Report: Good Time to Upgrade Your SMB Network Infrastructure Now

Paul Mah
Slide Show

Eight IT Projects SMBs Should Consider Implementing

New developments and products are changing the shape of IT implementations for SMBs.

Market research firm Infonetics Research last week released selected excerpts of its second quarter 2011 Ethernet Switches and Enterprise Routers market share report. You can read the original press release highlighting the key points here, including information pertaining to the enterprise router market.


I summarize a trio of the more interesting findings relating to the Ethernet switch market here:


  • Ethernet switch port shipments are up in all major world regions on a year-over-year basis. According to the report, this is indicative of widespread demand for networking products.
  • Ethernet port shipments are up for sequential quarters, as well as year-over-year, reflecting declines in ASP (average selling price) due to heavy competition.
  • The 10G Ethernet segment grew 19 percent quarter-over-quarter, with 58 percent year-over-year growth.


Infonetics wrote that "Ethernet switch buyers are in the driver's seat right now, as vendors are fiercely competing for their business. While the battle is mostly playing out between Cisco and HP, other vendors are caught in the crossfire, with declining ASPs being one side effect." Given the intense completion and rock-bottom prices, now is as good a time for businesses to upgrade their network infrastructure as any, according to the market research company. Before going out shopping though, what are some capabilities that IT managers and administrators should bear in mind?


Gigabit Ethernet


Even if this is the only reason, attaining gigabit speeds on non-core networks should be considered adequate motivation for SMBs to upgrade their legacy network switches. Not only is a switched gigabit network substantially faster than the Fast Ethernet (100Mbps) that no doubt makes up the majority of legacy Ethernet infrastructure, prices for Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) ports have also fallen substantially over the last couple of years. Moreover, I would consider GbE to be the bare minimum to support the virtual server deployments and increasingly capable network storage appliances.


Power over Ethernet


Despite being around for almost a decade, the use of Power over Ethernet (PoE) has languished over most of the intervening period. This looks set to change however, given the sheer ubiquity of Wi-Fi-enabled devices. As companies rush to deploy wireless Access Points (APs) to meet this tidal wave of demand, the sheer convenience of not having to factor in separate cable runs for power will mean that APs with PoE capability quickly shift from the realm of "good to have" to "must have." Obviously, PoE midspans or power-injectors can also be deployed to support PoE devices - though I would argue that it is always good to have a few PoE-enabled Ethernet ports handy.


Future Upgradability


Future upgradability is an important component to consider when upgrading an SMB's network infrastructure. While 10G upgradability would certainly be desirable, this may not necessarily be affordable (or practical) for some SMBs. An alternative where future upgradability is concerned would be to rely on 802.3ad link aggregation to attain higher network speeds with comparatively cheap gigabit switches. Indeed, I wrote at length on this topic in an earlier blog titled "Overcoming the Network Bottleneck to Your NAS."


Coincidentally, I've blogged recently about Hewlett Packard's HP 2915-8G-PoE switch, which is a 10-port Gigabit Ethernet switch with 8-port PoE, link aggregation capability and a number of security-centric features. You may want to take a look at it.

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