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Wireless Networks Thread, Which switch would you recommend. in Technical; Yes it's another thread about switches! We've got to replace out core switch as some point. We're currently using an ...
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    maniac's Avatar
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    Which switch would you recommend.

    Yes it's another thread about switches!

    We've got to replace out core switch as some point. We're currently using an HP 4108gl switch as our core switch. This manages OK with the traffic flow on our network, but we've reached the limitations of the switch. Mainly the fact it only supports 8 trunks, and we have most of our servers connected up with duel gigabit connections on teamed network cards, so we have some that aren't running at the optimum as the switch can't support them.

    Now my question is;
    Is it worth buying a switch that is marketed as a core switch, which obviously cost £1000's and offer performance and features way above and beyond what we need, or are likely to need in the future; or could we get an acceptable setup by buying a good moduler HP switch such as the HP 4208vl which seem to offer a level of performance still way above what we're likely to need, and are a lot cheaper.

    Asides from the increased throughput and redundancy offered, what's the advantages of buying a proper core switch, as oppose to something like the HP 4208vl??

    We're a medium sized secondry school, 12 servers and around 750 clients (500ish desktops, 150 staff laptops 100 student laptops) Network performance on the current setup is good, but there's obviously always room for improvement.

    I'm not an expert when it comes to switch gear, but I'm trying to learn as much as possible before putting forwards my recommendations. If a proper core switch is called for, then that's what I'll recommend, but if a switch like the HP 4208vl would do the job, then why spend more than we have to??

    Your opinions please!

    Many thanks,

    Mike.

  2. #2

    localzuk's Avatar
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    Re: Which switch would you recommend.

    Well I'd go for a 5412zl myself - it has a much larger backplane speed and supports layer 3 routing, which is perfect for inter-vlan routing. It also has 12 slots available, with support for 10Gb fibre's and also now has support for a wireless management module for use with HP wireless AP's.

    For a new core, the 4208vl would barely be any different than your current core.

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    torledo's Avatar
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    Re: Which switch would you recommend.

    Quote Originally Posted by maniac
    Yes it's another thread about switches!

    We've got to replace out core switch as some point. We're currently using an HP 4108gl switch as our core switch. This manages OK with the traffic flow on our network, but we've reached the limitations of the switch. Mainly the fact it only supports 8 trunks, and we have most of our servers connected up with duel gigabit connections on teamed network cards, so we have some that aren't running at the optimum as the switch can't support them.

    Now my question is;
    Is it worth buying a switch that is marketed as a core switch, which obviously cost £1000's and offer performance and features way above and beyond what we need, or are likely to need in the future; or could we get an acceptable setup by buying a good moduler HP switch such as the HP 4208vl which seem to offer a level of performance still way above what we're likely to need, and are a lot cheaper.

    Asides from the increased throughput and redundancy offered, what's the advantages of buying a proper core switch, as oppose to something like the HP 4208vl??

    We're a medium sized secondry school, 12 servers and around 750 clients (500ish desktops, 150 staff laptops 100 student laptops) Network performance on the current setup is good, but there's obviously always room for improvement.

    I'm not an expert when it comes to switch gear, but I'm trying to learn as much as possible before putting forwards my recommendations. If a proper core switch is called for, then that's what I'll recommend, but if a switch like the HP 4208vl would do the job, then why spend more than we have to??

    Your opinions please!

    Many thanks,

    Mike.
    Traditionally, a 'core' switch is designed to aggregate and switch traffic as quickly as possible. Best practice is for VLAN's and ACL's to be implemented on the distribution and access switches.

    Ofcourse in a more simplified design you often don't need a three layered design. You may simply have a core and access layer in which case a core switch will also carry out functions typically required of a distribution switch. This will obviously affect performance somewhat - but a multilayer switch can perform a lot of these routing tasks in it's hardware ASIC's thereby minimising any performance hit.

    I'd advise getting a good quality switch for your core (this may involve purchasing a switch categorised for the distribution layer but this is fine) with enough expansion capabilties so that it can aggregate all your current and future fibre requirements. With hardware based layer routing - preferably on dedicated line cards. Ofcourse it sounds like you'd want to connect hosts directly to your core - this can be done but it's not a great idea. Much better to uplink only from your various access switches to the core - etherchannel links are ideal. Servers should be connected to a downstream switch or stack. If you're feeling really brave you can ask management for money for a redundant core which is a nice setup. Otherwise Make sure you core has bags of redundancy - get 4 hour response, or keep a spare in a cupboard.

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    GrumbleDook's Avatar
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    Re: Which switch would you recommend.

    We are moving towards Cisco 3750s as a stackable solution without having to go down the chassis route.

