Looking for a good LAB

RS6RS6 Member Posts: 7 ■□□□□□□□□□
Im looking for a lab environment that I can freely config PC's to Routers. I would like a real world environment. I am willing to pay as long as it serves the purpose. This would be for CCNA purposes also post exam for practice. Thanks in advance

Comments

  • tuleeohtuleeoh Member Posts: 78 ■■□□□□□□□□
    ebay is your best friend
  • clarsonclarson Member Posts: 903 ■■■■□□□□□□
    I'd say ebay isn't always your friend.

    There are plenty of labs for sale on ebay that are just plain crap and are wanting a premium price. They are just waiting to take advantage of an unknowledgeable purchaser to waste their money.

    But, like anything, you need to know what your looking to purchase and know what a fair price is. And, you will get a fair deal.
  • TechGromitTechGromit GSEC, GCIH, GREM, Ontario, NY Member Posts: 2,068 ■■■■■■■■□□
    RS6 wrote: »
    Im looking for a lab...

    From the title I thought you were looking to make Meth. :)
    Still searching for the corner in a round room.
  • dontstopdontstop Member Posts: 579 ■■■■□□□□□□
    How familiar are you with Cisco gear? Have you done your CCENT yet?
  • MacGuffinMacGuffin Member Posts: 241 ■■■□□□□□□□
    RS6 wrote: »
    Im looking for a lab environment that I can freely config PC's to Routers. I would like a real world environment. I am willing to pay as long as it serves the purpose. This would be for CCNA purposes also post exam for practice. Thanks in advance

    Here's where I bought much of my gear: http://www.cablesandkits.com/
    Not a paid endorsement, just a happy customer.
    I'm not a fan of E-bay for many reasons. I'll just say I've been much happier shopping elsewhere.

    You'll need to think about what you want to do and how much you are willing to spend. For example, a typical lab in studying for the CCNA is setting up a frame relay switch. This lab requires four routers with serial interfaces of some kind. I got lucky and was able to get a pile of 2500 series routers, with the proper cables, for real cheap. I was taking classes at a local IT training place as they were cleaning out the closet of old gear and I walked out with this stuff for $100 or so. If you were to buy a lab with four routers, and the cables to connect it all, then expect to spend more than $500 easily. Given that this lab is a small part of the testing, easily simulated in software, then one can get by with much less equipment, and therefore much less expense, and still have suitable gear to study with.

    At a minimum I'd think you'd want at least one router and one switch, which can be obtained easily for less than $100. A more suitable lab would have two routers and one or two switches. What most might consider a "complete" CCNA lab would have three or four routers and three or four switches. What specific models those routers and switches might be leads to my own questions.

    I've allowed my Cisco certification to expire and I've thought I should get it back. In anticipation of this I thought I should update my lab gear. A quick rundown is that I have ten 2500 series routers, four 2600 series routers (and five WIC-1DSU-56k modules to split among them), a 2610XM, three 2950 switches, a 3550 switch, and (just acquired this week) two 3750E switches. I also have some other Cisco stuff but since I haven't touched them in years I'm not even sure they work. The reason I believe I need to update my gear is that much of this stuff was quite old when I bought it roughly four years ago and I suspect that a few things have changed since.

    I bought the 3750 switches because they seemed to be a good price, will work as gigabit switches even if not used in a Cisco lab, and I thought might make a good start for updating my lab. The question I pose is similar to the OP, I'm looking to build a lab for CCNA studies, what kind of router should I look to acquire? I assume my choice of switches is suitable. I assume that some of my current routers will still be useful. What router, if any, should I consider acquiring?

    I pose my question in this thread to bump the OP question for someone just starting out and to add my own question as someone wanting to update their gear after letting their skills slide, and equipment age, for a couple years.
    MacGuffin - A plot device, an item or person that exists only to produce conflict among the characters within the story.
  • kurosaki00kurosaki00 Member Posts: 973
    Ebay is great, cables and kits is great too.
    You can also get some used labs in Amazon.

