Welcome Back! Here are your toys!

I’ve returned to Boston from what was a pretty eventful vacation in South Carolina. While I was gone, a ton of toys arrived and are just waiting for me to play with them.

My core switch is kind of sad. It’s an antiquated 6509, which is End of Life’d. Also, I’ve got 21 racks and one switch, meaning every bit of network connectivity everywhere is a really long patch cable to the other machine. Yuck.

I’m taking the first step to really fixing that now. Some of the toys waiting for me was a new Nexus 5548 switch and two FEX 2248 fabric extenders. I’ll be getting another 5548 soon, along with four more 2248. This will allow me to have better-than-end-of-row switches, which is a dramatic improvement.

There are a lot of options right now in the datacenter switch market (at least, there are several choices which don’t involve Cisco), but everything at a university is dependent on Layer 8 designs. Central IS uses these for core switching (actually, I think they use the 7000-series), but since they’re kicking money in for the goods…guess what I got? Right.

I’ve never played with an NX-OS based switch, so I picked up a book on NX-OS and Cisco Nexus Switching. At first glance, it seems exactly like configuring a Cisco switch always has. I suspect that the XML interface will prove much more useful, though. If any of you have good workflows for using this, I’m all ears!

Also, the week before last, we got in some other toys that I ordered. Our current racks are 48u telco racks…really shoddy in design and execution, it’s a mishmosh between square hole and round hole, the rack units aren’t numbered or even divided, and the holes aren’t accurately drilled. Again, yuck.

So as part of my overhaul budget, I’m getting 5-6 new racks a year, and the first set got here. After looking at the APC NetShelter line (which I really think is the gold standard for racks these days), I ended up going with Dell’s PowerEdge 4220 line. They’re comparable in feature set and were several hundred dollars cheaper with the academic discount we got. Plus,they had the added benefit of being able to arrive in the office before the end of the fiscal year, which is absolutely and concretely necessary. Because of reasons.

I’ve been gone for a week, and I feel bad about leaving the new racks to my coworkers, but I suspect they probably had some fun. I haven’t had a chance to check them out yet, but I’m really looking forward to improving the situation in the server room. As things change, I’ll make sure to talk about it. Thanks for reading!