Subscriber Discussion

Silent PoE Switches

We use the Cisco 200 and 300 series for our projects. A very big problem though for us is that the 24 and 48 port ones are very very noisy at full speed - almost like a server. The problem is that in many of our projects, e.g resi or small offices, we install our racks in closets or rooms where there are people very close and the noise is unacceptable.

I have thought hard to try to solve this problem but I am not sure I like the solutions:

1) Use a special noise reducing rack - this is very expensive.

2) Use a midspan like Powerdsine but I have feeling that they will be as noisy at 16+ ports. Also now you have 2 devices to manage and you can not so easily reboot 1 port (i.e one device) if needed. Also these midspans cost more than a PoE switch somehow...

3) The only brand that I have found that makes kind of silent PoE switches is Pakedge. We have used some in our projects to overcome the noise problem but the truth is they are not cheap and they have not convinced me to become our goto brand.

4) Use a small multiport power injector like the planet. Since this is only 4 ports it does not have any fans but now I have multiple devices to manage and many power outlets. My big problem with the planet is that it is 10/100 only but maybe there is something similar that is gigabit?

5) Any other solution I missed?

From all of the above I think I like 4) more but what I would really love is Cisco to acknowledge such a problem existS and come up with a solution - on the other hand PoE requires big power supplies and there is not much you can do with the heat.

Another example is our office. It is spread out in 4 small offices over 4 floors and I wanted to use a Cisco 24 or 48 500 series PoE switch on every floor. We need the PoE for all the cameras, for our phones but we also have automation devices like touchpanels and processors that use. My problem is though again the noice - the switches will be close to people working, it has to be something that is it almost silent and I have a feeling that a 24 port SG500X will not be silent.

I am also surprised that not many people have mentioned or struggled with this problem. In resi and small office environments it is now becoming a major one for our and really affects the budget and design of the network.

We've run into this a few times... unfortunately the only "fix" we've found so far is to simply move the switches. This has typically involved replacing the original patch panel with a BIX panel, then relocating the patch panel to the new location, and running a bunch of interconnects.

And every time, it starts with ancient or boilerplate site plans that have the electricians putting conduit for the system (usually for originally-spec'd analog systems) into an office... we'll show up, recognize the problem and point it out... invariably be told to mount the equipment there anyway... and then be called back about a week after commissioning and asked to relocate everything because the site manager can't stand the noise. Hint: if you're told to "put it there anyway", be sure the get the site super, GC, or whatever bigwig gives the order, to sign off on it. In writing. On paper. When you have to make the changes after the fact, it should help in billing for the extras.

Best advice I can offer is to simply find a better place to put the switches (a closet, a back corner, even tucked up in a drop-tile ceiling). If that requires extending existing runs, well... that's the reality of it.

I suppose one could put things into a small enclosed rack and maybe add some noise baffling outside the vent holes... that might help SOME.

I dont think soundproof racks are a solution at all. Otherwise you cant get rid of the hot air. Soundproofing means air blocking as far as cooling is concerned

I have never used one but soundproof racks do exist and they also somehow use cooling as well. The good ones are quite expenisve though.

See these links from a very brief google search:

Acousti quiet racks

Xraxckpro Silent RacK

Wassim, soundproofing doesn't mean you have to seal equipment up in an airtight box. Sound abatement can be done through a variety of methods - a series of baffles in the air intakes and outlets can cut sound substantially (like a car's muffler), while low-speed fans can move sufficient air through the enclosure without needing to run at jet speeds. As long as you can keep enough fresh air moving constantly through to carry the heat away, you don't need it to be hurricane force.

If you think about the wattage you're using with a fully loaded PoE switch like that, it makes sense. On top of a few wats for the switch itself, you've got 24 cameras at about 3-4 watts each. That's going to put you around 80-100+ Watts of power through the switch, most power supplies of that capacity are either going to need fans, or a lot of heatsink area. It doesn't help that many times you're talking about a relatively compact device, which increases the need for forced cooling.

Brian, I agree and it is sometimes more than that. Some of the big Cisco ones (200,300,500 series) can provide up to around 350W. I have seen on the "new" 500 series specs that they include some nice green features that will help:

Power-saving technology, including Energy Efficient Ethernet, reduces power consumption with the ability to enter sleep mode, turn off unused ports, and adjust power as needed

I am not sure if these will help the SG500 to become more silent but then again the 500 series is medium priced so we can not really standardize on it. But I will try one and if the green features also help with the noise it means at least some Cisco engineers know about this and we should expect improvements in the feature.

