What is Switch Stacking and How to Connect and Remove It?

What is Switch Stacking?

Switch Stacking is a new type of switch that allows you to stack multiple switches together to create a single power switch. This makes expanding your network and adding more features and functions easy. The Switch Stacking also comes with a built-in power supply so you can use it without an external power source.

With Switch Stacking, you can easily add more switches to your network without having to worry about power or space. Switch Stacking is a great way to expand your network and add more features and functions.

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What is Switch in Networking, Types, and Benefits?

Why do we use stacking in the switch?

What is Switch Stacking and How to Connect and Remove It

The main reason for using Stacking is to create a unified logical switch out of multiple physical switches. When multiple physical switches are stacked, they appear as a single logical switch to devices on the network. This has several benefits:

  • It simplifies network configuration because you only need to configure one logical switch instead of multiple physical switches.
  • It increases network reliability because if one physical switch fails, the other switches in the Stacking can continue to operate.
  • It reduces power consumption because you only need to power one logical switch instead of multiple physical switches.
  • It saves space because you can Stack multiple switches in a single rack.

How switches are connected in a stacking?

Switches in a Stacking are connected together using special stacking cables. These cables allow the switches to share data and power between them. The number of stacking cables depends on the number of switches in the Stacking. For example, a Stacking of four switches would use two stacking cables.

How Do We Check Switch Stack Ports?

You can check the switch Stacking ports by running the “show stack” command. This command will show you the status of all the switches in the Stacking, as well as the stacking cables.

  • switch1#show stack
  • switch1#show switch stack-ports
  • switch1#show switch neighbors
  • switch1#show switch

How Does Stack Master Elect?

The stack master is elected by the switches in the Stacking. The election process is based on the switch’s priority. The higher the priority, the more likely it is to become the Stack master. You can set the priority of a switch using the “set switch-priority” command. The default priority is 16.

  • switch1#set switch-priority 32
  • switch1#show switch

The stack master is responsible for managing the stack. It handles all configuration changes and monitors the status of the other switches in the stack. If the stack master fails, another switch will be elected to take its place.

Note* The stack master is elected when the switches are first powered on. 

How We Can Upgrade the iOS in Stack Switches?

To upgrade the iOS in a stack of switches, follow these steps:

1. Verify Compatibility: Before proceeding with the upgrade, ensure that the new iOS version is compatible with the switches in your stack. Check the Cisco website or documentation for compatibility information.

2. Backup Configuration: It is crucial to back up the configuration of your stack before performing the iOS upgrade. This ensures that you can restore the configuration in case of any issues during the upgrade process.

3. Download the iOS Image: Obtain the appropriate iOS image for your switch model and the desired version. Download the image from the Cisco website or other trusted sources.

4. Transfer the iOS Image: Transfer the downloaded iOS image to a location accessible by the stack switches. This can be done using protocols like TFTP (Trivial File Transfer Protocol) or FTP (File Transfer Protocol).

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5. Prepare for the Upgrade: Connect to the stack’s stack master switch using a console cable or a remote management method. Ensure that you have administrative access to the stack.

6. Enter Stack Configuration Mode: Access the stack configuration mode by entering the appropriate command in the command-line interface (CLI) of the stack master switch. For example:

  • switch# stack configuration

7. Specify the Upgrade Image: Specify the location and filename of the iOS image that you transferred in Step 4. Use the following command in stack configuration mode:

  • switch(config-stack)# switch ? switch number
  • switch(config-stack)# switch 1
  • switch(config-stack)# boot system switch all flash:filename.bin

Replace “filename.bin” with the actual name of the iOS image file.

8. Save the Configuration: Save the stack configuration using the following command:

  • switch(config-stack)# exit
  • switch# copy running-config startup-config

9. Reload the Stack: Reload the stack to start the upgrade process. Use the following command:

  • switch# reload

Confirm the reload when prompted.

10. Monitor the Upgrade Process: The stack switches will begin the upgrade process automatically after the reload. Monitor the upgrade progress on the console or through a remote management interface.

11. Verify the Upgrade: Once the stack switches have booted up with the new iOS version, verify that the upgrade was successful. Ensure that all switches in the stack are running the updated iOS version and that the network is functioning as expected.

When Stack Master Switch Has Failed?

If the stack master switch fails, the other switches in the stack will take over and continue to operate. The switch that takes over as the new stack master will have a lower priority than the original stack master. You can check the status of the switches in the stack by running the “show stack” command.

  • switch1#show stack

How to Remove a Member from a Stack?

You can remove a member from a stack by running the “unstack” command. This will remove the switch from the stack and make it a standalone switch.

  • switch1#unstack
  • switch1#show switch

Implementing a Switch Stack

Now that we understand the benefits of switch stacking, let’s delve into the process of implementing a switch stack in your network environment. Here are the steps involved:

Step 1: Choosing Compatible Switches

To create a switch stack, it’s essential to select switches that support stacking technology.

Not all switches are stackable, so it’s crucial to check the specifications and compatibility requirements.

Ideally, switches from the same manufacturer and product line should be used for seamless integration.

Step 2: Physical Connection

Once you have the compatible switches, the next step is to physically connect them to form a stack.

Most switches have dedicated stacking ports that facilitate the connection.

Ensure that the stacking cables are securely attached to the appropriate ports on each switch.

Step 3: Configuration

After the physical connection, the switches need to be configured to function as a stack.

This typically involves designating one switch as the stack master and the others as stack members.

The stack master controls the stack and is responsible for managing and distributing configuration changes.

Step 4: Stack Verification

Once the stack is formed and configured, it’s essential to verify its operation. Test network connectivity, traffic flow, and redundancy mechanisms to ensure everything is functioning as expected. Make any necessary adjustments or troubleshooting if required.

Best Practices for Switch Stack Configuration

To optimize the performance and reliability of your switch stack, consider the following best practices during the configuration process:

1. Firmware Compatibility

Ensure that all switches in the stack are running the same firmware version. Mixing different firmware versions can lead to compatibility issues and potential disruptions in the stack’s operation.

2. Consistent Configuration

Maintain consistency in the configuration across the stack members. This includes settings for VLANs, spanning tree protocol, link aggregation, and security features. Consistent configuration minimizes potential inconsistencies and simplifies troubleshooting.

3. Redundancy Planning

Design your switch stack with redundancy in mind. Configure redundant uplinks, and redundant stack masters, and implement protocols like Rapid Spanning Tree Protocol (RSTP) or Virtual Router Redundancy Protocol (VRRP) for failover mechanisms.

4. Documentation

Document the switch stack configuration, including network diagrams, IP addressing schemes, and any specific configurations. This documentation serves as a valuable reference for future troubleshooting and network expansion.

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