David Szpunar: Lead Engineer, PC Help Services

David's Church Information Technology

April 7th, 2007 at 11:09 am Print This Post Print This Post

ProCurve Switches and Our Network

Jason and his team have been having some trouble with their network and phantom traffic. There’s a good discussion going on about various networking products, including some ups and downs with 3Com switches among others. I was going to comment over there, but I’ve been meaning to post about our network infrastructure anyway.

When I was looking for switches and wireless in the Sept-Oct timeframe last year, I was strongly advised to stay away from 3Com switches from a quality perspective by a friend or two with experience in some high-end consulting firms. Of course everyone likes Cisco, esp. the consultants that work with it all the time and know it inside and out, but what attracted me to HP ProCurve was that for the price, we’d get plenty of commercial-grade features with a lifetime warranty (with next business day replacement) and software upgrades included in the initial price. I also liked that the 2524 model switch (which we already had two of from a year or two ago to support the fiber line connecting the two ends of our building together) was selected to go to the International Space Station as the first true Fast Ethernet switch approved to go there, after being tested for reliability with particle accelerators and stuff along with Cisco and other switches. No, it wasn’t the primary deciding factor, but it was cool :-)

We have had one failure so far; the Wireless EDGE Controller in our 5300xl switch, the brains of our wireless network, failed on a Friday a couple of months ago. I called for support, sent them the switch logs showing the module wasn’t recognized, and on Monday I had a new one waiting when I got to the office, which I popped in and was back up and running! (We would have been up faster if I’d backed up the wirelss module’s config :-) This Wireless module is basically a mini computer; you can see the processor and memory stick and all that good stuff on it when it’s not in the switch, so I can see how it might be open to failure, but it still has a lifetime warranty. And, if you want to buy a backup, it will fail over to the backup controller if the primary dies.

The ProCurve switches themselves have been rock-solid, and I like the four configuration options (CLI (SSH, telnet, or console), menu in the CLI for common options, a nice web-based interface with Java (works in Firefox just fine), and of course SNMP. However, we did get two of the 1800 series switches due to needing gigabit in three locations outside of the network closets (Visual Arts/Communications Studio, The Shire (our sound studio), and the sanctuary control booth). Two 8-ports and one 24-port from that line. I haven’t had any issues with them yet, but they are configured in an entirely different way than their other managed switches. It’s all web-based, no SNMP or CLI support, and the web interface is significantly different. I am impressed by the variety of options for a gigabit switch this low-cost, especially since it is manageable and still has the same warranty. It doesn’t fit as well with the network management/monitoring tools though. I can’t recall, but it may have read-only SNMP so it isn’t completely invisible from that angle.

I’ll post again about the rest of our network and how it’s set up. I will mention that we’re trying to color code our network closet cables. Yellow for 10/100 links, green for gigabit links at this point, with red for “special” links (to the internet router, etc.). Most gigabit links are also uplinks between the switches, so it works well from that angle as well.

I’m learning switch management as I go, as these switches are the first managed switches I’ve been exposed to (our network was completely flat with all unmanaged switches until the two 2524 units came along!), and it’s quite a learning experience!