Best Switch Configuration Recommendations

It's time to upgrade our switches at our main site and rethink the layout.  We are currently on a subnet and everything is on the single default VLAN.  There are about 375 computers/printers on this subnet which includes a site that is connected to us via a 100mb metroE type connection, the number of devices are pretty much equal at each site.  We will eventually be splitting the connected site onto it's own subnet.

Currently we primarly use 3com layer 2 switches (3com 3870 and 2948 all Gigabit - have had alot of lockup problems with the 2948's for some reason tried with STP enable and dissabled don't know if the 2948's are just problematic for this type of setup or not, the 3870's seem to always work good) and were looking at the 3com 5500's and the Cisco 3750's as possibilities since they seem to be similar except for the price.

All our servers (about 50 servers) and internet connection are located at our main site which is where we are wanting to upgrade the switches.

What would your recommendations be to reconfigure the backbone as nice as possible/best practice?  For example, just throw in enough 5500's/3750's to cover the ports or should there be a different core switch and hang a different type of switches off the core, and what is the best practice way to connect the switches, if direct daisy chaining is ok or if everything should be run through an external fiber patch panel etc.

Maybe "We have this setup" kind of examples.  Looking for something that will be very stable and ready to growth, if you would choose Cisco over 3com, 3com over Cisco etc.  

Those 2948's are going to give me ulcers :)  We have about 10 of them around the company, even at different sites, and over half had have the lockup problem needing a power cycle to get them going again.  No pinging the switch from outside, no pinging hosts when plugged in on the same switch etc.  The only thing we could do is get an RMA from 3com.  This happened with the default base firmware and the current firmware.

We will also need to start getting VLan's setup to split out the servers, IP phones and a wireless network which is not implemented yet.

Thanks alot
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kdearingConnect With a Mentor Commented:
For a Cisco solution-
2x  3750G-48TS stacked, for the core (~$8500 each)
6x  3750-48TS stacked, for all your other devices (~$4000 each

For an Extreme solution-
2x  X450a-48t stacked, for the core (~$7000 each)
6x  X250e-48t stacked, for all your other devices ( ~$1400 each)

For a HP solution-
2x  3400cl-48G stacked, for the core (~$5000 each)
6x  2810-48 stacked, for all your other devices ( ~$650 each)

For a Dell solution-
2x  6248 stacked, for the core (~$2500 each)
6x  3548 stacked, for all your other devices ( ~$500 each)

Other good manufacturers are Nortel and Foundry.

Which one to pick?
You can't go wrong with Cisco, they have the largest market share for a reason: good performance, packed with features, and rock-solid reliability.
Extreme is one of my favorites. They have the performance and reliability (some say better) of Cisco for less cost.
HP is a good solid choice. I haven't worked with them much, but many engineers swear by them.
Although Dell is not considered a top-echelon switch, I mention it here for a reason: reality check. You could end up spending a small fortune in switches. I've used Dell quite a bit and found them to be fairly reliable. In my opinion, when money is tight, they are the best 'bang-for-the-buck'.
I used to be a big fan of 3Com, not anymore. I've had too many problems with them.

There are several items that need to be addressed before deciding on a solution:
1. Budget; this will have the biggest effect on what you can do.
2. Mfr preferences; you've mentioned 3Com and Cisco but there are many other options.
3. Physical layout; how many closets per site; how many connections per closet; where are the servers
4. Switch capabilities; VLANs, QoS, Layer 3, PoE, stacking, etc.
5. Closet connectivity; copper or fiber
6. Reliability/redundancy; HSRP/VRRP, dual power, etc.

You say your current switches are all gig. I've never seen the need to have more than a 100M connection for any normal workstation. Of course your servers should be gig connections as well as your backbone.

As for manufacturer...
The vast amjority of engineers will tell you to go with Cisco if you want the best.
For the most part, that is correct, but it will also cost the most.

