Dell EMC Networking N1108P-ON review

As a standard L2 switch, the N1108P-ON has a lot going for it and its ON-readiness makes it supremely versatile

IT Pro Recommended
Price
£396
  • Loaded with features; Simple deployment; Option to run third-party OS
  • May be a little pricey for some

Dell EMC is on a mission to bring open networking (ON) to all walks of life and its N1108P-ON switch delivers it to campus and SMB networks. The concept behind ON is to do away with vendor lock-in by giving businesses the choice of which OS and apps they want to run on their switches.

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Switches with proprietary firmware leave businesses at the mercy of vendors, as they'll release upgrades and new features whenever the mood takes them. Dell EMC removes this reliance; its rapidly-growing family of ON-ready switches support a wide range of 3rd-party Linux OSes.

The N1100 series of Layer 2 switches comprises six members, all supporting ON in hardware and offering a choice of Gigabit port densities. They currently come preloaded with Dell EMC's DNOS v6 firmware but are ready to run other Linux-based OSes as they become available.

Dell EMC has already launched its Debian-based DNOS v10 for its data centre switches, allowing engineers to run open-source Linux apps on the switch such as load balancers and firewalls. A scaled-down version for the N1100 family is expected to follow, along with support for partners such as Cumulus Networks.

They can be installed easily, as the switch can run the open-source ONIE (open networking installer environment) which is already provided for the N1108P-ON. We've seen this in action on Dell EMC's S6000 data centre switch, where we used it to boot the switch, install Cumulus Linux over the network and run scripts to enable selected ports.

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The N1108P-ON targets SMBs that want to push wired network connectivity to areas such as small offices or meeting rooms but don't need a high port density switch. Its eight standard RJ-45 ports all support 10/100/1000Mbits/sec speeds while alongside are pairs of RJ-45 and SFP fibre ports supporting Gigabit only.

Support for PoE/PoE+ is available on the first four multi-speed ports. The switch has a 75W power budget so it can power a wide range of wireless APs, IP cameras and VoIP handsets.

Installation is simple: we used its Type-B USB serial port to connect to a Windows laptop and access the switch's CLI using HyperTerminal. On first boot-up, the switch runs a quick setup wizard to secure access, create a management VLAN, enable web browser access and activate SNMP.

CLI fans can continue using this for switch management or move over to the intuitive web interface. DNOS v6 provides a traditional set of L2 switching services and a lot more besides.

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It differs from the DNOS v9 used in Dell EMC's data centre switches as it focuses more on user connections and can automate many network management functions. For example, its Auto-VoIP feature recognises IP phones and creates class-of-service (CoS) policies to prioritise voice traffic.

Compared with other L2 switches at this price point, the N1108P-ON is positively bursting with features. Security is impressive as along with up to 512 port and protocol-based VLANs, it supports MAC and IP address access control lists (ACLs) and per-port tiered authentication using 802.1x and MAC addresses.

The captive portal extends security to visitors and guests as it presents them with a fully customisable web login page when they connect to a port. The switch's local database supports 128 user accounts but for more, you can link up with an external RADIUS server.

We tested PoE functions with Linksys wireless APs and D-Link IP cameras. The switch had no problems powering them and from the web interface, we could see it had correctly identified their device class and allowed us to assign different power priorities to each PoE port.

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The N1108P-ON initially looks pricey but this 12-port Gigabit switch is offering a lot of features for your money. It's a great choice for SMBs that want to push wired networking and PoE services to smaller venues and have the option of running other Linux OSes on it in the future.

This review originally appeared in PC Pro issue 278

Verdict

The N1108P-ON initially looks pricey but this 12-port Gigabit switch is offering a lot of features for your money. It’s a great choice for SMBs that want to push wired networking and PoE services to smaller venues and have the option of running other Linux OSes on it in the future.

1U half-width rack chassis 8 x 10/100/1000 RJ-45 ports, 2 x Gigabit RJ-45, 2 x Gigabit SFP PoE/PoE+ (Ports 1-4) 75W PoE budget 24Gbits/sec backplane capacity 1.5MB packet buffer 16K MAC addresses 512 VLANs CLI and web browser management Limited lifetime warranty

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