To earn your Cisco CCNA and CCNP certifications, you've got to master ISDN - and despite what some people say, there's still a lot of ISDN out there that needs to be supported. And when it comes to troubleshooting ISDN, there's a lot to look at. Is the correct ISDN switchtype configured? Are the dialer map statements correct? What about the dialer-group and dialer-list commands? And that's just the start. I always say that all troubleshooting starts at Layer 1, the Physical layer of the OSI model. The usual method of troubleshooting ISDN is sending pings across the link, but the connection can be tested without using pings or even before assigning IP addresses to the BRI interfaces! It's a good idea to place these test calls before configuring the interfaces - that way, you know you've got a valid connection before beginning the configuration (and there's a lot of config to go along with ISDN!) To place a test call without using pings, use the isdn call interface command. R1#isdn call interface bri0 8358662 R1# 03:54:43: BR0 DDR: Attempting to dial 8358662 03:54:43: %LINK-3-UPDOWN: Interface BRI0:1, changed state to up 03:54:44: BR0:1 DDR: dialer protocol up 03:54:45: %LINEPROTO-5-UPDOWN: Line protocol on Interface BRI0:1, changed state to up 03:54:49: %ISDN-6-CONNECT: Interface BRI0:1 is now connected to 8358662 R2 To tear the test call down correctly, use isdn disconnect interface. IOS Help displays the options with this command. R1#isdn disconnect interface bri 0 ? all Disconnect the data call(s) on all b channels b1 Disconnect the data call on b1 channel b2 Disconnect the data call on b2 channel R1#isdn disconnect interface bri 0 all 03:58:36: BR0:1 DDR: disconnecting call 03:58:36: BR0:2 DDR: disconnecting call 03:58:36: %ISDN-6-DISCONNECT: Interface BRI0:1 disconnected from 8358662 R2, call lasted 20 seconds 03:58:36: %LINK-3-UPDOWN: Interface BRI0:1, changed state to down 03:58:36: BR0:1 DDR: disconnecting call 03:58:37: %LINEPROTO-5-UPDOWN: Line protocol on Interface BRI0:1, changed state to down I say "correctly" because the one thing you don't want to do to end an ISDN call, test or otherwise, is just shut the interface. Telcos don't like it, and ISDN lab devices like it even less. Always let the d-channel do its work and tear the call down in an orderly fashion - don't just cut it off by shutting the interface down.
ISDN is a vital topic for today's CCNA and CCNP candidates, especially for the ICND and Intro exams - you've got to know ISDN inside and out to pass those exams. Naturally you want to include it in your home lab. What many candidates don't realize is that you can't connect two Cisco routers directly via their Basic Rate Interface (BRI) interfaces you've got to have another device between them called an ISDN simulator. An ISDN simulator is not one of those software programs pretending to be routers ("router simulators") this is a piece of hardware that acts as the telephone company in your home lab. Older simulators come with preprogrammed phone numbers and SPIDs, where newer ones let you program the phone numbers you want to use. Either way, an ISDN simulator is great for your CCNA/CCNP home lab, because you can practice dial scenarios that actually work. And you get to troubleshoot the ones that don't, which is also important to learn! ) You don't need any special cables or connectors you just connect both of your routers' BRI interfaces to the ISDN simulator with a straight-through cable and you're ready to go. In years past, this was a major problem for 640-801, 811, and 821 studies, because the simulators used to be so expensive. New ones can still be pricey ($600 and up), but with the sudden influx of used ISDN simulators on ebay and Cisco resellers, you can get a used one that will do the job for you. Why are there suddenly so many ISDN simulators on the market? Cisco recently removed ISDN from the CCIE R&S exam, so a lot of CCIE rack resellers as well as private individuals are selling their simulators. There's never been a better time to add ISDN to your home lab. If taken care of (kept out of extreme heat), they can last for quite a few years. The one I purchased for my IE home lab is still working well. If you choose to purchase a new simulator, you can run a Google search to find vendors. I've made two purchases from vconsole over the last few years and both of those simulators have worked beautifully. As I said earlier, there's never been a better time to add ISDN to your home lab. Don't just settle for trying to memorize theory - get your hands on the real deal, practice and fix your configurations, and you'll be amazed at what you learn and how well you do on your CCNA and CCNP exams!
