This weekend I bought a Linksys SRW2024 switch. It's a 24 port, 10/100/1000Mbit rack mount switch with a fairly good feature set. The switch it is replacing is a Cisco 2924XL - another feature packed switch - but only 100Mbit. As most things these days come with an onboard Gigabit network adapter, I thought it'd be a nice performance increase to finally get a GigE switch. What I did want however is the switch to support 802.1q trunking. This allows you to use one network card in a machine and have the switch do some magic to make it bridge multiple vlans. This means I only need 1 GigE network card per machine and can have it on 2 logically separate networks. This is a good thing.
So I set this switch up as soon as I got it home. It has a lovely GigE sticker on the top that make me chuckle. The next thing I did was RTFM. Well, I tried to. It doesn't come with a manual. It comes with a CD, which is great - as I was hoping to get a nice PDF manual - however there's only a very basic users guide. Hrmmm. Here I am wanting to set up multiple vlans, and have no documentation how to do it. I then did what every self-repecting geek would do. I played.
This was when I first started to dislike the SRW2024. Being a Cisco person, the first thing I did was hook up the console cable. Wow, what a rude shock I was in for. The console is just about useless. About the best thing you can do in the console interface is set the switches IP address. The second best thing is that you can disable interfaces. That's it. No vlan config, no status, no admin functions. Poop.
Hey, I'd set up an IP address via the console, lets try telnet! Hrrmm. Wait - that's the same crappy interface that - well, sucks. What about the web interface I hear you scream. Sure - that was my next thought. Starting to feel misled, I fired up Safari and went to the switches IP. Nothing. Squat. Zero. A big fat white page showed itself with a dazzling nothing. Ok, maybe it's a Safari thing - Lets try Firefox. Yay, a login box! But wait. Don't get too excited - as after you've logged in, you can't actually do anything. You guessed it, you can ONLY configure the switch using Internet Explorer. Now I'll tell you one thing about Mac users... Hell hath no fury like a Mac user (and probably linux users too) forced to use IE.
So, I pulled out my old faithful Windows XP laptop and presto, I could get into the web interface and actually do something! Setting up the Vlans was a bit tricky - as I was still thinking in the Cisco frame of mind. Put the interface into trunk mode, and set dot1q. The Linksys switch is a little different, as you have to actually allow a trunk port to use certain vlans via tagging. THis is probably good for security - as you have the option to set all non-tagged packets to vlan 4095 (aka the bit bucket). You also have the ability to set on a per port basis which vlans can be accessed - even in trunk mode. Think of it like the cisco allowed command.
After this initial frustation of setting the switch up, it seems to be pretty good. Performance is ok - although I bet it would work better if I wasn't using cheap GigE network cards (ie not 32 bit cards) and could run jumbo frames. I still managed to get ~26Mb/sec between two machines - which is still more than double the performance of a 100Mbit switch.
Running wise, I'd give this switch a 8 out of 10. For the initial config, I'd have to say that Linksys really need to pull their finger out and do some serious re-thinking of what they are trying to achieve with this switch. A 3 out of 10 for the setup experience.