For some time, my home network has been sucking and with that sucking, has been really hard to diagnose. I finally (this weekend) figured out it was the Linksys né Cisco 8 port gigabit switch; the SRW2008 that I had bought to organize my network and facilitate jumbo packets. And while I will write a review of the new switch, I must state categorically here that I was never happy with the old switch — even before it started corrupting packets.
The SRW2008’s first sin was that it would only work with IE on Windows. There was some sort of shell interface on it, but it could not control the major important functions of the switch. Along with this minor nuisance, the switch was incredibly slow to boot (over a minute before passing packets), difficult to configure (it would blat errors in the middle of it’s HTML interface without explaining them — and basically fail), and it’s firmware (as flawed as it was) was no longer, it seems, being updated by Cisco (which bought Linksys).
Of course, the largest flaw was that it was silently corrupting packets and making my network unbearably slow. Trashbin.
It should be said that it seems Cisco (et. al.) seem to be more interested in subtracting features from their products for marketing reasons rather than providing the features that the hardware able to deliver. A case in point (as I discovered researching my new switch purchase) is that Cisco (and seemingly at least HP and DLink) have “invented” the new switch category they call “smart.”
A managed switch is different from an “unmanaged” switch by the fact that it has an interface that allows it’s parameters to be configured in various ways. Unmanaged switches can support all manner of things that they can autoconfigure (some now even support jumbo frames), but to make use of VLANs, one requires at least a managed switch.
A “smart” switch, seemingly, according to Cisco, is a managed switch that can a) only be configured by its we interface; and b) does not support jumbo frames. There may be other features that marketing subtracted, but it’s hard to tell. Support for more advanced features may be beyond the feeble hardware.
Part B there is a bit of a shock, however. Switches have fairly large buffers for each port. Jumbo frames don’t even really increase the buffer need (at a certain speed, the same number of bytes go out on the wire). It’s also telling that “smart” switches from HP, DLink and Cisco all share this shortcoming.
So a “smart” switch is a switch that can enforce VLAN separation of devices at the edge of a corporate network but cannot handle the “stress” of jumbo frames between bunches of NAS devices and the servers that consume them. A smart switch can be slightly discounted without eating the profit from other switch sales.
Cisco has had quite a few knocks to it’s reputation this year and the likes of Netgear, tp-link and ASUS are snapping at it’s switch-heals…
(In case you didn’t get it: don’t buy this switch or it’s replacement or smart switches from Cisco, HP or DLink. Stay tuned for another review of the Netgear GS716Tv2.)