Forget that proprietary network hardware.
By Barry L. Kline
Ask a thousand computing professionals what company name is synonymous with networking, and I'd wager that the vast majority would reply "Cisco." That Cisco has that kind of mind share must be very gratifying to its marketing department. While I can't argue that Cisco makes some very fine networking equipment--it obviously does--I'm not as enthused about the licensing under which the equipment is delivered. I can re-sell the hardware, but the embedded software is licensed, thus making the resale value of the equipment relatively worthless. To me, the cachet of the Cisco name is not worth the price, particularly if you keep in mind that the protocols used to deliver packets from one network to another are standard stuff. Because of the cost, building a Cisco-equipped lab with which you can study networking is outside the budget of most IT professionals.