Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Whats Under The Hood: Your Network Gear

(Be patient in this post, its really about network switches.)
You know, when you are looking for a car to buy, what are some of the things you look for?  I suppose the answers are different for each person.
Here is what I don't do though.  I don't say to myself for criteria:
1.  Will this car do 80 mph?
2.  How much does this car cost?

I tend to ask more questions than that:
1.  Is the engine a V8, V6?
2.  How any mpg does it get?
3.  What are the safty ratings?
4.  Yes, how much does it cost?
5.  Has this car been taken care of? (oil changes, gaskets, etc)
6.  Is the body in good shape?
7.  Does the engine feel good when driving?
Etc, etc.

I go through a lengthy check of what I know to check on the car as well.  I check everything I can on the engine.  I look at the gaskets, boots, fluid leaks, check for stains, hose condition, wear on critical parts, etc, etc.  I take a good look at the vehicle.
The reality is that on cars, most calls, if not all, will do 80 mph.  Now, lets compare for a minute.  My Dodge 1500 will do 80 without issue.  RPMs are low during that time as well.  My engine doesnt even think about it.  However, I had a Honda Civic at one point in life where it would do 80 mph, but the engine was obviously struggling.  Which one would I prefer?  Obviously my truck.
Now, on to the switch conversation.  Whats under the hood?  I hear so often IT Directors, when deciding what switch gear to buy, say things like this: "Its a gig speed to the desktop".  "Its cheaper than the other brand".  "This brand is what we know how to manage".
It amazes me that people who are making device decisions are actually uneducated on how to make good decisions.  I mean, you take your next five year investment and you base your decision on price?  Or, you make an uninformed decision based on what the sales guy told you?  Its time to get informed folks.
So, what do you look for?  I always say three things are what you look for:
1.  Yes, price is something to look at.  But not the most important.
2.  Performance of the equipment.  Most companies need performance in the network.  Switching backplane, forwarding rate, stacking bandwidth, number of switches allowed in a stack, memory, SDN capable.  These are important in the decision making comparisons.
3.  Features of the equipment.  Most companies now a days just need QoS, routing and number of 10gig ports, switching, and maybe PoE.  However, you also need SDN capability for the future.  Other than that and other common to all vendor features, thats mostly it.
4.  I'm going to add this in, although I don't normally tell people this.  But product support is important also.  How good is the vendor support when you call in?

I always compare switch vendors in performance.  If you think that all you need is gig speed to the desktop, you are setting yourself up for potential planning failure for your network needs for not only now, but for the next five years.  Even though my old Civic would do 80 mph, it wouldn't be the best option for performance, comfort or other options I needed for daily use of a vehicle.  Same thing with switches.  You have to know what you are looking at when you make decisions that affect your company.
Now, with that said, the next statements are for the IT consultant.  Its YOUR responsibility to educate your customers.  Its YOUR responsibility to let them know how to make good decisions.


  1. For the "Features of the Equipment", I put this together on last year.

  2. Great post Shane...whether you're buying a car or switches!! And SDN capable...good point!


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