Buying New Lab Kit for CCNA

If I was going to get my company to purchase brand new Cisco kit to set up a lab for me to prectice CCNA what would I be best buying?

And are multiple switches and routers necessary? And if so are different models recommended?

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Your company is going to buy a lab of equipment for you to use??? Did you ask them or did they initiate the offer to you? Wow, must be nice because it is definately rare. The best I have ever seen was at a very large and wealthy corporation which provided one of each model device in a shared department lab. It was not intended for exam study but was really for testing configurations and IOS images. I used it to gain familiarity with various router and switch models which the Cisco exam track did not concentrate on.

2600 series routers, specifically 2600 XM models are pretty good and can perform ethernet trunking. You need more than one router but may not need more than three. With three, you can advertise a TCP/IP subnet on one router, have the next router learn it via a dynamic routing protocol, then pass it on to the third. The same is possible with only two, but with three you can continue into the CCNP and practice routing protocol redistribution and mixing routing protocols. 2500 series routers are old and obsolete. You will find them referenced in older books. Their ethernet interface uses an AUI connection and must use a transciever to operate at its mere 10mb/s in our current twisted-pair world. How about using 3 of the Cisco 2611XM routers?

2900 series switches come in a variety of models. The number of ports does not matter because no more than three routers were recommended above. Get at least two switches so that you can try out etherchannels, spanning-tree loops by making more than one connection between switches, and the sharing of VLAN information via VTP. A great model would be the Catalyst 2940 8 port switch. It only lacks a feature called MDIX which, when enabled, detects crossover or straight-through cable connections. It is a layer 2 switch but you would not need layer 3 switching (router within a switch) until the CCNP exam BCMSN.

1900 series switches are not only old and obsolete, but they did not even have a full CLI (command line interface) IOS. Many feautres are either missing or use different commands. How about using 2 of the Cisco Catalyst 2900XL, 2950, or 2940 switches?

Make sure that you will have a few of each twisted-pair cable, both straight-through and crossover. You will also need at least one Cisco console cable. Perhaps one of the devices will come with one.

Although you may be excited by the idea of running bigger equipment if available, like the 4500/5500/6500 series switches, pass them up. They are more complex and might confuse someone at this time who is still learning.

3500 series switches, however, are acceptable but more expensive. Some of them are layer 3 capable but this can be ignored by not using those commands. Also, a layer 3 capable 3500 series switch is enough for learning CCNP switching concepts in the BCMSN exam.

----- Scott Perry Indianapolis, IN


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