A fellow networker from the group writes…
“What is the best test preparation software?”
This question can be a long winded question. Theres a few paths you a take with this.
1. Equipment only for CCNA R&S
2. Equipment for CCNA R&S and CCNP R&S
3. Emulation/Simulation Software
I’ll tackle them one by one here
1. CCNA R&S Only
This is an easy one. If you just need equipment for NA R&S, I’d recommend getting at least three switches (Cisco Catalyst 3550 are the cheapest models right now off ebay) and get the 24 port ones if you can. They’re lighter and for labbing you dont need 48 ports anyway. 24 is more than enough. For the routers you can either get the really legacy models (the 2600XM series) or upgrade to the ISR G1 series which are the 2800 series (like the 2811 model). You can even get a “small form factor 1841 router which is alot smaller but does everything you need. In the past 6 months with the revision of the CCIE R&S v4 lab going all virtual for v5, theres no need for people to hold onto their old 2600 or even 2800 series. So you can find great prices on ebay or craglist right now (or ask me, I wanna get rid of some too :P
You’ll of course want some console cables to console into each guy. You can also optionally get an “Access Server” with rollover cables to reverse telnet back to each physical device you have. Or once you’ve IPed everything in your lab you can simply telnet between a “jump box” device as well. Its up to you.
Here’s a Cisco form to get your feet wet on the Access server : https://learningnetwork.cisco.com/thread/13245
2. CCNA R&S and CCNP R&S
This option is the one I’d suggest if you want to get real gear. You can pretty much keep the same equipment you used for CCNA R&S except for the switches get yourself a 3560 models instead of the 3550 models. There are some minor things that you cant do with the 3550 that the 3560 lets you do like PVLANs which is on the SWITCH exam. Like before, the prices of these have really gone down with everyone dumping their old stuff since its “kinda” no longer valid for the new lab format. Everything else you can keep the same, or if you’d like you can get yourself a 4th switch for some more STP topologies you can create.
Unfort since the new CCIE R&S v5 lab exam is all virtual, once you finish CCNP you can either sell your routers or keep it for your own tinkering. IE can now be done all virtual either via CSR1000v vms or IOU/GNS3 formats for the routers. Keep your switches though since as far as I know, any kind of emulator/simulator can’t fully do certain layer 2 functions.
3. Emulator/Simulator Software
Now this the Packet Tracers, GNS3, IOU or Cisco VM files like CSR1000v or IOS-XR on a vm of the world. Boson has a Simulator software as well as other vendors out there. This is nice if you don’t want to buy the gear and lab it all off your laptop or PC. How to use each tool is outside the scope of this article but these are good for on the go proof of concept or seeing “what if” scenarios. They are really helpful and I dont know any engineer who HASNT used these tools. Just realize since its not the real deal, theres are some limitations that the real gear can 100% always do. Here’s a rundown of each software…
Packet Tracer: Nice for CCNA, but thats about it. Very basic
GNS3: great for CCNA all the way to CCIE material. Some limitations but generally works great most of the time. IDLEPC has be a hassle sometimes
IOU: who? ;) rumor has it that it can do layer 2 stuff
CSR1000v: Right now INE is pushing their v5 lab using this vm. Requires about 2.5 GB RAM per router so its a pretty heavy footprint compare to other solutions
IOS-XR: good for messing with ASR code, not sure on the requirements as a vm however
So there you have it, hope that helps all NAers out there!