back to article Drilling into a half-decent gigabit small-biz switch... from D-Link

I have a confession to make, dear readers. While I'm aware that this admission opens me up to virtually unlimited heckling from the Cisco-indoctrinated crowd, the truth of the matter is that D-Link switches have served me in good stead for over a decade. After having spent the past month reviewing D-Link's DGS-3420-28TC, I've …

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FAIL

Differing opinion about what constitutes a small business obviously...

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Not really, a small business is just one that has very few employees. It doesn't mean that don't need access to high performance networking, and compared to the cost of a big Cisco switch, this is much more realistic way of getting that performance.

Or more simply, why does being small mean you have to be cheap?

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Precisely. I've specced and fitted switches like these with small businesses such as design studios. They need fast communications but don't need to spend the earth on corporate carrier class switches and their maintenance contracts.

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RE: Or more simply, why does being small mean you have to be cheap?

It has been my past experience, that when you are VERY small, the bosses are very cheap. I have had my share of battles getting cheapskates to spring $1,000 to replace an old 10/100 switch for a newer 1G switch a few years ago.

The old adage: "If it ain't broke, then don't fix it" came up many times.

No matter how hard I tried to explain that they would get the best performance out of their new PCs sporting 1G NICs, the end result was the same - it was like talking to a brick wall.

You can't fix stupid!!!!

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Re: RE: Or more simply, why does being small mean you have to be cheap?

I had a client pulling that same thing with a 100MBps switch, so I brought in a loaner GB switch for a day. They ordered a new switch the same day.

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Happy

Re: RE: Or more simply, why does being small mean you have to be cheap?

It's not like talking to a brick wall, Mr. Know It All. It is managing EXTREMELY FINITE RESOURCES and being able to fully justify the cost / benefit ratio.

Small business simply don't have the budget of a larger business. That's why they are "small". Small sales, small income, small profits. Limited resources means that you must be very careful in how you disperse your limited abilities - in a true small business, most workers do 3 to 4 job descriptions in order to save money. To the viewpoint of the business owner, spending $1,000 on a piece of hardware that can't be shown, 100%, as 'necessary' means that $1k is out of circulation to be used some place else.

Like a bonus, for example. Or paying a supplier.

It's not "cheap", it is called being "thrifty" when you don't have money filing up a bucket somewhere.

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Assuming you don't need to link them together by fibre...

Also worth a look are the HP A5800 series switches, they are 10GB capable and their IRF feature makes it easy to group multiple switches together as one logical unit. If you shop around, you can get them for fairly close to the price of the D-Link units. I've used these in several 10G deployments now and I've been pretty impressed with them.

Like the D-links, their CLI is disturbingly similar to IOS so is fairly easy to get your head around.

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Bronze badge

OK I'll open myself up for a bit of flaming..

Cisco, its 1998 on the phone and they want you to return their switch management interface!

Trevor Pott, kudos for a brilliant article and shining light on this type of kit. I've got to say, I'm a massive fan on the HP v1910 switches which are similar in functionality, being full GbE with Layer 3 "light" etc. These switches retail for about £200-£300 each, and can deal with anything I've ever chucked at them,

Admittedly my traffic and network requirements are simple compared to others, but they are amazingly good value and have dealt with everything I've ever thrown at them. I had 2 running on my EqualLogic SAN for a while, they easily stood their own against switches that cost 5x more (Dell Powerconnect 6248's).

Thats not to say these switches are suitable for every environment. But when Cisco still sell simple layer 2 8 port 100Mb switches for £300+ pounds. It puts into perspective how poor value they actually are.

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The problem with Cisco

Is that the pricing bears little relaionship to their level of performance and a lot mroe to do with "brand premiums"

Fellow CCNA and CCNPs can feel free to downvote me but after hammering the snot out of a bunch of their stuff, I see no reason why most of Cisco's midrange stuff (eg 37xx/38xx range) is well more than twice the price of the competition - and 7 times the price of their own sg500 range when the sg500 kit is only slightly lower powered.

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Re: The problem with Cisco

I will stick up for Cisco somewhat... And I say somewhat because I'm not a Cisco engineer, I just happen to know someone who is and have picked up a bit of knowledge about their devices. In what you get for the money, they are stupidly overpriced and underpowered.

Where the Cisco switch comes in useful is scalability across a large organisation. That you can write a router config for an entry level router say, then when you need to grow onto a larger unit, you can load the same config on a much more powerful device without having to start from scratch.

Beyond that, I don't mind using Cisco stuff when I can get it cheap on eBay, but for my own use I'll take whatever I can get cheap

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Making excuses

Not sure why the article seems to be making excuses tinged with embarrassment at using these switches. In many scenarios a high end Cisco switch is complete overkill. If you look at the use case, data switching needs and the end nodes then you can fulfil a lot of these with cheaper switches (even the Cisco SME line). Sometimes these are more reliable and you can buy n+1, n+2 etc for redundancy.

