ExtremeSwitching Review

The unique ring topology protocol and pricing makes this a unique solution worthy of consideration


What is our primary use case?

I have been a network engineer since the mid-nineties. The company I am in now has19 buildings and 50 plus switches, all Extreme. We use lots of gen one and gen twos — either the X460s or X690s — using the SummitStack. That is our standard variant of the Extreme Networks.  

We do have a couple of old 460s and a couple of old 480s, but we use the SummitStack for those versions instead of the Black Diamond.  

What is most valuable?

I have been using ExtremeSwitching for so long that it is really natural for me. I just use them. I guess if I had to pick something I really like, it would maybe be the ease of using their protocol. They use ring topology protocol. Using that protocol is somewhat unique to Extreme. It is actually really handy.  

What needs improvement?

I think Extreme can learn a few things from Cisco's approach. That is not to say that trying to become Cisco would be an improvement for Extreme. It is just that they might acknowledge the differences in the direction the solutions have taken and maybe learn from what Cisco does right. They are different even though they set out to accomplish the same thing.  

To call Extreme wrong for their approach would be like telling people in Great Britain that their drivers are bad because they drive on the left side of the road. They have been driving on that side of the road and that's what they chose to do. They are not going to just go and change it one day so they all drive on the right side of the road. It would be a pretty big undertaking in adjusting to it. I do not think that is going to improve Extreme's product to try and imitate Cisco. Making that kind of a major change is not something you should do just to be like another product and it would not be a way to improve what you do.  

I would say that they could learn from what Cisco does right. Extreme needs to improve on their training. They have been working on it, but they do not really have enough training classes and learning resources for users at this point. When we first put ExtremeSwitches in, it was very complex. I think that might have been because no one had any real experience with the product and people were more likely to be familiar with Cisco if they did have experience. The training was not up to speed.  

Extreme aught to take that into account and at least offer more resources to learn the products. If engineers are coming from the Cisco world, it is really like pulling your mind through the looking glass or driving on the other side of the road. It is just a totally different way of thinking. Cisco had a 12-year head start on the market. More people see switching from a Cisco perspective.  

Other than offering training, they are getting better. When I have a problem, I can at least look up a solution online. But with Extreme Switches, if you look online, you are just not going to get as much information and options as you do with a search for problems on Cisco. Everybody and their brother could tell you stuff about Cisco because they are familiar with it.  

In some way, it is a benefit to have less information. When there is not as much stuff out there, then you have less stuff to sort through. With Cisco there is so much you might have to determine where the reliable resources are. With Extreme the resources are more limited but sometimes that means that you will not get the answer you are looking for.  

For how long have I used the solution?

We have been using ExtremeSwitching for at least eight years.  

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

After the first year where we were having some stability issues, things came around. Now we are good for stability. If any part of what we have breaks, Extreme will just replace it.  

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

Extreme is quite scalable. We have a lot of buildings (19) a lot of switches (50+), and multiple fiber rings. I do not think we are limited in our ability to grow from that at all.  

Right now, there are only two of us doing the maintenance. Before I got sick earlier in the year, there was only one person on the maintenance. So now it is two people on the team, but working with Extreme is not the only thing that we do. We share the responsibility.  

I have no idea how we compare in size to other similar companies. We have 550 employees, and we are a 24/7 shop, like police and fire — or maybe public works. We have to be ready when we are needed.  

How are customer service and technical support?

Tech support, in my case, refers more to training than calling in tickets. When Extreme bought Enterasys, they had a bit of a rocky start with that merger. But Extreme's tech support has been okay. We have got a better integration partner now and that helps.  

When we first bought the Extreme product, they had all of two classes. That is it. They were both online. The two of the courses put together were only a week long. That was all the training you could possibly get for Extreme Network Switches at the time.  

Think of that compared to the kind of training and support you can get from HP and Cisco on their equipment before you go to implement their products. Extreme's programs did not even come close to covering everything. There were parts of the product, like their management platform, that they did not even mention even though it is a valuable part of the system.  

They have been improving on their training, but I do not know how far they have taken it at this point.  

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

I have worked with both Cisco and Extreme at different times. It is almost like Alice in the Looking Glass when you compare Extreme to Cisco. Cisco uses iOS. Extreme uses xOS. These two solutions are so different. With Cisco, you configure by port — you assign everything to a port. With Extreme, you assign everything — all the ports — to a VLAN (Virtual Local Area Network). It is almost like they work in the opposite way of each other. You have to get used to adopting the mindset of the solution you are using and just do it their way.  

Extreme hardware is also less expensive than the Cisco equipment. That is a biggie in making the comparison.  

How was the initial setup?

I think the initial setup was complex. Really it was extremely complex.  

We did an RFP (Request for Proposal) and a vendor came in to put the product in. One of the problems we had that we obviously could not have known at the time was that the vendor did not necessarily know enough about how Extreme worked. It was a systems engineer from Extreme that implemented the RFP and even he did not know the product well. Then he left Extreme to go to another company. We were left holding the bag.  

For the first year, there were some glitches and gotchas that we kept running into. But after that year — and after we switched integrators — then we were in much better shape.  

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

All I can say about Extreme pricing is that it is much less expensive than Cisco and more expensive than HP. It is less expensive than Tesco by a mile. On pricing, it is going to beat most of the major competition.  

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

The products we buy are influenced by our company's business model. Everything we want to implement that is over 30-grand, we have to do an RFP for. So a lot of times to get under that threshold, we go with the lowest possible bidder just to get things done. We have bought stuff that I have never even seen before. I had never even heard of Tegile Arrays until we bought their products. I had never even heard of Extreme Networks until we bought their products either.  

What other advice do I have?

Advice that I would give to people considering switches is that I think Extreme products are pretty feature-rich and they are definitely worth considering alongside the competition. They just have to be aware they are not going to be working like they would with Cisco, which means fewer resources and potentially fewer candidates to work with the solution as engineers.  

On a scale from one to ten where one is the worst and ten is the best, I would rate ExtremeSwitching as an eight-out-of-ten.  

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