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network upgrade advice requested

We are going to be adding a new wing onto our building that will essentially double the size of our staff eventually, to about 300.  We will need network connectivity for at least that many, and maybe even up to 500 data ports.  I was hoping to get some advice on hardware and configuration.

Currently, we're using a stack of Dell PowerConnect switches (two 48 ports, two 24 ports).  We have a total of 144 ports, which is the limit for these switches, I believe.  I would like to just take those out and put in a new hardware all together.  All the ports should be 10/100, plus 10 Gigabit ports as well.

What hardware would all you experts recommend?
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David Williamson
Asked:
David Williamson
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2 Solutions
 
virtuoso1Commented:
Cisco Catalyst 3550 48 port switches.  I'd say go with 7 of these to start off with.
 
Cisco Catalyst 3500 XL 10 port gigabit switch.  Depending on the number of servers you have, and if your planning on using SAN storage etc, start with 2 of these.
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David WilliamsonIT DirectorAuthor Commented:
Those switches go for about $4000 and up a piece!  I don't know if I can convice the powers that be to spend that much to support  300 plus users.  Anyone got any 48 port ideas that run around $1000 maybe?
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mrrickyjonesCommented:
If price is your number one concern and not performance, netgear makes 48 porters for around $400 a piece.  You can look on pricewatch.com or go to this link.

http://www.compuplus.com/insidepage.php3?id=1001452&refer=pricewatch.com

These arent half bad either, comes with rack mount kit and they are stackable.
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lrmooreCommented:
>All the ports should be 10/100, plus 10 Gigabit ports as well.
>48 port ideas that run around $1000 maybe?

Anything with a 10Gig port will cost a LOT more than that for just one port. Unless, of course, you mean 10 x 1Gig ports..
I don't think you will find anything at that price range that I would bet my business on.
Allied Telesyn makes some of the cheapest switches I've seen, but I won't use them:
http://www.alliedtelesyn.com/products/features.aspx?cid=1&scid=12

Dell likes to play in the low-price market, but everyone that I know of that bought Dell ripped them out and replaced them with Cisco, but they fit your budget:
http://configure.us.dell.com/dellstore/config.aspx?c=us&cs=555&l=en&oc=PC3348PAD&s=biz

With price being the driving factor, my personal preference would be the Cisco 2970 series 10/100/1000 as edge switches, but they don't come in 48-port models. You can get the basic 2950 series 24-port 10/100 switches for well under $1000 each..
http://www.cisco.com/en/US/products/hw/switches/ps5206/index.html
Most Cisco switches carry limited lifetime warranty

Another alternative that you might consider is the Adtran product:
http://www.adtran.com/adtranpx/Rooms/DisplayPages/LayoutInitial?ProductCategory=com.webridge.entity.Entity%5BOID%5BC87E3A7BF2C8D711A78B00D0B72032D8%5D%5D&Product=com.webridge.entity.Entity%5BOID%5B8CE540A48CC7D711A78B00D0B72032D8%5D%5D&Container=com.webridge.entity.Entity%5BOID%5BF5C7CEE8D8313E49B4D65B30BDDF4734%5D%5D

Still only 24 ports, but 1/2 the price of any comparble Cisco..List price is $895 - street price around $700 each
Plus, 5 year full warranty


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kain21Commented:
if you want to keep the price down then you should stick with the powerconnect switches... we use them to run three buildings and aren't having any trouble... Just make sure you configure it in a manner that you can have a gigabit backbone... example...

1 - powerconnect 5324 ($1099)- 24 gigabit ports - use the extra ports to plug your servers in...
3 - powerconnect 3348 ($799)- these switches are stackable which means you'll only have to use one gigabit uplink port to the 5324 for every five switches...

