Bicster

Dell PowerConnect 2724 Switch Micro-Review

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My 24-port Dell PowerConnect 2724 arrived yesterday. I paid about $290 after tax/shipping.

My first impression was that the thing is heavy for its size. It comes with 19" rackmount brackets and wall-mount brackets. The switch is substantially narrower than 19" -- maybe 14-15". It has an integrated 100-240V power supply and one 4cm cooling fan. The 8 and 16-port models lack the fan. The 8-port model does not support Jumbo Frames.

Inside the unit, the processor and switch chips all have hefty heatsinks. I opted to disconnect the cooling fan since the noise was intrusive and the unit doesn't seem to especially need the active cooling.

It took me a while to get the managed features to work. When the switch is first powered up, it behaves like a dumb switch without any management features. There is a recessed button on the front of the unit that can be poked with the end of a paper clip. Pressing that button is supposed to enable the management features. Once enabled, the switch stays in managed mode until disabled again (even if the switch is powered off.) Also, switching between managed and unmanaged modes wipes out the configuration.

The manual mentions a "Ready" LED which is supposed to indicate that the switch has successfully completed it's POST procedures. Unfortunately the switch has no such LED. Instead, it appears that Dell opted to make the "Managed Mode" LED blink until the POST is completed. The switch takes several minutes to complete the POST, but appears to switch traffic almost immediately after power is applied. Changing the IP address of the switch requies a reboot, as does enablng jumbo frames.

Upgrading the firmware requires a TFTP server. It is a painless but slow process. My switch shipped with pre-release firmware, which I upgraded to the "initial release" firmware obtained via the Dell website. I had to manually reset the switch via the web management GUI after downloading new firmware via TFTP. The flash process then took 4-5 minutes. Overall, the process might have taken 10 minutes.

The VLAN support works well. I haven't tested jumbo frames yet -- setting my e1000's MTU to 9000 caused my Linux server to reboot after a few seconds.

Port mirroring is supported. A mirrored port can mirror all ports, or just one, with the option of Rx or Tx mirroring only.

The web management GUI is slow, but acceptable. It would be nice to have telnet or serial administration as well.

There is no SNMP support, which is a disappointment, but I knew that before ordering. The web GUI does have ample statistics available for every port. It can even auto-refresh the information.

The 2724 went bonkers when I connected two of its ports together. That disappointed me. I have a few cheap switches that are immune to that problem.

For me, the switch has one deal-breaker so far: there is no way to back up or restore the configuration. That means that complicated configurations must be documented carefully by hand, and in the event the switch fails and needs replacing, it's going to take a long time to get the new one fully configured.

That's all I can think of for the moment!

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Thanks for your impressions Bicster. It's always nice to hear how hardware turns out once it's in use.

I share your disappointment with respect to this:

For me, the switch has one deal-breaker so far: there is no way to back up or restore the configuration.  That means that complicated configurations must be documented carefully by hand, and in the event the switch fails and needs replacing, it's going to take a long time to get the new one fully configured.

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My inclination though is that you might be missing something. Backing up configurations is such a basic feature... <_<

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Here's the official word from Dell support.

The 2700 series does not support an option to backup/restore the

configuration. There are currently no plans for any feature enhancements

on this platform.

Respectfully,

Greg DTC3309

CCSP, CCNP, RHCE

Cisco Firewall, VPN, & IDS Specialist / INFOSEC Professional

Hours 6:30am - 3:30pm CST, Monday-Friday

Dell PowerConnect Switch E-support and Services

I am seriously thinking about returning this thing. Aside from the issue of not being able to backup the config, the embedded webserver violates the HTML and HTTP specs enough to be a nuisance now and possibly a serious problem later. One example: It does not set a Content-Type header on HTML content.

It also passes the admin password over the network in such a way that it's pretty clear the designers of this thing don't understand the meaning of the word "security." It's almost worse than HTTP Basic auth in that they probably think that what they're doing is secure.

Any suggestions for a competing unit with the same basic feature set, under US$500?

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Here's the official word from Dell support.
The 2700 series does not support an option to backup/restore the

configuration. There are currently no plans for any feature enhancements

on this platform.

Respectfully,

Greg DTC3309

CCSP, CCNP, RHCE

Cisco Firewall, VPN, & IDS Specialist / INFOSEC Professional

Hours 6:30am - 3:30pm CST, Monday-Friday

Dell PowerConnect Switch E-support and Services

I am seriously thinking about returning this thing. Aside from the issue of not being able to backup the config, the embedded webserver violates the HTML and HTTP specs enough to be a nuisance now and possibly a serious problem later. One example: It does not set a Content-Type header on HTML content.

It also passes the admin password over the network in such a way that it's pretty clear the designers of this thing don't understand the meaning of the word "security." It's almost worse than HTTP Basic auth in that they probably think that what they're doing is secure.

