Catalyst 2960X and 3560CX Review
Updated January 11, 2019
Catalyst 2960X and 3560CX Review
Network Engineer II
Hall County SchoolsEducation Management, 1001-5000 employees
Score 10 out of 10
- Cisco Catalyst 3560 - CX
Overall Satisfaction with Cisco Catalyst Switches
We currently utilize a mixture of Catalyst 2960X and 3560CX switches at our edge in 42 locations throughout our county. Overall we have over 900+ catalyst switches deployed. The biggest thing they address for us is the Auto SmartPort feature that provisions edge ports based off of MAC OUI. This allows us to auto-provision end-user computers, phones, and access points without an engineer having to touch each switch to ensure proper VLANs and QoS are set up.
- Stack up to 8 high providing high port density with a single managed IP address
- Autosmart ports allow zero touch provisioning of edge connected devices
- IOS commands are congruent amongst most models (Obviously different features available for different products)
- My only complain is the boot time for a stack. Just more of an education thing to end users than a nuisance. Letting them know it may be 5-10 minutes before connectivity is restored in the event of a power loss.
- They have returned engineer hours spent on manually configuring ports and resolving issues related to STP.
- They have also allowed end to end congruence of configurations. Each location is similar in its configuration which allows for easier manageability.
We most certainly have benefited from the automation features of the catalyst switching line. As mentioned in previous questions, we utilize the Autosmart port feature quite heavily. It has really helped our engineers regain time spent doing menial tasks such as manually assigning VLANs and QoS policies which are now handled by the Autosmart port provision feature. We have done a little bit with analytics and watching NetFlows but only in a troubleshooting scenario. It's not something that we keep an eye on all the time.
Manageability with the Catalyst switches has been pretty simple and straight forward. We utilize a multitude of tools to monitor and retrieve data from the switches for simple up/down notifications, to watching CPU load, or CPU temperature. Since the Catalyst line follows industry standards for SNMP, as long as you can find the respective MIB you can monitor pretty much anything you need to.
We previously had Hewlett Packard ProCurve switches before making the jump to Cisco. The reason that we chose Cisco over refreshing back with Hewlett Packard was due to the auto provisioning features of AutoSmart ports. As well as the TAC support that we receive with Cisco vs HP. Cisco's TAC is very well versed in their product and escalate when appropriate if the first level of contact is not able to resolve your problems. HP seemed to be a crap shoot when it came to support. You either got someone really good, or someone who didn't know the product at all. So, in that respect, we've been very happy with Cisco.
They are best suited for edge switching applications. We do have a couple in the data center doing legacy copper VM hosts that perform ok. But edge switching is most definitely the best suited, at least in our specific situation. I know that some of the higher end catalyst switches have the ability to do layer 3 functionality, but that's not something that we've personally delved into with the catalyst line.
Cisco Catalyst Addtional Questions
- Edge switching for our campus LAN environment.
- Ease of mangement by stacking 8 high and allowing high port density with only 1 management IP.
- Provides easy no-touch provisioning for end devices using AutoSmart ports.
- Product Usability
- Product Reputation
- Prior Experience with the Product
- Vendor Reputation
- Positive Sales Experience with the Vendor
Single most important factor for us was the AutoSmart ports feature. Being able to provision endpoint devices without having to manually touch every switch is a life saver. Now we can hand an end user a phone, laptop, projector, really any device and the switch will auto-identify it and wrap port policies around it. It's a beautiful thing!
Number one recommendation hands down is ensure that you secure the devices from the get go. The obvious things like not using default vlans. Don't advertise CDP on edge ports. Only allow VLANs you need on your trunks rather than all vlans. Use DHCP Snooping, ARP Inspection, the list goes on and on. There are tons of best practices guides out there for hardening catalyst switches. But these are a few of the recommendations I can make right off the top of my head.
Our SLED sales team has been nothing short of great. They took a look at our network as a whole and made recommendations based off of our actual environment rather than trying to upsale us more than we actually needed. I also feel like the SLED team does a good job in being cognizant of budget constraints that education customers often face. Our account manager has bent over backwards and gotten his pencil as sharp as he can to provide us the absolute best price possible.
Again this all goes back to our SLED team. They constantly check in with us to ensure that we are happy with the product. They keep us abreast on upcoming technologies and releases and ensure that we know what's coming on the horizon. When we have encountered small issues here and there our SLED engineer has either helped remotely or came on site to either assist with the issue, or just see what we did to solve the issue in case he encounters it as another customer site.
