CCNP Switch Lab

With this layout, I’ll be able to cover the majority of the topics on the CCNP Switch exam. Probably the two biggest things I won’t be able to with this equipment are private VLANs and GLBP. But once you know the concepts of private VLANs, it’s really no big deal, and GLBP can be practiced in GNS3. Just for a point of reference, I purchased this equipment about five or six months ago. The 3550s were $85 each and the 2950s were $30. After learning about this equipment last year, I find it absolutely amazing that people will go out and buy unmanaged 16-port 10/100 switches for $60 or more just because it is new when you can get a used 48-port managed switch for $30 on eBay.Switch Blocks

Lab Terminal Server

CycladesTS-3000-F

The Avocent Cyclades TS-3000 GNU/Linux-based terminal server my wife purchased for me has made labbing with real equipment MUCH easier. Each port connects with a UTP cable to the console port on the equipment. The console server itself connects to the rest of the LAN. Each physical port on the terminal server is accessible via SSH on a port on its IP address. So, in its current configuration, I can access port 10 by establishing an SSH session to 192.168.1.5:7010. The Cyclades is extremely configurable, and can even be integrated into a full 802.1x environment, but for labbing, most of the default settings are just fine.

Before the terminal server, I had attempted to use a computer running Ubuntu with ten USB-to-RS232 adapters with console cables. I ran into two problems with this: the first was that the adapters were extremely unreliable. The second was that I found out that USB controllers only support so many devices. I thought I remembered reading somehwere years ago that you can connect 128 devices to a USB chain, but that is apparently not true. The controller in my computer wouldn’t allow more than 6 devices to connect simultaneously (even with a USB hub). With the terminal server, I don’t have this issue anymore.

The only downside to the terminal server is that even though you can use regular Ethernet cables, they must be wired differently. I spent some time with trial and error to figure it out. Hopefully the following information will save someone some time in the future when connecting the Avocent Cyclades TS to the console ports of Cisco equipment:

End 1: T568B > End 2: Cyclades ACS
Orange/White > Brown
Orange > Brown/White
Green/White > Green
Blue > Blue/White
Blue/White > Orange/White
Green > Green/White
Brown/White > Orange
Brown > Blue

End 1: T568A > End 2: Cyclades ACS
Green/White > Brown
Green > Brown/White
Orange/White > Orange
Blue > Blue
Blue/White > Green/White
Orange > Orange/White
Brown/White > Green
Brown > Blue/White

The T568A/B end of the cable connects to the console port of the Cisco equipment, while the other end connects to an available port on the Cyclades TS.

The Rack

rackI’ve been meaning to post this for awhile now. I have an extremely wonderful wife, who let me purchase and install the 45U rack pictured here a few weeks ago. What’s more, she let me set it up in an easily-accessible location in the bedroom (we currently live in a very small house). She also purchased for me the 48-port terminal server sitting atop the rack (more on that with the next entry).

The rack has made my life a lot easier with regards to space and organization. On top is a cheap 8-port gigabit switch piping in the Internet from a different room. Next is the terminal server, my CCNP Switch lab (four 3550s and four 2950s), a place for a monitor (that I am currently using elsewhere until my laptop is returned from RMA), a 3725 router, another 2950 switch, wireless printer, and finally, the storage/lab server, which contains the household media in a RAID-5-like Windows 8 Storage Spaces setup, a VM running FreeNAS with a dedicated hard drive for network-wide Apple Time Machine backups, and my other VMs and GNS3 labs which connect to the switches via two USB Ethernet adapters.

I’ve decided to pause studying specifically for the ROUTE exam for a short period of time. Once you get past the initial EIGRP and OSPF topics, which really just feel like an extension of the material covered in the CCNA, the subject material becomes quite a bit more difficult to grasp. The concepts really are no problem for me, its the memorization of the commands. I believe the reason behind that is due to the fact that I have not been exposed to a large corporate network where these types of technologies (multi-homed BGP connections and policy-based routing, etc) are being used. This means I need to spend some more time creating and running GNS3 labs.

I began studying for the SWITCH exam (and posted my notes), and found most of the material much easier. I had every intention of continuing direct study to take the exam, but an opportunity presented itself for a possible career move involving network design, but requiring CCNA Voice-level knowledge. It then occurred to me that it really wouldn’t hurt to possess that knowledge anyway, since more and more businesses are moving to VoIP. So far, I’ve found the first quarter of the course to be very interesting, and the rest very boring.