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Building a CCNP Home Lab

If you’re studying for the CCNP R&S exam or just trying to hone your networking skills, chances are you’re trying to build a home lab. And you might have found that building an inexpensive CCNP home lab is easier said than done.

Cisco expert Jeremy Cioara has proven that it’s possible to build an effective and inexpensive home lab. Here are a few valuable tips about the equipment you need for you Routing & Switching home lab.

Do I Need GNS3 or Cisco VIRL?
The short answer is, not immediately.
GNS3 and VIRL can’t perfectly simulate the hands-on experience you will gain from creating your own physical home lab. After successfully practicing by doing, you will be able to graduate to practicing with GNS3 and VIRL. Don’t miss the opportunity to learn by doing! Create your own physical lab first! Convert your home into a network kingdom; the only difference between your bedroom and a cubical is the height of the walls (and the likely the bed)!

Both virtual and physical lab environments can serve as great learning tools.

What equipment do I need?
Choosing the right pieces for a CCNP home lab is tough, but Jeremy recommends the following equipment to create a strong CCNP home lab.

  • Cisco 3550 ($20-$60) x2 – Solid Layer 3 switch that has all the capabilities you will need for a CCNP home lab.
  • Cisco 2600xm (2611 or 2621) ($35-$100) x2 – Perfect router with a strong features set to accommodate a CCNP lab.
  • Cisco 3620/3640 ($20-$50) x1 – Serves as a great frame relay switch or central office hub.
  • Cisco 1841 ($20-$50) x2 – Cost effective method for an Integrated Service Router (ISR).

Shop around and compare prices. There are a lot of great deals online, including prepackaged bundles.

Other miscellaneous equipment:

  • Serial cables
  • Ethernet cables
  • Serial ports (WIC-1T)
  • Serial modules (NM 4A/S)

Anything else I’ll need?
A mission! Have a plan and steps that you want to accomplish. Set up a home network! That’s a great place to start, and all you need is a router and a switch. Another great goal is to watch CBT Nuggets training, and complete the labs just like in the videos! Once you are comfortable rolling out a few network environments on the physical gear, start practicing with VIRL or GNS3 to create lab environments far larger than your home could support.

You can couple Jeremy’s CCNP tips with our other home lab training:

Anthony Sequeira’s Cisco VIRL training

Keith Barker’s WireShark and GNS3 training for CCNA

Jeremy’s CCNA Home Lab training

And, of course, don’t miss this recent webinar with Jeremy, Building a Technology Lab: The Mindset.

Practice and have fun conquering the CCNP!


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  1. Benjamin Luthi says:

    If I purchased all of the recommended equipment, how many of the serial ports/modules would I need?

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