If you are studying for the CCIE or in fact any Cisco Certification 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 gradedlabs.com 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.
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 http://rednectar.net/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