    What ever you go with I would try to ensure that you get something that is as extensible as possible and try to get some firm answers from manglement about the direction of IT over the next 5 years. A silly thing to say, but this is as important as deciding which brand / make / model to go for.

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    maniac's Avatar
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    Re: Which switch would you recommend.

    OK, reading your post torledo, looks like I've got a bit to learn about best practice when it comes to switches and what to use where.

    Pictured in my mind I had a setup whereby all our servers and our internet connection etc. plug into the core switch, which then distributes traffic to the various wiring cabinets around the school via fibre links. By the sounds of it, this isn't the optimum setup and I should also be using smaller distribution switches for the servers to connect to, that then link those back to the core switch. Is that a more efficient setup?

    At the moment, to give you an idea of how badly it's done, our 4108GL switch has all our servers plugged into it, plus fibre connections going off to wiring cabinets, as well as a large chunk of workstations all on the one switch. I know this needs to be changed, just trying to work out the best way of doing it!

    Thanks for advice so far,

    Mike.

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    localzuk's Avatar
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    Re: Which switch would you recommend.

    Quote Originally Posted by maniac
    OK, reading your post torledo, looks like I've got a bit to learn about best practice when it comes to switches and what to use where.

    Pictured in my mind I had a setup whereby all our servers and our internet connection etc. plug into the core switch, which then distributes traffic to the various wiring cabinets around the school via fibre links. By the sounds of it, this isn't the optimum setup and I should also be using smaller distribution switches for the servers to connect to, that then link those back to the core switch. Is that a more efficient setup?

    At the moment, to give you an idea of how badly it's done, our 4108GL switch has all our servers plugged into it, plus fibre connections going off to wiring cabinets, as well as a large chunk of workstations all on the one switch. I know this needs to be changed, just trying to work out the best way of doing it!

    Thanks for advice so far,

    Mike.
    With the money that school's have available, that is a normal method of doing things.

    Our core consists of a 5406zl with a 24port GBIC module (with 10 in use) and 3 24 port 10/100/1000 modules which connect our 9 servers and one of our admin offices. This cost us around £9k so far.

    I don't see how having everything in one unit can be bad? Surely adding in external devices adds bottleneck points? ie. a 10Gbit link between an aggregation switch and edge switches is more of a potential bottleneck than a single switch with a large capacity backplane?

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    GrumbleDook's Avatar
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    Re: Which switch would you recommend.

    We look at from this model.

    Core unit with fibre to edge switches, and stacked onto this are a gigabit copper unit for server connectivity (with integrated WLAN controller) and switches for local rooms.

    Effectively it is one unit with 32Gps interconnect (when set up properly!).

    This can be done via Chassis too ...

    This is before you get into QoS, CoS and ACLs to start optimizing performance.

    We are getting there ... presently we have a 3Com core with multiple fibre connections from our Gigabit copper (with WLAN controller) and we will make the move to a new core next summer (the 3Com will be moved to an edge location that is actually a hub for other edge units ... still not a perfect start topology but getting better)

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    torledo's Avatar
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    Re: Which switch would you recommend.

    Quote Originally Posted by maniac
    OK, reading your post torledo, looks like I've got a bit to learn about best practice when it comes to switches and what to use where.

    Pictured in my mind I had a setup whereby all our servers and our internet connection etc. plug into the core switch, which then distributes traffic to the various wiring cabinets around the school via fibre links. By the sounds of it, this isn't the optimum setup and I should also be using smaller distribution switches for the servers to connect to, that then link those back to the core switch. Is that a more efficient setup?

    At the moment, to give you an idea of how badly it's done, our 4108GL switch has all our servers plugged into it, plus fibre connections going off to wiring cabinets, as well as a large chunk of workstations all on the one switch. I know this needs to be changed, just trying to work out the best way of doing it!

    Thanks for advice so far,

    Mike.
    Yes Mike. I think in an ideal scenario your servers would be connected to a distrbution switch or access switch rather than directly connected to the core. Historically this is because of what I mentioned about the role of the core. To switch traffic at the highest speeds possible. But moving your servers off the core is for better manageability rather than speed.

    But there is little point in connecting your servers downstream if you don't implement some sort of etherchannel or better still 10gbps to the core - otherwise it becomes a choke point.

    Sometimes for cost reasons or simplicity servers are connected to the core switch - but I wouldn't recommended it if you can avoid to.

  9. #9

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    Re: Which switch would you recommend.

    Quote Originally Posted by localzuk
    I don't see how having everything in one unit can be bad? Surely adding in external devices adds bottleneck points? ie. a 10Gbit link between an aggregation switch and edge switches is more of a potential bottleneck than a single switch with a large capacity backplane?
    I've just always thought it was good practise not to have the main servers and end user workstations connected into the same switch. Like I say, I'm still learning, but I want to take this opportunity to recommend the best equipment I can, and to get an end result that is a good as it can be on the money allowed.

