Well, just the other day Cisco announced some new Compact switches that should replace the Cisco 2940(yeah, I know that they were EOL and replaced with 2960-8)  and 3560-8 series switches.  The product information can be found here – Link.  The new switches are the Cisco 3560-C and 2960-C series.

These really have my attention from an Enterprise perspective.  I cannot tell you how many conference rooms we have that have either the 2940 or the 3560-8 switches mounted under the table.  Those switches work great, except for the fact that we need to also run a power-cord to them.  I cannot tell you how many times our NOC has contacted us with regards to a switch being reset due to power-on and it turning out someone kicked the power cord.  We run the Cisco 3560-8 at places where we need PoE ports  for phones and such, and the 2940/2960 series are used where no PoE is required.

So what is so intriguing to me about the new 2960-C switches? Well, the biggest thing that I noticed is that you can now get switches that will be powered via PoE and  PoE+ ports instead of an external power cord. This is feature is called PD PSE -Powered Devices (PD) and Power Sourcing Equipment (PSE) and is in available it WS-C2960CPD series of switches.  The way that it works is that you connect the dedicated copper uplinks on the 2960CPD switch to a PoE or PoE+ capable switch, the switch then senses the device requesting the power and provides the power necessary to the device.  This is the 802.3af (PoE) and 802.3at (PoE+) standards and works just like an IP phone does connected to a switch. One thing to note on the PS/PSE 2960C is that you can also get an external power supply to power the device.  This is a nice feature if you do not have PoE capable devices today but plan to deploy them at a later date. Below is an image taken from Cisco’s website that shows the PD/PSE switches on the left and the non PD/PSE switches below

PD/PSE Capable 2960-C Switches

3560-C and 2960-C Switches non PD/PSE

What I can gather from the information that is currently available, but still cannot confirm, is that if you are using PoE+, the switch supports PoE pass-through so that you can also power a downstream IP Phone, Camera, etc via the compact switch.  This is a really good feature for conference rooms, kiosks, as well as areas where you do not want to run power cables.  This can help to insure that all your critical network devices are connected to protected (UPS/Generator) power sources in the event of a utility outage.  Most conference rooms that I have see are not considered critical rooms and are not usually on UPS power.  Most switch rooms and closets, on the other-hand, are almost always on some type of protected power.

Both switches feature the usual stuff expected in a network switch – VLAN, VTP, LACP, QoS, MDIX, UDLD, VTP, RSPAN, and such.  They also have some nice security features as well – Port Security, DHCP snooping, IP Source guard, PVLAN, port-based ACLs, Spanning-tree Root Guard and such.  The PVLAN feature for a conference room is an interesting concept.  Never truly thought about deploying it in a conference room switch, but might have to consider that in the future.  We do have conference rooms where Visitors are allowed to connect to an outside network, and perhaps configuring a switch with PVLANs there would be a nice way to prevent unauthorized snooping, virus passing, and just evil things that I would never do.

So, what are some of the differences between the 2960-C and 3560-C that are worth noting (or at least I noticed more then the others)?  Well, with the Cisco 3560-C you can get a L3 capable switch – just like it’s big brothers.  Having some of these features available is interesting, not sure if it is overly practical to be honest – but is a good feature to have if you are putting the switch in a lab network.    The Cisco 3560-C is also only powered via an external power supply and does not currently support PD/PSE.    One thing I did notice is that the GLC-T is NOT supported in these switches, you will probably need to buy the SFP-GE-T one.  The price difference is that the SFP-GE-T is about $50 more list (about 450 list for the SFP-GE-T and the GLC-T lists at about 400).

Another note on the L3 for the Cisco 3560-C, it is controlled by a license file on the switch itself.  There is no hardware difference between L2 and the L3 models, only a silly license file.  If you buy the 3560-C , you can transparently upgrade the software feature set through Cisco IOS® Software activation.   This is a nice way to do the upgrade – no IOS to upload just a simple activation routine.  I think they went this way because of the old 3500 switches that you buy with SMI code but can install EMI code and make it a full L3 switch.  This is good business sense, yet I think that it may make things a bit over-complicated at time.

Another nice feature on these is the support of a USB A type port.  This can make life much easier when it comes to either backing up configs, replacing a bad switch, or just IOS upgrades.  I have used the USB drives on ASR, Nexus 7000, 2800/3800, etc to upgrade code, backup configs before replacements, or even to quickly recover a device.    I have also been known to use the USB drive to load an image for another device at the site and configure the router as a TFTP server to serve the file out. (hmm, idea for future blog post 🙂 )

One thing to note on the support and warranty on these is that they come with a limited lifetime warranty, 8x5xNBD replacement and 90 days of TAC out of the box.  By limited, means non-transferrable and only application to the original purchaser.

You can always find more information at Cisco’s website on these devices – here

http://www.cisco.com/en/US/products/ps11527/Products_Sub_Category_Home.html?CAMPAIGN=Sake+Switching+Launch&COUNTRY_SITE=us&POSITION=featuredproduct&REFERRING_SITE=Cisco.com+Index&CREATIVE=Compact+Switches&TIS=0113__0220_0250_0230_0240__
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