The 3248 is easy to set up and a breeze to monitor. The status LEDs are lined up along the top of the switch, above the cabling, for visibility. The lights can be toggled to indicate duplexity or speed. Two copper Gigabit uplink ports, which can be easily converted to fiber via the mini GBIC slots provided, are also included.
I used two Spirent Communications SmartBits 6000B testers to load up all 48 of the 100-Mbps ports and the two Gigabit ports. I blasted 100 percent utilization on every port with 64-byte frames, 1,518-byte frames and four sizes in between. The 3248 didn't drop a single frame, proving its claims of true wire speed performance on every port at once. I ran another test that created unique MAC (Media Access Control) address entries in the bridge table to test Dell's claimed ability to support 8,000 unique entries. The switch passed this test with flying colors with an actual total of 8,187 unique entries. I also used the SmartBits to test latency at each packet size while running at 100 percent utilization on every port. The median latency for 64-byte packets was 27 microseconds. For 1,518-byte packets, it was 55 microseconds, low enough to be insignificant.
The switch can be monitored and configured with the CLI (command line interface) via telnet or the serial port. While it was very similar to Cisco's CLI, it was different enough to be confusing at times. For example, saving the configuration required using a copy command, which is very different from the way Cisco does this. I was glad to see that the up arrow repeated a history of previously edited commands, just as with Cisco's IOS. And unlike some switches, the 3024 let me navigate on the IOS-style CLI without any difficulty while the test was running.
The Web-based management application makes it easy to gather statistics and query the switch. Expandable menus appeared in a panel on the left side of the main Web window. Using these menus to configure functions such as priority queues and VLANs was easier than it would be with the command line. Another nice feature allowed me to use the Web interface to search for a MAC address and its corresponding port. The Web interface made it possible to change the IP address of the switch and load firmware images.
PowerConnect 3248, $1,499. Dell Computer Corp., (512) 338-4400.www.dell.com
This switch does have limitations, however. I was able to check performance statistics on the command line or Web only one interface at a time. It would be a lot easier to track down performance issues if you could display a summary table of statistics, as you're able to do with some Cisco switches.