Your budget is going to be the biggest factor in this.
FHCSD_ITAuthor Commented:

 I don't have hard info on budget, but they are prepared to do it right, so they know it's not going to be an inexpensive journey, and there isn't a cheap alternative on this one.

The layout is fairly simple, also just concerned about our main location right now.

The site has 2 wiring areas, the building is basically split in half so one area in each corner connected by fiber.

One are is where the servers are located, along with that side of the building's workstation patch panels, there are 6 48 port switches supplying this area.

The second area is mostly just workstation patch panels and phone equipment.  This area has 4 48 port switces.

For manufacturer prefernce:  I'd probably prefer Cisco, but will consider anything as long as it has known dependability.  For 3com I've never had any problems until those 2948 switches were deployed, but I guess you can't expect much when a 48 port gigabit switch is under 700.00. :)

Would prefer stacking, VLAN, and QoS abilities.

No redundancy needed at this time.

Thanks alot

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PugglewuggleConnect With a Mentor Commented:
If you're going to be doing this for a long projected lifetime, you will want equipment that is reasonable priced for now but can handle future network growth and bandwidth requirements as well. For this, I recommend you use a Cisco 6509-E as your core switch... This is a very nice modular switch that is considered the standard in medium size LAN switching/routing. Make sure you get the IP Services license.
I've seen these used as core switches in organizations with as few as 200 employees all the way up to over 2,000.
This switch will support hundreds of GigE ports, supports 10GigE ports for future expansion, and also accepts LOTS of different modules that can perform special functions on the network.
Here is Cisco's page for the 6509-E:
And the datasheet:
Again, the biggest and best feature of this switch in my mind is that it is not only super fast, but it also is modular - meaning you can customize EVERYTHING about it for your network.
While it is a bit more expensive, coming in at about $20,000 - $24,000 USD with the chassis, a power supply, a supervisor (controller) card, and a few line cards (modules with ports), it will give you PLENTY of room (expansion slots and bandwidth) to grow and PLENTY of power to last you a long time.
For your distribution layer switches, Cisco 3750G and 3560G switches are very good as well and fully support all the protocols of the bigger switches.
For access layer, use regular Cisco 3750 and 3560 switches.
Cheers! Let me know if you have any questions!
If i was you i would buy Cisco:

1 or 2 x  3750G as my core switch
Several 2960 as my edge suits (cheaper solution) else 3560 (if there is budget)
Again, depending on how much you expect the network to grow, a 6509 gives you a whole lot more room to grow as well as a lot more throughput and advanced features for about the same price as 2 stacked 3750 with IP Services images. I'd get the 6509 so you don't have to completely revamp the network for a long time - the 6509 will give you plenty of room to breathe.
The Chassis, Power Supply, Sup card, and IOS will run you the $24k

The 48-port line cards alone are about the same cost as a 3750-48
I did say it will cost a little more but it will be better for the long run due to the extra slots and available modules to customize the switch to the company's needs (as well as a much faster backplane than stacked 3750s).
He said the company is prepared to "do it right." Using a 6509 is "doing it right" because it future proofs that organization for at least 5-10 years.
3750s are fixed configuration (you can't add modules and features) and you cannot get even a portion of the features and configuration flexibility of a 6509.
I agree that 3750s are awesome, but the best bang for the buck if you want to setup your company for a long time instead of having to spend more and more each year is to get a 6509. If the 3750s were modular (stacking is not modularity) then I'd say go for those, but they are not.
FHCSD_ITAuthor Commented:
Thank you all very much for the help,  It really does help me alot.

Thanks again.
FHCSD_ITAuthor Commented:
Thanks alot for all the help, time for us to see what we will be allowed to get :)
Oh, I agree. A chassis-based switch would be the ideal solution.
In fact, I was thinking of recommending a 4510.
But  going from his existing, relatively inexpensive, 3Com's, there'll be some sticker shock.
A chassis with 6x48-port FEs and 2x48-port gig line cards is easily going to hit $50k
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