Cisco Catalyst Switches Review

This gives us control of our throughput traffic but it comes with mandatory options that increase cost


What is our primary use case?

Our installation is totally on-premises. It is a backend solution supporting the entire campus. This is used as a three-tier network for our overall networking. We use it as a call switch at the backend, it is also used in the distribution, and it is used on the server farm switches. We use them for these three different kinds of purposes in the data center at the same time. All these servers can function on the network through these switches.  

How has it helped my organization?

The improvement the product provides to our organization is the backend throughput over all the sites. It can give us about 1.4 TB backend throughput overall. We have variable multi-gate support through the ports. So we can connect on the same switch with the 1G, 10G, 25G, 40G, and 100G. In that way, we get multi-port throughput on the same switch. Because of this capability, scalability is not a bottleneck for us now.  

We have used Cisco Catalyst Switches to achieve our goals with stability and blanket level of performance. The documentation and help capabilities provided for users are transparent and widely available. You can find and read about solutions to fix your own issues. Virtually anything you want to study about the product or if you want to verify something, information about it is available and doesn't require calls to support and potential wait times.  

What is most valuable?

The volume possible with the throughput is the feature that is most valuable to us. It helps to get things done. For example, we can program the logic and can get more details through the SDM (Service Desk Management) to deliver a better level of support to users.  

The solution is good but the support from Cisco makes it that much better. Even the task of logging into the system is really good. All those things together boost the end user's confidence in the product and performance.  

What needs improvement?

One thing I think should be improved is that billing should be customizable for end-user. If the customer wants a particular feature or upgrade or does not want the feature or upgrade, it should be their choice. If the user rejects the additional services those should be cut off from the pricing and not forced on the billing. Instead, they just include these things and the end-user has no choice. That is a concern for end-users who are trying to be cost-conscious and know what they need — and what they do not need — in their environment.  

For how long have I used the solution?

We have been using the Cisco series since incorporating an older series about six to seven years ago. Right now, we are revamping our architecture with the new series that has the Cisco DNA (Digital Network Architecture). It is the latest solution in the Cisco Catalyst Series. We can use multi-gate ports and 100 GM port gate uplinks with the latest high-availability features along with DNA and deploy the latest technologies.  

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

The stability of the product is quite good. Cisco is a brand that developed a reputation by taking care of the reliability to perform at least as well as any product on the market. The support level also contributes to that stability. Because they give me all the details, all the documentation, all the product details, and they supply that in a good manner, we can get the things that we need to resolve any issues as soon as possible. They are well aware of the product they deliver and we easily benefit from their knowledge and willingness to help keep our systems running.  

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

My impression of the scalability is that it is there if you need or want it. But some scalability is also built-in. We are getting the multi-gate switches, and the multi-gate can be scaled. If you have a 10G right now, you can change to 25G later, then 40G even after that. You have opportunities to scale out in different always. In our case, we already knew what we planned to do so we had already thought that through. 

As far as handling a volume of users, all the traffic of our whole organization is going to be passing through these switches. These switches are deployed on the call side, the distribution, and the server farm. Because of the setup, the whole of my data center and any user accessing the system is passing through it. We are a large educational organization and we have between 30,000 to 40,000 users total. On a daily basis, there will be 20,000 users on the system.  

How are customer service and technical support?

Technical support from the support team is good. Overall with the availability of documentation and resources, it is great. For me, on a scale of one to ten, it would be between seven to eight.  

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

We did not really use a different system. We were using a Cisco solution already and just upgraded to the newest version of the product so we could have its advantages.  

How was the initial setup?

The setup is not very complex. You will spend more time planning the concept than in installation. We need to migrate the things and the migration is not a complex one. We had some new features to incorporate but this was not hard.  
 
If you include all the testing and the proof of concept, the deployment took around about a month. We just needed to get the things for new features tested and working. We did need some support from the OEM team, but it was not on site.  

For maintenance and management, we did not need anything additional as that was already done by our team. We have about two or three people only. One who sometimes shares some responsibilities, so it is two, only, full-time.  

What about the implementation team?

Because we have a good team in the organization already who were already familiar with the previous equipment and we have good access to support materials use an integrator, we did not need a reseller or a consultant to help with the deployment.  

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

I am not exactly sure of the final cost of the upgrade as we are still just finalizing in terms. The teams have to finalize the pricing and their exact needs. They have not placed the entire order yet. We should have the whole thing completed in one or two months.  

One thing I am sure of is that the pricing is a little higher for the new product on average. 
It is also a little bit higher than its competition. That includes any competition with Cisco in this category of solutions, like Juniper, Dell, or anyone else. But the thing is if the customer wants the kind of reliability, support, and transparency that a solution provides, then they need to pay a premium for it.  

What other advice do I have?

Advice that I would give others who are not using this Cisco solution is that maintenance is not a big deal for Cisco products. They deliver on customer support if it is even necessary at all. The Cisco team is always available to provide you the facts about the root cause of any problem or to answer any question. Because they have an excellent knowledge base, you can even research things and find solutions on your own.  

Whether you need this kind of dependability will have to do with your use case. If you are working on some kind of critical industry or environment, you can trust Cisco to be a reliable solution. But if you do not have very critical operations, you want to review other options. Cisco might be a solution you would pay more for and you do not really need it. If you do not need it, then you can go with another product like Juniper or Dell — or any vendor or solution that can supply the services and capabilities that you actually need. But knowing that depends on evaluating your situation and the reality of what you need to do.  

On a scale from one to ten where one is worst and ten is the best, I would rate Cisco Catalyst Switches in terms of technology and all the capabilities as a whole as a seven right now. It is a seven to me just because there are problems that I see. The consideration of the rating is just not about the technical capabilities and documentation which are excellent. The problem is that they charge you for what they have supplied that you wanted as well as what they make it mandatory to buy. In the licensing, they include licensing for architecture, for new parts, for the software design, and for the future scheduled upgrades they have over the term of the contract. All these additional things are bundled in the licensing costs. The end-user can not exclude things from the license when you license the new switch. So even if there are items that you feel are not required for you as an end customer, they go on the billing.  

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

On-premises
**Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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