Home Lab 2.0 – Networking Core Switch

Over the years I have assembled a small motley collection of networking kit however nothing quite fitted the bill for what I need for my new lab. I have managed kit, but only 100BaseT and I have Gigabit kit, but only unmanaged.

What I needed was something with a good amount of ports, managed, Gigabit and with PoE because I can, and it’s useful for stuff later on. I also needed the 5000 bucks to buy one. Not wanting to blow the entire budget on a single bit of kit it was off to eBay to find something ex-corporate. Now I could have grabbed whatever Cisco unit ebay had to offer, but again they’re not exactly cheap.

Step up Nortel! Oh wait…

Nortel went bust some years ago, and the company was sold off in various chunks, but they used to make some solid networking kit. As they’re no longer about, and they’re much less desirable than the big Cisco their switches are a lot cheaper second hand than almost everything else. In fact, after looking around a bit I picked up a Baystack 5520-48T-PWR, which gives me 48 ports of lovely PoE Gigabit managed networking, delivered from a seller the other side of the States for under 250 dollars. Nice!

The fun thing about Nortel switches is that the switch arm was bought by Avaya, who still sell them, in a different color box. They’ll even support the original Nortel boxes if you want to spend money on support. In fact, when I booted the switch, I got this:

NortelBootScreen

That’s right, the logo on the outside doesn’t match the inside.

Of course, as with any bargain there is a catch. In this case though it’s not exactly a deal breaker. The switch is a full layer 3 switch for IPv4, but doesn’t contain the hardware to do IPv6 routing so it’ll only do layer 2 for IPv6. This isn’t a massive deal unless you’re running multiple IPv6 VLANs and you can always add a separate router to add IPv6 to your network later, in fact a quick glance at eBay suggests you can get something pretty heavy-duty from your favorite network kit provider for under 200 bucks.

As people I worked with might tell you I’m not the world’s biggest Avaya fan, having had to work with an old IPOffice system, and their support can be pretty ropey at times, but I’m not doing anything particularly taxing or out of the ordinary so we’ll see how it goes.

It’s now sitting on my desk humming away and routing IPv4 VLANs quite happily, it does indeed do PoE and it’s not too horrendous to configure. In fact, I’ve pretty much only needed to glance at Michael McNamara’s excellent blog to get 90% of the configuration done I needed (In fact, if you Google 5520 and what you need, the first link is nearly always his site anyway).

Now I just need to finish off the LackRack and get it mounted.