Ethernet Switches: to Stack or Not to Stack?

Over past years, stacking has escalated from a premium feature to a core constituent of an Ethernet switch. When it comes to network design, you may often face two challenges: maximizing scalability and optimizing performance. Finding the right balance can be tricky. This is why you’ve considered stacking or not stacking when managing your Ethernet switches.

What Is Switch Stacking or Stackable Switches?

Stackable switches or stacking switches are a type of switch designed to be stacked on top of one another. Stackable Ethernet switch is now well established as a stable, standards-based connectivity technology to efficiently handle and manage bandwidth-hungry applications. Stacking allows you to manage multiple switches as a single entity and provides increased bandwidth between the switches. Stackable switches can be placed in networking closets and stand alone as a whole unit. The feature sets of stackable switches vary depending on vendor and platform. Most stackable switches support advanced functions like QoS, multicasting, and VLAN management. For instance, the following FS S3800-24T4S stackable switch is a 24-Port 10/100/1000BASE-T Gigabit switch with QoS flow control and IP subnet-based VLAN. It supports up to 4 switches stacking and up to 96 Gigabit ports and 8 10G SFP+ ports per physical stack, providing up to 512Gbps total switching capacity for the network.

stackable switch

To Stack or Not to Stack – Think Twice Before Buying

Whether an enterprise outfits its wiring closets with stackable switches or not will depend on what services are needed and how much redundancy is required at the network edge. Stacking multiple switches allows for efficiency and ease of management when you do it right. The switch capacity of a stack is the total port density of the combined switches that are stacked together. For example, when you stack four 24-port switches, you will get one large 96-port switch when it comes to configuration. All these switches in the stack share a single IP address for remote administration instead of each stack unit having its own IP address.

In a small business where access to data and resources are critical, it is a wise option to choose stackable switches because they can significantly reduce downtime and make your network more resilient. In mission critical networks, if a switch within the stack went down, another switch would take over, ensuring that your network remains up and running uninterruptedly. In this way, stackable switches provide additional protection and redundancy for your network. Moreover, you can replace the breakdown switch in the stack without having your network offline for extended periods and impacting employee productivity in the process.

Approaches to Stack Ethernet Switches

Generally, there are mainly two ways to stack multiple network switches into a group. For stackable switches with dedicated stacking ports, a stack cable is used to realize switch stacking among them. But only approved cable can be used as stack cable, or else it would cause damage to the switches. The other approach is to use the uplink ports on the switch to connect each switch together in the stacking system. Most stackable switches on the market today can be stacked using several types of Ethernet ports including 10GBASE-T copper port, 10G SFP+ fiber port and 40G QSFP+ port as an uplink. For example, FS S3800-24F4S stackable managed switch uses 4 10G SFP+ ports as uplink ports to stack between switches. Up to four of the same type of models can be stacked together via SFP+ transceivers (with fiber patch cable) or DAC cables. Here’s the video to show you how to stack FS S3800 series switches step by step.

FS.COM Stackable Managed Switch List

Model Switch Class Switching Capacity Gigabit RJ45 Ports SFP Ports SFP+ Ports Combo Ports Price
S3800-24T4S Layer2+ 128Gbps 24 N/A 4 N/A US$369
S3800-24F4S Layer2+ 128Gbps N/A 20 4 4 US$389
S5900-24S Layer3 480Gbps N/A N/A 24 N/A US$1999

Note: Please be careful about Ethernet switches in the market which are sold as “stackable” when they merely offer a single user interface, or central management interface, for getting to each individual switch unit. This approach is not stackable, but really “clustering”. You still have to configure every feature such as ACLs, QoS, Port mirroring, etc, individually on each switch.

Conclusion

As your business grows, is your network prepared to grow accordingly? Stackable switches have become extremely popular for good reasons. They can simplify management and enhance switching capacity for easy network expansion. But for most customers, achieving super high availability may not be the goal. Then standalone switches are already enough for you rather than stackable switches. Thus the pay-as-you-grow stackable switch model is suitable for those who need flexibility, not only in their physical network, but also in the amount of traffic that is going through it.

Related Article: FS S5900-24S Stackable Switch: Affordable Option for Network Expansion

What Is Gigabit Switch

Nowadays, smart home and home automation are becoming more widespread. Small and medium enterprises have been developing vigorously. All of these phenomenons greatly promote the usage of Gigabit switch. For network engineers, Gigabit switch is an essential component in their network construction and can be an inexpensive and easy way to expand network in home and small business. This article is mainly conducted to popularize the generic concept and different types of Gigabit switch so as to help choose a suitable one for your networking.

