// Enterprise-class L2+/L3 Gigabit Ethernet Switch for the price of SOHO box

Are you looking for inexpensive Ethernet Switch for your home network, but you need more than 2 Gigabit links and true VLAN support?

Aftermarket analysis

Searching for used hardware on well-known bidding portals, you can distinguish a few categories of products (if you filter out actually non-1G switches with gigabit word in description, 10baseT hubs, FC and other crap):

  1. Cheap 5 or 8 port SOHO boxes, not managed. VLAN support is mentioned in specs, but it means the switch can simply forward frames with 802.1Q tags, in one common broadcast domain.
  2. Enterprise class switches, 19” rack, manufactured by a few leading vendors. Functionality is great, but most of cheaper ones have only 1Gig uplinks, rest of ports is 100M. Pure 1Gig models are less common, and can cost 300$, 500$ or 5000$. In addition, a lot of them are modular swithes, with size of a microwave oven or small refrigerator. Energy consumption is similar to price or size.
  3. Contemporary models from less-known vendors, looks quite interesting. Green Ethernet features can be useful at home, but still not sure about VLAN support and CLI usability. Costs 150$ or more.

After digging the offers list, I've found some interesting switching modules, pulled out from blade chassis. Such devices are usually an equivalent of standalone model, have the same software functionality, but some range of interfaces is internally connected to servers via mid-plane. Typical blade system consists of chassis - big, heavy box with slots, 8-16 compact blade servers sticked into front slots and connectivity modules sticked into back. Everything is powered by fully-reduntant set of power supplies.

All parts of system must came from single vendor, and interchangeability is very limited. It is the reason for extremely high list-price for brand new devices, and uncomparable low price on aftermarket. Blade systems are solution for compacting high performance computing in limited rack space. Because high-performance systems are connected to LAN using 10G Ethernet nowadays, I predict that the supply will exceed the demand on aftermarket of 1G blade switches. Typical enterprise customer has already built his 1G network, and in case of infrastructure upgrades or new investments, will probably choose 10G.

This is the way I got my new Cisco switch for 50$ (+taxes). It has 8x (or 24x) ports, including 4 slots for SFP modules for optical transceivers. It is fully managed, has full support for L2 switching, and limited L3 routing at wire-speed. In addition, it weights less than 2kg, and the size is 200x270x30mm.

Challenges

Blade modules are centrally managed, using subsystem called „Onboard Administrator” (HP) or „CMC” (Dell). It supervises all modules, environment variables and can change power state of particular devices, as well as upload configuration to switches or servers' BIOSes. It also provides remote access to KVM on every server, and many many more features. So buying blade switch was shot in the dark, not having chassis for it.

The next article describes Cisco Catalyst switch, made for HP c-blade system, marked as WS-CBS-3020.

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Tomasz Głuch
Hi! I'm Tomasz Głuch, sysadmin - IT specialist and electronics enthusiast from Kraków, PL . You'll find here articles about electronics, Linux. Welcome to my site.

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