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Building your own Cisco Lab

It can be easy and inexpensive to setup and build a Cisco lab to study for Cisco qualifications - the CCIE, CCNP and CCNA. Granted it is still more expensive to home study for Cisco Certifications than the MSCE you also get a Cisco certification out of it which seems to be of greater value in the market. For the more expensive items such as dual catalyst 3550s, ATM, VOIP it makes sense to rent rack time from providers such as

A basic starter cisco lab for the CCNA would consist of just two low end routers. The Cisco 2503 (2 serial, 1 Ethernet, 1 BRI) or 2501 (2 serial, 1 Ethernet) seem the most popular - these are inexpensive and easy to find at low prices on ebay.

Router Included Interfaces
25011 Ethernet 2 serial
25031 Ethernet 2 Serial 1 ISDN BRI
25058 port hub 2 Serial
1601R1 Ethernet 1 serial 1 WAN Interface Card slot
1603R1 Ethernet 1 ISDN BRI 1 WIC Interface
1605R2 Ethernet 1 WIC slot

Even the 2502 router which includes Token Ring is great to have if you don't mind buying MAU's. Don't buy anything in the Cisco 700 series - they don't run Cisco IOS which is what you are trying to learn.

You need to connect your three routers serial interfaces back to back to bring the serial lines up using a DCE cable on one end and a DTE cable on the other. Part numbers for cables for the 2500 routers are:

Router Included Interfaces
CAB-X21MTMale DTE X.21 cable 6 or 10 feet long
CAB-X21FCFemale DCE X.21 cable 6 or 10 feet long

Or you can just buy a 6 ft crossover cable (60 pin) where one end is DCE and the other end is DTE for about $15.

For CCNP and CCIE you are going to need at least three routers because the network scenarios you need to set up are going to be much more complicated, re-distributing routes into OSPF and BGP etc. Also you need to know routing over and above directly connected interface lab scenarios. Again the 2501 and 2503 are a popular choice because they have two serial ports and one Ethernet. You will want 16MB flash and 16MB Ram to be able to load recent Cisco IOS software on your router. Adding multi interface routers like a 4700 would be a nice addition in a home lab if you keep an eye open for bargains. The 7000s are getting cheaper now as well and are good for ATM.

Nice to have

An ISDN line simulator - I like the Merge 2000AFP used for about $500. Includes both ST and U interfaces to support both 2500 and 2600 BRI interfaces.

You can simulate a Frame Relay service with a third router set up as a FR switch. Just use command such as frame-relay switching and frame-relay interface type dce. Reference for sample frame relay switch configurations.

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