How Stackable Switches Elevate Network to New Heights

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PoE+ Switches are an advanced version of POE switches. Being the next generation of PoE switches, PoE+ can reduce network complexity and overall costs and make data and power networks easy to manage and upgrade. These switches are an excellent choice for networks requiring high power consumption. These switches return exceptionally great output to many SMBs (small- and mid-sized businesses). This is only possible when you stack these switches into one logical device. Are you intrigued to know what stackable PoE+ switches are? This post discusses stackable PoE+ switches in detail. So, stay tuned.

What is Stackable Switches? 

The stackable switch is a type of network switch that can function as a standalone device as well as a part of an integrated system with multiple switches stacked in a single unit. When one switch is stacked upon another one, it forms a modular switch.

How Does Stackable Switch Work?

A stackable switch is a type of network switch that is designed to be interconnected with other compatible switches to form a switch stack. Here's how a stackable switch typically works:

  • Stacking Ports or Modules: Stackable switches have specific stacking ports or modules that enable physical connections between the switches. These ports are used to establish high-speed, low-latency communication links between the switches in the stack. The number of stacking ports can vary depending on the switch model.
  • Stacking Cables: Stacking cables are used to physically connect the stacking ports of each switch in the stack. These cables transmit data between the switches at high speeds and provide the necessary interconnectivity for the stack to operate as a single logical unit. Stacking cables are typically designed for the specific stackable switch model.
  • Stack Master Election: Once the stackable switches are interconnected using stacking ports and cables, one switch is elected as the stack master. The stack master assumes the responsibility of managing the stack, coordinating operations, and serving as a central point of control. The stack master ensures that configuration changes, firmware updates, and other management tasks are synchronized across the stack.
  • Single Logical Unit: With the stack master elected and the switches interconnected, the stackable switches function as a single logical unit. From an operational standpoint, the stack is managed as a unified entity, simplifying configuration and management tasks. Configuration changes, such as VLAN assignments or security policies, can be applied to the entire stack, reducing administrative overhead.
  • Scalability and Resiliency: Stackable switches provide scalability by allowing additional switches to be added to the stack. New switches can be connected to the stack using stacking cables, expanding the network capacity seamlessly. Stackable switches also offer resiliency through features like link aggregation and redundant stacking links, ensuring high availability and failover capabilities in case of switch or link failures.

What are Stacking methods?

Stacking is a method used to interconnect multiple network switches to create a single logical unit with enhanced scalability, simplified management, and improved resiliency. There are two common methods of stacking:

  • Physical Stacking: In physical stacking, the switches are physically connected using specialized stacking ports or modules and stacking cables. These dedicated stacking ports provide high-speed, low-latency communication between the switches. The stacking cables establish the interconnection between the stacking ports of each switch, forming a physical stack. The switches in the stack operate as a single logical unit, and configuration changes or management tasks can be applied to the entire stack.
  • Virtual Stacking: Virtual stacking, also known as software stacking or cluster management, is a method of stacking where the switches are not physically interconnected. Instead, they are managed and operated as a stack through software. Virtual stacking relies on a management interface that allows administrators to configure and manage multiple switches as if they were physically stacked. The management software provides centralized control, configuration synchronization, and unified management capabilities across the virtual stack.

Applications of Stackable Switch

Stackable switches have various applications in network infrastructures due to their scalability, simplified management, and enhanced resiliency. Some common applications of stackable switches include:
  • Enterprise Networks: Stackable switches are extensively used in enterprise networks where scalability and centralized management are essential. They provide the flexibility to expand the network as the organization grows while maintaining a unified management interface.
  • Data Centers: Stackable switches are deployed in data centers to create high-performance and resilient network architectures. They allow for seamless scalability, efficient traffic management, and simplified management of multiple switches within the data center environment.
  • Campus Networks: In large educational campuses or corporate environments, stackable switches are used to provide scalable network connectivity across multiple buildings or locations. They simplify network management, enable consistent access policies, and facilitate seamless roaming for users within the campus.
  • Small and Medium-sized Businesses (SMBs): Stackable switches are suitable for SMBs that require a cost-effective and easily manageable network infrastructure. They provide the flexibility to start with a small number of switches and expand the network as the business grows.
  • Branch Offices: Stackable switches are utilized in branch office environments to simplify network management and reduce equipment requirements. They allow for centralized control and configuration, ensuring consistent network policies and security across multiple remote locations.
  • Network Service Providers: Service providers use stackable switches in their infrastructure to deliver reliable and scalable network services. Stackable switches enable efficient traffic routing, simplified management, and improved service quality for their customers.
  • Redundant Network Architectures: Stackable switches are employed in redundant network architectures to enhance network resiliency. By creating a stack of switches, organizations can benefit from link aggregation, automatic failover, and load balancing mechanisms to ensure high availability and fault tolerance.

Benefits of the Stackable Switches

Stackable switches offer several benefits for network infrastructures. The benefits of stackable switches include scalability, simplified management, enhanced resiliency, cost savings, improved performance, and flexibility. These benefits make them a valuable solution for building reliable and easily manageable network infrastructures.

