ASUS XG-U2008 fanless unmanaged network switch - $249 gets 8 1GbE ports and 2 10GbE ports for my Xeon D two-node cluster

Posted by Paul Braren on Oct 12 2016 (updated on Oct 18 2016) in
  • Network Efficiency HomeLab Review
  • The ASUS XG-U2008 switch is available at Amazon, B&H, and Newegg, see also specifications. These are affiliate links, see disclosure below every article for details. Video unboxing in 4K, and testing under VMware ESXi 6.0U2, here.

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    TinkerTry-Xeon-D-SuperServer-Cluster-featuring-Micron-NVMe-and-SSD-Supermicro-VMware-VSAN-demo-for-VMworld-2016.JPG
    That purple Netgear XS708T is about as wide as the 2 Xeon D systems pictured below it. I'm keeping the 2 mini-towers, so the ASUS XG-U2008 will replace the Netgear, and maybe the 1GbE Cisco above it.

    Finally, SOHO 10GbE arrives!

    When buying powerful but compact systems that are quiet, the choices of 10GbE switches that you had this year were rather limited to full size designs with rather loud fans. Looks almost silly with these compact systems, and the managed switches' fan noise drowns out all other systems, even at idle.

    I kept my Netgear XS708T because it's fan was a little quieter than the Ubiquiti ES-16-XG that I had also tried. Turns out the Ubiquiti didn't work out by the way, with instability that tech support and I ran out of time to figure out. Perhaps I just had a bad unit, that's just one data point. See also my comparison video), and those wonderfully thin Cat6a 10GbE capable Monoprice cables in my Parts list for VMworld 2016 demonstration.

    Competitor port counts and pricing (sub-$1000 category)

    Port Count

    Price Model#
    1 GbE
    10 GbE RJ45
    10 GbE SFP+ Managed
    $950 Netgear XS708T 0 8
    2 Y
    $600 Ubiquiti ES-16-XG 0 4 12
    Y
    $249 ASUS XG-U2008 8
    2 0
    N
    TinkerTry-demo-at-Champlain-VMUG-Oct-11-2016.JPG
    TinkerTry demo at Vermont VMUG, Oct 11, 2016.

    If you have a SFP+ only equipped Xeon D like the 4 core Supermicro SuperServer SYS-E300-8D, or you think you want a 10GbE NAS someday or a 3 node cluster, don't go with the ASUS. I would have preferred 4 or 6 10 GbE ports. Then again, the price, size, and noise would all go up. Maybe next year.

    Competitor Product Pages

    When doing presentations with live demonstrations, it's become pretty clear to me that rapid setup and breakdown time is important. This little traveling SuperServer cluster roadshow is happening 14 times this year, #11 was actually just yesterday, as pictured. Having a compact switch like this sure would have been handy, and tidy. Curious if I can use it for the two demos that are coming up soonh.

    Xeon D are the most affordable server systems with 10GgE ports...

    and the starting price is under $1000 even with 64GB of RAM, see all pricing and specs here.

    With all Xeon D-1500 form-factors blessed with two 10GbE ports, I really only need one 10GbE drop for each of my two systems, my SYS-5028D-TN4T 8 core Xeon D-1541 mini-tower, and soon, Supermicro's Xeon D-1567 processor debut, the SYS-5028D-TN4T 12 core Xeon D-1567 mini-tower. Typhoons and hurricanes may have slowed things a bit, but by month's end, I should have finally have the 2 node Xeon D cluster I've been saving up for fully configured and operational. Yeah, that home VSAN compatibility experiment using loaner equipment didn't work out from a cost, practicality, and compatibility perspective. So for now, all I really need is two 10GbE ports, of the RJ45 type that this ASUS switch has.

    I'm quite alright with shedding manageability, SFP+ ports and LACP when it also means I'm saving many hundreds of dollars, that I'll instead be using for upcoming primo NVMe M.2 storage.

    Test Plan

    That's right, I'll soon be shedding my Netgear XS708T, and have just placed my order for the ASUS XG-U2008, which I should have in my hands by the weekend. I will add updates below this article, and plan on producing a simple unboxing video as well.

    See also specifications:

    Performance
    Forwarding Rate : (100Mbps Port): 148,800 packets/sec/(1000Mbps Port): 1,488,000 packets/sec
    Switch Fabric : 56 Gbps
    Buffer Memory : 2048 Kbits
    Jumbo Frame : up to 16 KB

    and the ASUS blog post:

    Outside the enterprise market, the transition from Gigabit to 10-Gigabit Ethernet has been rather slow. While there are growing small-business and prosumer demands for the additional bandwidth that 10G networking provides, the cost of entry is high. Until now, the availability of compliant devices has been limited to enterprise-class products that are built with corporate networks in mind, with pricing for 10-Gigabit switches starting at $800. That certainly isn’t expensive by corporate standards, but for the rest of us, it relegates adoption to cases of absolute necessity and the upper echelon of enthusiasts.

    While it’s advisable to plan ahead and overprovision your network for scalability, paying extra money for ports or features that you’ll never use doesn’t make sense. So, there’s a clear need for 10G networking devices that are suitably tailored for the small business, prosumer, and enthusiast markets. Cue the ASUS XG-U2008, an unmanaged 10G networking switch available for only $249.99.

    With a fanless design and sleek exterior, the XG-U2008 is perfect for unobtrusive deployment in a small office or living space. The optional rack-mount kit also allows the switch to be installed in a standard 19-inch bay.

