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5 network stacking technology benefits: Intelligent Resilient Framework and Mesh Stacking

Unified access layer for wired and wireless LAN with HP - Part 10 


By Rebecca Humphress, HP Networking Global Product Marketing


rh.jpgDecisions, decisions.  You make them every day.  Some are easy like what to have for breakfast.  Others are more challenging like what new networking switch will provide me with the best TCO based on my needs now and help me scale as my business grows?  I’m hoping that I can help give some guidance on the offerings we have for pay-as-you-grow switches with either Intelligent Resilient Framework (IRF) or Mesh Stacking. 


HP stacking technologies extend the performance and scalability benefits of modular, chassis-based switches to both modular and stackable switches.  No longer do you need to compromise enterprise capabilities for the convenience and cost of a stackable switch.


HP stacking technologies, including HP Intelligent Resilient Framework (IRF) and HP Mesh Stacking, are included in a variety of HP data center, campus and branch office switches.  The operation of the two network stacking technologies is similar with some minor differences that I’ll highlight here.


Now here are the 5 key benefits of HP’s stacking technologies (both IRF & Mesh):


  1. Simplify the network design.  Simplify networks from three tiers to two tiers with HP stacking technologies.  Helping eliminate network layers reduces the latency that’s inherent in multi-tier networks, enabling better user experience, whether it is for voice, video, and other highly sensitive applications.  With fewer network devices to purchase and manage, both capital and operational expenses are lower.
  2. Enable higher performance.  Deliver greater efficiency and performance.  Unlike with STP, which can consume half of the network bandwidth, HP stacking technologies gives you all the bandwidth you are paying for.  HP stacking technologies keep all the links active and enable efficient, high-bandwidth connectivity throughout the switching plane.  This is true even for multicast data, which is often a major consumer of network bandwidth.
  3. Deliver greater resiliency.  Use HP stacking technologies to decrease network downtime by providing higher levels of availability and resiliency.  HP stacking technologies deliver faster failover than STP and its relatives, which means higher availability. 
  4. Ease of management.  No longer do you need to connect, configure, and manage switches individually.  HP Stacking technologies create a single logical switch by grouping several physical switches into a stack or domain with a single IP address.  You can then control multiple active switches via a single management interface, which vastly simplifies network configuration and operations.
  5. Add capacity as you grow.  You can add capacity on a pay-as-you-grow basis by adding switches to the stack.  Initial acquisition costs are lower because you buy only the capacity you need and there’s no compromise on scalability as needs grow.

Compare and contrast stacking technologies


Although there are many similarities between IRF and Mesh Stacking, there are some differences as well, as they are for different types of applications. This simple table explains the common and differentiated features of IRF and Mesh Technology:



Intelligent Resilient Framework (IRF)

Mesh Technology

Common Features

  • Single IP address management
  • Simple network operation
  • Distributed link aggregation
  • Sharing of resources (routing/forwarding tables)
  • Single IP address management
  • Simple network operation
  • Distributed link aggregation
  • Sharing of resources (routing/forwarding tables)


  • Virtualizes up to 9 switches in a campus or data center with geographical resiliency up to 70 km apart
  • Enables scalable performance using standard 10GbE links and link aggregation


  • Up to 10 switches in a campus wiring closet are virtualized
  • Highly resilient with either ring or full mesh interconnects between switches in a stack
  • High-performance with 336 Gbps of throughput and reduced latency
  • Plug-and-play management
  • Field-upgradeable with modular stacking and increased uptime with field-serviceable components


Have more questions about our stacking solutions?  We have the answers!  Please leave a comment or question in the Post a Comment section below.  We want to hear from you!!


Also, HP IRF technology can be found on the following HP Networking switches: HP 12xxx, 10xxx, 75xx, 58xx 55xx, 51xx Switch Series.  HP Mesh Stacking is on the HP 3800 Switch Series


Do you have IRF or Mesh stacking within your network?  How do you like it?  We would love to hear your feedback. 



Follow our blog series: Unified access layer for wired and wireless LAN with HP


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1Source: "HP 3800 Switch Series Competitive Performance, Power Consumption and TCO Evaluation Versus Cisco Catalyst 3750-X and Juniper EX4200 Series," Tolly Report, September 27, 2011 http://tolly.com/DocDetail.aspx?DocNumber=211127

3800 performance | ‎10-25-2012 09:06 AM

Are the 3800 performance packages offered online the way to go or do you end up with stuff you don't really need?

Job Tracking Software | ‎11-28-2012 07:33 PM

I read all about network stacking technology in this article and also read advantages. I didn't ever read or listen that advantages it will help for many person a lot especially me. I hope in future you also work with such same passion and update us.

Kiselev Ivan | ‎01-24-2014 08:32 AM

Hi. I have next question:
does different switches stacks with IRF technlolgy? 
for example: does 5800, 5820, 5830 switches has IRF-compability ?

HP_Networking | ‎03-17-2014 08:38 AM

Thanks for the question!  IRF requires switches sharing the same IRF domain (in one IRF configuration) to have the same firmware. As a result, FlexFabric 5900 and 5920 may be in the same IRF domain. On the other hand, the 5800 and FlexFabric 5900 may not be part of the same IRF domain.


Please let me know if you have any other questions.

Derrick Garceau | ‎06-03-2014 02:19 PM

When stacking switches what throughput is expected between switches?

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