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Reviews - Featured Reviews: Network
Written by Bruce Normann   
Monday, 29 April 2013
Table of Contents: Page Index
NETGEAR XS708E ProSafe Plus 10GbE Switch
Closer Look: NETGEAR XS708E
Detailed Features
Technology Details
Features and Specifications
ProSAFE Plus Switch Setup
Network Management Settings
Network Switch Testing Methodology
TestResults
Final Thoughts
Conclusion

Closer Look: NETGEAR XS708E

The ProSAFE Plus product line is at least one layer removed from the consumer line of NETGEAR's network devices, and its form, fit, and function are all consistent with its intended purpose. A grey suit in the business world imparts a certain gravitas to the wearer, and the same trick works for networking equipment. There are a total of eight 10GbE ports lined up in two groups of four on the front panel. All use the common RJ-45 spec connector, with dual LEDs on the upper corners. When used to support 10GbE, these type of ports are known as 10GBASE-T. The last port is a dual-purpose arrangement, with a Small Form-factor Pluggable (SFP+) Port wired in parallel. This greatly increases the versatility of this switch, since some devices are only outfitted with SFP+ connections, and it's not easy or cost-effective to convert 10GBASE-T to SFP+, or vice-versa. We'll explore the SFP+ ports in more detail later, but the important thing to know is that they are primarily intended for interfacing with fiber optic cables, and they have a potential transmission range of 10 km. The overall package is slim and sturdy, with an all metal case. Some people like to have the ports on the front, with integrated status lights, as the XS708E has. Other folks like to have the ports on the back, with separate status lights on the front panel. I'm always plugging things in and taking them out, or trying to figure what's plugged into what, so I like having the ports on the front. In a typical home environment though, I can understand wanting the ports in the back, to avoid cable clutter.

Front_Full_01.jpg

The eight RJ-45 connectors on the front of the XS708E are auto-sensing and auto-negotiating ports that support 100BASE-TX, 1000BASE-T, and 10GBASE-T. When the green LED indicator on the upper left of a port is lit, that indicates the presence of a valid 10Gb/s link. If the amber LED indicator on the upper right of a port is lit, that indicates the presence of a valid 100Mb/s or 1000Mb/s link. The indicators blink when packets are transmitted and/or received on that port. These 10GBASE-T ports can drive Cat5e cables out to 55 meters, Cat6 (or 6a) is required if you want to go the full supported distance of 100m. Thousands of miles of Cat5 and Cat6 cable are already in place in data centers throughout the world, and this switch makes it easy to upgrade your network with the infrastructure that's already wired into place.

FR_Ports_01.jpg

The SFP port indicators are similar in operation, but the LEDs sits just above the port instead of being integrated into the connector body. The SFP+ port has support for 10GBASE-SR, 10GBASE-LX, 10GBASE-LRM, 1000BASE-SX, 1000BASE-LX, 1000BASE-LHA, and 1000BASE-LHB. All of these standards require the use of connector modules which slide into the standardized SFP+ interface. There is also an option to use "Direct Attach Copper" cables, with a 10 meter limitation. These Direct Attach cables are much less expensive than the combination of two connector modules and a fiber optic cable assembly, of any type or length. Fiber connections have a potential range that's 1,000 times longer though, up to 10km. Plus, the optical cables are completely immune to RFI interference and data snooping.

SFP_Port_01.jpg

At the far left, the power LED indicator flashes yellow while the switch is booting up and green when it's ready for normal operations. Also during boot up, all the LED indicators on the individual ports flash once, just to test their function. Below the power indicator is a warning LED that signals if there is a fan failure. I don't know if it is monitoring the fan(s) directly, or is triggered from a thermal sensor. One reset button is provided, which can be accessed through a small hole in the front panel, directly below the LED status indicators. It's marked "Factory Defaults", and it resets everything, including the password, VLAN settings, and individual port configurations. I never had the need to use the reset button, as the switch didn't need to be rebooted during my testing, which spanned several months. I was always able to connect to it, and use the ProSAFE Plus Utility software to make any configuration changes. With fewer configuration choices available, I never managed to lock myself out. Either the switches are getting smarter, or I am...

LED_Indi_01.png

The bottom is almost completely unadorned, with markings for four small rubber feet that come packaged in the box. They can be applied by the user, if needed. There are also rack mount ears included in the accessory kit, along with the necessary mounting screws. The default MAC address and default password for accessing the switch is printed on the S/N label here, and on the back. This is a welcome aid, as I usually have to go back to the product manual to find this information. This usually means more paper, stuffed in a drawer somewhere, taking up space. The rear of the XS708E is also very plain, with just the necessary features. The IEC power receptacle is on the far right and accepts the normal 3-pin AC power cord, as supplied in the accessory kit. Power input is pretty universal: 100-240VAC 50-60Hz, 2.2A Max. Towards the center is a hole for a Kensington lock. Since one possible use case for this switch, with its long-haul fiber optic port, is remote deployment, the lock hole might prove useful. This is just the sort of device that would be useful in a room full of video editing workstations, with seven ports for users in the room and a fiber link back to the main LAN room. If deployed inside the LAN room or data center, the K-Lock is not needed.

