Having spent a considerable amount of time perusing eBay for used Cisco and other networking gear, I've noticed some interesting and annoying aspects of the market which I'd like to share.
The Cost of Additional FastEthernet Interfaces
Since adding the Force10 S25N to the lab (designated as device S5 in the topology), I've wanted to implement some additional Ethernet links between it and the Cisco routers. Sadly, all of the first-generation ISRs in the lab (Cisco 1800s and 2800s) have only two fixed 10/100 Mbps Ethernet interfaces. Implementing additional links would require the installation of several HWIC-1FE or -2FE modules. (Sadly, the original Ethernet WICs are not supported on ISR platforms.)
At the time of writing (and over the last year or so at least), a Cisco 1841 ISR (of which there are four in the lab) goes for around $400-450 USD on eBay (North America).
The going price of an HWIC-2FE? The lowest I found at the time of writing was an astounding $550.
To reiterate, the cost of a two-port FastEthernet HWIC is $100-150 more than the cost of an 1841 router with two FastEthernet interfaces. This is extremely irritating for those building home labs.
2511s Have Really Retained Their Value
The majority of the ancient 2500 series of Cisco routers are useless, with the bulk of their sales these days initiated by poorly-informed CCNA candidates. The one exception is the 2511 access server, which continues to be resold at over the $100 mark. Unlike its siblings, the 2511 continues to retain its value year after year because of its niche utility as a console server. While far from a robust solution, a 2511 works fairly well as a console server in a home lab for up to sixteen devices.
Ridiculously Inflated Prices for Lab Kits
There is a commonly held idea that one can get a better price by buying in bulk. While often true, such is not typically the case for eBay auctions for CCNA/CCNP "lab kits." Two such examples are below:
Such prepackaged kits, particularly from commercial resellers, are actually desperate attempts to make severely outdated or outright worthless gear seem appealing. Let's examine the first kit above. For $645 (plus a whopping $120 for shipping) you get:
- 2x 2610XM
- 1x 2610
- 1x 2501
- 2x 2950-24
- Assorted (cheap) WICs, VICs, and cables
- A CD-R of surely not pirated "Application Programs" and "Training Materials"
2610XM routers go for around $60 before shipping, with their non-XM predecessors fetching only half as much. 2501s are an even sadder story; you'll pay more to ship them than they are actually worth (less than $20). Finally, Catalyst 2950-24 switches go for around $50. Total cost for the package before modules: $270, less than half of the asking price. It would be fair to budget perhaps another $100 for miscellaneous WICs and cables; here you can also save by purchasing only what you need, not whatever random bits they decided to throw in (like a WIC-1DSU-56K).
The lesson to be learned here is to avoid package "deals" from commercial sellers. In some cases, you may be lucky enough to find a true deal on a lab package sold by an individual (who is likely more interested in halting his wife's nagging about running a datacenter out of the living room than in turning a profit). But always beware packages from resellers; these are easily identified as appearing many times within search results with the same photos.