Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Review of the Cisco SF 300-08 Small Business Switch

Yesterday I received the first new switch for our stable of test switches in a couple years. It's on of a brand new series from Cisco that was just announced last week called the Cisco Small Business 300 Series Managed Switches, and I'll have to say - I'm impressed.

I opened the box and found all the hardware I needed to either rack mount it, mount it on a wall or table and a 'wall wart' style AC adapter power supply. The first thing I noticed about the AC adapter was that it was narrow and had the AC prongs turned 90 degrees from usual - this allowed me to drop it right into a standard power strip without wasting two or more places in the power strip. I did thumb through the Quick Start Guide to get the login info and learn about the configuration.

So after powering down most of the computers, I put the new SF 300-08 8 port switch into our network. I'm replacing (sort-of) a workhorse HP Procurve 2524 with this Cisco switch because it uses less power and is less noisy - no fans - I really only use 7 ports on a daily basis. The older switch is still there for testing and expansion when needed.

As soon as I put it in, the switch used DHCP to get a network address from our server. This was handy, but I will be changing it to a static IP later. The fact that it can use DHCP is a very nice feature because this means you don't have to connect the included serial port cable or take a laptop and change the laptop IP/mask to match the factory defaults.

The next thing I need to do was test it with our Managed Switch Port Mapping Tool. A quick check with the tool determined that SNMP is not active out of the box. So using IE8, I logged in with the default credentials that I found in the Quick Start Guide and the first thing it asked me to do was change the password. Right away I was presented with a change password window complete with a Password Strength meter that shows the strength in red-yellow-green. After getting past that point, the web based interface was clean and well organized, in fact much better organized than I expected. The web interface can best be described as 'outlook' style with a control panel on the left and user interaction windows on the right.

I also found it easy to set the switch time clock by having it get the time from the computer from the Administration controls. I could have also selected SNTP options.

Since the Managed Switch Port Mapping Tool uses SNMPv1 or v2c (v3 coming soon), I had to enable SNMP. I found that to do this, I had to change settings in two places. The first was to enable SNMP, this is done on the Security - TCP/UDP Services window. Next I had to create access to the OID data by creating an SNMPv1/v2c 'community' associated with a 'view'. The default 'View' gives you access to the whole .1 OID structure, so that's the one I chose. There are many other options for excluding portions of the OID tree depending on the 'view'. Essentially what I chose amounts to allowing full read access via SNMP v1/v2c for my computer's specific IP address (SNMP Management Station). once those settings were in place, I was able to run the Managed Switch Port Mapping Tool.

Right away I had the results I expected to see. The list of 8 ethernet ports with MAC addressess and IP addresses. The duplex mode info showed up (always an issue since standardization eludes switch manufacturers) and the Spanning Tree Protocol info was there and appeared correct. There are two things I need to look into: First, every port that had a MAC address had a VLAN 1 entry as I would expect, but what I didn't expect to see was a second VLAN '0' not associated with any MAC address below it. I'll have to find out where that is coming from. It does not seem to affect quality of the results. The second issue is that the physical ports are called e1-e8 and there are a second set of ports ch1-ch8 that are also labeled as ethernet. They are disabled and have an ifIndex beginning with 1000. The e1-8 ports are ifIndex 1 through 8. I also noted that BRIDGE-MIB::dot1dBaseNumPorts.0 = 16 which means the software probably supports the 16 port version even though this is an 8 port device. Just an interesting observation.

It appears that the SNMP implementation of this device is a departure from other Cisco switches in that 'community name indexing' is not supported. This has been historically used in Cisco switches to obtain the Bridge Mib information on a per VLAN basis. This does not affect our results since the device appears to fully support Q-Bridge Mib and that gives us access to VLAN specific port assignments.

Here is a screenshot of the Switch Port Mapping Tool results for this switch.

This is our web analysis report of the Switch Port Mapping Tool results.

Bottom Line: This is a very powerful switch for the money. I've barely scratched the surface with its capabilities. There is direct support for IPv6, QOS settings, access lists by IP or MAC address, logging and actually far more than I expected for under $200. I used the help system and found that it was very readable and clear unlike much online help you find today. I highly recommend this switch series based on what I've seen so far.

Reviewed with switch firmware version

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

CH1-8 are channel groups, AKA Trunks or LAG (link aggregation)