Gigabit Switch

Concept of Gigabit Switch

In computer networking, a Gigabit Ethernet switch connects multiple devices, such as computers, servers, or game systems to a Local Area Network (LAN). It also empowers devices like 4K HDTVs and DVRs to connect directly to the internet without depending on Wi-Fi. With the ability of speeding up data transfer, it results in faster response time and better frame rate. In general, a Gigabit Ethernet switch expands network capacity via extra ports.

Types of Gigabit Switch

There are many different types of switches in the market. According to the quantity of devices you have and the people who use the network, you need to choose relevant switch. If you want to expand your network without big expense, the basic Gigabit Ethernet switch is a great choice for small and medium environments to boost performance and efficiency of network, such as 16-port and 24-port Gigabit switch. For home users, a 8-port Gigabit switch is enough. Here, we just introduce the basic concept of managed and unmanaged switch, PoE switch and stackable switch to help distinguish the functions of different types of Gigabit Ethernet switch.

  • Unmanaged Switch

Unmanaged switch is regularly used in home networking, small companies and businesses. A basic unmanaged gigabit Ethernet switch has no user configuration. So it is simple to set up. If you want to add more Ethernet ports, you can use these plug and play types of switches in your networking.

  • Managed Switch

Comparing to unmanaged switch, the primary advantage of managed switch is that it can be customized to enhance the functionality of a certain network. It can also be monitored and adjusted in some aspects. It adjusts speeds, monitors traffic and report network activity. Although a managed switch is typically more expensive than an unmanaged switch, it offers greater flexibility.

  • PoE Switch

PoE Gigabit switch is a network switch which applies Power over Ethernet technology. When connected with multiple network devices, PoE switch can support power and data transmission over one network cable at the same time. It will extremely simplify the cabling process.

PoE Gigabit switch

  • Stackable Switch

A stackable switch is a network switch that is fully functional operating standalone. But it can also be set up to operate together with one or more network switches. Since it can be configured, the stack of switch will automatically reroute in case of a port or cable failure.

Conclusion

This article concisely introduces four types of switches in networking: unmanaged switch, managed switch, PoE switch and stackable switch. When Gigabit switch is in an selection, the number of users your network supports should be given the utmost attention to. Broadly speaking, for small families, a 8-port Gigabit switch is adequate. While for SMBs or large enterprises with many network devices, a 24-port Gigabit switch can be used in offices to connect desktops or laptops. On the contrary, a 24-port Gigabit switch with a better prospect is more applied in small business network. Quality and standards are the foundation of FS.COM, if you have any need, FS.COM will always be your best choice.

SFP Connector vs SFP+ Connector vs SFP28 Connector

SFP (Small Form-factor Pluggable) module connector with various data speed rate is one of the major optical transceivers used for data communication. With ever-increasing demand for faster speed and higher density, the SFP connectors have experienced several generations of update for the signal speed capability as well as port density, from the original SFP to SFP+ and then to the new SFP28 type. The compatibility of these connecting ports is the pain point for many subscribers in data communication transmission. So what’s the similarities and differences between them and are these module connectors compatible with each other when plugged into switches? SFP28 vs SFP+ vs SFP connector, which one should you choose? This paper will give you the answer.

What Is SFP Connector?

Specified by a multi-source agreement (MSA), SFP connector was first introduced in early 2000 and designed to replace the previous gigabit interface converter (GBIC) connector in fiber optic and Ethernet high-speed networking systems. Based on the IEEE 802.3, SFF-8472 protocol specification, SFP module connectors has the ability to handle up to 4.25Gb/s with greater port density than the GBIC, which is why SFP is also known as mini GBIC. This allowed it to quickly become the connector of choice for system administrators who liked the idea of being able to significantly increase their output per rack. The SFP connectors can support Gigabit Ethernet, Fibre Channel, Synchronous Optical Network (SONET) and other communication standards.

What Is SFP+ Connector?

To cater the need for faster transmission speed, the SFP+ (or SFP10) was introduced in 2006, as an extension of the SFP connector. Based on IEEE802.3ae, SFF-8431, and SFF-8432 protocol specifications, the SFP+ is designed to support data rates up to 10Gb/s. Compared with its predecessor SFP, the newly SFP+ can support Fibre Channel, 10GbE, SONET, OTN, and other communication standards. The SFP+ is similar in size to the SFP connector. And the primary difference between an SFP and a SFP+ is their transmission speed. It is noticeable that SFP/SFP+ are both copper and optical.

