I like CISCO product but lets face it. If you want a shiny brand new one to play with and you don’t work for a fortune 500 companies IT department then I doubt you will have a newer CISCO router or switch sitting around to play with.
Personally I use BOSON Netsim http://www.boson.com/netsim-cisco-network-simulator as it has a few CISCO routers and switches that you can pull up, program and fool around with.
CISCO Packet Tracer is another Network simulation tool you can use: http://www.cisco.com/web/learning/netacad/course_catalog/PacketTracer.html
So… What do I do when I want semi to fully managed switches at a fraction of the cost?
So far my solution has been to buy the HP 1810-8G v2 Switch (J9802A) switches as they are in the $130 Canadian price range and come with great features like:
IEEE 802.1p Priority
IEEE 802.1Q VLANs
IEEE 802.1W Rapid Spanning Tree Protocol
IEEE 802.3ad Link Aggregation Control Protocol (LACP)
IEEE 802.3az Energy Efficient Ethernet
IEEE 802.3x Flow Control
RFC 1534 DHCP/BOOTP Interoperation
RFC 2030 Simple Network Time Protocol (SNTP) v4
My Favorites on this switch LACP and the RSTP!!!
Using this switch I trunked switches together, used Link Aggregation using LACP on my NAS, VMware Hypervisor server and my QNAP NAS to beef up the bandwidth pipe on the network for these devices.
For the Price these make great testing lab switches.