By Andrew Garcia  |  Posted 2004-02-02 Print this article Print

Network administrators who need an affordable Layer 3 switch for their networks aggregation level or server farm will find Dell Inc.s new PowerConnect 6024 well worth a look. The PowerConnect 6024s rock-bottom price, slim form factor and rich feature set make for an attractive overall purchase.

The 6024 will no doubt continue Dells inroads into the data networking market because it stacks up well against larger, more expensive competition from Cisco Systems Inc., 3Com Corp. and Extreme Networks Inc. The 6024 retails for $3,499 and features 24 fixed-port Copper Gigabit ports in a slim 1U (1.75-inch) chassis. Eight of the ports may be converted to Fiber Gigabit Ethernet with the addition of optional transceivers. Dell also offers the 6024F, with 24 fiber ports (eight optional Copper Gigabit) for the same price. Both units shipped this week.

The 6024s 1U chassis comes standard with dual hot-swappable fans and power supplies. LEDs on the front panel indicate if these components are missing or inoperable. eWEEK Labs liked the front-mounted, out-of-band network and serial management ports that offer flexible configuration and recovery options in case the primary network is unreachable.

We set up the devices IP addresses using the CLI (command-line interface). The CLI is similar enough in design and command structure to Ciscos IOS (Internet Operating System) that savvy administrators will be able to hit the ground running. However, there are enough differences that advanced users will get frustrated when high-level commands arent quite the same. Each 6024 has its own Web-based management interface, available through the regular switch ports and the out-of-band port.

The 6024s Layer 3 capabilities include RIP (Routing Information Protocol), OSPF (Open Shortest Path First) routing protocol, static routes, Internet Group Management Protocol and Distance Vector Multicast Routing Protocol. The unit also supports VRRP (Virtual Router Redundancy Protocol), to synchronize routing tables of multiple devices.

The 6024 does not route IPX traffic, as Extremes Summit 5i does, and does not support BGP (Border Gateway Protocol). Both Ciscos 3550 and Extremes Summit 5i support BGP.

The 6024 also supports 4,093 distinct VLANs (virtual LANs) in addition to Layer 2-4 QOS (quality-of-service) features. For added security, the 6024 supports 1,024 ACLs (Access Control Lists), which can be bound to Link Aggregation Groups, VLANs or individual ports.

The 6024s Link Aggregation and Port Mirroring capabilities were easy to configure from the Web console, allowing us to create redundant links to our server and a data analysis port. We also liked the built-in cable-testing capabilities in each switch port.

Dell bundles its managed switches with the free Standard Edition of Dell OpenManage Network Manager, which allows administrators to centrally monitor switches and perform some management tasks. However, central control of advanced QOS features, ACLs and VLANs requires the Advanced Edition of Network Manager, which costs $4,995 per site license.

When we installed the server and console components of Network Manager on an Intel Corp. 2.2GHz Pentium 4 server with 512MB of RAM, we found they ate up memory and page file resources at an alarming rate. Administrators should dedicate a Windows server with at least 1GB of RAM to run the Network Manager back-end services.

Technical Analyst Andrew Garcia can be reached at andrew_garcia@ziffdavis.com.

Andrew cut his teeth as a systems administrator at the University of California, learning the ins and outs of server migration, Windows desktop management, Unix and Novell administration. After a tour of duty as a team leader for PC Magazine's Labs, Andrew turned to system integration - providing network, server, and desktop consulting services for small businesses throughout the Bay Area. With eWEEK Labs since 2003, Andrew concentrates on wireless networking technologies while moonlighting with Microsoft Windows, mobile devices and management, and unified communications. He produces product reviews, technology analysis and opinion pieces for eWEEK.com, eWEEK magazine, and the Labs' Release Notes blog. Follow Andrew on Twitter at andrewrgarcia, or reach him by email at agarcia@eweek.com.

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