    I would suggest for CCNA keep the invest in the minimum. Get GNS3 running and some good images and that's it.
    meh
  • clarsonclarson Member Posts: 903 ■■■■□□□□□□
    Well it isn't so much the hardware that you need, but what ios you are going to be running.
    As far as switches go, the 3750E's are great. Probably running the universal ios that is version 15.
    The ccna exam is written using version 15 of the ios. So, you are going to be seeing the syntax that is for the version 15 of the ios.
    So, the switches have you covered on the switches technologies.
    You could also use the 2950's to do larger STP labs. You'd want the latest ios for them, as it supports rstp and mstp.

    As far as routers, you can run 12.4 on the 2610xm which is acceptable for the ccna. The rest can only run 12.3 which is 2 major releases behind what is one the exam, not good. Don't do ssh, ipv6, syntax is off, etc. But, make good end points and might come in handy.

    The good thing is the 3750E's are layer 3 switches, which means you can use them as routers. Bad thing is the ccna materials don't cover layer 3 switches. So, everything to do with routing is done on a router. So, you will have do some translating to do the routing labs on layer 3 switches. Layer 3 routing is covered on the ccnp switching exam. So, you might be able to find some helpful information there.

    It is good to have 3 routers to do labs with. use the 3750E's for two of them. Cludge together the other routes for a 3rd. And, see how it goes. If you can get it to work for you, you don't need an additional router at this time.

    If you don't want to spend the time getting a 3rd router going, and would rather spend your time just doing labs. You should purchase a 1841 or 2800 series router that is running version 15 of the ios. And, at least the advanced ip services feature set as that is required to support ipv6.
  • pevangelpevangel Member Posts: 342
    Virtual appliances are used in the real world. Spend the money on a decent server with lots of RAM instead of legacy routers running outdated code. I have access to lots of physical gear to lab with, but I still prefer using virtual environments for the convenience.

    I have a $300 server that can run at least 25 routers/firewalls running new code. If I have $300 for physical routers, I can probably get around 5 legacy routers.
  • rob42rob42 Member Posts: 423
    clarson wrote: »
    ...The ccna exam is written using version 15 of the ios. So, you are going to be seeing the syntax that is for the version 15 of the ios.
    So, the switches have you covered on the switches technologies.
    You could also use the 2950's to do larger STP labs. You'd want the latest ios for them, as it supports rstp and mstp....

    I think you'll find that you can't run V15 on 2950's; you'll need 2960's.
    No longer an active member
  • clarsonclarson Member Posts: 903 ■■■■□□□□□□
    That is correct you can not run version 15 of the ios on 2950's.

    I'm pretty sure as far as the switches go, there isn't anything on the ccna exam that requires version 15 of the ios.
    And, even if there was, he has 2x 3750E's that do. And, you don't need to run the commands on 10 switches to see how it works. You only need one.
  • rob42rob42 Member Posts: 423
    clarson wrote: »
    That is correct you can not run version 15 of the ios on 2950's.

    Thought you knew that (I'm in no way doubting your knowledge), it's just (to me anyway) the way that reads suggests that V15 can be run on 2950's and I assumed that you'd made a typo...
    No longer an active member
  • MacGuffinMacGuffin Member Posts: 241 ■■■□□□□□□□
    clarson wrote: »
    I'm pretty sure as far as the switches go, there isn't anything on the ccna exam that requires version 15 of the ios.
    That's good to know.
    clarson wrote: »
    And, even if there was, he has 2x 3750E's that do. And, you don't need to run the commands on 10 switches to see how it works. You only need one.
    The reason I bought two of them is so that I could use one on my home network and the other in my lab. They'd also act as spares for each other, if one died for some reason I could decide which role is more critical and swap if needed. I've been thinking I needed a gigabit switch on my home network for a while now and when I saw these switches for the right price I bought them.

    Another thing I wanted to do is set up some kind of VPN so that I can connect to my home network while away. I'll look again on if my 2610XM can fill that role or if I want to get something newer.

