Choosing the best campus switches for your network environment
A collection of articles that takes you from defining technology needs to purchasing options
Cisco campus switches are some of the most technologically advanced in terms of features and deployment options. For example, Cisco offers a wide range of campus LAN switches that use NBASE-T multigigabit Ethernet ports, as well as provide Universal Power over Ethernet to power PoE devices up to 60 watts.
What Cisco campus switches provide from the access layer
The Cisco Catalyst 2960-X switch is the low-end base enterprise model. This 1U fixed form-factor switch provides 24 or 48 RJ45 10/100/1000 Gbps Ethernet ports. In terms of uplinks, customers can purchase the switch with either 2x or 4x small form-factor pluggable module slots, providing up to 1 Gbps throughput on each port. Some 2960 switch models are stackable and include PoE up to 15.4 watts per port. All Catalyst 2960-X switches come with an enhanced limited lifetime warranty on hardware.
For access switches with more feature-rich capabilities, there's the Cisco Catalyst 3850 campus LAN switch model. Similar to the 2960-X, the 3850 is a fixed-port, 1U switch that's stackable and can provide PoE. One added benefit with PoE is some models support Universal PoE for devices that require power draw of up to 60 watts.
Additionally, the 3850 models offer NBASE-T multigigabit support for 2.5 Gbps and 5 Gbps connections to the latest 802.11ac Wave 2 wireless access points. And for added resiliency at the access layer, the 3850 switches boast redundant power supplies and Cisco's StackPower technology, which combines the power supplies of all the switches in a stack to provide added redundancy when a power supply fails.
How Cisco campus switches address the core and distribution layer
The 4500-X is a modular switch chassis with dual, hot-swappable power supplies and a hot-swappable fan tray. The name of the game for the core and distribution layer is uptime, and having modular components that can be quickly replaced without having to bring a switch down is critical. In terms of switching throughput, a properly equipped 4500-X switch can provide up to 800 Gbps throughput, or 1.6 Tbps throughput with two switches operating in Virtual Switching System mode. The switches also have built-in security, network management and visibility capabilities with Cisco TrustSec and Flexible NetFlow, respectively.
For large campus core and distribution networks where the 4500-X may not be sufficient, there's the Cisco 6800 series campus LAN switch line. The 6807-XL switch can provide 880 Gbps throughput per module and 11.6 Tbps total through a single, properly equipped switch. The switch also supports an enhanced routing table that can manage up to 1 million IP routes at once. The 6800 series also features software-defined networking support to automate policies and services.
Pricing and support
Cisco hardware and support can be purchased through Cisco partners. Partners ultimately set the purchase price for hardware and software, and pricing varies by the switch type and interfaces required. Some low-end Cisco campus switches -- such as the 2960-X -- carry an enhanced limited lifetime hardware warranty, with next-business-day hardware replacement in the event of a failure.
Most other switches offer a 90-day warranty that can be extended through the purchase of the Cisco Smart Net Total Care support contract. This contract provides phone and email support, remote troubleshooting, firmware upgrades and defective hardware replacement. The cost of Smart Net Total Care is dependent on the hardware or software being supported and the hardware replacement turnaround service-level agreement.
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