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Daily Spin: Switches: When Speed Isn't Enough

The Big Picture


Switches: When Speed Isn't Enough

There was a time when the first thing a Network Computing reviewer would do when they got a switch or router in the lab would be to check the obvious: just how fast was this sucker?

In many ways, though, those days are gone. Today, speed is a given for most enterprise switches and routers, Gigabit, 10 Gigabit, whatever. As NWC tech editor Sean Doherty writes in this week's review of data center switches, "Network processors deliver wire speeds, and a switch that lags in performance will last as long as a lame wildebeest on the Serengeti."

In other words, if you can't play the speed game, don't even bother lining up for the race. For the most part, the same has been true for recent tests of content switches, closet and edge switches and low-end switches.

So if speed is not the paramount issue, what should IT be looking for in a switch? Here's a few issues to consider:

  1. Management capabilities: The sooner you learn about a problem on a port, module or switch that reduces network throughput and degrades performance, the fewer angry users will be hunting you down. Focus on SNMP compliance as well as support for standardized and propriety MIB definitions.
  2. Usability: Command line interfaces do differ from switch to switch, as does the ability to manage configuration files. Neither capability would green-light or kill a switch purchase in most cases, but don't underestimate usability -- it's you who will be configuring and maintaining the switch after all.
  3. Security: Switches should not only be able to filter traffic effectively (and to be able to use those filters to set QOS or prioritize traffic), but provide effective built-in denial of service protection as well.

See how we rated these capabilities in our latest review:

Data Center Switches: Switching Safari

From the NWC Blogs


In today's featured blog, Lori MacVittie channels Don McLean (of American Pie) fame, eulogizing the death of the browser market:


I can't remember if I cried
When I saw IE and Netscape collide,
But something touched me deep inside
The day that Netscape died.

Lori can't help but see a similar fate befalling spyware vendors, as Microsoft continues to integrate anti-malware tools into its operating system. "The good news is that companies whose primary business is anti-spyware have some warning," says Lori. "They can certainly see the writing on the wall as well as anyone else. Hopefully, they'll do better than Netscape did and find a new market to mine."

Read Lori's entire post: Deja Vu

NWC's Take on the News
Here's what we think of today's breaking news. Read the story and leave your own comment. Let's see if we agree ; >

VeriSign Service Catalogs Business Cyber Threats
VeriSign launches Security Risk Profiling Service, a service that is designed to help businesses pinpoint vulnerable parts of a their digital infrastructures.

NWC's Take:
All the better to sell enterprises products and services to help them combat those threats, right?

Firefox 2.0 Alpha Imminent
The Mozilla Foundation is close to releasing the first alpha edition of the next Firefox broswer, the group's Web site announced, with a Tuesday unveiling likely.

NWC's Take:
The one breakthrough feature looks to be the combination of bookmarks and browsing history, dubbed "Places"

Many Data Centers Still Have No Risk Management Plan

More than 75% have experienced a business disruption in the past five years, including 20% who say the disruption had serious impact on the business, according to a recent survey of data center managers.

NWC's Take:
Disappointing but not shocking; NWC found the same thing in its recent look at enterprise disaster recovery planning

Security: A Continuing Federal Challenge
While there has been some progress by individual agencies, last year's D+ on the FISMA report card still stands.

NWC's Take:
Even scarier than poor corporate IT risk management is the Fed's continued inability to come to grips with cyber-threats.