    I didn't want to hijack this thread, only to add my similar question to it. It would be helpful for RS6 to answer some of the questions posed here, such as what the budget for this Cisco lab would be. When I started out studying for CCNA the 2800 series routers cost too much for most people to consider buyin for a starter lab. It seems now that a 2800 series router would be something to consider, mostly due to the price difference with older gear shrinking. I'll consider such a router not because I need more equipment but because I'd like to have something with more security features.
    MacGuffin - A plot device, an item or person that exists only to produce conflict among the characters within the story.
  • MacGuffinMacGuffin Member Posts: 241 ■■■□□□□□□□
    I finally got around to looking into my hardware situation more closely which leads me to comment further on this post.
    clarson wrote: »
    Well it isn't so much the hardware that you need, but what ios you are going to be running.
    As far as switches go, the 3750E's are great. Probably running the universal ios that is version 15.
    I fired up the switches and looked into what OS they have, both report the same. The OS reports as C3750E-UNIVERSALK9-M 12.2(40)SE and the model as WS-C-3750E-24TD. I recall that any OS with "K9" in the version number means it's got some level of crypto in it, so that's good. No IOS 15 though, but then I didn't really expect it so I'm not disappointed or anything.

    clarson wrote: »
    The ccna exam is written using version 15 of the ios. So, you are going to be seeing the syntax that is for the version 15 of the ios.
    Does anyone have some sort of reference on where the differences lie? I'm tempted to invest in a newer router just to see the differences myself.

    clarson wrote: »
    The good thing is the 3750E's are layer 3 switches, which means you can use them as routers.
    I certainly can use them as routers but I'm not sure why I'd want to. Given my ample supply of routers I do not see a need and can make a case that trying to fit a layer 3 switch into the role of a router is a bad idea.
    clarson wrote: »
    It is good to have 3 routers to do labs with. use the 3750E's for two of them. Cludge together the other routes for a 3rd. And, see how it goes. If you can get it to work for you, you don't need an additional router at this time.
    I follow that your suggestion to use the 3750E switches as routers is based on the assumption they have IOS 15. Knowing that they run IOS 12 does that change your mind on this?
    clarson wrote: »
    If you don't want to spend the time getting a 3rd router going, and would rather spend your time just doing labs. You should purchase a 1841 or 2800 series router that is running version 15 of the ios. And, at least the advanced ip services feature set as that is required to support ipv6.
    Will every 1841 and 2800 series router be running IOS 15 or should I be sure they are not running IOS 12? I realize this might be a newbie question but in searching the internet on IOS 15 I'm finding very little that answers my questions.
    MacGuffin - A plot device, an item or person that exists only to produce conflict among the characters within the story.
  • MacGuffinMacGuffin Member Posts: 241 ■■■□□□□□□□
    pevangel wrote: »
    Virtual appliances are used in the real world. Spend the money on a decent server with lots of RAM instead of legacy routers running outdated code. I have access to lots of physical gear to lab with, but I still prefer using virtual environments for the convenience.

    I have a $300 server that can run at least 25 routers/firewalls running new code. If I have $300 for physical routers, I can probably get around 5 legacy routers.

    Not all simulators are created equal. Which would you suggest to try and which to avoid?

    I'm curious on how you get $300 to stretch so far as to purchase a "decent server with lots of RAM" and all the software to be able to simulate something superior to buying real gear. I'll go along with the assumption that one already has a collection of working computer hardware since everyone on this forum will need a relatively modern computer and internet access just to post here. I'm not disputing your claim outright, I'm just skeptical given my own experience with simulators and what I've read from other members on this forum. It's quite possible that a lot has changed since I last acquired a network simulator and made my last major purchase of Cisco gear.

    I'd also like some idea on how you define a "decent server" and "lots of RAM". Some people would consider 4GB as "lots" but others would consider that to mean a minimum of 32GB. Does "decent" mean dual core? 8-core?
    MacGuffin - A plot device, an item or person that exists only to produce conflict among the characters within the story.
  • clarsonclarson Member Posts: 903 ■■■■□□□□□□
    I recall that any OS with "K9" in the version number means it's got some level of crypto in it
    That means the ios has support for strong encryption (and isn't legally exportable). And, will support things like ssh and ipsec.