SFP Connector

SFP28 Connector–The Third Generation of SFP Connector

As the third generation of SFP interconnect systems, the SFP28 (Small Form-Factor Pluggable 28) is designed for 25G performance specified by the IEEE 802.3by. The SFP28 connector delivers increased bandwidth, superior impedance control with less crosstalk compared to the SFP10. SFP28 can be sorted into SFP28 SFP-25G-SR and SFP-25G-LR. The former is designed to transfer data over short distance (up to 100m over MMF) while the latter is suitable for long distance transmission (up to 10 km over SMF). Utilizing 25GbE SFP28 leads to a single-lane connection similar to existing 10GbE technology, however it can deliver 2.5 times more data, which enables network bandwidth to be cost-effectively scaled in support of next-generation server and storage solutions.

Are the SFP, SFP+ and SFP28 Products Backward Compatible?

In most cases the connector and cable assembly are all backward compatible – an SFP+ connector is a direct replacement for an SFP connector to ensure simple upgrade to customer systems. As these are standard products, the cable assembly will also be compatible between the systems – an SFP copper cable assembly can be inserted to an SFP+ cage and mate with a SFP+ connector on the board.

Then how about the new SFP28 product? Since transceivers with various SFP connector types have become an important constituent of data communication network, compatibility issue of SFP28 and SFP+ is controversial among many subscribers. Here is a typical topic from Reddit, and it says like “For a project we’re looking to purchase some nexus 93180YC-EX ToRs for 25Gb+ down to the compute nodes. Cisco states that the downlink 25Gb ports are also 10Gb capable, but one can only really assume that means that the port is compatible with SFP+ optics too. Cisco’s SFP+ compatibility matrix appears to support that claim, however just curious if any of you have any SFP28 experience yet to confirm?”

The answer is definitely “yes”. SFP28 adopts the same form factor as SFP+, just running at 25 Gb/s instead of 10Gb/s, which offers better performance and higher speed. Besides, the pinouts of SFP28 and SFP+ connectors are mating compatible. Therefore, SFP28 connector is backwards compatible with SFP+ ports. That is to say, an SFP28 can be plugged into an SFP+ port and vice versa, but plugging an SFP+ into an SFP28 port would not get you 25Gb/s data rates.

Conclusion

SFP28 vs SFP+ vs SFP connector? Have you made clear which one to choose? Whether choosing SFP or SFP+ depends on your switch types. If your switch port only supports 1G, you can only choose the 1000BASE SFP (eg.MGBSX1). If it is a 10G switch, it depends on the speed and distance you require. When choosing between SFP28 and SFP+, it all depends on the transmission data rates you need. The SFP28 aims to build 25GbE networks that enables equipment designers to significantly reduce the required number of switches and cables. Thus when considering reduced facility costs related to space, power and cooling, the SFP28 would be the optimal choice for you.

What Is SFP Cable And How Is It Used?

SFP cable, also known as 10G SFP+ cable, SFP+ DAC twinax cable or SFP+ AOC cable, is a form of high speed cable with Small Form Factor Pluggable Plus on either end. They are suitable for in-rack connections between servers and switches. SFP cable’s popularity can be attributed to that Cat5e copper cabling and 1000BASE-T have dominated data center interconnection application for years, however, the upgrading to 10GE, 40GE and beyond poses a significant hindrance in both power consumption and cost. At this point, 10G SFP+ direct attach copper swoops in and becomes a new favor of Top of rack switching.

10G SFP cable

What Is SFP Cable?

SFP twinax cable which replaces two optical modules and a connectorized optical fiber with a twinaxial copper cable assembly offers the higher density, lower cost, and lower power 10 Gigabit Ethernet solution than other cable types such as 10GBASE-CX4 and CAT6/CAT6A 10GBASE-T. The SFP cables can be classified to 10G SFP+ DAC cable and 10G SFP+ AOC cable. SFP+ AOC features longer transmission distances(>100m), isolation from signal interference and crosstalk and higher signal transmission capacities but it’s more expensive than SFP+ DAC. SFP+ DAC consists of active DAC and passive DAC. Passive DAC cables have no signal amplification built into the cable assembly hence for ultra short reach(<5m), whereas active DAC cables have signal amplification and equalization built into the cable assembly for a litter longer reach(5-15m) in the same time with a higher price.