We did not engage in any Cisco services. We purchased the product, configured it, and installed it all ourselves. Cisco does offer a great portfolio of services, we just didn't personally have a need for any of their offerings. We have since looked at other products and used other services not directly related to Catalyst switches and have nothing but good things to say.
Using Cisco Catalyst Switches
We are a school system, so our end users do anything from just browsing the web, presenting content rich curriculum, streaming live or recorded media, assessments, and the list goes on. Catalyst switches play a very large role in keeping our end users connected to an always on world. If our users lose connectivity they are very vocal about the problem, so we want to ensure reliability in our network.
4 - We currently have 4 engineers on staff to support our 900+ Catalyst switches and 50+ Nexus switches in our campus LAN environment. All of our engineers are competent with the Cisco product and a couple that are Cisco certified. The great thing about Cisco products is that once you've learned one product from one particular portfolio, you have pretty much learned all within that portfolio since the commands are congruent amongst the different products that utilize the same OS.
- We've been able to utilize the compact switches in compact environments where cooling and space are limited.
- Just continue using the product to meet our needs at the edge. With the upcoming release of the Catalyst 9200 there may be some more opportunities to be innovative.
Evaluating Cisco Catalyst Switches and Competitors
Yes - We replaced aging or out of date HP ProCurve switches at all of our locations. Most of these switches had been in productions for 10+ years and were in definite need of replacement. One of the main reasons for the replacement other than age, is that we needed a more feature rich switch to meet our ever growing needs. Device sprawl has become quite the challenge for the provisioning of proper policies at the edge level.
Honestly if we had to do it again I don't think that we'd change anything about how we evaluated and selected the product. Cisco is the gold standard leader in switching and still continues to hold a majority of the market share. We did look at other vendors during our evaluation and selection process but none of them even came close to being able to offer the usability of the catalyst line for us.
Configuring Cisco Catalyst Switches
The configurability of the Cisco switches is unlike any other. You can get super granular in your configs and control just about every aspect of the switch if you choose to do so. Or you can go to the complete opposite end of the spectrum and merely configure an IP address on the switch, plug it up, and you're off to the races. That's the best part is that Cisco gives you the freedom to tailor your configs to your particular environment and needs.
Yes - we have added extensive custom code - It's not really custom code per se. But we did setup our own AutoSmart port macros on our devices to identify our access points, phones, edge devices, etc. We did this to be able to wrap policies around ports at the edge level so that we can ensure the devices are able to get only to the resources they need.
We didn't add anything special to our Catalyst switches other than the AutoSmart ports. The switches do offer a lot of feature sets that we don't currently utilize in our space. As mentioned in other sections of my review the Catalyst line is vast, from layer 2 switching all the way up to ISP carrier class. They really do have a switch that can fit just about any need.
Cisco Catalyst Switches Support
Problems get solved
Kept well informed
No escalation required
Immediate help available
Support understands my problem
Support cares about my success
Quick Initial Response
We currently carry Cisco SmartNet on all of our devices. The reason we do this is for warranty replacement if hardware was to die. The other reason is for TAC support if we are to run into an issue that we can't resolve ourselves. Having SmartNet on the devices gives us that security blanket in the event of a service interruption issue and we need help immediately!
When we first installed the Catalyst series switches at one of our high schools we were having problems with multicasting over wireless. We contacted TAC and were immediately escalated to a tier 2 engineer. The engineer spent a majority of his work day on a call with us to help us resolve the issue. By the end of the call we had resolved our initial issue as well as resolved a couple more that we didn't even know we had. The engineer went above and beyond what was expected!
So far we haven't had very many support issues with our Catalyst switches. When we have had issues TAC is always a pleasure to work with. They're prompt, knowledgeable, and take ownership of the case from open to close. Also, this isn't attributed to Cisco support directly. But because they are so widely known and have such a great market share you can find a solution to almost any issue with a quick internet search.
Using Cisco Catalyst Switches
Like to use
Easy to use
Technical support not required
Quick to learn
Feel confident using
- Out of the box configuration is pretty straight forward using the in software setup wizard if you choose to go that route.
- Setting up vlans and interface policies are pretty straight forward.
- The CLI in general is pretty easy to navigate. Utilizing the ? feature and tab completion, you can complete just about any task with little effort.
- Not neccesarily difficult but more time consuming is the the programming of the macros for AutoSmart ports. However, once configured they work quite well and will save you a lot of time in the long run.
- Multicast can be a bear, but the same as above, once you get it working, it's rock solid.
Cisco by and far does a great job with the Catalyst line. From a layer 2 dumb switch all the way up to ISP carrier grade switching within the Catalyst portfolio. The best part about it is command parity among the various tiers of product. The only differences are going to lie in what features are available per switch.