    Does anyone have some sort of reference on where the differences lie
    don't have a reference, but the differences aren't big. probably the biggest difference is the "show ip route" command. the command shows directly connect interfaces and "local" routes. It is mostly minor syntax differences. But, when your looking for the "best" answer and used to dealing with different syntax. A couple of errors and you've failed the exam. having a least one router that runs version 15 of the ios, so you can learn the right syntax is helpful.

    I certainly can use them as routers but I'm not sure why I'd want to. Given my ample supply of routers I do not see a need and can make a case that trying to fit a layer 3 switch into the role of a router is a bad idea.
    Most of your routers (2500 and 2600) can only run ios version 12.3 and that is if they have the latest ios on them. No one would recommend that those routers be used to study for the ccna exam. it is like getting a xp window machine and thinking you can pass a windows 10 exam. Most of it is the same, but you aren't going to pass that exam.

    I follow that your suggestion to use the 3750E switches as routers is based on the assumption they have IOS 15. Knowing that they run IOS 12 does that change your mind on this?
    They are still better to use than your 2500 and 2600 routers. And, you can always locate a version 15 ios and upgrade them.

    Will every 1841 and 2800 series router be running IOS 15 or should I be sure they are not running IOS 12? I realize this might be a newbie question but in searching the internet on IOS 15 I'm finding very little that answers my questions.
    No most won't be running version 15 of the ios. Version 15 of the ios is much larger in size than previous ios's. So, most don't have enough memory to load version 15 of the ios. And, many others don't have enough ram either. So, if you are wanting one that is running version 15 of the ios, be sure to ask, so you know.

    You can always PM me and I'll sell you one for a decent price.
  • clarsonclarson Member Posts: 903 ■■■■□□□□□□
    I'd also like some idea on how you define a "decent server" and "lots of RAM". Some people would consider 4GB as "lots" but others would consider that to mean a minimum of 32GB. Does "decent" mean dual core? 8-core?

    well I have recently picked up a gen 2 dell pe 2950. Dual quad core, 32gb memory, 6x 1tb hard drives. for less than $200. that is pretty decent for running lots of vms. But, crap for learning vmware. Because you'd be studying version 6 and this server can only do version 5.

    I did see a gen 3 pe 2950 on craigslist with dual quad core, 32gb memory, 11tb of disk space for $450. And, that could run version 6 of vmware.
    (huh, speak louder. I cant hear you with the server running)

    But, you are probably wanting to get at least a quad core with 16gb of ram.
  • pevangelpevangel Member Posts: 342
    I never said a simulator but Packet Tracer should be good enough for CCNA. I've used GNS3 which is an emulator to study for my CCNP. With a 7200 image running 15.x, you can accomplish a lot of lab scenarios even with crappy hardware. I've even ran GNS3 on a netbook.

    I bought an HP ML350 G6 locally for less than $200 and bought 64gb of RAM from ebay for around $120. It has two quad cores. I'm running ESXi 6 on it which is a free trial for 60 days and then you lose some features with the free license after the 60 days expires. There are other hypervisors there that are completely free, but I'm more familiar with VMWare so I use that. All of my VMs are sourced from the vendors themselves.
  • MacGuffinMacGuffin Member Posts: 241 ■■■□□□□□□□
    pevangel wrote: »
    I never said a simulator but Packet Tracer should be good enough for CCNA. I've used GNS3 which is an emulator to study for my CCNP. With a 7200 image running 15.x, you can accomplish a lot of lab scenarios even with crappy hardware. I've even ran GNS3 on a netbook.
    Right, you did say virtual appliance, not simulator. When it comes down to the goal at hand, obtaining a lab for CCENT/CCNA practice, this distinction is of little importance. I do want to discuss this choice between physical versus virtual labs, especially when it comes to the bang to buck ratio you point out.

    GNS3 is free software so there is no cost there. The IOS images are also free so long as we don't go into detail on how they were obtained. The computer is "free" to an extent given that people will need a computer regardless and that the computer can be used for tasks other than Cisco training, unlike the Cisco hardware. I tried using GNS3 before and I found the software frustrating to set up and use. It's possible I wasn't doing it right, it's possible I was lacking in patience, and it's possible things have improved considerably since then. I realized that this path is only "free" if I placed no value on my time.