Rear_Full_01.jpg

The NETGEAR XS708E is actively cooled, with two 40mm fans on the left side pulling cool air into the enclosure from holes on the opposite side of the case. They are heavily modulated by a temperature controller within the switch. At startup, they make a powerful noise as they initially get full voltage before the controller comes online. In use, they spin at a much lower RPM, unless the switch is fully utilized and it's operating in a very warm room. In my testing, they were very effective, and produced a noise level that was noticeable in a quiet room, but would be completely swamped by a typical server rack. Data centers are loud places; if you spend a significant amount of time in them, you are required by law to wear hearing protection. During the time I used it, it never got beyond "warm" on the outside surfaces, and the air exiting the case was not hot, just warm. We'll take a look later at the internal components and device packaging, and see what kind of heat sinking is required for chips that can pump 160 Gigabits/second around on a continual basis.

LH_Side_01.jpg

The right side of the XS708E has most of the surface covered by vents letting in fresh air. There are no other vents in the case, all the air moves through the enclosure from right to left. In a simple square box like this, there's no better way to make sure all the componennts are getting their fair share of cool air.

RH_Side_01.jpg

Now that we've seen the external features of the NETGEAR XS708E, let's break out the tools and see what's under the hood.



 

Comments 

 
# Try PCATTCPDave 2013-04-30 13:23
I ran into the exact same problem testing some Emulex 10GbE NIC/iSCSI adapters and our Cisco Nexus 5000 series 10GbE switches. In order to verify full 10GbE, I used PCATTCP in a client/server config to stress the network. I was able to get full 10GbE (~1200MBytes/sec each way, ~2400+MBytes/sec total) using this tool.

You need to increase the buffers to 256K from 8K to get it to saturate the link.

Google PCATTCP to get the software (runs in Windows, tested on 2K8 and 2K3).

Here's the CLI argumetns for the server I used:

C:\> pcattcp -r -c -l 262144 -A 0

And here's the CLI arguments for the client

C:\> pcattcp -t - l 262144 -A 0 -c -D server_IP

Note: The only way I got full line rate was to make sure TOE (TCP Offload Engine) was running, and that RSS (recieve-side-scaling) was on to distribute the load across cores.

Oh, and I also discovered that not all 10GbE Copper SFP+ cables are made equal =) The first two sets were flaky, the third provided solid throughput.

-Dave
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# Good Info...!Bruce Normann 2013-04-30 13:39
Thanks Dave,

This is all bleeding edge at the moment, so I appreciate you sharing.
Our readers are the BEST!
I'll definitely look into that PCATTCP software.
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# If you run into complications...Dave 2013-04-30 18:15
Let me know, I might be able to assist. 10GbE can be tricky and it starts to push the limits of what TCP can handle. Some of the defaults used by older OS's for TCP were fine with 100Mbit and 1Gbit, but start to hold back 10GbE (hence the buffer window increase to 256K with PCATTCP).

If you can't get the 10GbE link up to full rate, try using multiple clients against a single server (you can run pcattcp multiple times with different ports).

-Dave
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# RE: NETGEAR XS708E ProSafe Plus 10GbE SwitchRichard Wyattt 2013-05-19 00:33
Newegg is really overpriced on this switch
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# CheaperFernando 2013-05-31 16:34
Correct, Newegg super overpriced this puppy. If you look around you can find for $840 or lower. Soon it will be $799 and lower.
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# may be pci-e to power system ?jean-christophe geny 2013-06-14 00:00
the box is clean but the power system looks heavy .
today i should received a platinum psu i paid 320 euros : Corsair AX1200i 80PLUS Platinum , mostly because it has seven years warranty i selected platinum , mostly because it has an usb connector to check its health had made me take this one.

i am sure these kind of psu could power 6 to 8 of these boards using the pci-e 6 or 8 cables plugs and the main pc of the network having a cpu or two and at least one or more 10 Gb link that are not used to have great vga card .
so board could get down to nearly half of the current price .

can you check that #benchmarkreviews.com ?
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# DC Power in data CentersBruce Bruce 2013-06-14 13:06
Jean-Cristophe, what you are describing (I think...) is not a very common power distribution architecture. I agree that it is wasteful to have a 150W PSU for a component that uses only half of the available power. Some data centers are using centrallized DC power supplies, that push 24VDC out to the racks. In that case, you can eliminate the PSU inside the component, which reduces heat generation within the rack and allows tighter spacing. This arangement is very specialled though, and the reason it's done is not to reduce capital cost, but to reduce operating costs. In that regards, your 80 Plus Platinum rated PSU is a step in that direction, i.e. you've got a large, very efficient PSU, why not use it?

As far as reducing cost goes, the PSU in this switch doesnt contribute very much to the BOM cost. Like most leading edge technology products, it's the latest, greatest chips buried deep inside that are the main cost component.
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# RE: NETGEAR XS708E ProSafe Plus 10GbE SwitchRon 2013-06-14 01:01
Ethernet is also 40 years old this year (2013)
The idea was documented in a memo in 1973. Experiments run 3 years later at PARC ran at only 2.94Mbps.

PC in 1982, with inexpensive twisted-pair network cabling as a bonus

10base5 "Thicknet" was the medium in 1982. 10baseT didn't become popular until the 1990s.
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# RE: NETGEAR XS708E ProSafe Plus 10GbE SwitchRon 2013-06-14 01:28
There's a noticeable amount of cut-and-paste from the NETGEAR GS110T.
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