When managing a network, upgrades are inevitable. When it comes time to seriously consider those upgrades, knowing the planned upgrade path can help to avoid compatibility and performance issues.
If your network uses anything from the Cisco 2960 series, there is a prescribed upgrade path that can help you get incremental performance improvements with minimal deployment stress and complications. The basic upgrade path is as follows: 2960G > 2960S > 2960X > 9200.
Looking at each series in the path more closely and comparing specifications can help you understand what you stand to gain from each stage of the upgrade path and how to plan accordingly.
Starting with the 2960G series, the maximum performance specifications allow for up to 44 10/100/1000 Ethernet ports. Up to 4 Gigabit SFP ports are also available in this series. The total switching capacity is 32 Gbps, and the maximum PoE budget caps at 370W. The switches are supported by up to 64 MB of DRAM and 32 MB of flash memory. 2960G stacks are managed by FlexStack software.
With these specifications, the 2960G is an excellent switch for office-level work with multiple desktop workstations. The PoE budget does limit each port to 15.4W, eliminating a large number of modern setups from running out of this switch.
The next step in the upgrade path is the 2960S series which offers a few notable improvements from the 2960G series.
The maximum PoE budget shoots up to 740W. While many models in the S series only offer 1 Gbps SFP ports, there are models in this series that have 10 Gbps SFP+ ports (up to 4). This switch series still runs on FlexStack technology, but the stack switching capacity gets up to 100G. The flash memory gets up to 64MB, and DRAM caps at 128MB.
Generally speaking, the 2960S series is built for the same type of work as the G series, using the same management software and including most of the same features. The moderate hardware upgrades allow the series to support larger and faster networks, but it is an incremental improvement rather than a complete networking overhaul.
It's also important to note the cross-compatibility between these two series.
Following the upgrade path brings up the 2960X series. This series uses FlexStack-Plus management. This is compatible with the older systems but offers additional features and power in stack controls.
On the hardware side, the X series can support up to 80G of bandwidth per stack. It still caps the PoE budget at 740W, but the switches now enjoy up to 512MB of DRAM and 256MB of flash.
With faster hardware and more bandwidth, the 2960X series is able to handle considerably more devices per stack. It can also take on a wider range of networking operations, including tasks like remote monitoring and surveillance, in addition to providing powerful office networking.
The last step on the upgrade path is the 9200 series. These are modern switches with modern software and control features including things like MACSec-128, EIGRP, and SCACL.
The 9200 series runs on StackWise-160/80, which is a nominal upgrade from the older FlexStack management system.
As for hardware, the 9200 series offers up to 4GB of DRAM and 4GB of flash memory. Each stack provides up to 160G of bandwidth with a maximum PoE budget of 1440W.
In short, the 9200 series is a substantial upgrade that offers data-center levels of power and flexibility. It’s ideal for considerably larger networking goals and much faster operations. When a business upgrades from 10s of employees to 100s, the 9200 series becomes a serious consideration.
Even though the 9200 series is the current peak of the upgrade path, the 9200L series is a viable alternative for the last step in that path. In simplest terms, the 9200L series offers slightly more affordable options that are still on par with Cisco 9200.
9200L specifications include up to 4GB of flash memory with 2GB of DRAM. This highlights the performance increase over the 2960X while cutting a little bit of power to save on costs.
The 9200L series also supports up to 4 10Gbps SFP+ ports. Each stack supports up to 80G of bandwidth (comparable to the 2960X but superior to the other 2960 series). Lastly, the 9200L series runs on StackWise 80 but does not support StackWise 160.
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