    With a fanless design and sleek exterior, the XG-U2008 is perfect for unobtrusive deployment in a small office or living space. The optional rack-mount kit also allows the switch to be installed in a standard 19-inch bay.

    The XG-U2008 utilizes Marvell’s 88E6190X and 88X3220 PHY transceivers to offer two 10GBase-T ports and eight Gigabit ports. 10GBase-T provides up to 10X...

    Shop

    The ASUS XG-U2008 switch is available at Amazon, B&H, and Newegg, see also specifications. These are affiliate links, see disclosure below every article for details. Video unboxing in 4K, and testing under VMware ESXi 6.0U2, here.

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    Video

    ASUS XG-U2008 fanless unmanaged network switch unboxing & initial testing [4K/Camtasia 9]. Video recorded on Oct 16 2016, with video in 4K, and video of Windows 10/VMware vSphere Client recorded at 1920x1080 but scaled up 2x.

    Oct 13 2016 Update

    5028-TN4T-rear-showing-10GbE-active.JPG
    Physical link layer comes right up at 10GbE speed, but functionality is not automatic or simple when trying to actually use that interconnect in VMware ESXi.

    While 1GbE and 10GbE NICs handle auto-crossover automatically, I should have mentioned that VMware ESXi can act strangely when doing direct attachment from one 10GbE to another, especially with VSAN. For my home, I may be going with a >100' length of CAT7 cabling between my two systems, from basement to 2nd floor office. That should make for some rather fast vMotions, from local NVMe datastore to local NVMe datastore. This decision depends on whether I go back to my SuperServer Workstation Bundle 1 configuration, a vSphere/Windows 10 workstation all-in-one. Even if I do get that 10GbE acting normally with direct cabling for very narrow use cases, not sure if the X552/X557 PHY could handle that kind of cable length.

    One less bottleneck, and a little less admin overhead

    The other appealing thing about a 1GbE/10GbE combo unit is that my Ubiquiti EdgeMax Lite router can grant DHCP leases to the 10GbE side, without taking up 2 ports for interconnect, and without a single interconnect bottleneck. This can be handy, especially when kicking the tires on OSs that are not ESXi-on-USB, or when doing demos on the road. When you directly attach 2 hosts to one another, you have to hard code everything.

    ASUS markets this switch to complement their Xeon E workstation mobos, the X99-E10G-WS and Maximus VIII Extreme/Assembly, which feature 2 Intel Ethernet Controller X550-AT2 ports. This chipset currently only seems to have beta drivers for just-released Windows Server 2016, and no mention yet of drivers for VMware. Perhaps it shares the Xeon D's X552/X557 10GbE driver with full VMware support, Google searches for confirmation of that are coming up empty.

    786392137206116352

    I'm no expert on 10GbE networking, just getting started with trying various topologies in my home lab, along with some basic file transfer speed tests over direct-connect. I would love to be wrong about some of my comments about direct connect above. If you have corrections to suggest or stories to add, I sure hope you'll feel free to add to the below below, or reply to the tweet pictured at right, to help everybody out with a moment of your time. Jump right in soon, because I only have access to 3 Xeon D nodes for one more week from today. I'm hoping to squeeze in one more VSAN proof-of-concept (albeit unsupported) test. Yes, those tiny 1U hi SYS-E300-8D and SYS-E200-8D systems are loaners. Once gone, I'll then be down to just 2 nodes for the long-haul. This means I'll be hanging on to the Netgear XS708T for at least another week.

    Sure would be nice timing if the VMware vSphere 6.5 bits would go GA very soon. I dunno, say this Monday October 17th, at the start of VMworld 2016 Europe in Barcelona? Pure speculation, we'll all have to wait and see...


    IsL95QA4

    Oct 14 2016

    Counterpoint from the PC Perspective crew, have a listen!


    Oct 18 2016

    Video unboxing with initial testing was recorded on Oct 16th, published here.

    I find the marketing on the box a bit amusing:

    • ASUS - IN SEARCH OF INCREDIBLE
    • FAST Networking Solutions

    That acronym FAST apparently means FARTHEST • EASY • SECURE • TRUSTED.

    Nick-picking aside, good news, this unmanaged switch seems to come right up at the proper link speeds. As shown in the video, I demonstrate that 1 GbE shows at initial boot on the two 10 GbE ports, then 10 GbE shows up once ESXi 6.0U2 has fully initialized. This is good. It may meet my needs, with (barely) enough ports to handle my two Xeon D systems. More testing of transfer speeds is needed to build my confidence in the product.

    Note that a rack-mount option is clearly noted on the front of the box.

    ASUS-XG-U2008-box-in-shrink-wrap-by-TinkerTry-on-Oct-16-2016

    I still need to set up two M.2 NVMe drives, to see if I'm getting the expected transfer speeds. See also my discussion about these plans with PC Perspective author Jeremy Hellstrom.


    See also at TinkerTry

    Ubiquiti ES-16-XG and Netgear XS708T managed 10G switches - physical comparison, including fan noise

    Time Lapse Video

    There's a balance here between minimizing how many square feet of space this rig will take up in tight booth or hotel room space. You'll see time-lapse exposure-locked footage of my trying out different arrangements. A little like playing Tower of Hanoi, only way more fun. Published AUG 02, 2016.

    See also