Stack to the Future

By Errol McCall, Product Engineer

In general, there are three types of switching solutions: standalone, stacked, and chassis. As the middle child, I’m biased towards a stacked switching solution – my reasons may be skewed, but it really is the best of both worlds.

All for one and one for all


One of the major benefits to all stacking is simplified management. Before stacking came along, you had to daisy chain multiple switches together and configure them separately by logging in with a different IP address one by one.

As you may know or can imagine, this was a super tedious process. When stacking switches, they all share the same IP address and can be configured as one unit. Instead of looking like multiple separate switches, the solution actually looks like one switch with a larger amount of ports.


Stacking the odds

Even within the stacking world there is stacking and then there is true stacking. True stacking  has the added benefit of redundancy. With true stacking you can have multiple links of a trunk go to multiple switches in a stack, as opposed to just one.

If a switch in the stack dies, the trunk link remains active because they are no longer connected to the same switch. Depending on your needs be sure to find out if the switch you are choosing has basic stacking or true stacking


There are a few other things to keep in mind when looking for a stacking switch as all manufacturers are different.

  • How many switches can go into a stack?
    • Will 4 be enough or do you need a solution that can do 8?
  • How far apart can they be stacked?
    • Some switches have proprietary stacking and the proprietary cabling only allows the switches to be a short distance apart. Some stack through industry standard cabling such as fiber or copper and can be much further apart.
  • What is the speed of the backplane?
    • How fast does the information move from one switch to the next?
  • What technologies do you need and what can the switch be stacked with?
    • Will it only stack with the same exact model limiting your options for current and future technologies to the ones of the switch you decide on?
    • Will it stack with other models with newer technologies for the ability to add features such as POE and 10G by just adding a switch to the stack.


High stacks poker

It's a safe bet that once you start getting over 300+ ports that it may actually be more cost effective to go with a chassis so be sure to weigh your options.  Anything less than that and stacking switches is a very popular choice and more than capable of giving you a chassis like experience without the bulk.