The what and why of stackable switching

When choosing a network switch, considerations should not only be made about the present requirements, but also about factors of future networking requirements. This is because it is almost guaranteed that, for any reasonably sized business, the network will need to scale. Therefore, a scalable continuous service delivery switching infrastructure which is simple to set-up to manage and to upgrade will become essential. 

To scale switches, there are a few technologies available. These include stacking, cascading and clustering. However, for the purpose of this article, we are solely focusing on stacking.  A stacking switch refers to a switch which can work independently or operate as part of a group of switches showing the characteristics of a single network switch. This means that the stacked switches in a group will typically share a single IP address and that the management of the entire stack will behave as simply as if you were connected to a single switch.  The benefits of stacking switches are therefore the ability to scale a LAN network with easy management and minimal networking resources.

Many manufactured stackable switches use dedicated ports and require module and licence upgrades to take advantage of their stackable technology. This can create a never-ending cost. DigitalAir believes in only offering the market leading cost-effective solutions and therefore endorses Ruckus Networks ICX switches. The ICX network switches were originally offered by Brocade but during a company acquisition in 2016, they entered into the Ruckus portfolio. Since the acquisition of Brocade and the more recent merger of Ruckus and Arris, the Switches have gone through upgrades as well as a tighter integration of Ruckus Networks products.  This enables the Ruckus ICX switches to be monitored and managed through the Ruckus Networks SmartZone.

ICX Overview

The Ruckus ICX range of switches offers stacking across the entire portfolio of ICX series switches. The switch technology uses standard 10 GBE, 40 GBE and 100 GBE ports with no module upgrades, allowing stacking whilst using standard ethernet and optics without dedicated stacking ports. This enables the ports to be used for uplinks or stacking. The ICX switches are capable of being stacked up to 12 switches in a single stack and over distances of up to 10km, allowing  the spread across multiple buildings or floors to operate as a single switch. The software within Ruckus ICX switches are assured with “In Service Software Upgrade”, or ISSU, which provides upgrades to switches in a stack one at a time without any downtime. Adding and removing physical switches to a stack has also been made simple with hitless stack member insertion and removal.

To Re-cap the benefits of ICX

  • Standard ethernet cables for stacking
  • Stack across long distances – up to 10 km
  • Up to 12 switches per stack
  • No downtime software updates
  • Management from DigitalAir’s cloud hosted SmartZone[link to smart zone]
  • Hitless fail over management
  • No modules required
  • No wasted ports for dedicated stacking-only
  • No additional licences or add-ons required

DigitalAir offer demo kits containing Ruckus Networks R series access points, ICX switches and management access from their cloud hosted SmartZone solution. You need to speak to an account manager to discuss your project on 0800 310 2050 to request a demo.