Hands On With a Cisco SG300-52 Switch

Right on the heels of my long post around a new network design, I hit the wall on available ports with my HP V1910-24G. Considering that I am burning 4~5 ports per ESXi host, plus 1~4 ports per Synology NAS, along with some extra stuff, and you can see why the ports go quickly. I thought this would be a great time to pull the trigger on a different switch so that I could compare and contrast them. I went with a Cisco SG300-52 switch. It’s their mid-level SMB switch and has far too many bells and whistles to count. Importantly, it does have layer 3 switching, a fairly decent sized VLAN table, and the ability to do 1Gb on every port.

The SG300-52
The SG300-52

Let’s be crystal clear on one thing. I don’t have any issues with my HP V1910. It’s a workhorse that has had zero problems. And the 48 port version is actually cheaper than Cisco’s 52 port version by about ~$2.50 per port. But, I wanted to try something new and get a better feel for a different product line. Fair? :)

In this post, I’ll cover some of the setup and configuration details, along with a reading on the noise levels. As I build out a new lab network design, and get more stick time with the switch, I’ll follow-up with another post that outline my feelings on that subject.

Upgrading Firmware Image and Boot Code

The SG300-52 is auto configured for DHCP. To perform the initial setup, I plugged in one of the switchports into my existing HP V1910-24G switch using an access port configuration. Once the switch acquires a DHCP address, the System light stops flashing and remains solid green.

The first item on my list was to perform a series of firmware image and boot code updates from Cisco’s website. Here are the versions I used, which were the latest and greatest and the time:

  • Firmware Image version 1.4.0.88
  • Boot Code version 1.3.5.06

Start by downloading the latest firmware zip file, which contains firmware and boot code. Inside of the Sx300_FW_Boot_1.4.0.88.zip were two files:

  • Firmware image: sx300_fw-14088.ros
  • Boot code: sx300_boot-13506.rfb

Only the firmware image can be uploaded via the web; the boot code must be uploaded via TFPT or SCP. I opted to use Tftpd for both, available on this download page for free.

  1. Fire up Tftpd and point it to your SG300 extracted zip folder.
  2. Then click the Show Dir button to view the files in this directory.
  3. You can copy the filenames using the Copy button.
TFTPd
TFTPd

Next, log into the web interface of the switch and navigate to Administration > File Management > Upgrade/Backup Firmware/Language. From there:

  1. Select TFTP
  2. Upgrade
  3. Firmware Image
  4. Enter your TFTP server IP (mine just ran on my workstation)
  5. Enter the firmware file name.
  6. Click apply.
Firmware Upgrade
Firmware Upgrade

You should see an active download from your TFPT server. Once completed, repeat the process for your boot code.

  1. Make sure to select Boot Code
  2. Enter the file name for the boot code
  3. Click apply
Boot Code Upgrade
Boot Code Upgrade

Now that the firmware image is uploaded, you can activate it. Navigate to Administration > File Management > Active Image.

  1. Change the Active Image After Reboot to the 1.4.0.88 image (or whatever you uploaded).
  2. Click Apply.
Selecting an Active Image
Selecting an Active Image

Finally, save your configuration and reboot the switch. To do this, navigate to Administration > File Management > Copy/Save Configuration. The defaults are fine (running configuration to startup configuration). Click Apply.

Save your configuration
Save your configuration

Navigate to Administration > Reboot. Make sure Immediate is selected, and click Apply. The switch will be unavailable for a minute or so while it reboots. Don’t do this outside of a maintenance window.

Reboot the switch
Reboot the switch

Layer 3 Mode, Jumbo Frames, and SSH

I also decided to enable a few other features. The first being Layer 3 mode to allow for L3 SVIs. You can find this in Administration > System Settings. It requires a reboot, but make sure to save your configuration first.

Enabling L3 mode
Enabling L3 mode

I also wanted Jumbo Frames enabled. Navigate to Port Management > Port Settings and enable Jumbo Frames. It doesn’t say what value is selected, so I’m assuming 9216 bytes? This is a global configuration that requires a reboot. Also, don’t forget to save your configuration. :)

Enabling jumbo frames
Enabling jumbo frames

And finally, enabling SSH access. You’d think it would be in SSH Server somewhere, right? But, you’d be wrong (I certainly was). It’s actually in Security > TCP/UDP Services. Once you’ve enabled SSH, you should … (can you guess what I’m going to say?) … save your configuration!

Enabling SSH
Enabling SSH

Noise Levels

I find noise levels to be incredibly important because all of my home lab gear sits inside of my home office. I try to keep noise levels at my chair to 35 dB or less. So, I fired up the SG300-52 in a quiet room and took some samples.

SG300-52 Powered On
SG300-52 Powered On

Using the Noise Meter app for Android, I placed the microphone near the fans to measure the amount of dB being produced. On average, the value was 46 dB.

SG300-52 Noise at Close Range
SG300-52 Noise at Close Range

I then placed the microphone at a distance of 4 feet and measured again. The noise levels held steady at around 33 dB. This is roughly the distance from the switch to my chair in my home office.

SG300-52 Noise at 4ft
SG300-52 Noise at 4ft

This is an acceptable amount of noise for me. The noise does not change when the switch boots up; it remains at a constant state. The fan speed does not appear to be adjustable, as the health status simply shows that the fans and temperature are at an OK value.

Switch Health Status
Switch Health Status

Thoughts

Overall, I’m happy with this new switch. My main requirements around features, noise, power, and port speeds are all met. If I had to lay out a few specific items below, they would be:

Pros:

  • Web interface is super peppy, especially compared to my HP V1910. We’re talking 3x-4x faster response time.
  • The firmware image and boot code is super easy to find, and relatively easy to install.
  • A billion features, most of which I’ll never use.
  • 4 more ports than most switches, even though the last two ports are shared with SFP slots (which I will likely never use).
  • Tolerable amount of noise from the fans. I could probably replace them with something if I cared enough.

Cons:

  • From a setup and configuration standpoint, the interface is annoying with all of the popups and reminders to save your configuration.
  • The user interface is cluttered with too many menus. If I expand them all, it takes up 3~4 pages (vertically) of my browser. I found it difficult to find things for the first time.
  • Cost is around ~$11-$12 per port, which is high.