Occasionally, during your CCNA and CCNP studies, you'll run into a term that just doesn't quite make sense to you. (Okay, more than occasionally!) One such term is "reverse telnet". As a Cisco certification candidate, you know that telnet is simply a protocol that allows you to remotely connect to a networking device such as a router or switch. But what is "reverse telnet", and why is it so important to a Cisco CCNA / CCNP home lab setup? Where a telnet session is started by a remote user who wants to remotely control a router or switch, a reverse telnet session is started when the host device itself imitates the telnet session. In a CCNA / CCNP home lab, reverse telnet is configured and used on the access server. The access server isn't a white box server like most of us are used to; an access server is a Cisco router that allows you to connect to multiple routers and switches with one session without having to move a rollover cable from device to device. Your access server will use an octal cable to connect to the other routers and switches in your home lab. The octal cable has one large serial connector that will connect to the access server, and eight rj-45 connectors that will connect to your other home lab devices. Your access server then needs an IP Host table in order to perform reverse telnet. An IP Host table is easy to put together (and you better know how to write one to pass the CCNA!). The IP Host table is used for local name resolution, taking the place of a DNS server. A typical access server IP Host table looks like this: ip host FRS 2007 22.214.171.124 ip host R3 2003 126.96.36.199 ip host R1 2001 188.8.131.52 ip host R2 2002 184.108.40.206 ip host R4 2004 220.127.116.11 ip host R5 2005 18.104.22.168 ip host SW1 2006 22.214.171.124 interface Loopback0 ip address 126.96.36.199 255.255.255.255 no ip directed-broadcast This configuration will allow you to use your access server to connect to five routers, a frame relay switch, and a switch without ever moving a cable. When you type "R1" at the console line, for example, you'll be connected to R1 via reverse telnet. If you have a smaller lab, an access server is still a real timesaver and an excellent investment. And by getting a static IP address to put on your access server, you can even connect to your home lab from remote locations!
A Cisco access server is generally the last item a CCNA or CCNP candidate has on their mind when they're putting together a home lab. The thinking tends to be that since this router isn't really doing anything in the production part of your practice lab, it's not really important. Once you have more than two devices in your home lab, though, you'll realize that constantly moving the console cable around from one router to another gets very tiresome. That's what an access server does for a home lab - it allows you to connect your PC to a single device when working in your home lab, with no need to constantly disconnect and reconnect the console cable. The console cable will be connected directly to the access server, and the access server is connected to all the other devices in your home lab. Once you start working with one, you'll wonder how you got along without it! The term "access server" is a little misleading. This is not a server in the traditional sense, it's a Cisco router with asynchronous serial ports. It is these ports that you'll use to connect to the other devices in your home lab. Two affordable models of access servers are Cisco 2509s and Cisco 2511s. They can be found on ebay as well as other vendors on the Net. You will also need an octal cable. On one end, the cable has a large connector that will connect to the access server. The other end is actually eight separate cables, each with RJ-45 connectors. These connectors are numbered 1 - 8 and will be connected to the console port on each router and switch. It is important to note the number on each connector you're connecting to the other lab devices. Now that you've got the physical equipment, let's take a look at a typical configuration of an access server: no service password-encryption no service udp-small-servers no service tcp-small-servers ! hostname BRYANT_ADVANTAGE_AS4 no ip domain-lookup ip host r1 2001 10.4.4.4 ip host r2 2002 10.4.4.4 ip host r3 2003 10.4.4.4 ip host sw1 2004 10.4.4.4 ip