Low-cost 3Com hub boosts speed and simplicity

Low-cost 3Com hub boosts speed and simplicity


As LAN performance needs increase, many network managers are faced with either migrating towards Gigabit Ethernet or increasing the number of existing Gigabit ports on the network.

The problem is, it's not easy to justify - or stomach - the expense of a Gigabit switch.

3Com's SuperStack II Hub 1000 SX provides an inexpensive way for IT managers with smaller networks to take a first step toward Gigabit Ethernet. Plus, its relatively low cost makes it suitable for larger environments to simply add more Gigabit ports to their existing infrastructure.

However, even though it is currently one of the cheapest ways to take advantage of Gigabit Ethernet speeds, the SuperStack II Hub lacks the manageability of competitors such as Packet Engines' FDR 6 or higher-end Gigabit Ethernet switches.

The SuperStack II 1000 SX, a full duplex hub/repeater, is designed to consolidate multiple Gigabit Ethernet devices such as switches or servers before connecting to the network backbone.

Management capabilities

Its closest competitor, Packet Engines' FDR 6, costs $US9995 for six Gigabit ports, but also has functionality that the 3Com device lacks. The FDR includes an integrated SX uplink port and comprehensive management capabilities via Java, SNMP, Telnet, and RMON.

I also wished the SuperStack II Hub 1000 had a 10/100Mbps Ethernet port, which the FDR 6 supplies.

This port comes in handy for network monitoring or when quick connections from 10/10Mbps-supported servers or switches are required.

To test the SuperStack II Hub, I connected a variety of devices, including Gigabit switches from Summit and Alteon as well as Gigabit Ethernet cards from Packet Engines, without a hitch. The switches connected to the hub and easily auto-negotiated.however, I did have to turn off auto-negotiation while connecting to the servers with the Packet Engines Gigabit Ethernet cards - a problem I've seen before with the Packet Engine cards.

I found the SuperStack II Hub well-suited for aggregating Windows NT servers, which usually peak at well under 500Mbps as opposed to Unix servers that really take advantage of Gigabit Ethernet speeds.

Performance was easily monitored via the classic 3Com front-panel display, showing total hub usage as a vertical bar. Other LEDs displayed port status (link and activity) and operation, including temperature, power, unit status, and the optional redundant power supply connection.

The back of the box also has a spot for an additional uplink module option.

However, any other form of management was almost non-existent. The only way I could control the box was through the console port on the back.

Using its text menu, I changed hub port settings, displayed the hub's status, and changed the password. I could also update the firmware.

Although I didn't have many management options, I could have easily seen traffic detail if I used a protocol analyser such as Network Associates' Sniffer attached to one of the switches connected to the hub. Still, at bare minimum I should be able to use Telnet to change the port settings.

If you're an IT manager who wants to consolidate your servers at higher speeds but can't justify the cost of a Gigabit Ethernet switch, the SuperStack II Hub 1000 is a perfect fit.

The hub is also a solid choice for inexpensively adding Gigabit Ethernet ports in an existing consolidated server arrangement.

The Bottom Line

SuperStack II Hub 1000 SX

This simple and relatively low-cost hub is a solid first step in the process of moving from a 10/100Mbps network to Gigabit Ethernet. It suits small environments looking to optimise backbone traffic or large networks that need more Gigabit Ethernet ports.

Pros: Eases migration to Gigabit Ethernet; simple to integrate into existing infrastructure; solid product line; provides eight full-duplex 1000Base-SX portsCons: No 10/100Mbps ports; limited manageabilityPlatforms: Not applicablePrice: $11,325 ESP3ComTel (02) 9937 5000Fax (02) 9956

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