10G SFP DAC vs AOC

SFP Cable: 10G SFP+ Cable vs. 25G SFP28 Cable

We’ve already known that SFP+ is made to operate at 10Gb/s. And SFP28, as the enhanced version of SFP+, is designed for 25G signal transmission. SFP28 utilizes the same familiar form factor as SFP+, but the electrical interface is upgraded to handle 25Gbps per lane. To put it simply, 10G SFP+ cable and 25G SFP28 cable just has the same form factor but with different speed. What’s more, 25G SFP ports can support a full range of 10G SFP+, which means 10G SFP+ cable can be plugged into 25G SFP ports.

How SFP Cable Is Used?

As 10G network is widely deployed in today’s data center, 10G SFP cables are commonly used in interconnect applications below 100m, such as server to switch or storage to switch interconnection in the same rack (Shown in the below picture). And now 25GbE is popular and 25G direct attach cable assemblies, such as SFP28 DACs, are already available in the market. For 40GbE, 40G QSFP+ DACs and AOCs are used. Of course, higher speed and more bandwidth are needed for spine switches. Thus, 100G DACs, like QSFP28 DACs are used in this case.

sfp cable application

Conclusion

With the convenience of plug and play technology, FS.COM’s family of 10G SFP cable delivers throughput that exceeds those of industry standards. Besides, they also offer a variety of high speed interconnect DAC assemblies including 40G/56G QSFP+ cable, and 100G QSFP28 cables to satisfy the demands from 10G to 100G interconnection. All of direct attach copper cables can meet the ever growing need to cost-effectively deliver more bandwidth, and can be customized to meet different requirements.

High Density Fiber Adapter Panel User Guide

With the rapid development of optical network, data center cabling has become increasingly sophisticated, making cable management all the more important. Since cable spaghetti isn’t only extremely hard on your dignity and your eyes, a cable mess can actually hinder your ability to troubleshoot vital IT issues. Without well-organized cables, it could cost you more than just a headache. To save your data center from a tangled mess, some useful tools like fiber adapter panel can help you a lot. This article will mainly introduce FS.COM FHX high density fiber adapter panels to you.

Types of FHX Fiber Adapter Panel

FHX ultra fiber adapter panel is a kind of extractable high density fiber adapter panel, designed to provide easy management of MACs of connections in data center, as simple as Plug & Play. There are three different types of ultra high density fiber adapter panels, namely FHX LC adapter panels (3 Ports LC Quad Connector), FHX SC adapter panels (3 Ports SC Duplex Connector) and FHX MTP adapter panels (6 Ports MTP Connector). Without taking up a lot of space, these FHX fiber adapter panels are perfect for increasing the bandwidth and connection density of your fiber network.

 fiber adapter panel

Application of FHX Fiber Adapter Panel

FHX ultra adapter panels are available for one-hand installation and removal, which reduced MAC time, suitable for FHX series enclosure to allow for future growth, and allows for routing and protection of fibers without disturbing adjacent circuits. They can be loaded with 12 with FHX series enclosure to provide a means to connect backbone-to-backbone or backbone-to-horizontal fiber cabling. FHX ultra fiber enclosure is designed with optimum serviceability and manageability, which enables data center technicians to quickly and safely complete moves, adds and changes while simultaneously providing the scalability to increase density as business demands evolve.

Fiber Enclosure plus Fiber Adapter Panel

The small form factor is designed for more rugged cabling. Outside the fiber retaining fingers of fiber adapter panel can be routed straight back to avoid the possibility of kinking. It can also reduce congestion within and between racks for improved airflow, and less risk of downtime due to pinched or bent cables.

Benefits of FHX Fiber Adapter Panel

FHX fiber adapter panels highlight smaller form factor, more rugged cabling. The locking position exists on the slide tray of the fiber adapter panel to avoid the possibility of kinking. It can also reduce congestion within and between racks for improved airflow, and less risk of downtime due to pinched or bent cables. It is built for next-generation density demands. The main benefits and features of FHX fiber adapter panel can be summarized in the following points.

  • Easy one-hand installation and removal, reducing MAC time
  • Suitable for FHX series enclosure to allow for future growth
  • Allows for routing and protection of fibers without disturbing adjacent circuits
  • High-precision ceramic sleeve ensures maximum connection between fiber jumpers
  • Complies with UL-94-V-0, standard for safety of flammability of plastic materials
  • Equipped with Special Buckle that is ready to install, easy operation, maximum operability and minimum downtime

Summary

The importance of a good cable management is needless to say. Of course, it’s great to have a lot of space within a cabinet so that you can accommodate as many cables as you need, but having a bunch of cables with a lack of organization or structure can turn into a nightmare. And that’s why you need tools like fiber adapter panels to keep all the cables neatly and tightly secured in place. With the help of fiber adapter panel, you can build the system the way you please both technically and aesthetically.