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ICisco SG500-28P

At a Glance
Product Cisco SG500-28P Gigabit Stackable Managed Switch [Website]
Summary High speed, full-featured smart network switch with PoE and 5/10 GbE uplink options
Pros • Support for 4096 simultaneous VLANs
• Layer 3 switching
• Advanced QoS options
• PoE on all ports
• 5 and 10 GbE uplink options
Cons • Configuration can be slow
• Manual lacks examples
• Losing your settings when switching to Layer 3


Update 11/27/2012 - Clarify VLAN

This is a review of the Cisco SG500-28P small business switch.  We don't usually look at network products costing almost $1000. But for those who need more than simple "smart" switches can provide, but don't want to wrassle with learning Cisco IOS, Cisco's new switches may be what you're looking for. To set the stage, I'll start with a very brief overview on Cisco products.

Cisco classifies products into three groups:  Home; Small Business; and Enterprise/Service Provider.  The Cisco Home product group consists primarily of Linksys branded devices.  The Cisco Small Business product group consists of routers, switches, and other network devices targeted at networks with greater demands than the typical home environment.  The Enterprise/Service Provider product group consists of the high end/high performance gear for much larger networks.

In the small business product group, Cisco has four series of switches, ranging from unmanaged switches to high performance, fully managed, full featured stackable switches.  Within these four series of switches, there are 52 different models!  The models within each series vary on features, number of physical ports, port speeds and the option for PoE (Power over Ethernet). 

With all the models, it is challenging to understand which is the best fit for a small network.  Toward that end, I found there are some key differences among the series and have put together Table 1 to help understand them.

Cisco Series Configurable Layer 3 Stackable Expansion
100 N N N 1G combo mini-GBIC
200 Y N N 1G combo mini-GBIC
300 Y Y N 1G combo mini-GBIC
500 Y Y Y 1/5/10G SFP / SFP+
Table 1: Cisco small business switch feature comparison

As you can see in Table 1, the 100 series are not configurable.  These switches are ideal for simple deployments requiring basic connectivity.  The 200 series are relatively easy to configure Layer 2 “smart” switches with support for VLANs, QoS, and other options.  The 300 series are fully-managed switches and add Layer 3 functionality, meaning they can route traffic at switch speeds.  The 500 series switches add stacking functionality.  Stacking means multiple switches can be connected together and configured as a single switch.  Multiple 500 series switches can be combined into a single stack with a maximum of 200 ports. 

Cisco's small business switch model numbers tell a lot about the device.  All the Cisco small business switch model numbers have an S as the first character.  The next character is an F or G, indicating whether the ports are Fast Ethernet or Gigabit Ethernet.  Following the SF or SG is 100, 200, 300 or 500 to indicate series.  Following the series number is a dash and the number of ports.  (An exception to the model naming convention is the SG500X switches which have (4) 10Gbps ports in addition to the number of ports indicated in their model number.)  Finally, a P at the end of the model number indicates the switch supports PoE. 

In this review, I'm looking at the SG500-28P, positioned just below the top-of- line 500X models. The SG500-28P has 24 Gigabit Ethernet (GE) ports, 2 combo GE ports, and 2 dedicated SFP (small form-factor pluggable) fiber stacking ports that support 5 Gigabit SFP connections.


Physically, the SG500-28P measures 17.3” W x 1.73” H x 10.1” D and weighs 8.69lbs.  It comes with brackets for rack mounting, and has a pair of 6300 rpm non-controllable fans for cooling.  The fans aren't quiet, thus this is a device that is designed for a data closet or server room, not a desk top.

Internally, the SG500-28P has two circuit boards and a power supply The main board holds an 800 MHz ARM CPU, 32 MB of flash memory and 256 MB of RAM. A second upper-level board holds circuitry that provides the 802.3af Power over Ethernet feature. Figure 1 provides a look inside the SG500 with the PoE board in place. Those are two Microsemi PD69012 12 port PoE devices you see on the board.

SG500-28P Inside view w/ PoE board

Figure 1: SG500-28P Inside view w/ PoE board

Figure 2 removes the PoE board to reveal the heatsinked switch chips. The CPU and switch chips all have firmly-attached heatsinks, so we've asked Cisco for help in identifying the components. We'll update if we hear back.

SG500-28P Inside view w/o PoE board

Figure 2: SG500-28P Inside view w/o PoE board

The indicator lights as well as the RJ45 and SFP ports are on the front of the switch, shown in Figure 3. 

SG500-28P front view

Figure 3: SG500-28P front view

The back of the switch, shown in Figure 4, has a console port, exhaust vents for the two fans and the power connector for the internal power supply.

SG500-28P rear view

Figure 4: SG500-28P rear view

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