    Once I took the path of getting a physical lab the desire to try a virtual lab pretty much disappeared. My frustrations in getting GNS3 working might have been addressed in getting a not free alternative but then that meant also placing no value in the physical lab. It seems to me that if one desires to make this a career then one must essentially choose physical or virtual early on and stick to it. If one wants to build a CCNP lab over time then it can be done with a "new to you" piece of kit at an expense of perhaps $200 per year. If done with a virtual lab, such as Boson Netsim, that same amount of money can mean just keeping up with version upgrades.

    If done for say five years then one could have a nice physical lab or a nice virtual lab. In another year that virtual lab might just disappear with an OS update, because the new OS doesn't work with the old simulator, but the physical lab remains. As I see it with a physical lab every dollar spent can only add to the lab, and failure to spend money does not mean going backward. With the virtual lab one must keep spending money to stay where you are, failure to pay your "ransom" can mean the lab disappears.

    An open source project like GNS3 is not likely to "disappear" like a commercial product. I understand that GNS3 has improved since I last tried it, especially when it comes to virtual switches.

    This brings a third choice, a mix of physical and virtual. This was, as I recall, quite popular when GNS3 switch emulation was much less capable. People would buy a switch or three but then connect the switches to computers hosting virtual Cisco routers with the virtual ports on those switches mapped to real ethernet ports on the host.
    MacGuffin - A plot device, an item or person that exists only to produce conflict among the characters within the story.
  • pevangelpevangel Member Posts: 342
    Let's say you have $300-500 to spend on lab gear. Would you purchase a solution that's good for CCNA and potentially CCNP in R&S, or would you purchase a solution that's good for CCNA/CCNP/CCIE in multiple tracks along with Juniper's JNCIA/JNCIS/JNCIP/JNCIE, Palo Alto's PCNSE, etc.?

    I don't think we're talking about the same thing in regards to virtual appliances. I'm not talking about GNS3 or Netsim. The only reason I mentioned GNS3 is because you brought up simulators. I'm talking about running CSR1000v, XRv, ASAv, vSRX, vMX, etc. on some hypervisor. Compared to their physical counterparts, virtual appliances for labs are far superior. Here are reasons why:
    • Price - VMs are available for IOS, IOS-XR, ASA, SRX, MX, Palo Alto, F5 and many more. If I wanted to lab with IOS-XR, I'd need an ASR9K ($30K on eBay). An MX-5 is about $10K on eBay. Even if I just wanted to stick with IOS, I can run large topologies using CSR1000vs on one physical server. I can run at least 20 CSR1000vs on my $300 server. How many physical routers running 15.x can I buy with that much money? Even if I had $450, I won't be able to build a topology anywhere near as large. Not to mention the price of running multiple physical routers vs one server/PC.
    • Convenience/Flexibility - I can spin up a topology easily and quickly using virtual appliances. There's no need to move or add cables, so I can work on different labs no matter where I am (home, work, waiting in the car for my wife to finish shopping).
    • Future-proof - I believe the 1800/2800 series routers can't run code newer than 15.1. Disk space and RAM are common issues why routers aren't able to support new code. These things are not big issues for servers/PCs. VMs running newer code are constantly coming out. If I need features from new code, I just download the new VM. These VMs aren't just for lab use. Companies are actually using them in production. Even some vendors are going this route. Some of Juniper's new physical devices are linux boxes running a VM.

