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Large network and dumb switches
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Consider the following network. There are 3 levels connected one to
each other in a tree-like hierarchy. In level A, up to 10 computers are
connected to a 16-port switch. Those switches are connected to form
level B, where up to 5 switches (also 16-port) are connected. The level
C is up to 3 switches (but probably only one) that connect all the B
level switches and possibly go to Internet through some router. Assume
that there will be 100 - 300 computers (will increase over time)
connected to the whole network, all of them on level A (probably never
on level B).

The main usage of the network will probably be Internet access and
local area network gaming and file sharing. The most important part is
that it works in the sense that manual work is not needed in most cases
(i.e. resetting the switches or such). If it is a little slow
sometimes, that might not be a huge problem.

Do you think using dumb switches like:
- Netgear JFS516
- D-Link 1016D (,
- Sweex LA200030
or such would be enough? Of course, I would like to spend as less money
as possible, but at the same time not buy some crap. How do these
compare to switches like Cisco Catalyst (e.g. 2950)?

The question is really - is Cisco-range the only choice in this
situation because there is such a huge number of machines? It is not
comparable by price, so I am thinking there must be a huge difference.
However, you can run Linux for free, but it's not infinitely bad - on
the contrary. Is this the case with these switches also?

What is the difference between e.g.
- Cisco switches like Catalyst 2950
- D-Link switches like DES-1026G
The latter costs 1/3 less and has double the number of ports... Will
D-Link be able to process the information that is sent over the network
in a decent manner?

There must be some difference, thoguh. What would be the possible
consequences - will it be slow, unreliable, hard to mantain or are
there just some features that I might never need (and pay too
needlessly for them)? As I said, I need basic networking that works
without frequent manual intervention - no matter if its 3x slower than
what can be achieved with equipment that costs 10x more. If it needs to
be reset once in a month, that's not a big deal, but if it fails twice
a day, then spending 10x less is just wasting money.

Level C switch might be a Cisco-quality switch (since it's probably
only one) - would that make any noticable difference?

I have read about some of the differences on the Net. However, some of
my friends suggest one choice, while the other suggest the other one.
Which do you think is right?

Did anyone build such networks? Practical experience would be the most
important in these cases, so if anyone has experience with such
low-budget switches and networks of these sizes, it would help me a lot.

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You may wish to personally contact Vince Jones, a network performance
high availability expert:


Brad Reese

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