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Review: Netonix WISP Switch Mini WS-6-MINI

We originally intended to do a full, in-depth review with performance measurements – but we found ourselves with an emergency, and rushed it into service. The WISP switch not only survived a trial by fire, but it did so with great aplomb - earning five stars from us.

We received a WISP switch mini (WS-6-MINI) from Netonix a few days ago. We originally intended to do a full, in-depth review with performance measurements – but we found ourselves with an emergency, and rushed it into service. Therefore, rather than a lab review, we have a real trial by fire: rushing into production, under stress!

Unboxing

The switch arrived in an unassuming white box (recyclable!). The box contained the switch itself, two screws in a plastic bag, a printed sheet of paper, and some packing foam. We were a little surprised that it didn't contain a power adapter or Power-over-Ethernet injector of any sort, but considering that this model is designed to be powered remotely by PoE, that wasn't a big deal. The sheet of paper advised using an old AirFiber 50V PoE – so we dug one out, and used that. If you don't have one, make sure you purchase one when you buy the switch!

First Impressions

The switch is gunmetal gray, and really small – there really isn't much wasted space in this design. It has large vents, and is very quiet in operation: so quiet that we wondered if it was really powered on until the lights appeared!

Initial Connection and Firmware Upgrade

The instructions advised connecting to 192.168.1.20 (just like Ubiquiti!), so we duly setup our laptop with a 192.168.1.5/24 address, and pointed a web browser at http://192.168.1.20/. A login prompt appeared, and we logged in with the default username and password of “admin”. An interface very reminiscent of the Ubiquiti ToughSwitch came up, and we clicked around a bit; everything was fast and functional. Following Netonix's advice, we proceeded to visit their forum and download the latest firmware. (Note: it would be helpful to either offer some guidance in finding this inside the switch menus, or at least provide an obvious “support downloads” type of link on the website. The website looks like it is in its infancy, however – with a spelling mistake on the front page. Hopefully, that will be rectified soon!).

The firmware downloaded quickly, and after a little searching (the “Upgrade” option is on the Utilities menu drop-down) found where to apply the upgrade. It went smoothly, the switch rebooted, and we scheduled time the next day to put the switch through its paces.

Disaster Strikes!

Our original intent was to give the switch a thorough testing, and then deploy it at our leisure in the coming days. However, around 10am alarms started going off: one of our backhaul distribution points was down, a hundred WiMAX customers cried out in anguish (and started calling us!), and a couple of clients with dedicated connections also showed up as “down” on our monitoring system. We'd been experiencing some difficulty with a Ubiquiti ToughSwitch providing power and Ethernet for these clients (hence the replacement!), but never on this scale. The switch was mounted on the 17th floor of an apartment building, high above most of the city – and it had started pouring down rain. Steve, our heroic on-site engineer, headed to the apartment building. Resetting power on the ToughSwitch yielded no results, so he clambered up on top of the elevator wheel-house to inspect the damage. Our NEMA box had leaked water, and the ToughSwitch was fried. It won't power on, and even if it does – after a bath like that, we're unlikely to trust it again!

Fast, Easy Configuration

We didn't have any more ToughSwitches in stock (they have been troublesome to say the least, so we're phasing them out), and needed a solution in a hurry. I powered up the WISP Switch MINI, logged in, and began frantically configuring it – as fast as I could. We only needed to configure six VLANs, some tagging/untagged arrangements, management IP address, and network time protocol to get a minimal replacement going. I was impressed by the user interface: changes were fast, with none of the long reboot delays that plague Ubiquiti devices. The user interface, while clearly inspired by the Tough Switch, performs better than the device it is replacing, and is intuitive if you have worked with other switches. In total, it required under ten minutes of frantic typing and clicking to get the replcaement switch ready for deployment.

And we wait...

Steve stoically waited for the rain to subside enough to dare open the waterlogged NEMA box, dried it out, and repaired the leak. Since the WISP Switch is so much smaller than the ToughSwitch, he decided to velcro it to the back of the box – away from any potential leakage, and well above any remaining liquid that pooled.

Firing up the trial by fire

The switch boots fast. There was a very short delay from plugging it in to my logging back into the administrative interface. Steve plugged devices into the switch (since we haven't tested the load distribution, he used local power-over-Ethernet injectors for now), the ports lit up, and traffic almost immediately started flowing. One VLAN adjustment later (oops) – which mercifully does not require a restart! - and everything was working as well as or better than before.

The switch was been carrying 80-120 mbit/s of traffic consistently since it was installed, sometimes spiking much higher than that. CPU load has yet to exceed 18%, giving me great confidence in the switch's ability to handle higher loads than that. Most importantly, it exhibits none of the ToughSwitch's problems: with mixed gigabit and hundred megabit connections, performance is great, and there is no packet loss. Flow control works out of the box, and our customers are happy.

Conclusion

This is a fantastic little switch. We put it in for a trial by fire, and it came out radiant. It was easy to configure in a hurry, with no “gotcha” moments, it performed to specification out of the box, and it is smaller, cheaper, and lighter than the switch it is replacing. We simply can't fault it in that regard. We'll post more in-depth when we get another one in – but for now, the switch receives an unqualified five stars.

Rating: 5 Stars. This is a great product.
Cost: $169.95 MSRP

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