The specs state the total throughput of a switch and often, with a well designed LAN and if you aren't heavily invested in SSDs, the lower end ones are a far better fit with a massively reduced TCO.

I have more trouble from our £multi-thousand switches than I do from the cheap end node switches at the end of a fibre run. However each has a purpose in the right situation. I would make no excuses for using Non-Cisco switches.

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Re: Making excuses

If I "make excuses tinged with embarrassment" it is because of 10+ years of relentless ad homenim attacks and professional degradation by the Cisco indoctrinated crowd. Let me be perfectly clear here: D-Link's business switches have been stalwart, reliable elements of every single network I've ever built except one. They have proven to be reliable, capable and simple. They are all you Really Need until you get big enough to start needing to futz around with layer 3 stuff.

That said, I have over the years developed a "trauma victim" complex discussing such things in public because of the vehemence of the backlash from people who make 8x my salary. It is no different than the vehemence I encounter when I defame Microsoft's licensing practices regarding VDI, or deride the manner in which the UI decisions were taken regarding Windows 8. People attack me personally.

They question my upbringing, my genetics, my intelligence, competence, professional capability…they even go so far as to contact my employers and clients and demand that I be fired immediately for quite obviously being unworthy to work in the IT industry at all. I have been cyber-stalked by people who are angry that I dare question Microsoft's innate "right" to tell us how to run our networks (and their "right" to punish us with breathtaking licensing regulations should we try to implement anything in an unapproved manner.)

Similarly, I have had some rally Bad Stuff thrown my way for daring to mention that OpenWRT on a Netgear WNDR2700 v2 can actually go toe-to-toe with a lot of the better high-end wifi gear, (or even a lot of Cisco's stuff, depending on the application.)

To put it simply: high-end enterprise-class IT nerds with big stonking budgets have among their number an unfortunate number of bullies. They also believe in their own divine ability to judge what is "right" for everyone else; doubly so if they know zero details of the network in question.

I am not saying I'm a saint. I really wish a rock from space would fall on the Microsoft licenceing department and wipe them all out. It's vindictive, it's mean…it may even make me "evil" to wish such a thing. But I do; that one collection of individuals has cause me – personally and professionally – more grief than any other group of people on the planet, including the creepy cyberstalkers. I am aware it is not okay (at all) to "hate" an identifiable group and I wish I knew of an off switch. I don't like that part of myself, it's ugly, horrible and unprofessional in the extreme. It is also functionally instinctual by now, given how many times per day I bump up against the problems they cause me.

There is, however, a difference between wishing a thing and acting upon said dark impulses. Trash talk on the internet (or in person, or what-have-you) is one thing. Actively going out of your way to sabotage an individual's career, company, personal relationships, etc is something else entirely.

No matter how much the decisions made my MS's licenceing goons have directly negatively influenced my own life - and those of people I care about - I sure as heck don't send angry little e-mails to Microsoft demanding that the licensing department all be fired, or actively stalking them and trying to ruin their lives.

I restrict myself to griping about how much I loathe the bastards on the internet. I work to show people that there are alternatives to Microsoft out there and I try hard to explain why getting locked into Microsoft's ecosystem could be bad for your business. I also praise Microsoft where and when it is due; for all my gripes about anti-customer behaviour and licenceing shenanigans, they do make some of the best technology on the planet.

So why do I "make excuses tinged with embarrassment?" Because I reflexively know that by not writing articles that are top-tier enterprise-class whitepaper friendly I am in for a rough ride. Most of the time it is just crap thrown at me in the comments or by e-mail. I'm down with that. Even if a whole bunch of you want a rock from space to land on me. I can accept that poking the sacred cow on a regular basis makes me the Least favourite Person amongst quite a few folks.

But I never know how far it will go. I never know how far some whackjob will take it. People don't just keep their griping to internet flame wars and a little light trolling any more.

It's one thing to wish ill on someone. It's another thing entirely to go out and start causing that ill…and I honestly fear that something as simple as "praising D-Link as a viable, capable solution" will result in people trying to do just that.

It's funny, you know. Someone like the Microsoft licensing folks can put in place licenceing restrictions that invalidate the business models of hundreds of businesses, cost tens of thousands of jobs at a whim. We defend their "right" to do so and vociferously shout down anyone who questions their activities. When someone small time (like me) speaks up to praise a product and real harm from an untraceable, anonymous assailant befalls them for it, we tell them to "suck it up, princess." We tell them that it's "just part of the job."

*sigh*

Back to work. I've more reviews to write. I found more things I like that my fellow sysadmins should probably know exist.