host sw2 2005 10.4.4.4 ip host FrameSwitch 2006 10.4.4.4 interface Loopback555 ip address 10.4.4.4 255.255.255.0 line con 0 exec-timeout 0 0 logging synchronous line 1 16 no exec transport input all You can assign any loopback address and number here the important thing to note is that the IP HOST table you will build constantly refers back to the loopback address on the access server. In this configuration, I have the octal cable's connector 1 in R1, 2 in R2, 3 in R3, 4 in SW1, 5 in SW2, and 6 in my frame relay switch. The number "2001" in the first line of the IP HOST table refers to that connector. That's why it is important to note the number on a given connector you place in the console port of a router or switch. The asynchonous lines are identified by "line 1 16". This access server has 16 possible connections many will just have 8, which is usually plenty. Regardless of how many lines you have, you'll need the commands transport input all and no exec to allow reverse telnet to work effectively. There's one more thing to watch out for. When you first connect to the AS for a practice session, you will need to open the line to each device by using the full hostname of the device as shown in the IP HOST table. Here, you would begin by entering R1, R2, R3, SW1, SW2, and FrameSwitch to open the line to each device. After that, you need to enter the line number - 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6. It sounds a little confusing at first, but after just a few minutes of practice you'll be doing it without even thinking about it. When you are working in your home lab, you will not go from one device to another that is, when you are done on R1 and want to configure R2, you must go back to the access server and then to R2. The keystroke to do this is . Again, it may sound complicated, but after a little practice you will again do this without thinking about it. Adding an access server to your CCNA or CCNP home lab may not be on your mind now, but once you add a few more routers or switches to the lab, you'll want to spend more time configuring and practicing and less time moving a cable around. And once you get one, you'll wonder how you did without it!
A Cisco home lab is an invaluable study tool when you're preparing for CCNA and CCNP exam success. Once you've gotten a couple of routers and switches, you'll quickly get tired of moving that blue console cable every time you want to configure a different device. The solution to this problem is purchasing and configuring an access server (AS). For those of you new to access servers, note that these are not white boxes running Microsoft operating systems. These are Cisco routers that allow you to connect to all the routers and switches in your home lab without moving a cable. You can physically or logically connect to the access server and work with all your devices from there. When you're pricing access servers, please remember that you do NOT need an expensive AS. Right now on ebay there are access servers costing up to $5000 - this is NOT what you want to buy. What you're looking for is something like a 2509 or 2511, which is going to run you anywhere from $100 - $200. It's money well spent, because once you get an AS, you'll really wonder how you ever did without it. The only additional hardware you need is the cable that will physically connect your AS to the other routers and switches in your home lab. The cable you need is called an octal cable, so named because one end of this cable is actually eight ends, all terminated with a numbered RJ-45 connector. The large end of the cable is going to be connected to the AS itself. The cable will connect to a port on the AS that will have "async 1-8" directly above the physical port. It is this port that makes an AS different from other Cisco routers. Once you've got your AS and this cable, you're ready to configure your AS. Connect the cable to the AS as described above, and then you will connect one of the RJ-45 connectors to the console port of each one of your routers and switches. Make sure to note the number that's on the cable itself right below the connector, because that's very important. In the next part of this home lab tutorial, I'll tell you exactly how to configure your access server for best results, along with a few troubleshooting tips.
