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Need Guidance Choosing Between 5120 El and 5500 SI Switches


Need Guidance Choosing Between 5120 El and 5500 SI Switches

I am upgrading a single-site legacy network that currently has around 70 hosts, connected via unmanaged 10/100 switches and hubs in the MDF, plus a number of small workgroup switches and hubs scattered around the building.  The upgrade is in preparation for deploying about 50 VoIP phones using PoE, but also to support Gigabit end-to-end, which is not currently possible because most of the network devices only support 10/100 traffic.


My main requirements are...


- Fully managed switches

- Gigabit on all ports (96 ports in the MDF, 24 or 48 ports in the IDFs)

- QoS

- PoE (Don't really need PoE+)

- Stackability (between MDF switches in the same rack, and IDF switches 50-75m from the MDF)

- Ability to do port mirroring for Wireshark

- I'd like to be able to do static L3 routing, but it's more with an eye towards future growth of the network)

- IPv6 support, to protect our investment


I had initially been looking at Netgear GSM7228PS and GSM7252PS switches.  They allow flexible stacking configuration, using either optional stacking modules, or (with the current firmware), via 10GB SFP ports (copper or fiber, I believe).


But now, I am leaning towards either HP 5120 EL or 5500 SI switches.  My impression is that the HP switches offer more advanced features, and HP support and warranty are probably better.  If you feel strongly about these points, I'd welcome your comments.


A big concern is how flexible stacking is with these HP switches.  Do I absolutely have to stack them using rear expansion modules, or can I stack them (both co-located and distant switches) via either SFP copper or fiber modules, or even by using the regular switch ports ?  Can a stack be built using expansion modules for co-located switches AND switch ports for distant switches ? Can ANY of the ports can be configured as stacking ports ?  Can the regular switch ports be aggregated for stacking purposes, to provide more bandwidth for the switching fabric?  Can I stack the switches in a ring topology if stacking with copper using SFP ports or regular switch ports ?


Also, I've looked thru HP's product line pretty thoroughly, but if they offer a better choice in switches than what I'm considering, tell me what you would suggest.


Oh, by the way, is there any significance to the suffixes that HP uses in their switches, such as "Sl", "El" and "yl", and what in the world is "Electric Ivory" ?



Thank you !


Honored Contributor

Re: Need Guidance Choosing Between 5120 El and 5500 SI Switches

IRF can be done on any 10GbE port, but since neither of the 5120 or 5500 have onboard 10GbE they both need an expansion module, any 10GbE module will work depending on the length you need (SFP+ vs CX4). I think the 5120SI also have something called IRF-Lite that can be done via the onboard 1GbE ports but then you'll get poorer QoS and L3 capabilities.

CCIE Service Provider
MASE Network Infrastructure [2011]


Re: Need Guidance Choosing Between 5120 El and 5500 SI Switches



Thank you for your reply about IRF / IRF-lite.  


I downloaded the 5120 EI and 5500 SI IRF Configuration Guides, but they only mention using rear ports for IRF...


"To use the IRF feature, your switch must have at least one of the expansion interface modules in Table 1. Only the ports on these modules can work as physical IRF ports."

...and "Table 1" has a note that qualifies the statement by saying "The expansion interface slots on the rear panel".


Also, while I have Googled some things relating to IRF-lite, I haven't been able to find anything that indicates which switches support it.  And if indeed, any port supports IRF-lite, can 1GB ports be aggregated to provide more bandwidth for an IRF-lite link ?


Can anyone point me in the right direction ?




Re: Need Guidance Choosing Between 5120 El and 5500 SI Switches

On this page on Huawei/3Com's (H3C) website, it says that all of their 5500 series switches support IRF-lite.  Would this mean that all of the HP 5500 switches' firmware support it too ?


Trusted Contributor

Re: Need Guidance Choosing Between 5120 El and 5500 SI Switches

I would not suggest IRF-Lite, because it is like Clustering. The clustered devices stay single and indepentend devices with a single management.


If you search a cheap irf switch, have a look at 5120 SI. It can be irf stacked over each 1G-Port using Link-Aggregation (max 8 Ports). It has limited QoS features, but maybe it is enough. Your other requirements are met.





H3CSE, MASE Network Infrastructure [2011], Switzerland
Regular Advisor

Re: Need Guidance Choosing Between 5120 El and 5500 SI Switches

I've done IRF-lite on 5500 series in the past.

The quote from the manual says 'physical IRF ports'  I seem to recall the stacking with 1Gbps interfaces is referred to in the CLI/GUI as virtual stacking or something like that.


My experience is with the 3Com branded devices (ie not the H3C-version), so IRF-lite is available on all (H3C and non-H3C) brand-variants of this series.


I agree with the advice not to use this though, as it would probably not be a good investment protection strategy.


Difference between SI and EI is mainly a matter of L3-features (dynamic routing and the like) that are supported. Where obviously the Enterprise has more features than the corresponding Standard version.