Is it worth upgrading that old network device?

I used to have the opinion of performing software upgrades on old equipment to bring the software version up to a modern version. I have had issues in the past and the vendor refuses to help me until I perform a software upgrade. So, to avoid lack of support, I always wanted to have my equipment on newer version.

Recently, I have had a change of heart on this. I recently performed some software upgrades on some Cisco 2106 wireless controllers that have been in place for years. Version 6.x was no longer supported and I had to have the controller on version 7.x for support reasons. After my upgrades were done, I was left with a large number of failed access points that could not handle the upgrade.

Last weekend I traveled to a remote site to perform a software upgrade to another Cisco Wireless Controller, that upgrade went very well. While I was there, I thought I would upgrade the software on the Cisco 6509 and a couple of 3560G switches in the data center. The software on these switches were well over 4 years old, so I thought I would upgrade them. The 6509 upgrade went well. As I performed reboot on the 3560G, it blew a puff of smoke out of the fan vent and died. After scrambling to find a spare 3560 (Not G), I was able to get it replaced. When I get a replacement switch, I get to replace it again with the correct type of switch.

Due to the hardware failures, I’m not so sure I will be performing software upgrades on old network devices unless I am having a problem with it. Then when I do, I’ll have the expectation that it’s going to fail.

What is your opinion about performing software upgrades on network equipment that is not having issues?
My failures were with Cisco equipment, Do you see the same failures on other vendors equipment?

2 thoughts on “Is it worth upgrading that old network device?

  1. I went from SysAdmin (servers) to NetAdmin (routers and switches) and have had a change of heart as well. In the server world, you upgrade almost as a matter of course when a new patch comes out, maybe waiting a few weeks for feedback from the early adopters.

    The thing to keep in mind in Router Land is that, unlike servers/applications, the software doesn’t undergo terribly major changes. Each software update is a tiny refinement. Sometimes these refinements are meant to fix a single issue. Other times these refinements to field-test some slight changes. On occasion a new feature is added, but that’s pretty rare. Therefore, you are assumed to only update when you need the specific issue fixed or rare new feature added.

    I often call myself a “Data Plumber,” and when is the last time you upgraded your toilet? And the time before that? Not often, I imagine. For the most part it works well, like a router.

    TL;DR, routers are not servers, and it takes a bit to get used to that difference!

  2. Unless there’s a critical fix or otherwise required to stay within the support contract, leave well enough alone. And if you’re on a project for one device upgrade, leave the others alone. The one might go well since you’ve planned and scoped it out, but you could be walking into unknown IT landmines with the other stuff.

    I.E. Cisco Catalyst 3750 series switches, great as long as you stay at 12.55 and below. 12.58SE2? There’s a reason it’s not the recommended IOS version for a lot of their products. When you stack a 3750E or 3750 with a 3750X and you happen to use that version? Really high CPU usage.

    I’m a jack of all trades, master of none with lots of experience on the full data center stack.

    Also, if it’s not been rebooted in a LONG time? Clean and inspect before you power it back on. If the dust doesn’t cause a short circuit, failed/bad capacitors might. Or if you’re in the land of failed Cisco Catalyst 3750 and the like, it’s bad flash ram. It’s kind of like the bad solder debacle for older nvidia video chipsets and even some AMD cpus on HP printers like the notorious LaserJet P3005.

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