CCIE Lab Equipment to practice

If you are studying for the CCIE or in fact any Cisco Certifcation you will need access to Lab Equipment.

But what CCIE Lab Equipment do you need.

The current CCIE R&S v4 lab exam will test you on the following hardware

  • Cisco 1841 Integrated Service Router, running IOS 12.4(T) Advanced Enterprise Services
  • Cisco 3825 Integrated Service Router, running IOS 12.4(T) Advanced Enterprise Services
  • Cisco Catalyst 3560 switch, running IOS 12.2 Advanced IP Services

But how do you get access to this equipment?
There are a few options, but it all depends on your situation, and how much cash you have!

Setup your own CCIE home lab

This is what I have done and although it is seen as the most expensive solution once you have bought all the hardware and set it up, you have free access to a full rack whenever you want. Also once you have finished your studies you can sell the rack.

My rack consists of 4 x 3560 switches, 6 x 2651XM routers, 2 x 1841 routers and one 3825 router.

Most of the hardware was purchased from ebay and is housed in a skeletek rack, it currently lives in my spare room and I have setup full remote access so I can access it wherever I am working.

I will post more details on my rack in later posts, it is setup in the INE topology which is CCIE training provider I am using.

CCIE Rack Rentals

If you cannot afford the expense of purchasing a full rack but still want access to all the hardware you can opt for rack rentals.
The benefit of this option is you don’t have to purchase any hardware and you don’t have a great rack of kit in your house / garage.
You simply purchase blocks of time from a ccie rack rental company such as and then configure your telnet client to connect to the racks remotely.
The pros are less expense, the cons are you are tied to fixed time windows and if you purchase a 5 hour block you cannot stop the clock.

This does focus your study time, but I found this option to be too restrictive.

Virtual Hardware

Using GNS3 or Dynamips you can run the real cisco images on virtual routers on your PC.
This is a great solution as it means you can run routers on your laptop wherever you are, the downside is the limit on the switching capability. You can run a 16 port ethernet card in a router but it is not the same as running real switches.

A lot of students opt for virtual routers and physical switches, you just need a good PC to run the virtual routers and then about 16 ethernet ports on your PC to break out to the physical switches.

If you are going to go for this option I recommend you run GNS3 on Ubuntu or any other Linux distro.

I would highly recommend the GNS3 Workbench

Chris has put an incredible amount of effort into this image which you just run in VM Workstation it is an optimised version of Ubuntu with GNS3 installed. You need to supply the Cisco image.

Running GNS3 on my Windows 7 laptop I could only run about 5 routers without the CPU getting pegged, using GNS3 I can happily run 20 routers and my CPU runs at around 30%

So there you have it, a simple run down of the options for CCIE Lab Equipment and how to practice.

If you have any other suggestions or would like some advice on setting up your CCIE home Lab then please comment below.

Good luck with your studies




  1. Mike McPhee says

    Hi Roger!

    Thanks for sharing the blog with us. I am slowly, but surely, coming around to getting on the CCIE path and working on a hybrid setup with GNS3 as the routing portion and physical switches with a 5th breakout switch. One thing I found very helpful in optimizing GNS3 is some of the tweaking additions alluded to in this blog entry:

    Idlemax= 100 and a good idlepc value will make a huge difference, and I can run the entire topology and then some in a Vista box on a Core 2 quad core without exceeding 10% CPU load. ghostios = True and sparsemem = true also help somewhat.

    Thanks again – great blog!

  2. Venkata Dendukuri says

    Hi Roger,

    I am planning to buy RACK for CCIE Lab Exam, Please suggest me what are the modules need to buy with those hardware.

    Do you suggest any website for selling altogether.
    Thanks in advance,

    • Roger Perkin says

      If you are using INE’s topology then all the info you need is here

      This is if you are going to go all physical which I would recommend, if you can’t afford that then GNS3 is a great alternative and you will need to buy a few switches 3560 ideally, you can get by with 3550’s and then you could rent some rack time to practice the features not available on the 3550’s

  3. Faisal says

    Hello Roger,

    i have seen few different 3560 switches having ext at the end of their name example

    i understand they have different capabilities, but which one do i need for my CCIE Lab?

    thanks for the great help man

    • Roger Perkin says

      You need to look here

      All those switches would be ok, the letter refer to the code that comes on the box and if it’s a POE switch PC-S
      The TS-S or the TS-E would be perfect for your studies, the PC-S would be ok but you may need to upgrade the image

  4. Zak says


    I’m looking to purchase a CCIE rack based on the INE topology (R1-R6, SW1-SW4…) or higher spec. The labs that are being sold on eBay either don’t have L3 switches or the lab items seem to have been rehashed/refurbished a few too many times with high markups!

    Anyone looking to sell ? I am based in Berkshire, UK


    • Roger Perkin says

      To be honest you are better to save your money and go virtual for as much as you can and then rent rack time when you need to get switch access. You will spend a lot of money on a rack and most of the time it will sit there doing nothing. Use GNS3 as much as you can, there is so much you can learn with just routers and then when you need to get switch access or a full lab rent it. It’s a much better investment, If you want to buy anything just get a few switches. When the Internet Routing Lab comes out from cisco racks will be dead

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