We're considering Brocade's CX series vs. Cisco's 3750 at both core and distribution layers for a new site with gig to desktop, without POE.

If you have any hands-on experience with FastIron CX switches, I would greatly value your impressions. I'll add mine to the discussion when we get some quality time with our eval units.

My Impressions:

  • Switching and routing features/functions are rich and deep, although adding a new switch to a stack is automated more fully with Cisco.
  • Cisco's Netflow is great for network traffic analysis, but available only on routers and large 6500 chassis switches, and promised for the 4500. The CX offers Sflow (sampled, unlike Netflow) on every port.
  • Command line interface is more refined IMHO - shows MDI/MDI-X status, supports /22 as well as, shows 20% not 51/255 for utilization, clearer messages, etc.
  • Brocade's IronView management and monitoring software is far easier to configure and use than CiscoWorks, with good functionality.
  • The CX latency specs for various packet sizes are two to nearly seven times faster, which I prefer for iSCSI. Similar results vs. Cisco's 4500 chassis switches, surprisingly.
  • Cisco gear accepts third-party SFP's grudgingly, sometimes requiring obscure commands. Brocade seems less picky. [Which reminds: Prices/service for compatible SFPs, especially CWDM, from oemoptic.com amaze me.]
  • Cisco's vast online documentation and community support obviously exceed Brocade/Foundry's. However, Brocade's regional engineer is good, and the support center OK.
  • Oddities: Firmware ships in L2 and L3 flavors, but L3 looks like a superset, and there's little guidance on why you'd ever run L2. PuTTY needs a keyboard default flipped for <Backspace> to work normally. The built-in web GUI looks antique next to Cisco's. Cisco "VLAN trunking" = Brocade "tagging"; Cisco "Etherchannel" = Brocade "trunking."
  • Interop with Cisco 3750 for port aggregation and VLAN trunking worked fine.
  • Cost wasn't close. Using stackables in our 1100-gig-port core+closet setup, Brocade was $150K ahead after discounts. And $120K ahead for 10-year TCO vs. a Cisco 4500 chassis-based proposal that included maintenance costs.

Guess we'll be getting some more CX hands-on!

  • I have found that Cisco "Etherchannel" = Everybody else's "trunking" and Cisco "VLAN trunking" = Everybody else's "tagging". Dec 23 '10 at 13:36
  • It's not the case that every non-Cisco vendor uses 'trunking' to mean link aggregation. Also, due to the frequent interaction with Cisco devices, you'll find a mix of terminology (including Cisco's) even if the 'native' terms are different.
    – belacqua
    Apr 8 '11 at 18:54

A bit late, but here is my review:

I have done the same in our production enviroment, switching from the Cisco 3750 Stcked to the Brocade FCX648S.

Only complaint is the BGP implementation. A bit week, and its an additional cost for a lisence. I was able to get a 60-day trail of the BGP features, btw. Be warned, if you apply any type of licensing in a stack mode, you may have problems if the license doesn't match for all stacked swtches, and becomes disabled. Also, any trial license will continue to operate after the experation date, until the system is rebooted, but all commands are removed from the cli.

The Brocades are all IEEE standards based (tagged, vs access trunk, etc) which does provide for good inter-operbility (Cisco, HP)

The latest code gives hitless-failover in the stacked versions.

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