    Mike.

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    Re: Which switch would you recommend.

    Seeing as we aren't all going to have redundant switches with mstp I don't see any issues with having everything running through the core.

    I have all my edge switches and servers connected to it, I don't really see why you would want to throw an extra hop in to seperate the servers, with the number we are dealing with there is little need. You aren't going to be doing any routing or acls on your edge switches anyway as they will lack the speed and features to do so. As long as you get things setup so that the root of the spanning tree doesn't move data to an edge switch you should be fine.

    Sure you have a single failure point, but without huge amounts of non existant cash then there isn't really anything you can do.

    The 5400 does most things, the next step up would be the 8200s, hp's first true core switch, but they are rather more expensive.

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    localzuk's Avatar
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    Re: Which switch would you recommend.

    Sure, I can completely understand a tiered approach in a larger scale environment - having a core switch with end nodes connected to it would be a management nightmare. But on the scale we are talking about in school's, with handfuls of servers and a couple of hundred clients, it wouldn't aid manageability to split the roles between switches.

    So I agree with DMcCoy - the 5400zl is the best route to go.

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    torledo's Avatar
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    Re: Which switch would you recommend.

    Quote Originally Posted by localzuk
    Quote Originally Posted by maniac
    OK, reading your post torledo, looks like I've got a bit to learn about best practice when it comes to switches and what to use where.

    Pictured in my mind I had a setup whereby all our servers and our internet connection etc. plug into the core switch, which then distributes traffic to the various wiring cabinets around the school via fibre links. By the sounds of it, this isn't the optimum setup and I should also be using smaller distribution switches for the servers to connect to, that then link those back to the core switch. Is that a more efficient setup?

    At the moment, to give you an idea of how badly it's done, our 4108GL switch has all our servers plugged into it, plus fibre connections going off to wiring cabinets, as well as a large chunk of workstations all on the one switch. I know this needs to be changed, just trying to work out the best way of doing it!

    Thanks for advice so far,

    Mike.
    With the money that school's have available, that is a normal method of doing things.

    Our core consists of a 5406zl with a 24port GBIC module (with 10 in use) and 3 24 port 10/100/1000 modules which connect our 9 servers and one of our admin offices. This cost us around £9k so far.

    I don't see how having everything in one unit can be bad? Surely adding in external devices adds bottleneck points? ie. a 10Gbit link between an aggregation switch and edge switches is more of a potential bottleneck than a single switch with a large capacity backplane?
    You must be joking - you're really going to struggle to get anywhere close to full utilization on a 10gbps link.

    So describing it as a potential bottleneck is something of a leap. The three layer design is for manageability and aggregation - rather than purely for performance. With careful planning access links shouldn't ever end up causing a bottleneck. As I've mentioned with etherchannel, 10gig. Plus keeping within manufacturers guidelines for stack size all help avoid this scenario.

    Plus redundant connections are really important although not always implemented.

    Plus looking at your switches interms of backplane speed is only part of issue. Redudancy of components, mpps figures. full line-rate non blocking port access all feature.

  13. #13

    maniac's Avatar
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    Re: Which switch would you recommend.

    I think the chances of doing a proper 3 layered system are small due to the costs. It's just too expensive when you include everything we're going to need. More than likely I'm going to go with what I origenally had in mind, which is to have the servers connected directly to the core switch.

    I think a 5400zl series is looking likely, as it seems to offer good value for money and all the features we're likely to need, as well as being much higher performance than our current switch, and looks fairly good for the future as well, supporting 10gb connections and the like.

    Thanks for your help.

    Mike.

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    torledo's Avatar
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    Re: Which switch would you recommend.

    Quote Originally Posted by maniac
    I think the chances of doing a proper 3 layered system are small due to the costs. It's just too expensive when you include everything we're going to need. More than likely I'm going to go with what I origenally had in mind, which is to have the servers connected directly to the core switch.

    I think a 5400zl series is looking likely, as it seems to offer good value for money and all the features we're likely to need, as well as being much higher performance than our current switch, and looks fairly good for the future as well, supporting 10gb connections and the like.

    Thanks for your help.

    Mike.
    Yes. I think i was misunderstood - I wasn't advocating a three-layer approach for your situation. And indeed for most schools...a core and access/distriution hybrid is more than suitable. My personal preference is just that the servers not be directly connected to the core. Leave the core for aggregation and switching between the access layers if possible.

    I think I got sidetracked into extolling the virtues of three-layer design to the converted

    Not familiar with hp switches but that model seems to be very popular on these forums.

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    Re: Which switch would you recommend.

    We've got a lot of HP infrastructure already, so sticking with HP seems sensible.

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