I love PoE like everybody else here and everybody in the IT and AV markets, but I have started getting "irritated" when everybody recommends a PoE switch or when it is specified by consultants. Noise is a big issue and it has to be addressed, but it seems nobody cares about this - only the integrator that will face the problem at the end.

By the way there are rumours about TVs that are powered by PoE in the very near distant. Last house we did had about 20-30 PoE devices, we are doing a big one now that has 50-70 PoE devices. These are a lot of fans and have to be engineered and addressed correctly. PoE is definitely here to stay and it is a great way to power devices but it certainly needs more attention that the standard "get a PoE switch and you will be fine"!

I love PoE like everybody else here and everybody in the IT and AV markets, but I have started getting "irritated" when everybody recommends a PoE switch or when it is specified by consultants. Noise is a big issue and it has to be addressed, but it seems nobody cares about this - only the integrator that will face the problem at the end.

Equipment noise (especially fan noise) is a fact of life with many modern-day electronics, especially enterprise/industrial grade stuff. It's not surprising that related noise abatement may be "forgotten" by most consultants, and even some integrators (leaving the real solution to the end installer). I suspect it's become one of those "commodity" items, like getting power to the equipment itself: a lot of times, there's nothing special accounted for there, either - it's just assumed the electricians will stick a few outlets in the IT closet and that will be that.

I see both sides of this on a regular basis - one job will be pretty much as described above (design it the way we've always designed it, let the installers sort it out later); the next will be a site where they've actually designed in a proper IT room with its own filtered HVAC feed and a buttload of IG outlets feeding from massive UPSes.

Never had a problem with noise because we always install in ELV ROOMS.

An alternate option is to use a whole bunch of smaller fanless switches... unfortunately, a given amount of power for the cameras will always require the same source power to the switch(es), and whether you have a single 24-port switch with internal power supply, or four 8-port switches with external power boxes, in the end you're going to end up generating about the same amount of total heat, and that will need to be moved away somehow.

I have had great success with a 28 port from Comtrol, ES7528. It's a 24 port 10/100 with 4 additional GB Ethernet/SFP combo ports and you can add external power supplies to have up to 760W of PoE in your available bank. It can handle around 260W of PoE with the internal power supply. It is industrial so there are not fans and it can work in climates upwards of 150F so climate controlled racks or closets are not required. Heat output is extremely minimal too. I have never personally used the Cisco switches you mention in a deployment so I don't know how they compare in price. But this one from Comtrol retails for $2799. They also have a handful of smaller 5-10 port models as well.

"Cisco SRW224G4P-K9-NA SF300-24P 24-port 10/100 PoE Managed Switch - 24x 10/100 PoE ports, 2x 10/100/1000 ports, 2x combo mini-GBIC ports" - retail CDN$499

The solution we use are the D2 switches from Enterasys Networks - their fan only kicks in at very high temperatures and have them installed in very sound sensitive areas (Bedrooms). The D2s only come in 12 port versions, but you can fit 2 side by side in a rackmount environment

We started to sell Enterasys equipment in 2003 and never looked back again (At Cisco), the support and quality is outstanding

Kim, Any indicative prices on the Entrasys switches? How do they compare to Cisco 200 and 300 series?

Regarding the Cisco switches I am planning to do a very thorough test because I now think they might also have a thermostat inside that adjusts the fans as needed. If this is the case then proper ventilation from us might solve the problem.

We've used the 2620 series switches from HP, usually if the switch is going into someones office, or closet right by an office, it is a pretty small install and we can use the 24 port switch. It offers about 15.4 watts per port and is a fanless design. If you get up to the 48 port or the POE+ switch, then they add the fans, and it can be somewhat noisy. But if you don't need poe+ or 48 ports then the 2620-24 is a pretty good switch.

Pricewise they are definitely more expensive - I see the 200 and 300 series as Cisco branded consumer stuff.

The Enterasys switches has these port based ACL lists which drives the cost up (Like a firewall on each port), but you also pay for product lifetime warranty (Until product sales discontinuation + 5 years) and unlimited technical support.

I think/recall a D2-POE switch carries a list price of around USD 1800. We've been selling and installing these since they came out in 2007 or 2008 and have not had a single failure yet. Personally that's the best - install and forget :-)

Does anyone ever go back and read posts from this long ago? Syncom Technologies has some silent PoE switches. Most are unmanaged though and pretty small power budgets (120W). Might be worth taking a look at. And yes, I do work for Syncom.