  • Scalability: Stackable switches allow for easy scalability by adding more switches to the stack as network requirements grow. This simplifies network expansion without the need for additional management overhead or complex configurations. It enables organizations to accommodate increasing traffic demands and the addition of new devices seamlessly.
  • Simplified Management: Stackable switches provide centralized management for the entire stack as a single logical unit. Administrators can configure and monitor the stack through a single interface, simplifying network management tasks. It streamlines configuration changes, firmware updates, and troubleshooting, reducing the complexity of managing multiple individual switches.
  • Resiliency and High Availability: By creating a stack of switches, stackable switches offer built-in redundancy and failover capabilities. If one switch in the stack fails, the other switches can continue to operate, ensuring uninterrupted network connectivity. Link aggregation and load balancing features further enhance resiliency by distributing traffic across multiple links for increased performance and redundancy.
  • Cost Savings: Stackable switches can provide cost savings compared to deploying multiple standalone switches. They eliminate the need for additional power supplies, management interfaces, and cabling, reducing overall infrastructure costs. The simplified management also saves time and resources, allowing IT teams to focus on other critical tasks.
  • Improved Performance and Throughput: Stackable switches typically offer higher bandwidth and better performance due to the stacking architecture. The stacking cables or interfaces provide high-speed interconnectivity between switches, enabling faster data transfer and lower latency. This is especially beneficial in environments with high network traffic and bandwidth-intensive applications.
  • Flexibility and Modular Design: Stackable switches often have modular designs, allowing for the addition of expansion modules or uplink modules to meet specific connectivity requirements. They offer flexibility in terms of port configurations, enabling organizations to adapt to changing network needs without replacing the entire switch.
  • Consistent Features and Policies: Stackable switches ensure consistent features, policies, and security settings across the entire stack. Configuration changes or access control policies can be easily applied to the entire stack, ensuring uniformity and reducing the risk of misconfigurations or security gaps.

How to Connect Stackable PoE Switches? 

These switches are connected using a single dedicated cable through a stacking port for further expansion of the network. Stacking of switches benefits the network in multiple ways. One of the main advantages is that there is only one internet protocol (IP) address for remote administration of the stack. Mostly, stackable switches are rack mounted with fixed data ports on the front. Some modules are designed with extra slots to add extra ports to the base unit. The best examples are 24-port and 18-port models.

Know Stacking Technologies in Detail

The stacking of switches enables configuring multiple switches as a single unit and acting co-operatively. This can be achieved by connecting uplink ports at the front or linking the switch backplane. Stacking is mainly applicable for access layer switches. It is much simpler and easier to configure and maintain. Stacking can be used at small-sized facilities wherein control planes are not required for the full functioning of the network. Stacking can be classified into two types.

  • Backplane Stacking or BPS: As the name implies, stacking can be done on the back of the switch. In this type, specific stacking modules are used with cables based on the application requirement.
  • Front-plane Stacking (FPS)-VSF: In this, standard Ethernet ports are used to build the stack. Here, standard Ethernet cables are used to establish a connection between switches.

Why Use Stackable PoE+ Switches?

Here are some notable benefits of stackable POE+ switches, making them the preferred choice of businesses across industries. So, let’s have a look at them.

  • The first and foremost important benefit of using a stackable POE+ switch is that it simplifies network administration. Multiple switches when stacked together logically constitute one device. The network administrator can configure and manage the stack through a single IP address. This helps simplify network setup and operation as well as reduce the number of cables and complexities.
  • With stackable POE+ switches, one can easily create copies of the data and uplinks across devices if data loss occurs. So, when hardware fails, it will only bring down the physical interfaces of that particular switch. The redundant backup of the data and uplinks will remain online. Thus, the forwarding of the services can be ensured when POE+ devices or switches fail. This helps improve the network reliability.
  • With the increasing demand for security cameras, wireless access points, and VoIP phones, the demand for POE+ devices has risen. Stackable POE+ switches are well-known for network expansion and enhancing the capabilities of the system.
  • Another important benefit of using stackable POE+ switches is their deployment flexibility. These switches can operate independently or together with other stackable switches efficiently. The stacked switches can be used in a single site or run individually at different locations depending on the requirements.

Selecting PoE+ switches for your network may be overwhelming sometimes due to the network complexity and device compatibility issues. This is because they are available in different specifications to fulfill the network needs. In addition to these factors, the network's performance depends on the quality and performance of PoE switches. Therefore, it is important to source these devices from reliable, authorized, and certified manufacturers and suppliers. If you know what your network demands, you can find the right switch without exceeding the budget.

Frequently Asked Questions on SFP Port

Q: What is the difference between Stackable and Standalone Switches?
Stackable switches can be interconnected to form a single logical unit, enabling scalability, simplified management, and enhanced resiliency. They offer centralized management and high-speed interconnectivity between switches in the stack. In contrast, standalone switches operate independently, have a fixed number of ports, and are managed individually, making them less flexible and scalable compared to stackable switches.

Q: What is a Stackable Network Switch?
A stackable network switch is a type of switch that can be physically interconnected with other compatible switches to create a single logical unit. This allows for simplified management, scalability, and enhanced resiliency. The switches in the stack operate as a unified entity, enabling centralized control, configuration, and the ability to expand the network easily by adding more switches to the stack.

Q: How many Switches can be Stacked?
The number of switches that can be stacked together varies depending on the specific networking equipment and manufacturer specifications. Generally, stackable switches can support anywhere from a few switches up to tens of switches in a single stack.

Rich Tull

Rich Tull
R.W. Tull is the President of Versitron, a leading technology company specializing in data communication and networking solutions. With expertise in Guiding network switches and media converters, R.W. Tull has played a pivotal role in driving Versitron's success. His deep understanding of these technologies has enabled the company to provide innovative and reliable solutions to clients. As a visionary leader, He ensures that Versitron remains at the forefront of the industry, delivering cutting-edge networking solutions that enhance data communication efficiency.
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