What is Stacking of Network Hardware

Network Hardware Stacking

Although Fast Ethernet runs ten times faster than standard Ethernet networks, the advance from 10Mbps to 100Mbps hasn’t come without a few technical problems and resultant sacrifices, the first of which is known as the Fast Ethernet two hub rule.

The Two Hub Rule: You can’t join more than two regular 100Mbps hubs together without using some form of switch or repeater to boost the interim signal. If  you try to uplink three, four, or more standard hubs together, and if you manage to get it to work at all, there is no end to the number of problems and stone walls that you will run into. For the most part, data won’t go where it’s supposed to go, and applications will undoubtedly fail. And aside from your heartache, your users will be looking for a tall tree and a short rope.

Remember though, this only applies to standard hubs, which are joined together or up-linked. (What this means is that there is nothing more than a standard network cable connecting each hub to each successive hub. In this case, each hub is seen by the network as a separate entity, and if you’re using Fast Ethernet, you’ll hit the “two hub” rule wall pretty quickly.

This does not occur with stacking technology. Stackable hubs are designed to appear as a single hub to the network, even when connected in multiples.

As an example, let’s say you have a hub with four ports. If it is a standard hub, you can only add one more hub without having to buy a switch or a repeater. If it were a stackable hub, you could add a second, third, or even tenth stackable hub, and the network will still think you are only using one hub on the network. Depending on your expansion requirements, your best value for the dollar spent would be through the use of stacking technology, if for no other reason than you do not have to worry too much about expansion limitations in the future.

Unlike standard hubs that are up-linked together with regular network cables, stackable hubs are “stacked” or “cascaded” with one or more “stacking cables.” These cables are not like standard 10BaseT cables, they are specifically designed to join the back-plane of one hub to the next. The result is a minimal slowdown when data moves from one hub to another since information will not have to pass through the hub’s regular RJ-45 ports and the multitude of error correction and other filters to be found there. Stacking provides administrators and others that are building networks with tighter integration between hubs, which can pay for itself with fewer errors during transmissions.

Need More?

Need information on Hubs, Switches, Bridges, then see: “Hubs, Switches and Bridges“.

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