Which Switches for your CCNA/CCNP lab?

Given the input and discussions around the used router gear and prices, it looks like it's time to move on to switches. Again, my focus will be on the models and prices, rather than re-hashing the details of my CCNP lab post series from 2008. But we do need some context, so I'll hit that today.

First, before getting away from the previous post, the router prices were down some, depending on model, but not a lot lower. My assistant Rich has done another round of price checks on the routers, and found many were even lower than I listed in my previous post. He'll check them again in a week or so, and I'll post some updated numbers.

For switches, I'll look at 2900, 3500, 2950, 2960, and 3550, unless you guys tell me which others to include. What would you add to the list? Now's the time to list something more if you have a favorite.

For perspective, let me include some of the key considerations:

The older the model of IOS-based switch, the more commands whose syntax differs from the most recent models. That's why I personally wouldn't recommend the 1900 series - I think you lose too much for exam prep. (These switches were withdrawn from marketing by Cisco over 10 years ago.)  So, when you need to spend as little as possible on the switches, I tend to think of the 2900XL and 3500 (not to be confused with the 3550's) as the oldest ones to consider.

The switches do not have feature sets exactly like router IOS, but they do have different code builds, most notably the standard and enhanced images of the 2950, 2960, and 3550 model series. The better software costs more, has more features that matter, but may not be worth the $$. Go to this link to see a post from the CCNP series that includes some comparisons on the 2950's.

Layer 3, or not? This time last year, I concluded that for CCNP study, layer 3 switches were probably not worth the additional cost. I hear from a friend that the prices have fallen on 3550's, so I'm particularly interested if that math has changed enough to matter.

Also, if you've gotten good deals on any of these recently, that'd be good to hear as well - while I try to give more of a "what you could spend most days" approach, some of us would wait to find the right deals, so those examples are useful to the audience here as well.

Thanks folks. I'll do some prices on the switches next time round.

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