Any suggestions for a competing unit with the same basic feature set, under US$500?

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I can't honestly offer any suggestions for a similarly-priced switch with that feature set, but I too find it ridiculous that there is no provision for configuration backup. It's not exactly rocket-science, for crying out loud. I also just noticed that the switch only has a web interface with no CLI. That's the most terrible thing I can imagine. If I end up in hell when I die, I will be forced to manage a network of switches with no CLI...

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The Linksys SRW2016 and SRW2024 look like possible contenders. They are relatively new models. IIRC the street prices are $360-$500 for the 16/24 port models. They seem to include everything Dell has, plus config and firmware backup, and RADIUS/Tacacs+ ... they do not have a CLI but they do have a serial port and telnet/rs232 menu based configuration. Am I missing something here?

Granted, these are significantly more expensive than the Dell 27xx series, but they're still cheap compared to the SMC8624T or Cisco 3650G series.

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Bad example, as far as I know the HTTP RFC doesn't require that.

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The HTTP/1.0 RFC says:

Any HTTP/1.0 message containing an entity body should include a Content-Type header field defining the media type of that body. If and only if the media type is not given by a Content-Type header, as is the case for Simple-Response messages, the recipient may attempt to guess the media type via inspection of its content and/or the name extension(s) of the URL used to identify the resource. If the media type remains unknown, the recipient should treat it as type "application/octet-stream".

The HTTP/1.1 RFC says the same thing, phrased with greater strength.

It's hardly worth arguing. It "should" be there. In its absence, the behavior may result in HTML being displayed or offered for download instead of rendered, which is not desirable. My point is that it's sloppy. Embedded webservers are often buggy, but the other web-enabled applicances on my network at least bother to set Content-Type. I know this because I reverse-proxy them, and without that header the reverse proxy takes a bit of cajoling to do the right thing.

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Don't these switches support a standard interface for 'programs' such that you can manage them without connecting with your browser to the switch?

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Yes, it's called SNMP, and Bicster already stated that this switch doesn't support it. All in all, this switch sounds like junk. I don't get what market they're going for by offering advanced features like VLAN but not the managmenet features that usually go along with it.

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Correct, the switch has no management or configuration capability other than the built-in browser thing -- which has no backup/restore feature.

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Here's the official word from Dell support.
The 2700 series does not support an option to backup/restore the

configuration. There are currently no plans for any feature enhancements

on this platform.

Respectfully,

Greg DTC3309

CCSP, CCNP, RHCE

Cisco Firewall, VPN, & IDS Specialist / INFOSEC Professional

Hours 6:30am - 3:30pm CST, Monday-Friday

Dell PowerConnect Switch E-support and Services

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Not to put too fine a point on things, that is outrageous, unacceptable.

It's not rocket science FFS! If a 40 quid wireless router can do it, there is no excuse for whatever piece of chinese junk Dell is badge engineering.

greg

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Ever heard of the saying "You get what you pay for"?

Still at $258 it is less expensive than most other "unmanaged" 24 gigabit port switches out there.

~Sy

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I got my 2724, so far everything works as expected. I don't expect it to has all the features Cisco gigabit switch has.

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No one is asking for that :-), being able to take a copy of the running config in some form is not asking for the earth.

Especially when one could easily script & automate its backup using something like wget or curl.

Have you run a trunk into it yet and tried routing between VLANs ?

greg

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hi,

Just received my Powerconnect Friday, trying to access it today and having no luck. The instructions say to use ip address 192.168.2.1, I have tried with a pc directly connected to it and via a pc over the network on the same subnet, managed mode light is on. Any one have a clue what I might be doing wrong?

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Just received my Powerconnect Friday, trying to access it today and having no luck. The instructions say to use ip address 192.168.2.1, I have tried with a pc directly connected to it and via a pc over the network on the same subnet, managed mode light is on. Any one have a clue what I might be doing wrong?

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Give it at least 5 minutes after powering it up. The managed mode LED will stop blinking at some point. You should be able to get in soon after that. You did enable the managed mode, didn't you?

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Not important, but I happenned to run across this thread a few days ago. We have a Dell PowerConnect 2724 a few feet from me mostly doing light duty stuff. It isn't set in managed mode at all. I just had to transfer two 60GB files from another workstation to my workstation, and thought to take a screenshot real quick of the Task Manager networking tab. Note that I was also sequentially doing a bunch of diffs on ~140MB binary files to test some settings, on my system. I was also reading email, surfing, etc. The machines are both Dell Optiplex, with mine being a model GX620.

Network Utilization

So, not a blind test or anything, but it is at least a real world demo of the switch doing 300-400mbps one way in non-optimal conditions.

