We have several buildings with stacked switches, where the distance between the stacked units is considerable... separate floors, or at opposite ends of a hallway. They are 3Com switches that stack using cat6 cabling. These switches are coming up on 12 years old now, and as I look around at replacements it seems no one supports this scenario any more. Stacking switches want to use fiber links (it more for me to run and terminate the fiber stacking cables than to purchase the switch) or other custom cables that seem only intended to jump up to the next unit in a rack.

What have others done to support stacking over a distance? I'm considering breaking up the stacked switches into separate managed entities and just bridging from the root switch in the buildings, but I'd really like to avoid that for what I hope are obvious reason.

The closest thing I've found are from netgear that use hdmi cables for the stacking connection... I could try to support that by running an additional cat6 line and re-terminating both links into a single hdmi port, but I have concerns over that approach as well.

  • What are the obvious reasons that you want to avoid? In my experience, this is exactly how it's done. Fast short-distance stacking cables between switches in the same rack and a 10Gb or multiple 10Gb links in a LAG between each floor's stack and the building's core. – MDMarra Nov 7 '12 at 16:51
  • @MDMarra because it would increase the management workload and complexity, would mean more bridge links instead of using a (usually faster) propriety switch fabric protocl, cost of 10G links (we'd likely get stuck at 1G bridge links here), and overall it just seems less clean, like taking a step backwards from our current system. – Joel Coel Nov 7 '12 at 16:55
  • There are some Extreme "edge" switches which can stack over QSFP fibre, but only upto 100m away. – Tom O'Connor Nov 7 '12 at 16:56
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    @JoelCoel It sounds like you want simplified management more than the benefits of an actual stack in the traditional sense (high-speed low-latency interconnects, uplink failover/master election, etc). Most vendors have management tools for this instead of putting the switches in a low bandwidth stack and some (like HP mentioned in an answer) handle this just by having the mgmt interfaces on the same vlan and configuring them to do so. – MDMarra Nov 7 '12 at 16:59

Do you mean stacking as in high-bandwidth, low-latency communication between your switches, or stacking as in HP's definition, which just means handling configuration for all "stacked" switches from a single point?

In the first case, just choose the best kind of link aggregation for your situation. In the second case, it depends on the switches, but – for instance – you don't have to use any special cabling with Procurve boxes; you will just need to connect them, i.e., by making sure that the management VLAN for each switch is connected to the others'.

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