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what is the best router for a small academic department

Posted on 2004-03-20
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Hi experts,

I'm working at a new academic department at university. My supervisor would like me investigate how expensive and what kind instrument we should buy if we want to run our own network. The university has a gigabit Ethernet backbone. I'm thinking that we need to have a router (gigabit) and at least one switch. All the rooms are wired with Cat 5 copper cables.

Any idea what router and switches we should buy. 255 ip addresses should be enough for us.

Many thanks in advance.
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Question by:bubble_guy
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by:pseudocyber
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Without knowing more about your network or what you're trying to do - I would start out recommending you consolidate the router and switch and get a layer 3 switch, like a Cisco Catalyst 3550.  You could manage your ports, create VLANs, possibly participate in network routing protocols, route your VLANs, and have Access List (ACL) control.

More info:  http://www.cisco.com/en/US/products/hw/switches/ps646/index.html

HTH
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by:pseudocyber
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Ps. - That's around $3K street price - you might be able to do better since you're an eductional institution going hrough a Cisco Reseller.
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by:bubble_guy
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Thanks pseudocyber,

I will look into the Cisco Catalyst 3550. What we try to do is to be independent from the university's bureaucracy. We'd like to have our own domain name, such as ourdepart.university.edu  and run DNS, DHCP, email of our own. I think we can have a class C address space. Our current setting is that 1) gigabit ethernet is the campus backbone, 2) a router (actually 2 routers as fail over) connects to the backbone, 3) each floor has a stack of switches connecting to network ports in offices, 4) we have a VLAN (our offices are currently spread over 3 floors) but all of computers are in the same subnet.

Our goal is to have the current setting but run it ourself. One good thing is that we are going to move into one floor.

Any more comments?

Regards
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by:pseudocyber
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Ok, I'm not a server guy (used to be though) but you could throw a Windows Server on the network and use it for DNS, DHCP, and WINs.  Not sure if you want to go the AD route (Active Directory).

You could take the 3550's and stack them and expand them to meet your needs.  If you're being fed GigE over Fiber, you could plug in two of them and route onto your network with HSRP (Hot Standby Routing Protocol).

You might want to step up to a 4507R http://www.cisco.com/en/US/products/hw/switches/ps4324/products_data_sheet09186a008014ae4c.html - you haven't mentioned how many nodes, how much money you have, how redundant you need it.  Also keep in mind you're going to need a support contract on the network gear.

Frankly, I'm kind of surprised your University IT department is letting you get away with doing your own thing - I would think they want to control everything from a support and design perspective.  
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by:bubble_guy
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In addition to the overhead charged by the university for every grant we have, we pay over $60,000/year for IT. We're tight in budget now, and we want to save that money for ourselves.

If the node you mentioned means the access point to the backbone, we need one node for now, maybe two in the future. We expect the resistance but we're going to fight. Any idea can we save money by doing this?
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by:pseudocyber
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Well, how would you rate these considerations?  Cost, reliability, ease of finding training/support material, quality of support, redudancy.

Also, how many nodes (printers, PC's, network attached devices, etc) are you going to have?
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by:bubble_guy
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Currently we have a subnet of 128 addresses, that is enough for now and I anticipate that over the next several years, there won't be over 256 nodes. All of those sound important, and if I have to rate them, it will be cost > reliability > quality of support  > redudancy > access to training
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by:pseudocyber
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What I am trying to get an anser on is how many devices are plugged in now - how many ports do you need in a switch, or stack of switches?  How many devices you need to attach, what they do, how much backplane capacity you need at any given time, etc will make a difference in what kind of equipment you need.  

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by:bubble_guy
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I think we need at least 2 48 ports switches to support the devices we are having now. Do we need to buy 2 layer 3 switches, or just one layer 3 and one layer 2 switches. Or maybe one layer 3 switch with 4 or 8 ports as a router and another 2 layer 2 switches.
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pseudocyber earned 200 total points
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Ok.  I've heard some decent things about Asante - they're kind of in between the low end Small Business Home Office (SOHO) crowd like DLink and Linksys and the big boys like Cisco, Nortel, 3Com, etc.  You might check them out.

You could get a 48 port switch with Gig uplinks for about $900 - IC3548-2GT.  Then you could get a Layer 3 switch and uplink into it from the Layer 2 Switch.  Asante has this one - which is 16 ports of GigE - kind of overkill for you - but on the other hand you could plug some Servers or Power Users into it and they might benefit.  Additionally, you could get fancy with layer 4 switching.  IC35516-T.  I think this box would run you about $2500.  But for $3000 you're getting A LOT of capability, without sacrificing too much on quality and features.

Keep in mind that you will also need to purchase a support agreement when you get your equipment - this should be viewed as a non-negotiable, must have item (word to the wise).

Check out http://www.asante.com and http://www.asante.com/solutions/enterprise/pdf/IntraCore_ProductLineGuide.pdf.

HTH
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by:bubble_guy
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Hi HTH,

Thanks and I'm going to accept your answer. If you don't mind, I'm going to ask one question regarding the layout. Say we connect the IC35516-T to the campus backbone, which is running fiber gigabit ethernet. Then we can buy, say, 2 48 ports IC3548-2GT, stack them and connect to IC35516-T. Our computers and printer just connect to the ports of IC3548-2GT. I did not see that the IC35516-T can provide DHCP, but normally what is the best practice, run DHCP and DNS separately from the router or it does not matter?

Thanks again and best regards
ZXD
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by:pseudocyber
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In your case, I would go the professional route and put DHCP, DNS, and WINS/AD on a server where they belong.  You could have your own Microsoft Domain Controller doing all of these services for you.  I would recommend dual connected (2 NICs) with some kind of fault tolerant teaming and also redundant power, drives, etc. since it would be such a crucial server for you.
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