: As your CCNA / CCNP home lab expands, an access server such as the Cisco 2509 or 2511 is one of the best investments you can make. In this article, we'll look at the basic configuration for an access server and discuss how to connect to the other routers and switches in your pod through the AS. Here's part of a configuration from one of my access servers: ip host FRS 2006 188.8.131.52 ip host SW2 2005 184.108.40.206 ip host SW1 2004 220.127.116.11 ip host R2 2002 18.104.22.168 ip host R1 2001 22.214.171.124 ip host R3 2003 126.96.36.199 interface Loopback0 ip address 188.8.131.52 255.255.255.255 no ip directed-broadcast This is an IP Host table, and this is what makes the entire AS setup work. Your PC will connect to the access server, and the access server is in turn physically connected to your other routers and switches via an octal cable. One end of the octal cable splices off into eight separate cables, each terminated with an Rj-45 connector. That connector will be placed into the console port of one of your home lab devices. In this configuration, I have connector 1 connected to the console port of R1, connector 2 to R2, connector 3 to R3, connector 4 to Sw1, and so forth. (The connectors are physically numbered as well.) The IP Host table entries here are linked to the loopback address shown. The loopback can be any address, but it must match the address in the IP Host table. This allows you to create reverse telnet sessions to the routers and switches. To open the reverse telnet sessions upon opening a connection to the AS, type the entire name of the device and press the enter key twice. A connection to that device will now be visible, as shown here: Access_Server#r1 Trying R1 (184.108.40.206, 2001)... Open R1# To get back to the access server, use the key combination followed by pressing the "x" key. Keep doing this until you've opened a connection to every router and switch in your pod. Once you've opened the lines, you will not use the full device name to connect to the home lab devices. You should press only the number corresponding to the reverse telnet session you opened. For instance, in this configuration I opened telnet session 1 to R1, session 2 to R2, and session 3 to R3. Once I opened those sessions, I just use those numbers to reconnect to the devices, as shown here: Access_server#1 [Resuming connection 1 to r1 ... ] R1# Access_server#2 [Resuming connection 2 to r2 ... ] R2# Access_server#3 [Resuming connection 3 to r3 ... ] R3# If you type the full hostname again after initially opening the connection, you will see this message: Access_server#r1 Trying R1 (220.127.116.11, 2001)... % Connection refused by remote host The connection is refused because you already have an open connection to that router. There's one more important part of an access server config your CCNA / CCNP home lab will need: line 1 8 no exec transport input all The line numbers may differ according to your access server, but "no exec" is very important here. This will stop rogue EXEC sessions from refusing connections that it shouldn't be refusing. Without this command, you'll commonly see "connection refused by remote host" when you shouldn't be. That message is the most common error you'll see on an access server, and it's there because you already have an open connection or you left "no exec" out of your configuration. "No exec" isn't mandatory, but it will help you keep your sanity!
Candidates preparing to pass the CCNP exams are putting together Cisco home labs like never before. With CCNA and CCNP home lab equipment more affordable than ever, candidates have realized the importance of working on real Cisco routers and switches on the way to earning their certifications. One question I get often from CCNP candidates is goes something like this: "I'm planning on pursuing the CCIE after I get my CCNP. What kind of routers and switches should I buy now in order to use the same equipment in my CCIE home lab?" This is going to sound strange coming from me, because I'm the #1 proponent of CCNA and CCNP candidates buying their own home labs. When it comes to the CCIE, though, I have to say that you're probably better off using rack rentals instead of investing big money now to buy more expensive equipment with which to earn your CCNP. There are plenty of 2500 and 2600 routers out there that you can buy to prepare fully for your CCNA and CCNP exams that may not have the capability needed for IE preparation. (For instance, while 2500 routers are fantastic for CCNA and NP study, they shouldn't be used for IE study.) The issue with buying more expensive equipment is that Cisco rightfully updates the CCIE lab equipment list twice a year, and these moves can prove very costly for those who get caught in the middle of these changes. Let me give you an example that I lived through myself. When I began pursuing the CCIE, Catalyst switches were in use in the lab. I had a Cat 5000 that I used for practice. When I was in the middle of my preparation, Cisco introduced L3 switched to the lab in the form of TWO 3550 switches. Not only was the Cat now almost useless for IE study, the new switches went for about $5500 apiece, so if I wanted to keep up with the new lab changes, it was going to cost me $11,000. Again, I know that it's vitally important for today's CCNA and CCNP candidates to get hands-on experience with home labs. It's also great to think ahead when you're earning your CCNP, and pursuing the CCIE is one of the best decisions you'll ever make. Just keep this regular CCIE lab update in mind. I recommend that you keep your CCNP budget down while not investing in more expensive routers with the IE in mind, and wait until you have passed the CCNP and are actively engaged in CCIE study before making the decision between rack rentals and putting together your own IE lab.
