That right there is my bundle of Cisco pride and joy!
A breakdown of my equipment, and what I use for my topologies:
From top device to the bottom:
- 2509 Access Router w/octal cable
- 2950 L2 switch
- 3560 L3 switch
- 1841 ISR (R5) w/VPN Module
- 2621XM Router (R1 – NBMA)
- 2611XM Router w/4-Serial interface card (Frame-Switch – NBMA)
- 2611XM Router (R2 – NBMA)
- 2611XM Router (R3 – NBMA)
- 2801 Voice Router w/CME IOS image for Voice studies (R4)
- Currently unused 3550 L3 switch at the very bottom of the rack
I want to note first and foremost that my NBMA routers R1 / R2 / R3 including the Frame-Switch itself simulating the NBMA are all running IOS code 12.x, however the 1841 (R5) and and 2801 (R4) are running code 15.x that’s used on the current ROUTE exam.
I see and work with the differences in output, and solve troubleshooting with logical configuration, and any important differences in code I do use the 15.x routers – That is actually why they are on opposite ends of the NBMA network to hit any restraints on 12.x boarders (NBMA) so I know if IOS code compatibility is becoming an issue during the labbing session.
So if the newer material doesn’t work on the older code, I work with my 15.x routers to give accurate output for anyone viewing.
That being said…
Using a Physical lab vs a Virtual lab is equivalent to using a tread mill instead of going outside for a jog. On a tread mill I feel like I am just lifting my feet at the right intervals, and jogging outside feels like it really takes the muscles whole effort to move forward.
I feel quite the same about the Physical lab, there may come a day I use GNS3 or an emulator to lab on the go, but getting on your hands and knees to re-wire your rack using the correct cables, watching the lights go on (and sometimes amber / off) when something is amiss. It feels much more genuine to me then a program sort emulating a router, and their sooooo cheap now adays, noone can really say they can’t afford a small rack if they can afford to dine out or buy video games.
That and when I walk by my lab room and see my rack, a lot of nights I was going to slack and take the night off studying, I’d see the physical rack sitting there and started to ponder what I could lab up quick that would eventually turn to hours of lab work (which is a good thing, usually). Starting up the lab and hearing the hum, it is a beautiful sounds, like a soothing waterfall for the average CCNP candidate I’d imagine.
So if you can afford it, I encourage you to get a small 3-4 router lab and a couple layer 3 switches, it has pulled me into labbing so much it has already paid for itself in opportunities I have been offered in my career because that rack kept me chugging through CCNA studies and now through CCNP 🙂