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Adtran

Trevor, you should pit your D-Links up against similar-class Adtran switches. I've seen that brand used in environments and would like to see your test bench hammer out their shortcomings, if any. They're also within this D-Link's price range too...

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Re: Adtran

If any show up on my doorstep, I will. :)

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Thank you for the vote for D-Link. Like the author, I have been a fan of D-Link for a long time. Good performance, good reliability, good prices. Note I said not "great", as in not the finest in the land, but an all-around nice product and great value for the money.

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Anonymous Coward

They went to all the trouble of making the case look somewhat nice, and then stick what appears to be a green and orange DIP switch on it?

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That ain't no DIP switch

The front panel clearly says "Alarm". The product specs state that it comes with "2 Digital In and 1 Digital Out Alarm connector".

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Anonymous Coward

Re: That ain't no DIP switch

Well, whatever it is, it's pretty fugly.

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Which model is it?

The text says it's the DGS-3420-28TC but the picture seems to be DGS-3620-28TC - and both model numbers appear to be valid and quite similar?

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Re: Which model is it?

Well, Bollocks. I've had both of those things floating around the lab at one point or another. To be honest, I ran both of 'em through the wringer - I got the 3420 for a client a few weeks after the 3620 showed up for review. I obviously made a boo-boo and looked at the wrong switch when writing the model number down for the article.

I will ping the sub ed and ask him to change this. For the record, the article applies equally to both switches. I put them both to the wall and they performed identically.

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Facepalm

Difference between a Lada and Jaguar

Clearly, most of the people here would be unable to pick the difference between a 20 year old Lada and a brand new Jaguar.

While I absolutely agree that Cisco is overpriced & overblown, there are many critical features in a Cisco switch that solve a lot of problems in well run and well designed networks. However, those features are unknown to most people sine they don't understand the technology.

My experience of D-Link is poor. That is, they do connect a bunch of wires together and pass Ethernet frames but they have no security capabilities, there is limited control over QoS, or handling of external authentication. Multicast hasn't been used much in the last ten years, but if you are deploying VMware or Hyper-V then IP Multicast is now critical to your network design.

These are things that most people just don't know about. And you all showed your ignorance.

You can't fix stupid, indeed.

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Coffee/keyboard

Re: Difference between a Lada and Jaguar

That jaguar you brought is actually a Skoda painted gold - You've just been done out of thousands.... But you don't care, cause its shiny!

If you read a lot of comments properly, you'll see this has nothing to do with D-Link, its more about picking the right tool for the job, yet some "Consultant" morons have no clue about this and would rather pay £5,000 for a switch just because it had "Cisco" written on it, when a £500 one would be just as effective.

You can't "fix" stupid - but morons are a different matter, your neutering appointment is tomorrow...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Difference between a Lada and Jaguar

Etherealmind, I read through twice and still cannot see the disclaimer you so obviously missed off your whine.

Everyone else - the OP should have started:

" TL:DR Clearly, most of the people here would be unable to pick ..."

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Gold badge

Re: Difference between a Lada and Jaguar

The Lada makes it 10 years before requiring an overhaul and is a decent commuter, while the Jag falls apart every 300km (or aftrr the first foot of snow, whichever is sooner)? Because in my experience a reasonably well cared for Lada keeps ticking well beyond the Jags (which are the most unreliable, overpriced shit on the road.)

Then again, I'm judging by the standards of "a good commuter car for Edmonton, Alberta." Which - for me and mine - is all that matters. (Still take a Toyota any day. Get 25 years out of those things.) I don't actually care what standards you are judging by. They don't apply to me.

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One think not mentioned ...

Is how long the stacking port will be compatible with currently available units.

I've been stung in the past where I've bought a stackable device (fairly sure it was D-Link, but it was a few years ago), then 12 months later wanted to add another unit to the stack. Guess what, the unit that was a new model 12 months ago is obsolete and no longer available, and the newer models use a completely different and incompatible stacking port. As does the new range 12 months after that, and ... you get the picture. They weren't even "very cheap" units at the time.

Lets just say, I has some "quite blunt" words with the manufacturer over that and said I'd not use them again. Manufacturers beware, when you p**s people off, they can have long memories.

That's one of the differences between "enterprise" vendors who understand that we don't always appreciate binning kit every year or two because the manufacturer has changed their mind, and lesser manufacturers who see nothing wrong with obsoleting stuff on a whim. You don't want to start building out your server room, only to find that when you come to add another rack - the switches you'd standardised on have disappeared without warning.

I don't get to play with Cisco kit much, but one of the things you get for your money is security and stability. They'll tell you when a product is going EOL - and along with that, when it stops being sold, when it stops being supported. Same with HP I believe.

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