CCNA Lab, Part 6: CCNA Router Labs on a Slightly-less Constrained Budget

Today, I'm going to wrap up the bigger picture of the three options for a CCNA lab. You might recall from early last week, I blogged about the first of 3 options for your CCNA lab, at least the router part:

1) Cheap, CCNA-only: 2 older model routers, plus cables

2) Tight budget, 3 router, some upgrade path

3) Good prep for CCNP next, without going overboard

Today, I'll get to the details on the other two options.

First, my suggested topology for options 2 and 3 are the same - three routers, with a need for 2 serial and 1 LAN interface per router. The following figure shows the basics, and how I'd probably leave it cabled most of the time - ignoring the switches for the time being.

Obviously, you'll need 3 routers - but which ones? Well, I've updated a table from a few weeks ago, this time in also include the 2520 model router, which I'm going to include in both my samples for options 2 and 3.

So, for option 2, I'll pick the following:

* 2520 (quantity 1)

* 2501 (quantity 1)

* 3640 (quantity 1)

The reasoning is that while the 2520 can't run the latest IOS versions, it does have 4 serial ports, and does not require an external Ethernet transceiver (cost savings). So, when you decide to study for CCNP, you can use the 2520 permanently as your Frame Relay switch, with 4 ports, which is probably enough. I chose the 2501 just to keep the cost down - boy, is it cheap! I chose the 3640 so that you could at least have 1 router with the most recent IOS version, just in case. The 3640 is the least expensive option (at least for the models I checked, when I checked), so that keeps cost down a little, and the WIC-2T can be used across most of Cisco's product line. Here's the parts list:

* 1 2501 router ($25)

* 1 2520 router ($125)

* 1 3640, WIC-2T, NM-1FE2W ($400)

* 1 back-back serial (DB-60/DB-60) cable ($10)

* 2 back-back serial (DB-60/Smart serial) cables ($20)

* 1 console cable (free with router probably)

* 3 AC power cables (free with router probably)

* 1 Ethernet transceiver (for 2501) ($20)

* 3 Ethernet cables (crossovers, if using as shown in the following figure) ($30)

This lab totals $630, with the 3640 being the majority of that cost.

Finally, for the 3rd option, I'd use the same basic choices, except I'd replace the 2501 with either:

* An 2610 non-XM

* An 1841

The 2610 has appeal for 2 reasons: even though it doesn't support the most recent IOS versions, it does support frame-mode MPLS. For example, when I built my lab network to create the MPLS chapter for my CCIE R/S Written exam cert guide, I used old (cheap) 2610's as the PE's, and my nice new 1841's as the PE routers. So, it's probably worth the extra $75 for the 2610 instead of a 2501. Also, the WIC-2T in the 2610 can at least be used in other newer routers down the road, which gives us a little bit of an upgrade path.

The 1841 has appeal for many reasons, with the primary reason being that of all the router models I've examined in the blog, the 1841 is the most likely router to still support the more recent IOS versions 2-3 years down the road. If I had to guess, I'd bet 2600-XM's won't support 12.5 mainline (down the road), but 1841's will. It's just a bigger bump in cost.

So, to be complete, here's the part list for option 3:

* 1 2610 non-XM router ($100), or 1841 ($650)

* 1 2520 router ($125)

* 1 3640, WIC-2T, NM-1FE2W ($400)

* 1 back-back serial (Smart serial) cable ($10)

* 2 back-back serial (DB-60/Smart serial) cables ($20)

* 1 console cable (free with router probably)

* 3 AC power cables (free with router probably)

* 3 Ethernet cables (crossovers, if using as shown in the following figure) ($30)

That totals $685 (2610, option 3A) or $1235 (1841, option 3B), with the 1841's cost being roughly half of the entire lab purchase for option 3B.

So, what's that give us? Here's a summary of the progression of prices and the changes relative to the previous option:

Option 1: $210 (2 routers, 2 serial links)

Option 2: $630 (adds 1 more router, latest IOS in 1 router, better FR switch for future)

Option 3A: $685 (replaces 2501 with MPLS P router capable 2610 non-XM)

Option 3B: $1235 (replaces 2610 non-XM with still-production 1841, with 2 routers running the latest IOS versions)

Next week, it's on to LAN switches, and possibly an end to the CCNA lab talk for a bit.

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