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EXCLUSIVE TEST: Huawei switch: Good first effort

Chinese vendor enters crowded U.S. switch market with device that delivers excellent power consumption, decent performance

By , Network World
August 30, 2013 12:02 AM ET

Network World - In this Clear Choice test – Huawei's first public outing in a North American setting – the world's largest telecom vendor took the humble approach, supplying a pretty basic managed layer-2 switch that is a key building block found in every enterprise wiring closet.

The S5700-52X-PWR-LI-AC (catchy naming isn’t a Huawei strong suit) features 48 gigabit Ethernet ports and four 10G Ethernet uplinks. It supports the standard protocols you’d expect in a layer-2 switch, it’s excellent on power consumption, and performance is good. Importantly, we found no obvious security vulnerabilities. The list price of the switch, as tested, is $9,000, and we’ll assume the street price is much lower.

But given a market already awash in wiring closet switches, we wonder if two extra uplinks and low power usage will be enough of a differentiator. Between that concern and a few rough spots we encountered during testing, the S5700 represents a modest entrance into the North American market. Huawei hit a single here, not a home run.

USABILITY AND MANAGEMENT

Huawei’s command-line interface (CLI) is different from the oft-copied Cisco format. There are cheat sheets available that map Cisco and Huawei commands, and some parts of the configuration file do resemble Cisco’s format (for example, in interface naming and grouping syntax). Still, this will be a different environment for network engineers familiar with Cisco syntax.

The CLI will look familiar to users of HP’s high-end switches. Huawei formerly was in the H3C joint venture with 3Com, which bought out Huawei’s share and which in turn was later acquired by HP.

A useful feature in the CLI’s configuration mode is the ability to view configuration details in any context with the “display this” command. There are also ways to do this with Cisco and Juniper gear, but those commands involve more typing than just “d th”.

In other aspects, device management isn’t as polished as some of the competition. The switch lacks a dedicated Ethernet port for out-of-band management, while almost all competing enterprise switches have one. The CLI supports piping of command output like other enterprise switches, but not for all commands.

Huawei

Overall, though, the switch offers a decent set of device management tools. It supports all the major management methods (over IPv4 only), and has multiple rate-control mechanisms to thwart denial-of-service attacks. It can block against rogue DHCP server and ARP spoofing attacks. Another plus: Huawei offers free lifetime updates for switch software (See Features Spreadsheet below.)

Click here to view the Huawei S5700-52X-PWR-LI-AC features chart.

POWER CONSUMPTION

Simply put, this is one seriously power-efficient switch. We ran our usual suite of power-consumption tests, measuring watts consumed when the switch was idle and fully loaded, in the latter case with the Spirent TestCenter traffic generator blasting 64-byte frames at line rate to all ports.

In the idle test case, the switch consumed just 59 watts. That’s the lowest power usage we’ve ever seen in a gigabit top-of-rack switch. Fully loaded, power consumption edged up minimally to 61 watts.

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