Cisco Small Business Switches

    The time has passed for a long study on the topic: Does a typical medium-sized business need an enterprise-class IT infrastructure?
    An article for those who gave themselves the answer: “Yes, I need it” and who are interested in how to make the right choice of components based on Cisco solutions.

    In the course of the article, we will figure out which particular Cisco switch models are most relevant for the typical tasks of small enterprises. At the same time, we will narrow the circle to companies with a staff of about 250 people.

    The main focus will be on the choice of network infrastructure as a necessary foundation for further IT growth.

    Let's consider what the differences of modern lines of Cisco switches consist in and how these differences fit into the Cisco Networks without Borders architecture.

    As a result, a narrow circle of concrete models will be determined, which can rightfully be considered universal and the most common in its class.

    All IT departments are different, and they develop differently, but often come to the same thing.

    Someone stopped at the once-created IT infrastructure, over the years has grown to the "zoo all-that", which is acquired and sorry to throw away.

    Others appreciated the usefulness of investments in IT and are building everything from scratch, understanding how IT efficiency will positively affect the business of the enterprise as a whole.

    Both the first and second are important to understand:
    • what and how to choose as the foundation of IT infrastructure;
    • what will be relevant and useful in the near future;
    • how this choice will help make IT more effective and more beneficial for the business.

    The main brick of any IT infrastructure is the network

    Network infrastructure allows you to connect people engaged in common business, at any distance, to ensure their collaboration and the availability of shared IT resources. The effectiveness of any employee depends on the performance of the network. And the latter already depends on many factors: from the knowledge and motivation of the nearest system administrator to the objective capabilities of network equipment. We will consider only the part that is subject to objective assessment - network equipment.

    "Why Cisco?"

    For corporate networks, Cisco has long been the unconditional benchmark. Therefore, in the Cisco blog on Habré we will release the part “Why Cisco?”, Leaving it for other places.

    Where does the network start?

    For users, the network is an abstract concept. In the nearest materialization, this is a socket / port on the wall where the computer system unit and / or IP phone is connected. On the other hand, it is equipment that allows all users to work in a single network. This function is performed by access switches.

    Cisco Access Switches

    Among the many switch lines Cisco offers (Figure 1), small companies should pay attention to the most common Catalyst 2960 series.

    Figure 1. Cisco Campus Switching Solutions

    This series of switches has been around for many years and has earned user recognition for its good price ratio , quality and functionality. The basic set of switch functions of this line is quite enough for most tasks of a small enterprise. "Basic" - in comparison with other lines of Cisco switches. If we compare with the functionality of the closest competitors, then we can safely say that such a "basic" functionality is comparable to the "advanced" from other manufacturers. Cisco always focuses on the availability of high technology to ordinary consumers.

    Where the functionality of the line switches is not enough - you can always add the necessary number of devices of the higher rulers. This is usually done at most enterprises.

    100 Mbps

    Modern 100 Mbps switches are represented by the Catalyst 2960 Plus line . Their significant advantage is their low price. Of the useful features in this series there is no possibility of stacking.
    Figure 2 shows the appearance of the switches in this series.

    Figure 2. Cisco Catalyst 2960 Plus series.

    The most popular models of this line: WS-C2960 + 24PC-L and WS-C2960 + 48PST-L. Access ports 100 Mbit / s, two uplinks (copper / optics) of 1 Gb / s, power over twisted pair (Power over Ethernet), LanBase firmware - everything that is necessary for normal operation.

    Particular attention should also be paid to the WS-C2960 + 24LC-L switch. Power over twisted pair (PoE), he can give only 8 ports, but it costs much less. This is an option for those who are not sure if they need PoE support. Or I'm sure that no more than 8 ports are needed. I would not recommend choosing a switch without PoE “for growth” with the prospect of service for the next few years. An exception can only be a fully conscious case of such a need. Otherwise, you will have to look for where and how to connect and where to hide the power supply to the IP phone, IP camera, Wi-Fi access point, VDI thin client, etc.

    Good to know
    C2960 switches with LanLite firmware differ in hardware from their counterparts with a more functional LanBase. An upgrade from LanLite to Lanbase is not possible.

    LanLite is cheaper due to a strictly limited set of functions. So, for example, authentication technologies on the port (trustsec) and media streaming (medianet) management on LanLite switches will not be able to work fully. Reduced the number of VLANs and other rather important features. LanLite is just a switch-port from Cisco.

    For modern networks, I would not recommend considering the LanLite models, just like the Cisco SMB line. These are extreme options for compromising price and functionality.

    1 Gbps

    Those who lack 100 Mbps on the access port should be interested in the new Catalyst 2960-X line . The switches in this line are equipped with 1 Gb / s access ports, four copper or 1 Gbit / s optical ports for uplinks (or 2 x 10 Gbit / s). All of them support stacking.
    In more detail I would like to dwell on the Catalyst 2960-XR switches. They are equipped with a redundant power supply and support basic routing functions (L3 switch, IPLite firmware).

    Therefore, anyone who needs a 1 Gb / s switch with stacking up to 8 devices (for example, to let only two uplinks from all eight), with twisted pair (PoE) power support and basic L3 functions, should pay attention to the WS-C2960XR model -48FPS-I .