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Geez, I think ~$300 is a good value for this switch. You're not just buying a brand name, you're buying the company's ability to support it as well. Someone early in the thread mentioned tech support that were in between big rocks and small rocks in ability. The person from Dell that responded had some fairly impressive credentials - "CCSP, CCNP, RHCE, Cisco Firewall, VPN, & IDS Specialist" The other thing to look at is service contracts. For me, at least, it only costs $40 to put a three year, 24/7 4 hour replacement contract on the device. A lot of small businesses can't afford to have spares sitting on a shelf, so this is a pretty good value.

If you're using an extensive configuration, this isn't the right switch to begin with. Dell is trying to hit the market segment where customers might want to see some performance statistics, maybe bond a pair of ports for an upstream connection, but other than that, they just want gigabit performance. They don't have a network management system in place. When they want those bells and whistles, they move up.

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If you're using an extensive configuration, this isn't the right switch to begin with. Dell is trying to hit the market segment where customers might want to see some performance statistics, maybe bond a pair of ports for an upstream connection, but other than that, they just want gigabit performance. They don't have a network management system in place. When they want those bells and whistles, they move up.

I agree, although saving the config would be nice, especially considering the fault that my two 2716 and one 2724 units are exhibiting.

I've web-enabled all three and aggregated 4 ports for a 4Gb backbone which all works fine. The problem is that the web interface becomes unreachable after about 24 hours. Tech support has yet to help me with this.

The upshot is that I can leave the switches running perfectly happily in "unmanageable [TM] mode" but if I want to change the smallest detail of their config I have to reset them (out of managed mode... wait... into managed mode... wait... configure spare port on server to be able to see 192.168.2.x... reconfigure switch from scratch).

All in all, great performance for the price (actually got the 2716s for 79 UKP and the 2724 for 179 UKP on promotion!) but could be so much better with a little work.

@mlmmilkyway: this might be obvious to you but it tripped me up the first time - you have to set the ethernet port on your attached pc to the same address range as the switch. As our office is in the 10.0.0.x range I had to set a spare port to 192.168.2.2/255.255.255.0 before I could connnect. As I said, basic stuff but maybe easily overlooked.

Edited by notanetworkadmin

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My 24-port Dell PowerConnect 2724 arrived yesterday. I paid about $290 after tax/shipping.

My first impression was that the thing is heavy for its size. It comes with 19" rackmount brackets and wall-mount brackets. The switch is substantially narrower than 19" -- maybe 14-15". It has an integrated 100-240V power supply and one 4cm cooling fan. The 8 and 16-port models lack the fan. The 8-port model does not support Jumbo Frames.

Inside the unit, the processor and switch chips all have hefty heatsinks. I opted to disconnect the cooling fan since the noise was intrusive and the unit doesn't seem to especially need the active cooling.

It took me a while to get the managed features to work. When the switch is first powered up, it behaves like a dumb switch without any management features. There is a recessed button on the front of the unit that can be poked with the end of a paper clip. Pressing that button is supposed to enable the management features. Once enabled, the switch stays in managed mode until disabled again (even if the switch is powered off.) Also, switching between managed and unmanaged modes wipes out the configuration.

The manual mentions a "Ready" LED which is supposed to indicate that the switch has successfully completed it's POST procedures. Unfortunately the switch has no such LED. Instead, it appears that Dell opted to make the "Managed Mode" LED blink until the POST is completed. The switch takes several minutes to complete the POST, but appears to switch traffic almost immediately after power is applied. Changing the IP address of the switch requies a reboot, as does enablng jumbo frames.

Upgrading the firmware requires a TFTP server. It is a painless but slow process. My switch shipped with pre-release firmware, which I upgraded to the "initial release" firmware obtained via the Dell website. I had to manually reset the switch via the web management GUI after downloading new firmware via TFTP. The flash process then took 4-5 minutes. Overall, the process might have taken 10 minutes.

The VLAN support works well. I haven't tested jumbo frames yet -- setting my e1000's MTU to 9000 caused my Linux server to reboot after a few seconds.

Port mirroring is supported. A mirrored port can mirror all ports, or just one, with the option of Rx or Tx mirroring only.

The web management GUI is slow, but acceptable. It would be nice to have telnet or serial administration as well.

There is no SNMP support, which is a disappointment, but I knew that before ordering. The web GUI does have ample statistics available for every port. It can even auto-refresh the information.

The 2724 went bonkers when I connected two of its ports together. That disappointed me. I have a few cheap switches that are immune to that problem.

For me, the switch has one deal-breaker so far: there is no way to back up or restore the configuration. That means that complicated configurations must be documented carefully by hand, and in the event the switch fails and needs replacing, it's going to take a long time to get the new one fully configured.

That's all I can think of for the moment!

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