In the time since eweek labs finished testing the cisco Systems Inc. Catalyst 3550 24-port product, the company has released the 48-port version, thus expanding the Cisco product line to fixed-configuration devices—an area where the company has not always led the market.
When we tested the 24-port version, we used Spirent Communications Inc.s SmartBit 6000 chassis and SmartFlow test suite to gauge the performance of the box. Our results showed that, as expected, the Catalyst 3550-24 handles wire-speed traffic with no drops or faults. Although we werent able to test the 48-port version (which costs $5,795 with the standard software and $7,790 with the enhanced software) for this review, it is almost certain that the throughput performance of the 48-port version is also wire-speed, as might be expected.
Now that wire-speed performance has been relegated to check-box status on 10/100M-bps switches, the real questions move to an area thats more difficult to quantify—manageability and what well call daily performance. Ciscos Cluster Management feature and increasingly GUI-ified device setup made initial setup and detailed configuration of the virtual private network, access control lists and rate-limiting features of the Catalyst 3550-24 much easier than doing the same thing at the command-line interface.
Daily management tasks, and seeing how fast the switch recovers from network faults such as unexpected power outages and mistakenly pulled connections, also revealed improvements in performance. For example, whereas it could take up to 20 seconds for an auto-sensing port to determine the link speed of devices we connected to our Catalyst 2900 XL switch (for eWeek Labs review of Category 5 switches connected to the 2900 XL, go to www.eweek.com/links), the same action took just a few seconds in our tests of the Catalyst 3550-24.
Of course, obtaining these results requires knowing the detailed operations of the switch, and that means having a Cisco expert on staff or on call. This could preclude use of the Catalyst 3550-24 or -48 at smaller sites.