Difference in Switches.  Do you get what you pay for?

Posted on 2005-04-11
Last Modified: 2010-04-17
We have expanded, new addition, I am wanting to add a 24 port Gigabit switch in the new building.. I was looking at CAT 6 to connect the to the exsisting switch, about 200ft of Cat 6 needed..   Will I get any more speed using a fiber connection? than the CAT6 and gigabit ports?

Sorry this is two questions.  When Shoping for a switch I find several in the less than 500 price range and then they go skiward from there.. I am wondering whats the pluses of the more expensive switches, Is an unmanaged gigabit switch, an unmanaged gigabit switch?

Question by:Boatpaddle
    LVL 95

    Assisted Solution

    by:Lee W, MVP
    More speed?  Not sure.  I would think so as light is not subject to interference the way electrical impulses of cat6 is. At the least, I would imagine it would be a more constant performance than Cat6.  Of course, it's pointless to go fibre if your switch doesn't use fibre connections.  (Although you COULD get a media converter).

    > Is an unmanaged gigabit switch, an unmanaged gigabit switch?

    In my opinion, pretty much.  There are some variations, but generally I haven't seen or heard of a big difference.  For example, one switch might have more memory for MAC addresses... but most have 8K capacity for MACs, so if each was 50K, that would 160 Machines (if my math is correct) on one switch.

    Although some might have greater overall capacity (with the ability to handle 48 ports SIMULTANEOUSLY using FULL bandwidth where others can only handle one or two at full speed).  OR some might only have 2 ports that are Gb, while the other ports are all only 10/100.
    LVL 7

    Assisted Solution

    a managed switch would give you the ability to diagnose and manually set port speeds in case autonegotiation doesn't work too well.

    you'd also get the ability to do trunking (generally) so that you could run multiple gig ports back to your main building if bandwidth becomes an issue. Another feature you'd generally find with managed switches is that you could have different broadcast domains on a single switch to do...well...whatever you want.

    And I agree with leew about the fiber. Good if you think there might be any electrical interferance.  And as you get closer to the limit of 100meters of cable run, i'd be more inclined to go with fiber. and a managed switch in case there are any issues, so that you can accurately diagnose problems.
    LVL 95

    Expert Comment

    by:Lee W, MVP
    Any time your wiring up a new building, if you can afford a managed switch - or SEVERAL - I'd recommend doing it - it can SIGNIFICANTLY reduce your troubleshooting time.
    LVL 13

    Expert Comment

    Unless your fiber connection runs at more than one gig no. As long as the speed of the CAT 6 connection is the same as the fiber connection, the only advantage of the fiber connection is the distance of allowable runs. CAT 6 I think it’s about 100 meters, fiber its many miles. So if you need to go a long way, fiber is the only way.  
    LVL 11

    Accepted Solution

    How far you can go with fiber depends on the type of fiber used, not the port.

    Potential areas of difference between switches:

    1.  Number of MAC addresses that can be tracked.  Note that the switch needs to know the port for every MAC address on its VLANs, not just the ones plugged directly into this switch, so a bigger network needs bigger tables.

    2.  Store-and-forward versus various accelerated packet-handling approaches such as cut-through, which reduce the latency introduced by the switch.  Probably only found on managed switches since you might need to fall back some ports to store-and-forward in a few cases.

    3.  Backplane capacity:  It's not unusual to find switching gear that offers 12 or 24 10/100/1000 ports, but can only move data at 1000 over two ports at any given moment.  For a client-only deployment, this is rarely a problem, but this is a bad choice for a server farm.

    Of course, unmanaged switches aren't going to include niceties like VLANs and fast STP, which really help in a multi-switch network.


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