Which software to control Cisco switches?

Hi guys,

I have several Cisco switches that I need to configure. - Which software is used to do that, and I would appreciate any tips and tricks?...

Thank you!
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Fred MarshallPrincipalCommented:
Sounds like some basics are in order:
First, the switches need to be *manageable* switches.
Second, you need to know what kind of management interfaces are available:
- telnet .. almost always
- serial port .. sometimes and VERY easy to determine by looking at the switch.
- GUI interface .. sometimes

If the switch has only a serial port then you're stuck with a command line or command line "menu" interface likely or both.

If the switch has only telnet then ditto.  BUT in with telnet you'll be using Ethernet and will need an IP address, a user name and a password.  The default user and password are generally published so you can know what they are.  If they don't work then it's likely someone has changed them.  Some Cisco switches *require* that the password be changed so you might be stuck with resetting the switch to factory defaults.
user xxxxxxxx
pass xxxxxxxx

If the switch has a GUI interface then you will also need the IP address, the username and the password.  Then you access it with a browser using the IP address as the URL.

So, you don't really need any "software" as such if it has a GUI interface.
And, I don't know of any GUI software that will interface via the switch's serial or telnet as the command structures for various switches are all different.

You may find PuTTY to be useful "software" for telnet AND serial port interfacing.  
It has easy capabilities to "paste" a series of commands all at once.
So, the idea of a text file as mentioned by edster9999 is a good one once you've gained access to the switch.

Once you've gained access to the switch, look for backing up the configuration file.
Then you will have a configuration file to start with for editing (such as changing the IP address if necessary).  Just hope it's a plain text file and not some proprietary thing.  Otherwise you're completely stuck with telnet/serial lacking a GUI.
You'll get different opinins on this (as always).
Some people will come up with nice graphical systems where you tick boxes to allow things in and out.
In my opinion - this stops you knowing how the system is setup.

The best way (again - just my opinion) is to write the system in text files and save them in a secure location then upload them with telnet.

Keep it simple.
mrmutAuthor Commented:
That is fine, but i don't have a clue even how to access the switches. I need to tweak just a few settings, and would really prefer the graphical system as is.

I just overtook this LAN, and it doesn't make much sense to learn each manufacturers switch programming stuff.
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Its not the hardest thing in the world.
Assuming you got all the addresses and login details,

read something like this :

and start by telnetting to each one and doing a
sh run
and copy and pasting this into a notepad file for that router.
That is the full config.  If you edit that and send it back - it reconfigures the router.
You then just save it and reboot and your new config is live.

As above - there is probably fancy graphical interfaces to do this - but you should really take the time to learn this if you are going to be maintaining them.
Cisco Network Assistant is avery good software (free). This even gives an overview diagram of your network.
As all have said above, you need to know the IPs, login and password of devices. Try the def ones first.
If the mgmt. interface is not configured then the only way is to connect your laptop/server physically with the blue cable from cisco. Do the confs. and then use Cisco Network Assistant.
mrmutAuthor Commented:
pcmghouse - I tried scanning the network, but I can't find them - Should they have their own IPs? You also mention "Cisco blue cable"? Is that a magical device of some sort, or an ordinary straight or cross-over? :-)

fmarshal - thanks for a great intro, I will try what you suggest tomorrow.
The switches do have their own IPs if you have configured the management interface.
A Serial cable usually provided along with the cisco switch One end goes into the switch (RJ45) and the other end goes into serial port on the server/laptop.
Fred MarshallPrincipalCommented:
Should they have their own IPs?

If they are manageable switches then yes they will have an IP address that is accessible from the switch ports generally ( perhaps until you start adding VLANs).
The switches come with a default IP address and/or will grab one from a DHCP server.

The switch NEED NOT have its IP address set to match your LAN subnet!!  But, usually we find making that be the case a lot more convenient.  OR one might set up a separate subnet for device management purposes I suppose.  (A "subnet" is one thing and a "LAN" is another .. the LAN is a physical thing made of wires, switches, etc. and doesn't care about addresses .. a subnet or multiple subnets can operate on the same LAN).

What I usually do is this:
- Start with a switch with a known IP address; most often this is the manufacturer's default IP address.  Many of the Cisco switches are set with
- With this in mind, you can plug in a laptop with address like / and blank gateway; then access the device either with a browser or by telnet.
- If the switch is already configured and you don't want to lose the configuration then the most efficient way to get the set IP address is to access it via the serial port.  Then you can go through the menu and find the IP address.  Once you know this, you can access with a browser or telnet.
And, if the address doesn't match your LAN then you might change it to one that does.

It's not clear to me:  Are these switches in network production or awaiting configuration so they can be put in production?  If the latter, you could always consider resetting them to factory defaults but serial port access should work no matter what.
Marius GunnerudSenior Systems EngineerCommented:
It is not free but it is a good tool if you want to use a GUI to configure several Cisco devices at once, and that is Cisco Prime.

Worth looking into if you have the budget for it.
mrmutAuthor Commented:
Thanks all - I was digging today around these switches, and they should apparently have a IP on a LAN. I will scan them tomorrow, and post back what I find.
Craig BeckCommented:
Hmmm Cisco SMB (or Linksys) switches might have an IP on them by default, but no enterprise-class switch will have an IP address on it by default - ever.

As MAG said, Cisco Prime Infrastructure is the tool to do this if you're talking about enterprise-level switches (3750, 3560, 2960, etc).
mrmutAuthor Commented:
OK, so what I have found.

Apparently, the switches have their own DHCP, subnet and IP, and web-based management. One needs to disconnect all of the links, and than connect just one computer to the switch. The switch will than give the address to the one client, and be accessible at

This is untested, and I would need to report back.

The Cisco tool did no good, I couldn't connect to the switch, and I don't really get it. Mikrotik tool can normally scan the network for other Mikrotik switches with physical, address, and connect to them.
Fred MarshallPrincipalCommented:
Most switches don't provide DHCP but some may.
Whether is the default IP address to access it is possible IF it's a particular model and IF nobody changed it yet.  It's typical to change it to what one wants.

I would not say that a switch "has a subnet".  Normally (Level 2) switches are insensitive to subnets.  That said, the management IP address could be on one of many subnets as long as the IP address is within.  But that's really another subject......
Simply, if the switch is accessible via then the computer accessing it should have its IP address in; like for example.
mrmutAuthor Commented:
Hi all, nothing yet, as I couldn't take of network. - There is constantly someone up there working! :-(
mrmutAuthor Commented:
Thanks a lot for your help!
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