Summary: Network Upgrade

From: J. Leung (
Date: Mon Jun 12 2000 - 13:41:51 CDT

Thanks to:
"Caparrosso, Nelson T." <>
Matt Reynolds <>
Hans Schaechl <>
Tim Carlson <>
Jeff Kennedy <>
Dan Sweet <>
Kevin Colagio <>
"Day, David" <>
Seth Rothenberg <>
James Ford <>
John Bonura <>
Adrian Saidac <>
David Personette <>
Gary Carr <>

        3com is out of the networking business. Don't use them. Other
vendors recommended are: CISCO, Extreme Networks, HP, Nortel and
Lucent. Personally, I'm impressed with the response from HP. Still in
the planning and budgetting stage.

Indvidual Replies
1. Get a the CISCO Catalyst series, specifically the Catalyst 5500 w/c
   is scalable. Of ocurse, best if you get Cisco routers as well.

2. This really isn't all that big of load.... I support 1 E450, 1
   ultra-1, 2 Sparc 20's, 8 Intel servers, 120 pc's, and 6 printers with
   the following equipment:
        1 - 3COM Corebuilder 3500 (Switching router)
        6 - 3COM SS 3300's
        1 - 3COM SS 3900
        1 - Cisco router to the internet
        1 - Ascend (now lucent) Max 2200 for dial-up access
        1 - F720 Network Appliance File server for pc's and unix boxes
   I have had this network in place for over 6 years - without *any*
   unscheduled down time! The 3500 is an excellent switching router
   that provides the central routing for the network. I have the rest
   of the pc's and servers distributed across 6 subnets - each
   supported by a SS 3300. I use the 3900 to provide a back net the
   pc's don't see which supports all the servers and Filer system - so
   all that triffic is on it's own network and not across the main

3. this was enough of horror for most of us: 3COM just currently
   dropped their high-end series of switches, like CoreBuilder,
   NetBuilder etc.:
   You'd better go for the Extreme Networks stuff now:

4. We are currently switching over to HP 8000 ProCurve's for our
   backbone. We had built a Beowulf cluster of PCs using this switch
   and really liked it, so we are retiring our old Lannet switched in
   favor of the ProCurve's. As far as price/performace, I think the
   ProCurve line is hard to beat. We are getting two of them to start
   with a Gig-over-fiber interconnect. Our builing is mainly fiber
   which causes some price problems, but I have found that I can get
   12 port 10BaseFL switches with a 100BaseFX uplink from Allied
   Telesyn fairly cheaply and then hook them into the ProCurve with a
   4 port 100BaseFX card . You can populate the ProCruve with a
   variety of cards (up to 10 8port 10/100 baseT).
   Anyway, the ProCruve is worth a look IMHO

5. We bought a 3Com CB9000 about 3 months before they announced they
   were pulling out of the routing business. Not too happy about
   that. As far as their switches go, they are pretty good but not
   the best. We use Bay Networks switches now.
   Cisco is not the best choice for routers either. They are the most
   expensive and almost the slowest. Compare them to others and
   you'll see the spec's don't favor Cisco. They are a giant name and
   have international support, but you pay for that dearly, and you
   don't get the performance.
   Your best boost would probably be to go to switched 100 and upgrade
   your servers. Mid to low end PC's won't even come close to 100 Mb
   performance and neither will Sparcstations. The cpu won't push
   data that fast across a nic. You would need a PC in the range of
   500MHz + and a Ultra Sparc class to take advantage of that.

6. Cisco for Routers (If you really need them). Hewlett-Packard for
   ethernet / fast-ethernet swtiches. Take a look at the HP Switch
   4000M. It is a 10 Slot chassis based unit that comes out of the
   box w/ 40 10/100 ports. I have purchased them for around $1900
   each then you can get a $400 mail in rebate from HP. Makes for a
   very low cost switch. The best part... It is very fast. 3.2 Gb
   Backplane speed. More than double the equiv cisco switch and about
   1/3 to 1/2 the price!
   You did not specify how your IP addresses are setup on your
   network, but for many of my clients they are all on one or two
   class C's. I have just been laying out fully switched networks and
   not using routers on the inside except for sepecial cases.

7. In a nutshell, I would recommend a few (as many as needed) Cisco
   Managed switches (get ones with VLAN technology). The VLANs allow
   you to have multiple LANs on a switch (the V stands for Virtual,
   and lets you configure which ports are on which LAN). You can also
   spread the servers amoung the switches. You probably want all the
   Sun equipment on one switch and then tie that one into one of the
   others. I really depends on what you need connected and how.
   You do want 10/100 auto netgotiating in any case. For systems that
   are 100 Mb full duplex capable, hard code it to 100 Meg full duplex
   otherwise it will default to 100 Mb half duplex.

8. 3com is out of the networking business. We use Nortel switches
   with a gig backbone and are extremely happy with the product.
   Cisco is also an excellent choice with some interesting telephony
   options in the near future. If your on a restrictive budget, check
   out the Extreme switch although my preference is to stick with
   Nortel or Cisco as they own the market and provide a very standards
   based solution.

9. I have one suggestion.... You may decide to upgrade the servers'
   connection to the network. When you do, consider....
   Sun has a product called Trunking which allows multiple ports on a
   qfe to be combined, so four qfe ports = 400 Mb/s; 8qfe = 800Mb/s.
   This is close to the 1 Gb/s speed, but Trunking is Fault Tolerant.
   if one cable goes bad, the connection remains up, but in a degraded
   I know that Cisco and Bay networks support this, though "Trunking"
   is not the name they use, and they use the term Trunking for
   something else.

10. 3Com has gotten out of the switch business so I definately would
    not use them. I personally like Cisco products.

11. I just got out of a mtg w/ my 3com rep, and due to the fact that
    nobody really knows what direction 3com is going I think you
    should look into other vendors.

12. Usually, one will pay heavy money for such a request (see
    consulting) However I'll go with Cisco and Gbit technology. If is
    too xpensive get the Gbit in the server room and 100M for the
    production. Good luck

13. We have had some serious problems with our Lucent Cajun switches,
    if you change any route or IP you have to MANUALLY clear the cam
    cache (arp table), and in addition we have 7 bad ports on one of
    them, ALL of them have bad ports. Go with Cisco for everything
    but firewalls.

14. 10/100BaseT switches have become virtually a commondity item. We
    use 3COM 3300 switches and have been happy with them. I've heard
    some good things about the HP ProCurve switch, but we don't use
    them ourselves.

Original Question
Dear gurus,

Our company is considering about revamping our LAN. Currently, we have
the following on our network:

        - 6 SparcStations, with 2 of them being our servers,
        - 50 PCs, with 6-8 servers,
        - 3 printers,
        - 1 remote access, and
        - 2 routers

We would like to speed up the network performance. Most likely, employing
switches and fast ethernet. What network topology, products and
technologies would you recommend: 3Com Vs Cisco Vs Lucent etc.? Any
horror stories?

J. Leung

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