Saturday, 17 September 2011

Cisco SG200-26 review

Until recently I was using a Netgear GS108 switch for my home lab. This eight port, unmanaged switch performed well, but with the addition of a couple of HP Microservers, I ran out of free ports and needed something bigger.

Although not essential to the lab, I wanted a switch with a few more features. I initially looked at the Cisco SG200-18, the HP V1810-24G and a couple of other makes that I hadn't come across before (TP-Link and ZyXEL). The one requirement was that the new switch should be silent. The fans of a Cisco Catalyst switch would dominate the home office and was unacceptable.

I discounted the switches from TP-Link and ZyXEL because I couldn't find any decent reviews of them online. The HP V1810 was then discounted because the price hiked up to over £230. This left the Cisco SG200-18. I then noticed that the SG200-26 was only £3 more expensive at £188 (from Ebuyer), so buying the smaller switch would not have made financial sense. You can't have too many ports, right?




The first thing to say about the Cisco SG200-26 is that it is not an IOS switch. I assume it's the result of the purchase of Linksys. Having said that, the build quality is good, the switch is absolutely silent in operation but doesn't get hot (in contrast, the Netgear was hot to touch). The SG200-26 is a managed, layer 2 switch.

The SG200-26 has 24 standard 10/100/1000 ports, plus another two ports for uplinks. These can be RJ-45 10/100/1000 ports or SFP fibre ports (SFP modules not included). The form factor is standard rack-mount 1U (rack mount kit included) but also has attachable rubber feet for desktop use.


Configuration is through the web interface only (no SSH or serial interface), but does support external logging to a syslog server.

Be sure to upgrade to the latest firmware. This enabled the Cisco Discovery Protocol (CDP) which is very useful in vSphere networking for identifying which physical ports a NIC is plugged into.

In the web interface, ports can be given a description and those of us with OCD can spend a happy evening mapping this information into the switch. The port settings can also be used to state the speed and duplex setting of each port.

The SG200-26 supports up to four Link Aggregation Groups (LAGs) and can load balance based on either MAC address or IP/MAC address. Both static and dynamic (LACP) LAG groups can be configured. Up to eight ports can be assigned to a static LAG and sixteen ports to a dynamic LAG.

Multiple VLANs can be setup and managed as the switch supports 802.1q. Ports can be setup as trunk, general, access or Q-in-Q mode. VLAN pruning can be applied to trunk ports so that only specific VLANs are accessible to particular ports. The interface for this wasn't immediately obvious to me (and setting up the same in IOS initially seemed easier), but once I'd spent some time with it, the VLAN configuration was fairly straightforward. These VLAN options can be applied to either individual ports or a LAG.

In addition to these features, the SG200-26 can also be configured for QoS, there are numerous security features including 802.1X, Smartport macros to configure the port type (e.g, Printer, Desktop, Guest, Server etc.). Jumbo frames can be enabled, although this applies is a global setting that affects all ports (most switches, even expensive Cisco switches, work the same way). A "Green Ethernet" function reduces the power requirements of the switch by calculating the length of cable, and also by turning off unused ports to save energy.

As a lab switch, the SG200-26 is ideal. Personally, I would have liked to see a command line option for configuration as some tasks can be repetitive (e.g., setting up VLANs). Beyond that though, there is little to complain about. The SG200-26 is an excellent entry-level switch, with plenty of ports and a good range of options.



Some useful links:

The Cisco Small Business 200 Series Smart Switch Administration Guide

The Cisco Small Business Online Device Emulators page has a demo of the web interface for the SF300. The 300 series has additional layer 3 functionality, but you can get a good idea what the interface is like on the 200 series.

* Update 10/07/2012 * I experienced an issue where traffic between two ports (e.g., ports 1 and 2) would cause significant latency issues on other, unrelated ports. This was demonstrated by putting a ping on a host and watching the timings when there was significant network load (such as VM backups). This was resolved by upgrading the firmware to 1.1.2.0.

12 comments:

fikse said...

Thanks for an thorough review :-) Just ordered one myself, after readig several good reviews, inc. yours!
Bent, Norway

JR said...

Thanks for the feedback Bent. Hope you enjoy the switch!

Jase's Space said...

awesome review, just ordered one to replace my DEll 5224 :)

Michael Lemke said...

Thanks for the review. I am going for it.

Andy said...