Thes switches are manageable so you'll be able to monitor the efficiency of your network and determine bottlenecks... they also allow link aggregation... which allows you to use multiple uplinks between switches to increase the backbone bandwith up to 8 gigabit/sec ...
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DMJorgensenCommented:
If you  only talking about 300 users, you really don't need to spend th $$ on managed switched.  Just standard intellegent switches ought to do. I'm not sure if you meant $1000 total or $1000 each, but if you're going to buy all new I'd invest in all 10/100/1000 port.  It will save you money from upgrading down the road. You can get 3com / linksys 48 port 10/100 for around $450 each and thier fairly solid. Cisco 24port start around $500 I think.  

Good Luck
dj
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kain21Commented:
ofcourse you can add as many powerconnect 3348 switches you need to get the number of ports you want... my example is based solely on your existing setup...
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johncase142Commented:
I have been very happy with HP ProCurve switches, they are also available in the unmanaged flavor, saving you some cash. They offer switches with modular Gigabit ports so you can upgrade down the road if needed. Take at look at these:

http://www.hp.com/rnd/products/switches/2800_series/overview.htm
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AutoSpongeCommented:
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David WilliamsonIT DirectorAuthor Commented:
Kain21:
We have had good luck with the PowerConnect switches as well.  If I understand correctly, you're suggesting that I stack up to 5 3348's, then use one of the gigabit ports on the stack and connect it to the 5324.   Is that a sound networking practice?  Couldn't I just use the high-speed interconnect to connect the 5324 to the 3348 stack?   You mentioned monitoring the efficiency of the switches; what would I use to monitor that (I've never done any network analysis before)?  If I were to do configure everything the way you suggest, I could integrate my existing powerconnect stack as well, correct?

mrrickyjones:
I would like a good balance between speed and price.

DMJorgensen:
My only concern with unmanaged switches is setting all the workstations to Auto.  I learned from a CCIE friend of mine several years ago to always specify settings where possible in the network and not leave things to chance and 'auto'.  Are my fears unfounded?

lrmoore:
yes, i did mean 10 x 1gigabit ports, not 10gigabit ports (would be nice though!).

BTW guys, great input on this thread!  Thanks!
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tabushCommented:
Go for HP Procurve 2626 managed switches. They have 24 ports 10/100 + 2 10/100/1000 and 2 GBIC slots which can take fiber GBIC's. Then, uplink all of those switches into a Cisco Catalyst 3750 24x 10/100/1000 and that can also run your VLAN's and Layer 3 routing if need be.

The HP's are around $600 each for 24-ports, and the cisco around $3500. But it is worth it. HP has a great lifetime warranty on their equipment.
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lrmooreCommented:
Lots of good opinions out here, and only one that I must disagree with.
I would NEVER attempt to run a network of your size with unmanged switches. Without managed switches, you are totally blind to any networking problems that you may have, with virtually no way to troublshoot. I agree with your CCIE friend that NIC auto-negotiation often fails. This goes especially for non-PC devices like printers and print server devices. Someday you may need to create a SPAN or mirror port to attach a sniffer for troubleshooting and you need a managed switch to do that. I don't know what industry you are in, but you may need to consider network-based user authentication "permission to come aboard the network" (802.1x), Network based admission control (Microsoft Quarantine service for example), or other controls. If you are building tomorrows infrastructure today, spend the money today that will give you that modular path to the future. Build it today for the next 5-7 years (average time between major hardware upgrades)..


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kain21Commented:
theamzngg,

you wouldn't be able to uplink the the 3348 stack to the 5324 through a high-speed interconnect as the 5324 doesn't have this capability... what it does allow you to do is Link Aggregate up to 8 ports for the same uplink... giving you an 8 gbps option between the 3348 switches and the 5324... as far as monitoring the network... you can monitor the port usage from the web interface of the switch... this would allow you to determine if an uplink is getting saturated or not... it also allows you to see what type of packets are coming across the switch... (i.e. multicast, broadcast, etc.)... this would help you determine sources/causes of network congestion... what model of existing powerconnect switches do you have? if they aren't managed switches then the use of them wouldn't be ideal but could be done... you would have to set them up with direct uplinks to the 5324 and monitor the uplink to determine if you have too many users on the unmanaged switch...

