The Cisco 3550 series is the most cost-effective used option for a true Cisco layer 3 switch. The 3550 series was the first low-price layer 3 switch (roughly $5000 list price new). These switches do most of the typical layer 2 features of modern Cisco switches, plus they support layer 3 forwarding, the configuraton of layer 3 switching, and support for a variety of IP routing protocols.
Be careful to avoid the natural mistake of confusing the older Cisco Catalyst 3500XL series switches with the 3550 series. The easiest way to tell the difference between the two is that for 3500XL models, Cisco used the last 2 digits of the main 4-digit product number to identify the number of access ports in that model. For example, the 3500XL series includes models 3524 (24 port) and 3548 (48 port). For the different 3550 series, Cisco names all the 3550 models with exactly "3550" as 4 digits in the name, with additional digits to imply the number of ports – for example, 3550-24. This web page ignores the 3550XL series. Look at the 3550 datasheet for all the 3550 models.
|Popularly sold as new in years:
||2000 – 2005
|Original software options:
||Standard Multilayer Image (SMI)
Enhanced Multilayer Image (EMI)
|More recent software:
EOL/EOS notices at: http://www.cisco.com/en/US/products/hw/switches/ps646/prod_eol_notices_list.html
The original models of the 3550 had two main software branches:
- Standard Multilayer Image (SMI)
- Enhanced Multilayer Image (EMI)
Both support layer 3 switching, but only the enhanced image supported EIGRP, OSPF, and BGP.
At later IOS versions, Cisco started using a more router-like feature set convention, with these main four feature sets, with notes about the comparison to SMI and EMI:
- IP Base (SMI replacement)
- IP Base with Crypto
- IP Services (EMI replacement)
- IP Services with Crypto
Note that while the newer feature sets replaced SMI and EMI, the replacement was not feature-for-feature.
Finally, note that switches purchased from Cisco originally as SMI switches can be upgraded to EMI. In fact, often times eBay listings for 3550’s use wording like “3550 SMI switch with EMI software”.
3550's have some number of fixed 10/100 ports, plus some GBIC slots. The following tables lists SMI hardware models that are the lower priced models in the used market. The same models with "EMI" instead of "SMI" have the same hardware, but were shipped from Cisco with the EMI software.
Potentially Popular 3550 SMI Switches
||Product Number for SMI
Cables and other Notes
Known items that need research or verification
March 1, 2010: Version 1.0
April 22, 2010: Version 1.1 - fixed copy/paste error; had some info about 2960's.