When you're preparing for CCNA and CCNP exam success, the best investment you can make is to put together your own home lab. There is no better way to learn Cisco technologies and prepare for the CCNA, BSCI, BCMSN, CIT, and other exams than by working with the many protocols and services you'll need to master in order to pass the exams. One of the most popular articles I've written over the few years dealt with buying and configuring a Cisco router as a frame relay switch. That article is still available on many websites (including my own), but I want to remind you that just because you configure a router as a frame relay switch, that doesn't mean you can't use it as a home lab router, too! The global command "frame-relay switching" allows a Cisco router such as a 2520 or 4000 to perform just that, frame relay switching, but this command doesn't disable IP routing. Depending on the router model you use, you will most likely have some extra serial connectors as well as an ethernet port that you can use with your other routers in your home lab. Let's say you have a 2520 router as your frame relay switch. This switch has four serial ports and an AUI port. You could connect to up to four routers to the 2520's serial ports in order to serve as the frame relay switch for those other routers, and still assign an IP address to the ethernet port and run a routing protocol on the 2520. If you're connecting to less than four other routers as the frame relay switch, you can assign IP addresses to the leftover serial ports as well.
I know from experience that part of the excitement and anxiety of putting together your own CCNA / CCNP home lab is deciding what to buy! While you can make a workable home lab out of almost any combination of Cisco routers and switches, some routers are better suited for home lab work than others because they can fill multiple roles. When you buy CCNA or CCNP "lab kits" - bundles of routers and switches - you can get a little confused about whether you're getting a good deal. One router I get asked about quite a bit is the 2503. 2503 routers are fantastic for CCNA and CCNP home labs. They come with two serial interfaces, allowing you to connect one interface directly to another router (you'll need a DTE/DCE cable for that, too) while connecting another to a frame relay switch if you like. If you don't have a frame relay switch, you can connect a 2503 directly to two other routers via the serial interfaces. You also have an AUI port, which requires a transceiver to operate as your Ethernet interface. Transceivers are pretty cheap and readily available from Cisco resellers and ebay vendors, so pick one up for each 2503 you decide to buy. 2503 routers also come with a BRI interface. Even though you may not have an ISDN simulator right now, you may choose to add one later. That makes a 2503 a great bet for future lab expansion. All in all, 2503 routers are great for your CCNA / CCNP home lab. They run about $125 each on ebay, or less, so they're also very affordable. There's no better training than training on your own CCNA or CCNP home lab, and you can always sell the equipment later if you like. Basically, you're renting the routers and switches, and the experience you get by working with the real deal is invaluable.
One of the most common questions I get from CCNA and CCNP candidates who are setting up their own home labs is "What cables will I need?" The answer is "It depends." As you know from your exam studies, the physical layout of your lab is what determines the cables you'll need. Let's take a look at the most common home lab cable types and when you will need them. Straight-through cables have quite a few uses in a CCNA / CCNP home lab. You'll need them to connect a switch port to an AUI port on a router (and you'll need a transceiver for that as well). If you have an ISDN simulator, straight-through cables can be used to connect a router's BRI port to the simulator. Crossover cables are used to connect switches and allow them to trunk. If at all possible, get two switches in your home lab. This will allow you to gain valuable experience in manipulating root bridge election, working with STP, and creating EtherChannels. DTE/DCE cables are used to connect two routers via their serial cables. If you are planning on using a frame relay switch in your lab, you'll need several of these. You can also get some great practice in by directly connecting two routers and bringing the connection up (and making sure it stays up!). This is valuable practice for your CCNA exam. Octal cables are used to connect an access server to each of the other routers and switches in your lab. Finally, there's that precious blue cable, the rollover cable. Rollover cables (sometimes called "rolled cables") allow you to connect a host device directly to a router or switch's console port. These cables have a way of disappearing around an IT shop, so make sure to take one home - and leave it there!