one more thing... tabush mentioned hp procurve switches... we use some HP Procurve 4000M switches in our network but only for the non-critical users... the backplane on the procurve switches (3.8 gbps for the 4000M, 6.9 gbps for the 2626) leaves something to be desired...  the powerconnect switches were all 13.6 gbps...
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kain21Commented:
correction... to the backplane on the procurve 2626... it's 9.6 gbps... i must be dislexic...
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David WilliamsonIT DirectorAuthor Commented:
We have two 3048's and two 3024's in a stack, which is the max number of ports for these models.
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kain21Commented:
you would be able to keep the existing stack and uplink it to the 5324 via up to 6 gbps port using LAG (Link Aggregation Grouping)... this configuration would use all of your existing gbps ports on the stack to uplink to the 5324... you could then create a new stack with 3348's and uplink it to the 5324 via up to 8 ports using LAG.... this would allow you increase the number of ports to the amount you need... the switches you have are already manageable... you should see a console port on the front side of switch... you can connect to the switch via a console cable and assign an ip address to the switch.. this would allow you to telnet to the switch and if you enable the web interface, you could manage the switch from any computer on the network...
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David WilliamsonIT DirectorAuthor Commented:
lrmoore:
Thank you, I agree; I would rather have managed switches.  We are in the engineering industry-structural, mechanical, civil.  I have never used any kind of network-based control, as you mention, so I am not familar with the pros/cons.  I agree about building infrastructure for tomorrow, my only obstacle is getting the money approved (isn't it always?).  What do you think about kain21's idea for configuration?

kain21:
I just read about the link aggregation feature, that's cool.  I certainly don't need 24 1gig ports, so I could use several links from each stack for more speed.
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David WilliamsonIT DirectorAuthor Commented:
Another concern of mine is the cable run length.  The IT room is centrally located in the building right now, making our longest run about 173 ft.   The building is 20,000 sq ft right now, and the addition to the building will be 15,000 sq ft at one end, giving the whole building an 'L' shape.  I am thinking that we might go over the 300 ft mark with some of our cable runs to the far reaches of the building.

Additionally, our current 120 users are using a single T-1 for internet.   Should we look at adding some more internet bandwidth?  We have VPN connections to two branch offices in other states, also using that same T-1.
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kain21Commented:
you should probably look into creating two wiring closets and run fiber between them... in this case you would need two 5324's with four fiber sx modules... you could then LAG the four fiber ports... this would prevent the problem with the cable length... i would ask the company installing the wiring about the fiber option... it's not as cost prohibitive as it has been in the past...

as far as the internet bandwith... if you are running exchange information, database programs, or terminal services with numerous users on the other side of the VPN then I would recommend segregating the internal users internet access from the existing T-1... maybe put in a cable connection and have all of the internal users internet activity go out that way...
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kain21Commented:
clarification.. for the immediate setup... you could use a single fiber link between the two 5324's and it would work fine... requiring only two fiber sx modules ($169/pc)... as the pipe gets saturated you could add additional pipes... as far as having two many gigabit ports... you can never have too many... in the future most computers will come with a gigabit card (most dell's already do)... the swtich would integrate nicely with a complete gigabit network in the future... plus... it's on of the best priced solutions out there...
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David WilliamsonIT DirectorAuthor Commented:
I was thinking about fiber between two locations, thanks for confirming.
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David WilliamsonIT DirectorAuthor Commented:
what is the difference between the SX and the LX fiber modules?
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kain21Commented:
the distance each supports... SX will support multimode fiber ranges of 220m - 550m depending on the micron size of the cable you use... LX will support multimode ranges up to 550m and single mode up to 3km.... http://www.siemon.com/us/applicationguide/1000baseSXLX.asp

for what you are wanting to implement... SX is all you need... it's cheaper as well... i would recommend 62.5 micron cabling...
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kain21Commented:
another point... if you have another company install the fiber between the two wiring closets... make sure you tell them you need multimode fiber.. they should already know this but you never know...
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David WilliamsonIT DirectorAuthor Commented:
thanks, good info.  I will be sure that the installers know this.  What is the difference between multimode fiber and single mode?
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kain21Commented:
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