No Joke – Lab Used Switch Prices Way Lower

It's time to get back to the CCNA/CCNP lab discussion and list some of the current prices for the models of switches we discussed back a few weeks ago. I'll spill the beans right up front: compared to this time last year, the prices are waaay down - 50% +. It makes the decisions a little tougher, though, because the price comparisons between different models are now closer.

I looked at three variations for switches appropriate for CCNA and for the more price sensitive parts of the CCNP set: 2900's, 2950 standard image, and 2950 enhanced image. 2900's have been around a long time, and were already pretty cheap last year. However, some of the commands and syntax differ when comparing the 2900 to the 2950 and 2960. (2950 and 2960 are very similar in regards to the command set; the exams avoid such differences, but if it lists a command, it's more likely to be similar to 2950/2960). 2950's have two software builds that are NOT field upgradable, so you need to consider what you're buying in regards to software. Go here for a list of standard image 2950's and here for a list of 2960 enhanced image.

The following table lists some of the key differences between these images. The table includes items that matter for both CCNA and CCNP. For CCNA, the only noticeable difference between the two 2950 IOS images is the lack of 802.1w (RSTP) on the standard image. The 2900's are missing more of the CCNA and CCNP features, as you might expect with an older switch, but it still does a lot.

Last winter in my CCNP lab series, where I took a closer look at the why's and wherefore's, I ended up just ruling out getting 3550's for those who cared about CCNP but who weren't moving towards CCIE soon after. The prices were in the $600 range, and the only big benefit versus the enhanced image 2950's was the layer 3 functions. However, the prices for a layer 3 capable 3550 are a lot lower now - I put them at $210 each with my usual "EBay buy it now" approach, choosing the lowest prices for which a volume of products are available.

Another quick word on the 3550 switches about the IOS: 3550's come with either the standard (SMI) or Enhanced (EMI) image. The image is field upgradable from SMI to EMI. Many of the "EMI" switches for sale on EBay are noted as "SMI with EMI loaded" or somesuch - translated, they already loaded the EMI code, which is required for the layer 3 function.

So, to the prices! Here's the list. Compared to about 13 months ago, the prices on the 2950's are down 50%, and the prices on 3550's down 65%. WOW. That's certainly enough to notice.

So, where to from here? I'll revise the router prices from a few weeks back (my worker bee Rich found some consistently better EBay prices on the routers in the last few weeks). Then I'll pick some budget numbers, and toss out a few sample build lists for routers/switches for a CCNA and then CCNP lab.


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