Stacking versus direct uplinking of switches

Posted on 2007-08-06
Last Modified: 2013-11-05
Hello friends,

I want to see clearly through marketing gimmick.

Nortel says that it's Bay stack switches are the best in industry and pioneers when it comes to stacking technology. Cisco is just starting.

So, from core to IDF, they suggest, use 5 Nortels, all stacked, 1 stacked to 2, 2 to 3, 3-4,4-5 and 5 back to 1.

Then, they take 1 gigabit uplink each, from Switch 1 and 5 to core.

Cisco suggests, no need to stack. I lose my uplink capacity to 2 Gb if I stack the Nortel way.
Rather, up link each of the 5 cisco switches, with redundant fibers, to core. They say, pull 10 fibers off 5 swicthes on IDF, to two separate core switching modules, giving me a total of 5 GB uplink from each IDF to core.

Which design is better? Pls advise!!

Question by:fahim
    LVL 43

    Accepted Solution

    The true benefit of stacking is management.  You can manage 5 switches with one IP address.  It is theoretically one virtual switch.  You could add more uplinks from your stack to the core if you wanted to get up to the same amount of bandwidth as the Cisco solution so that really isn't an issue and neither one is more redundant.  It really comes down to management and cost.
    LVL 17

    Expert Comment

    The backbone of a Cisco switch has a higher packet per second throughput than an Nortel. As for the stacking, like JFrederick29 has already pointed out, it's a management capability. Keep in mind that if you use default etherchannel setup for your uplinks to the core, you don't get increased bandwidth, you get redundancy. You need to set up load balancing by source or destination MAC/IP to get an increase in bandwidth and the ability to use both links simultaneously.

    Author Comment

    Mike:  I am sure that depending upon models of Nortel and Cisco, back plane pps throughput will vary so until I get model numbers from each vendor, I probably cannot compare this or do you mean to say that, all cisco edge switches have better back plane throughput than nortel? I am not anti-cisco but am just exploring the world beyond it.

    Agreed on your point of load balancing. But cisco's contention is, without load balancing coming into picture, I'll get at least 5Gbps uplink through 5 switches within my IDF to Core. Are they correct in this contention?

    JFred: In case of stacking, with all my switches sharing backplane, wouldn't I get better throughput if traffic is flowing across two hosts located on the same stack?

    If I decide to pull a 1GB cable from each of the five switches stacked together to my core, would I be in a better state of design on Nortel than what cisco suggests?

    LVL 17

    Assisted Solution

    Two switches on the market have a high pps throughput across their backplane, Cisco and Foundry. No matter what Nortel tells you, they don't come close. I've used them all. If you uplink your switches together, you will get the rated port speed associated to the port. Plugging 5 switches into a core using one uplink, or even two, doesn't provide 5Gbps throughput. I would need to see the documenation that they are talking about so I can understand what they mean.

    On a Cisco switch, if you use etherchannel with load balancing and configure one uplink on the top switch and one on the bottom switch in your stack, no matter which uplink cable you pull out of the stack, you'll still pass traffic. Etherchannel is based off of a virtual interface on the switch so it doesn't matter how many uplink cables you pull out as long as you have one left, you'll continue to function.

    Author Comment

    Hi Guys..I am increasing points.

    Having recieved various proposals for our network infrastructure, each from Foundry, Cisco, Nortel and Alcatel, we are down to do an informed analysis and send our recommendation.
    Keeping costs aside, what factors should I consider while evaluating each of these technologies at Core and Access layer switching?

    Is there a methodology any of you guys can direct me to when it comes to evaluating such diverse switching/routing vendors for a building infrastructural proposal?

    LVL 17

    Expert Comment

    Look at the bandwidth of the  backplane on the switch. Is it shared or is it designed to handle the frame throughput of all ports combined. See what the packets per second are that the switch can handle. Look at the technologies built in, does it support layer3 routing, 802.1x authentication, security such as access lists or firewall rules, etherchannel, spanning tree, and so on. What about PoE? Will you be able to run cabling for access points back to the switch and power them from their network port.

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