    Even if money wasn't an issue I still find myself using virtual labs more because of the convenience and flexibility. The company I work for spent hundreds of thousands of dollars for dedicated lab equipment. I also have access to spare inventory and projects on hold, so I have access to a ton of physical equipment for lab purposes. But I still end up using virtual appliances 90+% of the time.
  • MacGuffinMacGuffin Member Posts: 241 ■■■□□□□□□□
    pevangel wrote: »
    I don't think we're talking about the same thing in regards to virtual appliances.
    I believe you are correct. I also believe that the problem here is that we don't share the same experience with virtual appliances. The virtual appliances I've played with (and I emphasize "play") are just those I could find as free downloads that are open source projects and limited feature demos. Let's assume I am willing to just start over in building a lab, or that I'm just starting out like RS6, how would you propose building a virtual lab? Explain it to me as if I'm a 21 year old college student that just got his CompTIA Network+ certification and it's my beer drinking money that will be sacrificed for this lab, so to sacrifice the least amount of beer to the cause the cost should be minimized. What software should I be looking for to build this virtual lab?

    Another point I'd like to discuss, from this comment:
    pevangel wrote: »
    I can run at least 20 CSR1000vs on my $300 server. How many physical routers running 15.x can I buy with that much money?
    As clarson points out, you really only need one. More is not necessarily better in this case. To complete this physical lab one would need a handful of other computers, routers, and switches. To be able to practice the commands needed to pass a CCENT, CCNA, or even CCNP exam, there really only needs to be one Cisco IOS 15 router. Certainly having more than one router with IOS 15 would be preferable but if money is tight then one is plenty, especially to start out. Being able to run 20 routers in a virtual lab is certainly nice for many reasons but when it comes to my recollection of CCNA and CCENT labs the most you'll see would be likely six. For a large number of labs four seems sufficient. Again, of those routers only one needs to be a Cisco IOS 15 device, the rest can be older, or even be virtual if you have a cheap computer or two and the right software.

    I also have some questions on virtual switches, which might be a bit of a tangent here. Virtual routers and firewalls I understand, people have been using commodity PCs for dedicated routers and firewalls for a long time and virtualizing them is just the next step in that evolution. What I understand is that virtual switches must live only on that virtual environment. What makes a switch a switch is being able to see the ethernet frames as they exist on the wire, and act upon the data in that frame, and do so quickly. I can take just about any old tower PC, stuff it full of ethernet cards, and make it a router. What I cannot do, as I understand it, is take that same tower PC with multiple ethernet interfaces and turn it into a switch. Does that sound correct to you?

    The reason I ask is because when I was first doing my certification studies I didn't have a whole lot of money to spend on more hardware. I wanted to do some Cisco switching labs that required three or four Cisco switches but I had only two. I thought that with my pile of electronics in my basement I should be able to build something that might stand in for one of those switches. I recall trying this on a computer with a Pentium II processor, 6 ethernet cards, and maybe even a couple USB to ethernet adapters. I don't recall all the different software packages I tried but at least one claimed to be able to mimic Cisco IOS with it's configuration interface.

    I ask about turning a PC into a switch partly out of just curiosity, I was under the impression that ethernet switching is something that commodity hardware cannot do. If it can then I'd like to try just to see if it can be done. Such a thing might also be useful for someone starting out in building a Cisco lab so that they can do like I was trying to do, get another switch on the cheap that is capable of things like VLAN and spanning trees. If it sounds like something like this might work then I might consider trying such an experiment again. Especially now that I've acquired an old server with multiple gigabit ethernet interfaces.
    MacGuffin - A plot device, an item or person that exists only to produce conflict among the characters within the story.
  • clarsonclarson Member Posts: 903 ■■■■□□□□□□
    As clarson points out, you really only need one. More is not necessarily better in this case. To complete this physical lab one would need a handful of other computers, routers, and switches. To be able to practice the commands needed to pass a CCENT, CCNA, or even CCNP exam, there really only needs to be one Cisco IOS 15 router.

    Yes a single router running version 15 is all you'll need for the ccna and the ccna security exams. But, for the ccnp and ccie level exams you are going to need several more. such as for the ccnp r&s you will need 4 and 10 is nice to have for ccie labbing. And, for ccie labbing you'd prefer to have isr gen 2 routers (1900 and 2900) that are more expensive than the isr gen 1 routers (1800 and 2800).

    But, for most advanced certifications, even with virtualized routers they break out the switches and use real hardware.

