Subscriber Discussion

Fibre Network Switches

Further to the previous thread regarding network switches, we have a campus install where client is requesting fibre (distance and environment being main reason) between each edge switch and foundation switch.

In your experience, what is the most stable fibre switch gear to use - especially on the foundation switch side. We will have 12 runs of fibre coming back to the main CCTV suite, need a switch that has the capacity to take this.............suggestion was to use ethernet switch with media converters at foundation switch - is there any advantage (other than cost) or disadvantage in doing this.

Thanks and Regards


I have seen several applications like you describe, but I was never responsible for designing the network. Usually the 'fiber switch' used was something like a Cisco MDS 9134.

In fact, I don't remember ever seeing anything different than a Cisco product used for this in the field, although a quick look reveals both Dell and HP offer similar units.

The comparative cost between a fiber and copper switch is wildly different. $15,000 for 24 Fiber Channels/Ports is not a crazy figure.

As far as the question about using media converters for the same basic purpose - in my experience, media converters break often; even the 'name brand' offerings. They seem to have a good lifespan of just a few years, then they become devices that are the root cause of all sorts of strange, low level network issues. Dropped packets, latency, they fade in/out... In my opinion, media converters are not a good 'backbone' device.

However, a more experienced and generally more skilled network designer may feel differently, so I'm following this topic with interest.


Terminology differences to watch out for would be fibre channel versus running Ethernet over fiber. That MDS is a fibre channel switch. I think this request is more about doing Ethernet over fiber optic cabling. My background is primarily networking (largely Cisco) so I can throw some matches out but they won’t be lower end stuff I see with most folks doing dedicated networks for VS. I'm happy to take this discussion as deep as anyone wants to go.

I'm with Brian, from a purely design standpoint I hate media converters. I only use them in very odd/specialty cases, never in what I would consider our true network infrastructure. The network we manage is over 40,000 Ethernet ports, we have about 4 media converters I can think of off the top of my head. Cost could shove you there though. I would aim for something with enough SFP ports (assuming 1Gbps is what you want; that's probably the lowest end you should go) to serve the need. You need to know about the fiber you will be using and distances (ideally loss/attenuation actually) to make good decision on the optics to use. You should know distance (and other potential uses too) before choosing fiber too if that’s to be installed as part of this. Possibly before any of that... and I know this opens a whole can of worms, but I would discuss with IT (if it exists) about leveraging any potential investment if that has not already been done. Based on this layout being described I'd be a little surprised if something didn't already exist.

There are good switches out there and there is also crap. I've heard some people say a switch is a switch... that's crap IMHO. It depends on what you want to do with it as to how much some of the issues with sub-par products will affect you. It depends on what you plan to do whether you need some of the fancier higher-end features. Aiming for a 12+ port SFP switch is automatically going to push you to higher dollar. I don't regularly keep an eye out for lower end such items, but I doubt there are many out there. I think just as important is... who is going to care for this this and what is their experience. Is this going to be passed to IT (it's commonly an IT thing)? Even if it's not going to be their main thing to support they might should be involved just to garner opinion and play nice. Might be handy down the road.

An integrator I trust recommended this one from ComNet.

It'll take up to three 8-port modules, which can be copper GbE, multimode fiber, singlemode fiber, or SFP ports. Chassis looks like it runs about $1,200-1,300 online for the chassis, and $800-900 per module, though prices from distribution will likely be lower.

I've used Cisco fiber switches in the past, and they're well above that. You have to be in the mid-range of the Catalyst line to get all fiber, I believe, and that comes at a price.

I personally dislike standalone media converters. They are inexpensive, but lack management. The ability to query a managed network switch for Ethernet errors is a fabulous diagnostic tool. I predominantly use Cisco 29XX series switches with SFP ports. You can connect fiber to SFP ports for the uplinks you describe. With very little effort, I can query the switches and determine if there are any errors on any of the ports. When I find errors, I can focus my efforts on that particular segment of the network. Without managed switches, there is a lot of trial, error, and guessing that occurs.

Cisco products can be a little expensive, so I would not fault you for selecting another manufacture. But I would definitely recommend managed switches!

Agreed on the media converter front, steer clear. The Comnet is a good option and price point is very good. We have used them and the feature set is up there with more expensive switches

This Moxa is excellent when used with SFP converters for edge locations. We use the hardened version in desert environments.

I've used Allied Telesis/Telesyn on my larger installations and like it. Reliable, relatively inexpensive (compared to Cisco, anyhow). I've also used Cisco, ComNet, and some others over the years, but usually end up going back to AT unless the client has a Cisco requirement. AT's background was telecom, which I think is probably why I've had so much luck with their reliability, but they've been getting more into the security market. I think they did or are working on integration with Axis and some other IP cameras now.

Im a Fan of the Dell powerconnect switches as a cheaper option to a cisco switch. I have the 6224f fiber switch connecting all my switches together here. I have maybe 4 or 5 of every model managed ones they have and the only problem i ever had is a bad fan in one thats in one of my boiler rooms. They have a web interface and a cmd line console.