September 28, 2012
Working in a college is such a different environment from what I was used to. Some examples:
We don't have "on call". Seriously. The most critical core router on my section of the network can go down at 3am, and I won't find out about it until the morning when I wake up.
When I suggested that, you know, maybe we might want to know about it at 3am, the question that I got back was, "Who is it going to affect?". Well..umm….uh, our college's external website will be down, but other than that…I can't think of much.
The fact that business isn't being conducted 24/7 and that I'm no longer dealing with untold amounts of financial data from companies around the world means that certain things are more relaxed. And I like it.
Another example, one morning last week, I took the early train and added a new blade to one of our switches. I originally asked if I should come in at midnight to do it, but the answer was the same, "if you do it when you get in before everyone else, then no one will notice if the entire switch reboots". Well, um, yeah, I guess you're right. This is going to get some taking used to.
And while I'm on the subject of switches, can I just mention that it's really nice going to a chassis switch? Until now, all of my switches have looked a lot like these:
They were decent switches (well, ok, those switches in the picture weren't decent, but there are decent rack mount switches), and relatively inexpensive. But when you ran out of ports, you had a problem…namely that you needed another switch. When you went to buy another, you had to make a choice of whether to get another of the same size and use it in addition to the one you already have, or whether you should get a bigger one and replace the original entirely.
The biggest issue with adding a switch was that co-location rack space was tight, and large chunks of computers had to be moved to make way for a new switch. Blargh. I've hated it each and every time i've had to add a new switch into a production rack.
But there is another way, particularly if you've got a lot of switch ports lit. It's called a chassis switch. I knew about them before, but it just wasn't cost effective for me to buy one. Here, though…I've got over a thousand lit switch ports, and I currently administer 5 chassis switches. And they're beautiful. Cisco has a lot of promotional material devoted to why they're so great, but the bottom line is that you add more switch ports and you don't cry about it. Plus, you get to manage a single device rather than a ton of individual switches.
Interestingly, the idea of chassis switches does scale down. You can get a 3-bay 6503-E for under a couple grand. That usually includes the "supervisor module", which functions as the brain of the switch. It does not include any switch ports. Those are extra.
When you look at the economics on it, the price of a 48 port gigabit switch module isn't really much different than a 48 port rack mount switch. In essence, you're paying for the chassis, and the chassis is paying for itself in terms of convenience. As the chassis gets bigger, the benefits increase (and in my opinion, they increase faster than the costs).
Oh, and just so you know, you can work with any good reseller to get refurbished models for a LOT cheaper than the prices listed up there. I've worked with both Network Hardware Resellers and World Data Products, but there are tons of other refurb dealers out there.
Anyway, I'm very happy that I get to administer chassis switches. I'll have to be doing some re-working of the "core" infrastructure in the coming year, and I'll make sure to post a nice entry about that and what my plans are.