Closer Look: NETGEAR GS110T
The ProSafe Smart Switch product line is two layers removed from the consumer line of devices, and its form, fit, and function is consistent with its place in the product hierarchy. 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 ten GbE ports lined up in a row on the front panel; eight of them are the common RJ-45 spec, and two are Small Form-factor Pluggable (SFP) Ports. We’ll explore the SFP ports in more detail later, but the important thing to know is that they are 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 GS110T 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. For larger, rack mounted units, rear ports are definitely the way to go.
The eight RJ-45 connectors on the front of the GS110T are auto-sensing and auto-negotiating ports with Auto UplinkTM capability. Most users will see both green LED indicators lit on a port that’s in use, indicating the presence of a valid 1000 Mbps link. They both blink when packets are transmitted/received on that port. Slower connections (10/100) use combinations of the left and right port LEDs to signal the same thing. The SFP ports are similar in operation, but there is just one LED per port, and it sits to the left of the port instead of being integrated into the connector body. At the far left, the power LED indicator turns yellow while the switch is booting up and green when it’s ready for normal operations. Two reset buttons can be accessed through small holes in the front panel. The one marked “Reset” does a hard reboot, just the same as pulling the power plug, and no configuration settings are changed in the process. The one marked “Factory Defaults” 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 did reset the unit back to its Factory Defaults several times, when I wanted to reconfigure the switch for different purposes.
The bottom is mostly unadorned, with four small rubber feet that come packaged in the box, and are applied by the user, if needed. The cross-slotted holes towards the center of the bottom plate can be used for wall mounting the switch, if desired. The default IP address for accessing the switch is printed on the S/N label here. This is a welcome aid, as I usually have to go back to the product manual to find this information. This means more paper, stuffed in a drawer somewhere, taking up space.
The rear of the GS110T is also very plain, with only a few necessary features. The power receptacle is on the far right and accepts the typical pin & sleeve DC plug from the supplied 12V/1A wall wart PSU. On the far left are a grounding screw and a hole for a Kensington lock. Since one likely use case for this switch, with its two fiber optic ports, is remote deployment, the lock hole might prove useful. This is just the sort of device that would be useful in a small conference room, with eight ports for users in the room and a fiber link back to the main LAN room.
The NETGEAR GS110T is reasonably well ventilated, with holes on both sides of the unit and the rear, where they have very little chance of being blocked. There is no fan; all the airflow is passively induced. During the time I used it, it never got beyond “warm” on the outside surfaces. The center of the top cover seemed to be the warmest spot, but as I said, it wasn’t hot by any stretch. We’ll take a look later at the internal packaging, and see what kind of heat sinking is required for chips that can pump 20 Gbps around on a continual basis.
The left side of the GS110T looks similar to the right hand side. In this view you can see the device is booting up (Yellow Power LED) and during the initial startup, the Link/Activity LEDs on the eight RJ-45 sockets light up to show they’re working.
Now that we’ve seen the external features of the GS110T, let’s break out the tools and see what’s under the hood.