Thanks for the great review. My SG200-18 is now on its way to Hawaii from Amazon.

George said...

Thank you so much for the review! I bought two of them but im having trouble setting up VLANs for a new VMware VSA cluster. Could you please let me know how to configure the ESXi ports in order to achieve this?

http://communities.vmware.com/servlet/JiveServlet/previewBody/17393-102-1-22458/VSA_networking_map.pdf

I also asked at cisco forums but no response yet:
https://supportforums.cisco.com/thread/2151967

thanks again for the great review!

JR said...

Hi George

Thanks for the comment.

It should be fairly straightforward to setup the switches for the VSA as per your linked diagram. The switch ports that connect to the ESXi hosts need to be Trunk ports. You can check this by selecting VLAN Management > Interface Settings.

Once this is confirmed, you need to ensure that the VLANs you want to pass through are allowed. You can see this by selecting VLAN Management > Port VLAN Membership. You want the ESXi port to have the VLAN number with a "T" after it under the Operational VLAN column.

For example, on a port that is plugged into my ESXi server, the Operational VLAN column has "1UP,2T,3T". This means that traffic for VLAN1 is Untagged and it's a Private VLAN, but more usefully, VLAN2 and VLAN3 are tagged. I used VLAN2 and VLAN3 for SAN/NAS and vMotion traffic. This configuration works for me...

I've seen a problem when trying to configure the VSA in a nested ESXi environment (for my lab). Couldn't get it working properly. I assume you're not doing this in a nested ESXi environment?

guy in a black tshirt said...

Thanks for the info! I managed to get it working with your advice. my problem was that when the VSA installer was automatically adding the second vnic for the management network, the host automatically would become unreachable. very strange!

i disabled stp too for both my switches as it was giving warnings about stp forwarding in the log!

thanks again for helping out!

do you think I should try a couple of LAGs for the storage replication?

and last question (I promise), would you recommend any way to monitor the switch key metrics like its cpu load and memory load, given that cisco has disabled snmp? (thanks, cisco!!)

about the nested ESX that you mention i found this link that has a hack that should bypass some checks from the strict vas installer :) http://virtualeverything.wordpress.com/2011/08/17/getting-the-vmware-vsa-running-in-a-nested-esxi-environment/

thanks again!

guy in a black tshirt said...

Thanks for the info! I managed to get it working with your advice. my problem was that when the VSA installer was automatically adding/configuring the second vmnic for the management network, the host automatically would become unreachable. very strange! i had a ping -t window open for each of my two hosts, and was monitoring the status while vsa installer was running. when it enabled the vmnic3, i would lose connectivity. exact same behavior for both of my proliant hosts!

guess what i did. i had my ilo open at the same time, and i manually disabled the vmnic3 on both hosts, right when i noticed it was losing the connectivity with my vcenter. (of course my sg200 switch ports in both cases were identically configured)

i disabled stp too for both my switches as it was giving warnings about stp forwarding in the log!

thanks again for helping out!

do you think I should try a couple of LAGs for the storage replication, or too heavy use for the sg200?

and last question (I promise), would you recommend any way to monitor the switches key metrics like its cpu load and memory load, given that cisco has disabled snmp? (thanks, cisco!!)

about the nested ESX that you mention i found this link that has a hack that should bypass some checks from the strict vas installer :) http://virtualeverything.wordpress.com/2011/08/17/getting-the-vmware-vsa-running-in-a-nested-esxi-environment/

thanks again!
George

sjurisic said...

Hi JR,

great review ... bought one of those, but I do experience an issue:

- My network is mixed environment of Windows and Mac workstations.

All of my Windows (IBM/HP hardware) machines plus network printers are working fine.

However, whenever I plug ANY of my MacMinis (OS X Lion and Mountain Lion), it looks like there is no connection with a switch. None of the switch leds are lit. In Mac Network Setup window, it appears as 'network cable disconnected'

When I plug those same MacMinis (using same cables) to second DLink switch, it's all working fine!

Please advise!

Thanks,
Sava

guy in a black tshirt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
guy in a black tshirt said...

Hey just wanted to let you know that as of now, the SG200 support SNMP and RMON History, so that's great! You can configure events, alarms, etc..

http://www.cisco.com/en/US/docs/switches/lan/csbss/sf20x_sg20x/release_notes/R_1.3.0.62_RN_78-21240-01.pdf

Enjoy!