    I've never used virtualized routers. But, I can see the attraction. Software is easily upgraded and improved. Where hardware only gets older until it is obsolete. But, paying subscription fees do add up.
  • MacGuffinMacGuffin Member Posts: 241 ■■■□□□□□□□
    I came across the following video today.

    I thought I'd highlight some suggestions made in the video that apply to this discussion.
    - Get real gear. The desire to get certified is so that one can work on real Cisco gear in the real world. In the video the instructor (I forgot his name already) does point out that simulators and emulators have value but it cannot replace the real thing. He goes into the point that the cost is minimal with considerable gain, even if one gets only a single router to work with.
    - No need to get IOS 15. This guy is an instructor for Cisco certifications, and CCIE certified, so I'm going to put a lot of weight in his advice. If someone can enumerate the differences between IOS 12 and IOS 15, and how lacking those features to work with will put me at a disadvantage in passing the exams, then I will reconsider.
    - One is good, six is great. He shows a recommended lab for CCNA studies that includes three routers, three switches, and some serial WAN cards. The only possible dispute I would have with this suggestion is the need for another router. He considers a lab with three routers, three switches, and a couple computers, a complete CCNA lab. More is better, of course, but adding more brings diminishing returns.
    - No need to get fancy. He points out that the protocols and concepts being tested over in the CCNA exam(s) has not changed much in decades. Getting old, and therefore inexpensive, gear will not be an issue. He points out that while layer-3 switches are preferable because of the advanced feature set they are by no means required. Layer-3 switches will come up in CCNP exams and if one wants to advance beyond CCENT or CCNA then it might be wise to invest in a layer-3 switch early on.

    After watching that video all desire to invest additional time or money in more gear or virtual devices has evaporated. In my basement I have a 12U rack which has four 2600 series routers, three switches, and five 2500 series routers. If I ignore the nearly ancient 2500 series routers then I have, according the the guy in this video, a perfectly acceptable CCNA lab. In addition to the dozen pieces on my lab rack I have at least a dozen more pieces of Cisco gear, some of which I'm using in my home network.

    This gets to another point made in the video, use Cisco stuff in your home network. This is the "have a mission" point he makes. I have so much Cisco stuff because I wanted to keep my home network separate from my lab network. I'm going to make setting up my home network part of my learning experience.
    MacGuffin - A plot device, an item or person that exists only to produce conflict among the characters within the story.
  • MacGuffinMacGuffin Member Posts: 241 ■■■□□□□□□□
    clarson wrote: »
    But, for most advanced certifications, even with virtualized routers they break out the switches and use real hardware.
    Just goes to show that even for people with effectively unlimited budgets nothing can replace real switches.

    Ethernet switches are very specialized pieces of equipment, very different than a router. If one wants to build a CCNA lab to work with then they can build a virtual lab, a physical lab, virtualize the routers with real switches, but what cannot be done is virtual switches with real routers. When I first played with GNS3 I thought that at some point someone would figure out how to emulate a Cisco switch on commodity hardware. At first I thought the only reason it hasn't been done is because there just wasn't much of a market. I've thought for a long time that creating an ethernet switch with commodity computer hardware was impossible. I picked up a few details in my research in the last few days that just proves my suspicions to be true.

    I took another look at what some of this stuff costs to get an idea on how much one would have to spend if starting from nothing. A useable switch would cost less than $50, as would a router. If one wanted to put a 60 pin serial WAN connector on these routers that would cost about $30 each, and the cables to connect them less than $10 each. To build a lab like that shown in the CBT nugget video I linked to in my previous post would likely be less than $500.

    If someone wants to use virtual devices for reasons of space, convenience, or whatever, then they can easily spend more than that in a computer and software. Creating a mix of virtual and physical devices might give someone the ability to create more complex networks, get experience with real gear, and know they aren't compromising with virtual switches. What it's not likely to do is save anyone money.

    Perhaps it's just me justifying my previous decision to get a physical lab, we all tend to do that. I believe there is a strong case to avoid virtual gear in CCNA studies. If one does choose to use virtual gear then it would seem this should be in addition to real gear, not instead of it.
    MacGuffin - A plot device, an item or person that exists only to produce conflict among the characters within the story.
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