Lesson 1

This is one of three posts from Chris Patsalou posted on www.howtonetwork.net – we hope you enjoy.

Fellow g(r)eeks,


I see a lot of posts recently regarding people wanting to start off in the world of Cisco with their very own personal lab.

Now there is of course, nothing wrong with the racks here, but a few have wanted to experiment and do a bit more (making their own physical topologies, chopping and changing components, practicing ios upgrades/downgrades as well as physical upgrades)

So I thought I would write a small guide (which no doubt will be a long one …)

The questions that typically get asked are:-

1) What equipment do I need?
2) What features do I need and how many of each bit of kit do I need?
3) Where can I get this equipment from and how much does it cost?


Part 1 is here

Well, to start with, let’s begin with:-

1) What equipment do I need?

This will depends on a number of factors (lets forget the budget for now, we can discuss that in point 3) including how far up the cisco chain you want to go and what you want to specialise for.

I can only speak from experience from a Routing and Switching and from a Security background. Voice (someone will need to jump in and add to the guide)

You need Routers
You need Switches
You need cables (Ethernet/Serial/Power/console)
You need Network Modules & WIC’s.
You need a rack
You need a method to access (Access Server/Software to access)


If you are serious about the studies, you need to go for the 26__XM range of routers which are end of line.

I’m going to be controversial, and suggest that you do not bother with the 17XX series (not rackable, 1760 is rackabable, but not Network Module slot), 26XX (NON XM) – they don’t support higher memories, and yes, you could mess around with booting from tftp if you have a higher memory allocation, it’s a pain to upkeep, especially if you have many routers all accessing tftp at the same time.

3600’s are good, but they are pretty big (2U or 3U), same as the 2691 (2U) router. We aren’t looking at making your study a datacentre … yet Razz Remember, this will affect your rack choice too (more on that later)

We all aren’t made of money, so no point getting 1800/1900/2800/2900 series routers. If work can provide them for you, fantastic, or you have a rich uncle…

2610XM – 2 WIC slots, 1 Network Modules, 1 ethernet interface (plus your standard AUX and Console and Power connectors)
2611XM – 2 WIC slots, 1 Network Modules, 2 ethernet interface (plus your standard AUX and Console and Power connectors)

2620XM – 2 WIC slots, 1 Network Modules, 1 fast ethernet interface (plus your standard AUX and Console and Power connectors)
2621XM – 2 WIC slots, 1 Network Modules, 2 fast ethernet interfaces (plus your standard AUX and Console and Power connectors)

2650XM – 2 WIC slots, 1 Network Modules, 1 fast ethernet interface (plus your standard AUX and Console and Power connectors)
2651XM – 2 WIC slots, 1 Network Modules, 2 fast ethernet interfaces (plus your standard AUX and Console and Power connectors)

Cisco2610XM below:

In a lab environment, you won’t notice a speed difference between the 20 and 50 range. Nice to have, but no biggie. The 26X1 versions have an extra ethernet interface, again, nice to have, but no biggie if you don’t.

Realistically, you need 128mb of RAM and 32mb of flash, that should sort you for 99% of what you can do with the routers. If you want to go the whole hog (and as long as your cisco bios is ver CMONG 8R, you can have 256mb ram and 48mb flash (router has 16mb flash built in). This allows you to have the bleeding edge versions of the higher end cisco IOS. e.g 12.4T15-advancedentepriseservicesk9.bin etc etc (i’ll come to features in point 2)


The switches you can pick from are easy. 2950 (layer 2) and 3550 (layer 3) (there are variations, such as standard and enhanced, inline power (power over ethernet), gigabit/fibre, 12/24/48 port etc. DO NOT GO for the 2900 Series or the 3500 series switches as they do not support the newer Cisco IOS commands required for vlans etc – Don’t make the mistake I did and buy blind.

If the lab is going to be small you can get away with 12 ports, but if you are serious and want to progress further, and you are running firewalls, IPS’s, meshed environments, then you may need 24 ports Wink Don’t worry, we are coming to that bit shortly.

Again, we aren’t made of money and we don’t all have the space for a 6506 catalyst, or indeed 3560 or 3750’s. Remember, we are on a budget here.


This goes without saying, you will need regular, crossover, rollover (console) and power cables. Also, serial cables (DB60 to DB60, SS to DB60, SS to SS etc – more on this when we talk about modules) – oh, and not forgetting power leads … if you happen to get a rack with a power bar, the kettle leads maybe male to female (as opposed to 2/3 pin standard, plug in your wall ones) – make sure it’s surge protected too Razz Aaaaanyway


Yes folks, this is where the money gets eaten up, it’s the modules.

For a typical CCNA/CCNP lab, the modules you should only concern yourself with are WIC-1T, WIC-2T, NM-4A/S, NM-8A/S, (NM-16A and NM-32A will be mentioned later).

If you have two routers, you would only need 2 x WIC-1T (Wan Interface Cards) and one DB-60 to DB-60 cable. Nice, you have a point-to-point network.

If you have three routers, you would need either 2 x WIC-1T and 1 x WIC-2T, with two DB-60 to SS cables. You can run frame relay like this.Problem you may encounter is scalability, because you would then have to buy another WIC-2T to potentially link another 2 Routers with WIC-1T … or, you can purchase an NM-4A/S (equivalent of 4 WIC-1T’s, not in terms of speed, but that you can have 4 routers physically connected via DB-60) or an NM-8A/S (8 ports) – this uses the Network Module slot on the 2600XM series (you wouldn’t be able to do this on the 1700 series.

If you have more than 3 routers, makes sense to get an NM-8A/S so that 1 router can be your frame relay.


This is the easy part … all based on your requirements (how much you want to spend, how much equipment you want to stack up) – 12U should suffice for more people, but nothing wrong with a 16U or 20U Wink – Your budget will determine this. Personally, I have found DANTRAK’s Skeletek range to be brilliant. I am not saying this is the only one, and if others want to pitch in their experiences, then great (I just don’t have enough hours in my life to recommend every permutation Razz) – I also mentioned you will need a powerbar (surge protected one would be great, so you can have all the cabling done in one place) – See the people’s home labs post for ideas and inspiration.


Now you have your equipment, and it’s racked up and connected … how to you connect to it.

Well, ideal world you would have either a 2509 or 2511 (dedicated router with 8 or 16 asynchronous lines) which will allow you to connect to each of your routers and switches console ports, and you would use reverse telnet to connect to each.

You could also purchase an NM-16A or NM-32A network module and put it into one of the spare NM slots on your router. These would act the same as the access server routers mentioned above.

Of course, if you are starting off, and the above is overkill, you can get a USB to Serial (assuming your pc/laptop doesn’t have a COM port) to connect.

Again, 1 more method is assigning an IP address to each ethernet interface going spare if you happen to have the 2 ethernet interface versions of the 2600XM series … don’t bother, it’s a waste.

Great … so you have the hardware, but just how exactly do you access it from your machine?

There are several bits of software out there which allow you to use the COM port to communicate with your equipment, including hyperterminal (very old, not in win 7), putty and terraterm (free) or secure crt (not freeRazz)