Saturday, September 13, 2014

TP Link T3700G - Could this be the best value Stackable Gigabit Switch?

So you've probably heard of TP Link - the uber cheap manufacturer of WiFi access points and home-grade routers.

What you might not know is that they are #1 for the category of network infrastructure sales in China.

That's kind of a big deal.

Given that half of the IT game is trend-spotting, I started poking around the TP Link Website to see what else is currently in the pipeline.

As it would so happen, TP Link is manufacturing a stackable 24-Port Layer 3 Gigabit Switch with 10gbps uplinks capable of stacking up to 8 units dubbed the T3700G.

From the spec sheet it looks like it uses 10Gbps SFP+ interfaces (hopefully DAC cable compatible) for stacking providing 20gbps bandwidth between each device in the stack (nothing to be sneezed at).

It will be interesting to see how mature the technology is in terms of stack operational functions like firmware upgrades etc. (something that HP has nailed but still causes mass headaches for remote deployments on Cisco and Juniper gear).

IF this puppy comes in at the right price point, this could be a very disruptive bit of kit.

To be clear - this switch (at least from a features perspective) is no lightweight.

The specs list includes real enterprise grade features that you get from HP, Juniper and Cisco such as (I'm only listing features people actually care about):

  • Wire speed switching
  • 8 Unit Stacking
  • 128 L3 VLAN Interfaces
  • STP / RSTP and MSTP Spanning Tree
  • OSPFv2 Dynamic Routing
  • IGMP Snooping and PIM Sprase and Dense Mode Multicast routing
  • DHCP Relay
  • VRRP
  • Distributed Link Aggregation (i.e. across different units in the same stack)
  • LLDP (Yes - everybody does neighbour discovery - not just Cisco)
  • QoS Marking! (8 Queues)
  • Voice VLAN (Idiot Mode QoS)
  • Layer 2 - 4 ACLs
  • 802.1x Authentication (unclear if device login or front port)
  • Port Security (omg - please no - not another generation of this dumb-ass security practice)
  • SNMP v1/2/3
  • CLI and GUI

Chances are the firmware will be pretty buggy on the first cut (although their slogan is "the reliable choice" - we'll see about that) but if they leave the boot loader open, I reckon some pretty awesome alternative firmwares would become available pretty thick and fast.

Although it probably won't be ready for prime time in large enterprise from the get go, I think this is will become very prevalent in small to medium business if the price is right.

From there it's probably only a matter of time.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Intel NUC D54250WYKH - How to Boot from USB


Sooo getting sick of doing this dance every time with ESX.

I'm building up a Intel NUC as an ESX server to run a couple of guests (phone system and a Remote Access VPN Server) and OMG I can't believe how much of a PITA this whole process still is.

This little sucker doesn't have any external storage devices so USB is the order of the day.

Downloaded RUFUS (USB Installer Creation Utility) and imaged the USB Memory Stick with the latest ESXi image setting boot type as MBR.

And of course it wouldn't boot.

Ok - checked UEFI and MBR options in NUC BIOS to make sure I was only booting off legacy.
Still no dice.

Queue rage.

Ok - so obviously something is missing in the ESX image that the NUC needs to boot from USB.

It turns out that  you need to inject some goodness into the image using the good old ESX Customizer.

And no - nothing specific in terms of drivers.
Just something it does as part of it's re-build must fix whatever is broken in the latest stock ESX ISO image.

Anyway, to be able to actually use the customizer, you need to throw a driver of some description at it.

As it turns out, the NUC D54250WYKH NIC and SATA drivers are missing from the standard ESX build.

Of f#$%ing course they are.

Now this is toss - I can put up with having to slipstream drivers for a whitebox but this is an off the shelf device which is what VMWare is supposed to support out of the box.

So - grab yourself the following drivers:

NIC Driver
SATA Driver

Slipstream those suckers using the customizer, flash your USB stick using RUFUS and then you can FINALLY begin to install ESX.

Note - when slipstreaming, you'll first have to add one driver to your original ESX image.
Then, re-launch the customiser, point it at your image file with integrated driver from previous run (i.e. not the original esx image) and add your second driver.