Network Upgrade advice

Hello Fellow Church IT Peeps!
I am looking for a little guidance. We are looking to upgrade our entire network backbone. Everything from the edge to the core. We have a K-12 school associated with the church so we were able to file for E-Rate funding to help pay for this major upgrade. We have our plans in place along with a local IT company to do the install. The issue is that when everything was spec’d out Brocade was our switch of choice. Now that Brocade has been sold and the networking side is kind of in limbo, I am a little nervous moving forward with Brocade. I guess I am looking for some feedback from you guys on what your thoughts would be. Am I making too big a deal over the Brocade sale? Would you buy Brocade switches still? Thanks for your input.

My 2 cents: Brocade gear is solid gear and will still be working and operational for many years to come regardless of how many times the company sells and changes hands.
With that said, based on my personal experiences with it, I would look at other options. I find the brocade gear to be needlessly complicated for configuration and costly for licensing/expandability.

I’m biased to my preference: HP/Aruba ProCurve.

I’m personally a big fan of HP/Aruba for their lifetime warranty. We’ve only had to replace a switch once, but they didn’t ask a single questions and overnighted one to me.

I manage a large number of HP/Aruba networks, and barring any vendor specific needs they’re really hard to beat on a bang-per-buck basis.They also do a really good job of keeping the firmwares across several switching families really close which many other vendors seem to fail at often, leading to extra management headaches down the line.

+1 on HP/Aruba. Rock solid devices, not bad to configure.

You really need to double check on the E-Rate funding idea, that may not work at all for you.

  • E-Rate is money from the federal government primarily to subsidize telecommunications services for schools
  • Since E-Rate is from the federal government, it comes with rules.
  • I seriously doubt if the church could use anything the school purchases via E-Rate
  • One of the significant requirements to qualify for E-Rate is the number of free or reduced lunches in the school. If your school is like ours associated with the church, there are no free or reduced lunches, therefore we would not qualify for much money.
  • Schools receiving E-Rate funding must be CIPA compliant, which generally means they must have a content filtering solution in place, provide internet safety training, and document that training was provided.

Not trying to be a Debbie Downer, but your church should seriously reconsider the E-Rate idea, it could really create more problems than solutions. Our school decided not to pursue any E-Rate funding.

  • Greg

When I was the IT Director for a large school district e-rate was a major pain. One of my least favorite things to dork with. And ditto about it being based on kids free/reduced lunches.

Last year we redid our entire backbone. We have Meraki switches at all of our campuses. They are incredible.We also moved to Sophos UTMs at the edge of each campus.

We use all HP/Aruba and I bought Aruba HP 2920 48G-POE for $1,700 (see link below). Closest any vendor would give me with non-profit pricing was $2,500. And we use Ruckus wireless, which just bought Brocade last year.

HP switches with their lifetime warranties are indeed hard to beat.

However the sexiness of the Unifi controller and one pane of glass to manage my entire network means from now on I’ll probably be deploying Unifi switches. There’s a few things missing in Unifi vs. EdgeSwitch - but the hardware is the same; it’s just a matter of them catching up on the firmware on the Unifi versions of their switches. If you need LLDP, advanced QOS or layer 3 routing stick wtih HP for now; Unifi doesn’t have it and while the EdgeSwitches do I’d still probably stick with the HP switches (that warranty is killer).

The vision that Ubiquiti has for Unifi - one management interface for APs, switches and routers/gateways is promising but may or may not be fully baked depending on what you need just yet.