This post will wrap up the hardware recommendations for your home lab. We’ve already talked about all networking gear and all servers. Now we will touch on a few last pieces that you may want to consider.
This is something that I would give some thought to. What a terminal server allows you to do is to reverse telnet to the console ports of your network devices. So rather than moving a console cable around from device to device, you just open a telnet session to a specific port on the terminal server and you are on the console of your device. This is handy to save time/effort and it also allows you to get a console session when you are not right next to your rack. You can also have a console session open to every device at the same time.
The classic hardware to do this in a home lab is a 2509 or 2511 Cisco router. The 2509 will support 8 console connections and the 2511 will support 16. If you buy the standard routers, you’ll need to purchase octal cables to connect the routers to the network devices. But there is a model AS2511-RJ that allows you to just use Ethernet cables between the router and the network devices. In the end, you’ll spend around $275 either way.
One other thing to know is that the routers don’t have a native RJ45 Ethernet port. So you’ll need a transceiver to convert the Ethernet port to an RJ45 port.
If you want to have VoIP phones in your lab to practice with, go with the 7921 for a wireless phone. The phone in the lab is a 7925. The 7921 and the 7925 are nearly identical in terms of features. It’s not worth the extra money to go with the 7925. A 7921 will run about $180. Don’t forget to purchase a charging cable/station as well. For a wired phone, you can pick most anything. Just get a cheap 7912 or 7940. That way, your 7921/25 has something to call.
It would be helpful to have a laptop to use specifically for associating to your APs. If you use the same laptop that you are using to configure the APs/WLCs, you will continually lose your connections to your devices as you connect to the lab APs. So try and have another laptop running the Cisco AnyConnect client that you will use for testing your lab configs.
You may want VPN connectivity into your lab in case you want to practice while away from home. I have already mentioned one possibility in the first post with the 2811 router. If you do not have a router, or do not want to use your router, you could also use something like a PIX or an ASA 5505. Maybe your home router even has some sort of VPN feature if it’s fancy. There are many options for achieving this. Whatever method you choose, life will probably be easier if you can get a static IP address on your home internet connection. Otherwise, your IP may change from time to time. So you may need to train your significant other on how to find out your IP when you are away.
If you don’t want to just have your equipment lying on the floor, you may want to invest in a rack. If you are looking to replicate our racks, you’ll need at least 12U of rack height. Any of the equipment that I’ve recommended will work with a two post rack, with the exception of an actual rack mounted server for your ESXi server. Those typically mount to a four post rack. Though you could probably get by just setting it on top of the rest of your equipment and have it pulled forward to move the center of gravity forward.
Don’t feel like this is a requirement. I just had my equipment stacked on top of each other with the bottom one sitting on a board. You probably don’t want them just sitting on carpet. It acts as an insulator and might also gather static electricity.
If you do purchase a rack, you are going to have to purchase rack ears for all of your equipment. You’d be surprised at how fast that can add to the cost.