So you want to Build your own CCIE Lab Rack

Building your own CCIE Lab Rack can be a daunting task if you’re not sure how to get started. Hopefully this will provide you a blueprint of what you will need and how to set up correctly so you can spend more time doing Labs and less time trying to figure out how to build the Lab Rack.

Hardware needed for CCIE Lab Rack
2 x 3550 Catalyst Switch $400
2 x 3560 Catalyst Switch $1300
3 x 2501 Router $75 (BB’s)
1 x 2511 Router $100 – Terminal Server
5 x 2611 Router  $100 (or Cisco 2611XM $150, or Cisco 3640’s $150)
2 x 4500 Router $50 (1 is your FRLY Switch, )

1. Ebay is your friend. If you don’t have an account, definitely get one.
2. Set up a PayPal account.

Once you pass your CCIE Lab you can sell everything that you previously bought on Ebay.  Think of this like a college loan.

18 x Crossover Cables (Interswitch connections)
12 x Straight-Through Cables (Switch to Router connections)

CablesToGo for your Serial cables if you can’t find some for free.
12 Serial Cables
2 Octal Cables

1 or 2 WIC module for each router depending:
Cisco WIC-1T ($40)
Cisco WIC-2T ($50)

Cisco 2600 Series Memory Upgrade

You will need 64 MB of DRAM and 16 MB of system Flash on Cisco 2611’s.  Cisco 2611XM’s can be upgraded to 256MB of DRAM.

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8 Responses to So you want to Build your own CCIE Lab Rack

  1. Charles says:

    How well is the hardware above working out for your V4 R&S studies? Are the 2600s working fine? I have a dynamips lab currently but have recently come an opportunity to score some 2600s and 3550s if it’s worth it.

  2. Jeff says:

    I’ve used dyanamips too and I like it for smaller scenarios, like if i just wanted to set up 3 routers and practice simple NAT options. For a full practice Mock Lab like you have with INE, the dynamips just doesn’t scale. You can get all of the routers to come up one at a time with some tweaking so the CPU doesn’t get pegged, but I still have problems with it crashing sometimes. Booting with initial configs was always an issue too. And the dynamips switch just didn’t have all the features that you would need(L3 routing). But for quick practices scenarios, it’s great.

    The HW worked out great for V3. For V4 you will need your router to be at least 2600XM’s instead of 2600’s b/c of the memory requirements for the IOS images. Also on the 2600 router, the most recent image is: c2600-ik9o3s3-mz.123-26.bin; Release Date: 18/Mar/2008.
    With the 2600XM, the most recent image is:c2600-adventerprisek9-mz.124-15.T13.bin; Release Date: 09/Apr/2010

    Yeah, 90% of what you need can be found on the 12.3 image, but it’s the other 10% that will get you.

    For the c3550…these are really good switches for learning. The lab will be(or may have already) moving away from the c3550 though since they are EOL, and moving towards the c3560’s. The c3550’s should be dirt cheap b/c they are EOL. But, if you can, the c3560 would be better for studying for the V4 (my opinion).

    Check out the Feature Navigator to see what I mean:
    So if you plug in the options for the c3550 vs. c3560, you’ll notice right off the bat you have IPv6 only on the c3560. So this is pretty much a deal breaker for the c3550(for me). Other things like vlan-based qos is only on the c3560. The Qos configs in general are different on each switch. SDM templates, I believe are only on the c3560.


  3. Ahmad says:

    really many thanks for valuable info, INE CCIE lab v4 uses 3*c1841. so is the c2611XM statisfied the C1841 function.
    Another thing, what are the equivalent for 2501 (BBs) and 4500 (FR SW), which can I use instead of these routers?

  4. Muhammad Saeed Siddiqui says:

    Hi Jeff,

    i have following equipments

    6 – 2611 XM
    4 – 3560
    4 – 2501

    can we create a good lab that supports both MPLS and multicasting both at the same time without changing the IOS. its for V4


  5. lee says:

    Curious – did your electric bill shoot up?

  6. Jeff says:

    Hi Lee,

    I don’t recall the electric bill shooting up with any significance. I typically would power on/off the entire rack when I was using it, so the rack would be powered on for 4-10 hours at a time, but not 24×7.


  7. Greg says:

    Looks great. Question, after you pass the test, how could you use this system as a tool to diagnose problems and or support future clients?

  8. Jeff says:


    Good question. It’s very unlikely that you’ll ever run across a client with this type of setup. Mainly, because the equipment if very old(even in 2009, this was the bare minimum for the lab setup). However, for the fundamentals of troubleshooting common problems, its great. This set up can always be used to troubleshoot Spanning-tree scenario’s, etherchannel config problems, many routing protocol scenarios, multicast, etc.

    For CCIE studies, you’ll have to go back to cisco to get the latest and greatest updated info.

    Good Luck!

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