Observations of the Second-hand Cisco Market

By stretch | Monday, December 6, 2010 at 1:44 a.m. UTC

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Such prepackaged kits, particularly from commercial resellers, are actually desperate attempts to make severely outdated or outright worthless gear seem appealing.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.

About the Author

Jeremy Stretch is a network engineer living in the Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina area. He is known for his blog and cheat sheets here at Packet Life. You can reach him by email or follow him on Twitter.

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December 6, 2010 at 2:14 a.m. UTC

I just recently built a ccna/ccnp lab with the following:

2 - 2621xm routers 2 - 2950-24 switches 1 - 2509-rj console server

Plus all necessary cables for just under 500. It is way better to price everything out separately. Plus you get better gear for a lesser price.

I think I might get one more router and switch and emulate more routers with gns3.

December 6, 2010 at 2:32 a.m. UTC

But always beware packages from resellers; these are easily identified as appearing many times within search results with the same photos.

Indeed! In addition to the quote above, what I find equally amusing are the sellers who post the exact same item multiple times at different price points.

zox (guest)
December 6, 2010 at 8:06 a.m. UTC


What about HWIC-4ESW, those are pretty cheap on ebay.


Dietmar (guest)
December 6, 2010 at 10:02 a.m. UTC

An "cheaper" alternative to a 1 or 2 port FastEthernet Module is the HWIC-4ESW Module (4 Switched FastEthernet Ports, routing via SVIs possible). Some customers using them for cheaper Ethernet connectivity on the 1841 plattform... I found some on Ebay for about 200$.


December 6, 2010 at 2:48 p.m. UTC

For a Cisco 3640 the interface NM-1FE cost me more than the full router. (so sad) I couldn't do a router on a stick with an Ethernet Interface (not supported)

December 6, 2010 at 4:17 p.m. UTC

HWIC-4ESWs provide only switched interfaces, not routed. Yes, you can sort of make it work with SVIs, but the confusion it will generate among lab users isn't worth it.

December 6, 2010 at 7:19 p.m. UTC

I think the problem in used parts is how often they were sold initially. Most ISRs we deploy are deployed with enough fixed ethernet ports according to the customers scenario, and WICs only for the WAN, e.g. g.SHDSL.

nate (guest)
December 6, 2010 at 7:41 p.m. UTC

how do you feel about the prepackaged CCIE labs? considering you need a bit better gear to run 12.4 plus all the other things you "need" to have to have a decent enough setup or at that level should you just rent rackspace?

Cayman (guest)
December 6, 2010 at 8:51 p.m. UTC


As it's just for you lab could you not trunk the port to a switch and use VLAN trunking. Router on a stick type approach with sub interfaces?


December 6, 2010 at 9:15 p.m. UTC

I rent the labs, there are a lot of lab rent companies out there

chad (guest)
December 7, 2010 at 12:31 a.m. UTC

I plan to take the CCNA very soon. I have mostly only used GNS 3 and the simulator that came with my Lammle CCNA books. The simulators seem to work fine for me and I guess I just don't understand the need to buy all this equipment. Can someone please tell me what I am missing?

December 7, 2010 at 12:58 a.m. UTC

Yes 2509 and 2511 console servers seem to be expensive but do seem to keep their re-sale value. Worth considering other vendors' console servers e.g. Digi, Black Box? I make do with an old Lantronix ETS16 for my home lab which cost a fraction of price of a 2511 - I just had to spend some time making up RJ12 - RJ45 console cables.

Tim (guest)
December 7, 2010 at 2:45 a.m. UTC

Actually, everything Cisco sells seems to be overpriced. They don't have a 64% gross profit margin for nothing! (of course, Microsoft's is 80%). Using Vyatta on x86 hardware can be so much cheaper its ridiculous.

December 7, 2010 at 12:33 p.m. UTC

I think the root cause isn't how expensive their equipment is (it's not, compared to other enterprise & carrier class vendors), but how expensive their interfaces, optics, and memory are. When a NIC (let's face it - it's just a #@$@#$@@ NIC) costs $1000 no wonder the after market is so expensive. Don't even get me started on Cisco memory ...

And they've caught on to the "let's buy our nics/optics from ebay" ... changing their support contracts to list every component by serial number, so they can tell if you're putting in after market, other vendor components.

@Chad - IMHO, GNS will be fine for CCNA - if you have a decent computer to run it. My old computers, would bog down after a few router instances. But there's some cool tech you can do with switches, which GNS3 can't, since it doesn't do virtual switches (yes, I know about the switch card in the router trick).

BigEvil (guest)
December 8, 2010 at 7:54 p.m. UTC

The 1841 in the UK got for around £300 ($474). The 2511, i have chased these on evil bay a number of times and they can go for up to £200 ($316) People know the worth on these and hang on to them.

Simon (guest)
December 10, 2010 at 1:44 a.m. UTC

What would your ideal be for a CCNA lab in terms of equipment from eBay?

A guest
December 10, 2010 at 11:28 p.m. UTC

I ended up spending the money on (6) 2801s and (2) 3560s ( I had a few 3550s already ) because GNS3 is great for what it is but to be a well rounded engineer you need to be good with the switching portion of things and that's one of the downfalls of using strictly GNS3.

Here is another angle... In the grand scheme of things, is the equipment really that expensive if you use it to become a good engineer and obtain your certification(s)?? Look at the returns you get by furthering your education and compared to the amount of money invested on current hardware and a 4 year education, its not even a comparison.

December 14, 2010 at 4:34 p.m. UTC

Hello men.

If you try to get an L3 interface, it's always expensive, but, if you get an 4ESW interface (switched via SVI), there is still a good chance, remember vlan support for L3 routing.

i get 2 of them HWIC-4ESW, and works flawless.

i'll try to spend more time here and help as i can with more docs and contribs.

i currently doing my CCNP Route exam at first days of january, 2011, so hope pass with good point level.

and check my lab, maybe we could exchange some labs between us.

From the page 1 to the 11, it's possible to see the evolve of the rack, and how this monster takes alive from 1 to 4 almost complete racks.


December 15, 2010 at 4:07 p.m. UTC

So if I want to set up my own CCNP lab what sort of kit should I go for? 3 routers and a switch, maybe a 4th router for frame relay would be good but what model numbers will give me the features I need without being to far out of date?


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