Network Design

Options, Options, Options…… That is what network design comes down to. There are so many options, how does one choose the best way to go. Some people choose the cheapest, regardless of the options, security, performance and scalability. Some are all about the Speeds and Feeds – how much traffic it can handle, and some weigh all of the above and come up with the best bang for the buck. Many only look at the cost of the Hardware, which can be a huge mistake. Don’t forget the Maintenance Costs year over year, the cost of Managing the Hardware and the cost when it won’t do what you need it to do.

I see a lot of organizations putting in Hardware just because that was the hardware they used last time, and although I can understand the desire use what is familiar they are often either putting in devices that are near end of life, devices that have a replacement product that is often cheaper and has better performance, or devices that have been over provisioned. The most common example I see is the deployment of the Cisco Catalyst 3750 Switches. These are stackable Layer 3 switches with Gig and PoE options and they are excellent switches. But how many layer 3 devices are really needed in a network – even a big one? It’s great practice to have a couple, for routing redundancy, but many of theses switches I see deployed are basic access switches – there is no need for the added cost of the L3 capabilities.

Others keep purchasing these switches because they can be stacked, and that is a great feature, however Cisco recently release the 2960S series which have the stacking capabilities without the added cost of L3.

For those that do not stack the switches but require L3 functionality there are the 3560 and 3560E series. Essentially the same switches without the stacking.  

Then there are Access-Points! I am still not a big believer in the Lightweight Access-Points (LAP) and the Wireless Controller. Certainly there are some designs where this can be beneficial, and I’m sure that as the technology matures I will be convinced that they are the way to go, but the LAP’s costs  the same as the autonomous AP’s – and those controllers are still thousands of dollars. Unless your managing thousands, I do not see a benefit. Try and convince me otherwise…

I guess what I’m trying to say is, that no matter what network you are going to build there are a lot of options, and no one option will be the best. No one option is the right one. It comes down to a lot of research and a lot of balancing between what is wanted, what is needed and of course what the budget is. If you are in the decision process for a network overhaul or a new network, don’t let some sales guy tell you that his way is the best. That may be his opinion, but I can tell you that no matter what design someone comes up with I can improve on it. Not just me, but anyone with experience can improve on it.

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