CCNP Lab Build – Product choices

Today I'm going to summarize some thoughts on why I'd consider one router or switch over another with the goal of building a CCNP lab. Then, I'll open it up to you: with $750 to spend on gear, and a $50 cable budget - what would you buy? Post it here. Then, at the next post, I'll add a sample lab or two myself, and maybe list some pros/cons for both your labs and mine.

Next post, I'll suggest my picks, and wrap up the series.

FYI, I'll use the same base prices I've been using in the last month, listed here and here, but your results will undoubtedly vary.

First, for routers: I'm choosing to go for only 12.4 mainline IOS and later, which rules out 2600 non-XM, 2500's, but leaves in 800's 3640's, 2600XMs, 1760's, and 1721's. The reasoning is that I'll for sure want good IPv6 support (it's sparse before 12.3), and there may be some small features in the later releases as well. Also, I'd give a small nod to a platform that extends past 12.4 mainline to 12.4T, but maybe not spend more $$ for it.

Also, for routers, to support labs for the ISCW exam, you need at least 2 routers with a security feature set, like:

1) IP/FW/IDS/ Plus IPSEC 3DES

2) Advanced IP Services

3) Advanced Security

If you look back to this post from last year, you can read a little more background on ISCW, but the short version is that the first of these feature sets has most everything for ISCW security except IPS, and the other two also then include IPS.

So, here's a summary of the platforms that made my short list. Note that I didn't list any versions past 12.4T, although some support other "special" builds that often end up in the next major version's T-train.

If it was me, and I was spending $$ for a CCNP lab, I don't think I'd use anything older than a 2950 when prepping for BCMSN. If I was really strapped for cash, sure, maybe I would. But if that was the case, I'd be trading time for $$ by doing all the router stuff on Dynamips, and spending my $$ on switches, and maybe even then still getting an inexpensive 2900XL series switch or two instead of 2950's.

That said, for switches, the biggest issues are whether you get a layer 3 switch (3550 is the only reasonably priced option at $210 on my estimates), or how much you worry about bumping from a standard image 2950 to an enhanced image 2950. See this post for a few weeks ago on the tradeoffs for the rest of the switch features; everything in that list gets some coverage in CCNP.

In short, I'll base my builds on:

  • 2950 std. image - $70
  • 2950 Enh. Image - $120
  • 3550 Enh. (L3) - $210

If you really want the 2900XL in the mix for your post, count it as $40.

So, tell me how you'd use these building blocks for your own CCNP lab. If you've just gotta include gear not listed here, feel free. If you got a lot better prices elsewhere, mention it, but I'll use WO's prices when comparing.

Also, for the more observant, yes, I'm completely ignoring the wireless requirement for CCNP - just didn't have time to look into it. I'll tuck that away for a later day...

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