This content is part of the Buyer's Guide: Choosing the best campus switches for your network environment

A look at Dell switches that can support networks of all sizes

The low-end Dell N1500, N3000 and N4000 series, as well as the advanced Dell Z-Series, provide a range of switch products for smaller enterprises and large campus networks.

Dell offers an array of enterprise-class networking products, including routers, switches, firewalls, wireless access points and SAN switches. The company has also partnered with Aerohive to offer HiveManager NG, an intuitive and flexible cloud-based wired and wireless management product that can oversee both Dell switches for campus environments and Aerohive access points.

In addition, Dell is making a push into open networking with some of it products. Open networking switches allow for automation and orchestration, and they are a precursor to software-defined networking.

How Dell switches address the distribution layer

Dell makes several quality, budget-priced switches for the access layer, including the N1500 Series.  These 1U fixed-form factor switches come with either 24 or 48 10/100/1000 copper interfaces. These Dell switches can be outfitted with a number of options, including up to four small form-factor pluggable plus (SFP+) for 1 Gigabit Ethernet and 10 GbE uplinks, redundant external power supplies and Power over Ethernet plus (PoE+) up to 15.4 watts per port.

A maximum of four Dell N1500 switches can be stacked together. Dell refers to these switches as "Layer 3 Lite," which essentially means the switch can be set up and configured to function as a multilayer switch, but routing can only be performed using static routes. No dynamic routing protocols are supported, and there are limited access-control capabilities.

For sites that require a Layer 3 switch with added capabilities, there's the N3000 Series. These Dell switches are the same 1U fixed 24- and 48-port 10/100/1000 interfaces and provide the same PoE+ options as the N1500 series. All Dell N3000 switches come with 2x SFP+ uplinks by default and an add-on module that can increase the SFP+ count up to four. The N3000 can stack up to 12 switches in a single group, enabling sites to manage a single stack consisting of 576 copper 1 GbE interfaces.

How Dell switches address the core and distribution layer

For a low-end collapsed core for smaller enterprises or large branch offices, the Dell N4000 Series might be a good fit. The N4000 is similar to the N3000 in terms of Layer 2 and Layer 3 functionality and features, but the N4000 Series offers either 24 or 48 10 GbE copper, or 24 or 48 SFP+ ports.

Some switches come standard or can be upgraded to include 40 GbE quad small form-factor pluggable plus ports for connecting to the core. The N4000 modules and redundant power supply bays are fully hot-swappable. In terms of data rate, the Dell N4000 Series can handle up to 1.28 Tbps of simultaneous throughput.

If more performance and port density are required in the core or distribution, Dell offers the Open Networking Z-Series switch line. These switches can aggregate multiple 40 or 100 GbE connections and process up to 10 Tbps of data through a single switch. And because of the Open Networking spine-leaf architecture, the Dell Z-Series can grow to support campus networks of virtually any size.

Pricing and support for Dell switches

Many of Dell's low-end enterprise switches, including the N1500, N3000 and N4000 series, are covered by default with their limited lifetime warranty, with next-business-day replacement. For more advanced technical support or better hardware service-level agreements, or to extend the 12-month warranty that's standard with more advanced switches such as the Z-Series, Dell offers ProSupport, which gives customers 24/7 phone and online support and access to firmware updates.

Dell sells many of its low-end switches directly to customers on the company's website, but the prices listed are not negotiable. Higher-end switches, such as the Z-Series, can be purchased by calling Dell and speaking to a representative about options and pricing. Alternatively, a Dell partner may be able to provide better pricing and advanced services, such as setup and installation.

Next Steps

Considerations for choosing the best Ethernet switch

How software-defined networking can benefit campus networks

What you need to know before buying campus LAN switches

This was last published in April 2017

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