Saturday, August 13, 2011

Which WIC

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I've seen the question asked a number of times: which WIC modules should I buy for my routers?  If you have a fixed function router such as those in the 2500 line (except for the 2524 and 2525, but that's a different story) it's simple.  You don't.   If you have a modular router, such as the 1700, 2600, 3600, 2800 and other lines, you have a number of choices.  And if your router has an NM slot, then you have another set of options available. Here I'll present the most obvious options and weigh some of their pros and cons.

WIC-1T

THis module provides one serial interface via a DB-60 connector.  If you're utilizing an NM-4A/S or NM-8A/S elsewhere or you have 1600 or 2500 series routers with built in serial interfaces, this WIC uses the same connector and this will allow you to standardize on a single cable for your lab.  I use WIC-1T's for this reason, I don't want the added expense of having to buy all the different cables.  These cables (DB-60 to DB-60) can be purchased from sites such as Monoprice for $5 per cable.

This module also presents you with the highest per interface cost.


WIC-2T or WIC-2A/S

For the purpose of a study lab, these WIC's are identical.  The only difference is the top end speed that they operate at, and in the lab that doesn't really matter.  These modules provide two serial interfaces via the Smart Serial connector.  A single WIC-2T or WIC-2A/S normally costs less than two WIC-1T modules.

However, if you're utilizing WIC-1T, NM-4A/S or NM-8A/S modules elsewhere in your lab, you'll probably have to stock DB-60 to Smart Serial cables as well as Smart Serial to Smart Serial and/or DB-60 to DB-60 cables.  Any cable with one or two Smart Serial connectors is going to cost more than a DB-60 to DB-60 cable.  And finally, some older models of routers cannot use these, such as the 1600 series routers.

WIC-1DSU-T1

These are the absolute cheapest modules you're going to come across that you can actually use in your lab.  Many times a router you pick up off of eBay will have one of theses with it, and they can be had for as little as $5 otherwise.  If you have the capability to make your own cables, you won't find a cheaper cable for your lab.  They use the same cable and connectors as standard Ethernet but utilize a different pin-out.

A lot of people claim to have found the T1 Crossover cables necessary to connect these modules dirt cheap, but I've never seen them priced reasonably.  So YMMV.  If you use this module, there is no way that I am aware of to connect it to any other type of serial interface.

NM-4A/S or NM-8A/S

These modules provide the highest port density per module, but not every router has an NM slot.  If you use 1700 or 1800 series routers for example, then you're out of luck.  If you have a router that does have an NM slot, then one of these will allow you to use that router as a pretty cost effective Frame Relay switch.  These modules use the DB-60 connector.

BRI-S/T, NM-4B-S/T, or other ISDN modules

You cannot connect these directly together, or directly to any other module.  If you already have an ISDN simulator then you can use them.  Otherwise, the ISDN simulator will run you at least $100, which would be better spent on routers or switches.


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