    Compact switches

    Having familiarized yourself with pricing, you can make sure that it is always more profitable to take 48 ports than 24 or less. It will be cheaper in terms of port, more convenient in terms of management, and they also take up less space in the rack. But there are times when 8 or 12 ports are enough. For example, when one cabinet or two neighboring. Or a separate building, which you need to reach the network. Catalyst Compact

    switches are useful for such cases . These are L2 switches (based on Catalyst 2960) or L3 (based on Catalyst 3560) that support PoE on access ports and are capable of PoE powered uplinks. Figure 3 shows the appearance of the switches in this series. Figure 3. Cisco Catalyst 2960C / 3560C Compact series.

    Cute white case, silent operation, no need to look for a socket make these switches a great choice for office premises:

    WS-C3560CPD-8PT-S (8-ports) L3
    WS-C2960CPD-8PT-L (8-ports) L2
    WS-C2960C- 12PC-L (12-ports) L2

    They will help to quickly deploy the network in any room - from the meeting room to the conference room, and also give an additional 100 meters of the distance covered by a copper cable (saving on optical connections).

    Aggregation Switches

    250 people are at least six switches (5 x 48 = 240). They, of course, can all be interconnected and create a single network. But most often they don’t do that. The reasons for this are the basics of the design of modern networks, which is beyond the scope of this article.

    Typically, these six (or more) switches are connected to a dedicated aggregation switch, which ensures that all switches on the network are connected. It is also possible to build a fault tolerant circuit at the aggregation level by adding another switch. This is a fully justified investment, since such a node will be a single point of failure for 250+ people (Figure 4).

    Aggregation switches provide an opportunity to save on a set of expensive functions (for example, L3), applying them only once at the aggregation level and not using access switches.

    Figure 4. Scheme for connecting access level devices to the network.

    Historically, Catalyst 3750 series switches have been typical aggregation devices for many years. They have not lost their relevance even now, but new lines with more powerful hardware and a significantly larger set of functions cost the same. Accordingly, we recommend the following models for the aggregation level:

    WS-C3650-24PS-E for aggregation of copper connections (Figure 5).

    Figure 5. Cisco Catalyst 3650 series.

    WS-C3850-24S-S for aggregation of copper and optical connections (Figure 6).

    Figure 6. Cisco Catalyst 3850 series.

    10G core?

    The only choice here is the Catalyst 4500-X (Figure 7). This is a very productive 1RU switch with 16, 24, 32 1G / 10G ports on board and the ability to expand with modules of 8 ports.

    Figure 7. Cisco Catalyst 4500X series.

    The WS-C4500X-24X-ES model is noteworthy : 24 1 / 10G sfp ports and Enterprise services firmware - that's all that is enough for aggregation and / or the network core.
    This series of switches can be assembled into a single virtual device using VSS technology. The feature set is comparable to the Catalyst 4500E Series Modular Switches.


    If 250 people are sitting at a distance of 100 m from the server room and / or we need power via a twisted pair cable UPOE (60W), we need 10G interfaces and 1G optics for aggregation of several remote switches and modularity is quite suitable, then it is worth considering the following models (figure 8):
    • Pairs of such devices and only three expansion slots may be enough for a reliable and productive core / aggregation: bundle WS-C4503E-S7L + 48V +
    • If you need to reduce the entire network economy to one server: the bundle WS-C4506E-S7L + 96V + and a couple of them will solve all the problems. The filling options will allow you to choose everything you need.

    Figure 8. Catalyst 4500E Series Switches.
    To complete the picture, you can also take a look at the Catalyst 6xxx line.

    There are a lot of interesting things: Instant Access architecture, service modules, performance. But this is the topic of a separate article.

    Models that can be considered modern, optimal and universal for their class of tasks

    Access level switches, 100 Mbps:
    ● WS-C2960 + 24PC-L (24-ports) L2
    ● WS-C2960 + 48PST-L (48-ports) L2

    Access / aggregation switch, 1 Gb / s:
    ● WS -C2960XR-48FPS-I (48-ports) L3

    Access level switches, compact:
    ● WS-C3560CPD-8PT-S (8-ports) L3
    ● WS-C2960CPD-8PT-L (8-ports) L2
    ● WS-C2960C -12PC-L (12-ports) L2

    Aggregation Layer Switch, 1 Gb / s:
    ● WS-C3650-24PS-E (24-ports) L3
    ● WS-C3850-24S-S (24-ports) L3

    Kernel Level Switch 1/10 Gbit / s:
    ● WS-C4500X-24X-ES (24-ports) L3

    Modular Aggregation / Core Level Switches, 1/10 Gbit / s:
    ● WS-C4503E-S7L + 48V + (48+ ports) L3
    ● WS-C4506E-S7L + 96V + (96+ ports) L3

    Of course, the list is incomplete and not exhaustive.

    For most small enterprises, it can be a good start to select specific models for their specific tasks.
    In this you are always ready to help Cisco experts, as well as our partners.

    You can purchase Cisco products or find out pricing information from Cisco partners in Russia and Ukraine .
    They will help you choose and implement the best solution for your business.

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