APs had to be positioned arbitrarily in locations that seemed to provide decent enough coverage, but then you can't guarantee all the available cabs will have 1GB switches in them...
    Well most areas where i have APs i have them connected to the second uplink port of the switches. 1-48 for clients 49 for AP and 50 for main link for example, essentially i treat an AP like a switch in that respect. If i need more than 1 AP in an area then i use a HP 1700 switch which is a nice cheap web managed switch and cascade off the other one (or vice versa), i've got mostly 24G ones as they were re-purposed but i think you can get smaller, and they're quite cheap.

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