We recently started a Cisco UC560 IP telephony installation for a customer using a Cisco ESW switch. The specific switch included in the Bill of Materials was an ESW-520-48-K9 switch which provided 48 PoE 10/100 switchports with two SFP Gigabit uplinks and two Copper Gigabit uplinks. Here are some of my thoughts and experiences I had while using the ESW model of switch for this particular installation.
After opening the box the ESW switch is pretty much ready to go and even has a default configuration set for deploying Cisco IP phones but there were a few things that bothered me as the installing engineer. First, having being used to the traditional Cisco IOS command line it took me longer to configure this switch for my relatively simple configuration. We needed to add a third VLAN for GUEST internet access and add that as tagged traffic on the tagged ports. Unfortunately, with the ESW, newly added VLANs are disabled by default on all the ports. This meant adding them one by one to the appropriate ports. Tagging the VLANs took longer since it had to been done port by port, whereas I could have used the “Interface Range” command on the CLI of an IOS switch. I also had to perform the same port by port configuration for Port Security much meant more wasted time.
Once the base configuration was done another engineer, the customer and myself noticed that the network speed was pretty slow for having only three laptops and three IP phones on it. This caused us to start looking into the utilization on the switch which showed a steady 25% to 40% CPU utilization. So a call was placed to Cisco Small Business support to troubleshoot which ultimately ended up resulting in an RMA for the switch. Thank goodness for 4 hour replacement because we had another switch in just a few hours. Once we replaced the switch we still noticed the same CPU utilization but then started getting reports that a few other phones placed had spontaneously started to reboot. So now we were worse than before. We swapped back in the original ESW switch until we decided what to do next. The other engineer and I thought that we should probably install an entry level 2960 “Cisco” switch given our troubles with the ESW. Since then network speed improved, no random phone reboots, and we have easier CLI administration available to us.
While this review is NOT meant to be a standard hardware benchmark type test it does show our lack of faith in this line of switching. My main gripes were the extra time needed to configure port to port settings and the obvious performance issues we experienced. I don’t believe that I would recommend a customer installing this line of switching for their network needs. I’d suggest spending a little bit extra and step up into the Cisco 2960 entry level switching. Below is a list of some Pro’s and Con’s I experienced with the ESW switch.
- DHCP self assigned IP for administration couldn’t get the console working
- Web GUI for administration – NO CLI
- Switchport changes had to be made one by one (storm control and VLAN tagging)
- Switching performance seemed poor – High CPU with almost no devices
- Phones rebooting
- CPU utilization was 20 to 40% with three IP phones and no desktops.
- Port security enabled by default
- Worked with Cisco Configuration Assistant
- Ready for IP Telephony
- Cisco Small Business Support was great.
I hope that this helps someone decide if they are on the fence on which switching line to go down.
View more information on the Cisco ESW switch here:
View more information on the Cisco 2960 switch here: