To Stack or not Stack Ethernet Switches?

Mar 3rd, 2015
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  1. Many people may be confused with Cisco stacking and clustering, considering them as the same concept, however, stacking is not clustering. Cisco clustering is a technology available on Cisco Catalyst fixed Ethernet switches that allows the network administrator to use a single public IP address to manage multiple physical switches. Clustering was created to assist network administrators by having a single point of management as well as in preserving valuable public IP addresses needed to manage the Ethernet switches. Cisco Stacking is much more than a single point of management and IP address preservation because it offers redundancy, availability, and ease of management. Cisco 2960-S supports clustering as well as stacking.
  3. Once we talk about Cisco technology, the topic of Ethernet switches stacking would not be omitted, but why we do this? The reasons are described as the following. Stacking Ethernet switches reduces the network administrator’s total cost of ownership. The cost of maintaining the network is decreased because there are fewer devices to manage, and the network uptime is increased with built-in redundancy.
  5. The below figure shows two ways to deploy Ethernet switches at the access layer. In each case four switches are connected to a Cisco 6509 Switch. The deployment scenario on the left shows four switches that are colocated in the same wiring closet, but are not stacked. Each standalone switch on the left has two uplinks to the distribution layer switch that are combined in an EtherChannel group. The four switches on the right are stacked together with FlexStack (FlexStack links show in red). The stack has four uplinks to the distribution layer switch. Because FlexStack supports EtherChannel grouping of Ethernet interfaces across the stack members, the four uplinks are grouped together into a single EtherChannel group. All the benefits of EtherChannel grouping are retained when switches are placed into a stack.
  7. Stacking Ethernet switches provides the network administrator with three major operational benefits:
  9.     Single point of management: All switches in the stack are managed as one.
  10.     Built-in redundancy and high availability: The high-speed FlexStack connections provide redundant communication for each stack member to every other member.
  11.     Scalable to fit network needs: Installation of a new switch to the stack is easy. As the need for additional access ports grows, adding a new switch to an existing stack is easier and faster than adding a new standalone switch to the network.
  13. The first operational benefit is fewer devices to manage. Multiple physical switches in a stack appear as a single logical switch. This eases management overhead because there are fewer devices in the network to manage. A single IP address is used to manage the logical switch. All manageable entities (for example, Ethernet interfaces and VLANs) on all physical switches can be configured and managed from the logical switch. The logical switch will appear as a single entity in the network. In a Layer 2 network, the logical switch will appear as a single spanning-tree entity.
  15. The second operational benefit that stacking provides is built-in redundancy and increased availability. Data path redundancy is built into the stacking architecture as there are two physical paths between any two stack members. Connecting stack members with the stacking cables provides data path redundancy for all stack members. Stacking increases Ethernet switch availability by providing redundancy for both the physical switch and the uplink. Because different physical switches will connect to the upstream network, losing one switch or one uplink interface does not prevent connectivity to the network. Since the logical switch has multiple uplinks, the logical switch still has network connectivity because at least one uplink is still active.
  17. In a logical switch, a single physical switch is acting as the stack master. The stack master manages all physical switches, including itself. If the master fails, another member automatically becomes the stack master following a well-documented election process (covered later). The configuration of the stack is preserved through a single switch failure or a reboot of all stack members. FlexStack provides 1:N redundancy for the stack master, with the ability for any physical switch to back up the acting master. (See below Figure.)
  19. It refers from:
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