Dell demonstrates dedication to PowerConnect line
Juiced-up PowerConnect 3424P boasts a sweet priceFollow @pvenezia
When I first looked at the Dell PowerConnect 3324 and 3348 switches in 2003, I was impressed by the feature-to-cost ratio, but I was wary of the switches’ long-term viability -- particularly their durability, but also Dell’s dedication to the line. Two years later, it certainly appears that Dell is not only committed, but it is actively injecting features and fixing bugs in previous firmware releases.
My PowerConnect 3348 has been in active duty since I received it two years ago, handling a few dozen critical links -- both copper and fiber. Although I’ve tickled a few bugs in the firmware -- including a rather annoying ACL (access control list) limit problem -- the switch has performed without a hitch.
All this brings me to the newest members of Dell’s PowerConnect line: the 3424 and 3448, successors to the 3324 and 3348. Specifically, I looked at the 3424P, which is a 24-port 10/100 Ethernet switch with PoE (Power over Ethernet) capabilities on all 10/100 ports, as well as two SFP (small form-factor pluggable) fiber ports and two gigabit copper ports. This layout differs from the previous Dell PowerConnect line in that there are no more combo ports on the switch, and all four gigabit ports can be used simultaneously.
To achieve its PoE capabilities, the 3424P has a 470-watt power supply within the 1U chassis. The output of that power supply enables the 3424P to drive all 24 PoE ports at as much as 15.4 watts per port, which will support just about any PoE device on the market today.
The 48-port 3448P also supports PoE on all 48 10/100 copper ports, but requires Dell’s EPS (External Power Supply) to provide full power rating to all 48 ports. The good news is that the EPS and the internal power supply can provide fail-over functionality for each other, albeit with a drop in total supplied watts.
Dell has been releasing updated firmware to fix bugs in previous switches, including some I’ve already noted. Specifically, cutting and pasting large blocks of configuration commands into the CLI no longer fails, which means admins can quickly reconfigure the switches. Also, the previously obtuse firmware management layout has been somewhat cleaned up and a flash file-management command set is present. This allows admins to view the content of the flash file system rather than blindly refer to one of two image file locations. Further, the CLI will now show the default configuration of the switch when no specific config has been saved. Prior switches simply showed no configuration at all. It’s still not nearly as fluid as Cisco’s Internetwork Operating System, but it’s better.
Beyond that, Dell has provided support of PVST (Per VLAN Spanning Tree), SNMPv3, added TACACS+ (Terminal Access Controller Access Control System) support for log-ins, and crafted a local user password policy that can specify minimum-length passwords, age passwords, and maintain a password history. Not too shabby. Also, private VLAN support is now present, as is the capability of mapping specific MAC (media access control) addresses to specific VLANs.
On the downside, the new line still doesn’t include any type of discovery protocol, such as Cisco’s CDP (Cisco Discovery Protocol). HP ProCurve switches have been CDP-enabled for quite some time.