Archive for February, 2021

Moving away from UniFi

I moved toward UniFi in a big way last year. I bought a UDM Pro, two Nano HD access points, and three (eventually buying a fourth) Flex Mini switches. The Flex Mini seemed like a very good buy, $29 for a 5 port managed ethernet switch. My home network was such that switches were daisy chained together, so this small managed gig switch seemed like a good fit.

I think part of me wanted an all-in-one solution, and UniFi delivers that. It’s nice to be able to run enterprise auth for Wifi without needing a separate authentication server, for example. The single view for all your devices is very, very nice.

But, as time went on, I discovered that everything isn’t as rosy as it first appears.

I had been having something of a bit of a performance issue, and ran across something that was a fairly major issue with the UDM Pro… The 8 LAN ports on it? Apparently, they share a 1 gig switching fabric. For eight gig ports. Why would they put out a “Pro” level device, meant for businesses and pro-sumers with such a glaring flaw?

I’ve seen pictures of other peoples gear, where they ran a single cable from one of those ports (or from the 10G LAN interface) to another switch, leaving the rest empty. Why have a device like a UDM Pro if one of the main “features” of it is so hobbled that the fix is to basically not use that feature?

So, do I have anything else good thing to say about UniFi? Absolutely. Their gear held value pretty well over the approximately 7 months I owned it. I shipped the UDM Pro out to that buyer today, and, so far, I’m much happier with my new network.

February 24, 2021 at 9:39 pm Leave a comment

Catalyst 1000 Switches – What they don’t tell you

Not too long ago, I saw this video by Network Chuck about Cisco Catalyst switches. About the coolest part of these switches is the ability to stack them, so you can manage them from a single IP address. This means you can configure things once like VLANs and other management functions in one place, and assign port configurations through the same interface to multiple switches.

I also saw this video by Lawrence Systems, which makes them sound not quite as nice, but still pretty good.

On the plus side, you get real Cisco switches. And, you don’t have ongoing license fees. They aren’t the cheapest, but they are pretty inexpensive, considering the company who made them, and run Classic IOS, something I’m familiar with from my former job.

So, I bought a C1000 switch, 8 port, PoE. I didn’t have much trouble getting the basic config on it. Pressing the button for the 3-4 seconds resulted in me getting to the WebGUI pretty quickly. So far, so good.

I had a bit of trouble getting the new code downloaded from Cisco’s site, but it didn’t delay me very long. I had a bit of trouble with updating with the WebGUI, but the “archive download-sw” command worked fine.

Ultimately, I got everything working fine with the first switch.

So, I picked up a 2nd switch. I also bought a pair of used Cisco SFP’s from eBay, since they would be required for the single IP management.

With the 2nd switch, I had lots of issues. The process to use the button to do easy setup did not seem to work. I don’t know how many times I tried, but I couldn’t get it to work.

So, Console cable, right? Well, neither of the models I bought came with one and I couldn’t locate one. (I have one on order)

So, I fired up wireshark. At some point, I had this hooked up to the rest of the network, and spotted that the switch had picked up an IP address via DHCP. Great, right? Put that in the browser, and it – well, I got prompted for credentials, but the default credentials don’t seem to work.

I believe while looking at the wireshark trace, I saw that it was attempting to download a config file. AHA!

I ended up downloading Transfer for my Mac, a nice looking TFTP server. Download it from their site and you get a free trial period, but after I was done with it, I ended up buying it. That way, if I need one in the future, I have it. Plus, I was thankful that I didn’t have to wait until my serial cable arrives in a couple of days.

Anyhow, I downloaded the config from my other switch, changed the IP address in the config, plus probably another minor change or two, and dropped it into the directory that Transfer uses, renaming it appropriately to one of the filenames it was trying to grab.

Bingo! After that loaded, I was able to login and updated the firmware to match the other switch, then went to bed.

I did have problems with it the next day, but after struggling with it a while, I was able to get into it. I saw it pull the file via TFTP again, after which it rebooted, so I renamed my config file so future attempts would fail. After that, I think all was good.

What I discovered that I don’t recall seeing anywhere, was related to management via a single switch IP. So, Lawrence System’s video mentioned you had to use SFP ports for this functionality. No problem. They are on eBay at reasonable prices (about $13 each). Unfortunately, once you change the port to a Stack port, it loses the ability to carry data traffic – It’s not seen as a switch port anymore.

Which means that if you have a single cable running between two areas where you want switches, and you want to use a single management IP, like I have, well… You can either run management across that link, or run data traffic across it. To do what I wanted, I would need two cables between the areas – one for management, and one for traffic.

I did try a workaround… I created a VLAN for”single IP management”… I plugged the Stack ports on each switch into an access port on this new VLAN, with the idea that it would trunk across the data connection that ran between the two switches… This didn’t seem to work, though. I didn’t play around with it very long, so perhaps this concept will work, but I was not successful.

At any rate, I’ve got a pair of Cisco switches now that I don’t expect to have trouble with for years. I can’t quite manage them as easily as I expected, but it is good enough for my use.

February 7, 2021 at 4:06 pm Leave a comment


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