3Com's new SuperStack II Port Switch Hub, although coming to market much later than competing products, is a solid solution to network-microsegmentation requirements. Built-in management features make the product an attractive choice for managing bandwidth through low port-density collision domains and reducing physical reconfiguration of network cabling.
Don't let the name fool you: the Port Switch Hub doesn't offer any switching capabilities. However, it does add flexibility to network configuration with a stackable architecture. Depending on their needs, administrators can configure each of the hub's port residences on four separate collision domains on each stack's interrepeater bus. Alternatively, the four segments can be isolated to independent hub devices. A number of competing products have had this capability for a few years, and now 3Com is following suit.
The Port Switch Hub is available in both 12- and 24-port models; each unit offers two transceiver module bays for extending network-topology support. 3Com currently offers modules to support 10Base-T, 10Base-2, 10Base-FL, 10Base-FB, and 10Base-5. An AUI bridge module is also available.
One benefit of the Port Switch Hub is that each unit is delivered with its own built-in SNMP management module. Thus you can isolate a unit and subsequently segment it without adding to initial management costs. By taking this route, however, you effectively increase the number of stacks that need to be managed separately.
I installed 3Com's Transcend Quick Configura-tion Manager, Version 3.0, which comes bundled with each Port Switch Hub, to configure two hubs. Transcend, which runs on Windows 95 and Windows NT, allows for stack configuration either in-band (over the network) or out-of-band through the hub's RS-232 console port.
I hit an initial stumbling block because the management software assumes COM 1 is being used for configuration through the console port and provides no way of changing the port assignment (I was connected to COM 2). I was nonetheless able to quickly configure the hub. It was easy to set up unit-based port segmentation, keeping the hub separate from the rest of the units in the same data cascade.
Alternatively, I could take advantage of the stack's interrepeater bus, allowing all units to use four common segments across the stack. Of course, you'll want to use a switch to interconnect each of the segments.
I performed initial configuration out-of-band using a terminal-emulation program; however, I was unable to Telnet into the unit because it doesn't support this feature. 3Com is planning to support remote, browser-based configuration early next year.
The Port Switch Hub offers the usual battery of hub features, such as port-level security based on Media Access Control addresses, auto-partitioning, and monitoring of port and unit statistics. The unit supports all nine remote-monitoring groups, but the port-level statistics handled by the bundled configuration software are fairly basic.
The Port Switch Hub supports as many as 10 units per stack and offers 3Com's port-resiliency feature, allowing for configuration of redundant port links for fault tolerance. The unit can also be used with 3Com's redundant power supply.
SuperStack II Port Switch Hub
The SuperStack II Port Switch Hub offers solid microsegmentation options for maximising bandwidth through low port-density workgroups.
Pros: Allows for four isolated or inter- repeater collision domains; built-in SNMP management.
Cons: Limited bundled configuration software; no Telnet support.
Price: 12-port unit: $2.320 24-port unit: $3,410.
Also available in multipack bundles.
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