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One of the challenges some people pursuing Cisco certification face is getting their hands on equipment to practice with. Buying used gear is one option, though this is expensive and you might have trouble finding the latest models. And messing around with a production network at work might not be the career boost you’re seeking.
Virtual labs are one alternative. Although this list is by no means all-inclusive, here’s a sampling of some of the products I found on the Internet:
* Gambit Communications offers MIMIC Virtual Lab - Cisco and MIMIC Virtual Lab - Building Cisco Scalable Internetworks. These software packages create virtual labs populated with Cisco routers and switches that seem like a real hardware lab you can practice on. Users can connect to the lab using any Telnet/IOS or Cisco management applications. The products cost $99 each and you can download a free evaluation copy at http://www.gambitcomm.com/site/products/. For more information, go to http://www.gambitcomm.com/site/mainindex.html.
* Sybex offers the CCNA Virtual Lab, Gold Edition. This simulation tool is designed to give you a hands-on experience to tackle Cisco’s simulation format questions. Virtual Lab, Gold Edition gives you access to three 2500 series routers, one 2621 series router, two 1900 series Catalyst switches and four hosts. It costs $104.99 on Amazon.com. According to the Sybex site at www.sybex.com, a Virtual Lab, Platinum Edition is scheduled for release in October.
* Another option is a remote rack rental. A company called CCIE4U.com provides a remote rack rental lab that contains 13 high-speed routers, an ATM switch and ATM ports, an ISDN simulator, dual Cisco Catalyst 3550-24 EMI switches, 36 High Speed Serial ports and Frame Relay ports, voice ports, dozens of Ethernet and 100M bit/sec ports and a flexible logical topology. A Cisco PIX firewall with four is also available for the CCIE Security lab. Pricing ranges from $20 for four hours to $65 for 24 hours.
* Network Learning (http://www.ccbootcamp.com/rackpricing.asp) provides five different rack configurations to choose from; all of which are provided via Telnet. The cost ranges from $60 to $90 per day for 23.5 hours to practice.
Read more about infrastructure management in Network World's Infrastructure Management section.