I know from experience that part of the excitement and anxiety of putting together your own CCNA / CCNP home lab is deciding what to buy! While you can make a workable home lab out of almost any combination of Cisco routers and switches, some routers are better suited for home lab work than others because they can fill multiple roles. My personal favorite is the Cisco 2520. This router has four serial interfaces, making it an ideal frame relay switch. Don't forget that just because you're using a router as a frame switch, you can still use its routing capabilities. One setup I use is to use three of the four serial interfaces for frame switching and the fourth interface as a point-to-point network with another router. All you need is some DTE/DCE cables and you're all set. The 2520 also comes with one ethernet interface and an ISDN interface, so that gives you even more options. Even if you're not planning to run ISDN in your home lab right now, you may choose to do so in the future - and with a 2520, you've already got the right router to do so. Keep in mind that if you are going to run ISDN in your home lab, you’ll need an ISDN device such as an ISDN simulator in your lab. (ISDN simulators are physical devices and are plentiful on ebay – they’re no relation to “router simulators”.) Again, I want to reiterate that you can work any Cisco router into a CCNA / CCNP home lab - there's no "right" or "wrong" combination of equipment. But as with anything else, some combinations are better than others, so consider adding some 2520s to your home lab! This router gives you a great combination of interfaces and capabilities, plus the most important factor of all - real hands-on experience during your CCNA and CCNP exam preparation!
To be truly prepared for your CCNA and CCNP exams, you need real hands-on experience with real Cisco routers and switches. However, a production network is a really bad place to practice your configurations, but an excellent way to get fired and/or sued. The key to becoming a true CCNA and CCNP is assembling your own Cisco home lab. You don't have to spend a lot of money to do so; used Cisco equipment is cheaper than ever. It's robust as well - I've bought literally hundreds of used routers and switches over the years and have had very few problems. I owe much of my skill to practicing configurations and troubleshooting in my own home lab. 2501 routers are fantastic for CCNA and CCNP home labs. They come with two serial interfaces, allowing you to connect one interface directly to another router (you'll need a DTE/DCE cable for that, too) while connecting another to a frame relay switch if you like. If you don't have a frame relay switch, you can connect a 2501 directly to two other routers via the serial interfaces. You also have an AUI port, which requires a transceiver to operate as your Ethernet interface. Transceivers are pretty cheap and readily available from Cisco resellers and ebay vendors, so pick one up for each 2503 you decide to buy. 2501 routers don't come with BRI interfaces, but not every router in your lab has to be ISDN-ready. If you choose not to have ISDN in your lab at all, 2501s are the way to go. If you do want to run ISDN and have an ISDN simulator device, you can get two 2503s and the rest of your routers can be 2501. All in all, 2501 routers are great for your CCNA / CCNP home lab. They cost less than $100 each on ebay, so they're also very affordable. There's no better training than training on your own CCNA or CCNP home lab, and you can always sell the equipment later if you like. Basically, you're renting the routers and switches, and the experience you get by working with the real deal is invaluable.
CCNA / CCNP candidates are going to be drilled by Cisco when it comes to troubleshooting questions. You're going to have to be able to analyze configurations to see what the problem is (and if there is a problem in the first place), determine the meaning of different debug outputs, and show the ability not just to configure a router or switch, but troubleshoot one. That's just as it should be, because CCNAs and CCNPs will find themselves doing a lot of troubleshooting in their careers. Troubleshooting isn't something that can just be learned from a book; you've got to have some experience working with routers and switches. The only real way to learn how to troubleshoot is to develop that ability while working on live equipment. Of course, your company or client is going to take a very dim view of you developing this skill on their live network. So what can you do? Assemble a Cisco home lab. When you start working with real Cisco equipment, you're doing yourself a lot of favors. First, you're going to be amazed at how well you retain information that will become second nature to you before exam day. But more importantly, both for the exam room and your career, you're developing invaluable troubleshooting skills. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying knowing the theory of how routers and switches work is unimportant. Quite the opposite - if you don't know networking theory, you're not going to become a CCNA or CCNP. But the ability to apply that knowledge is vital - and the only way you can get that is to work on real Cisco routers and switches. As for these "router simulators" on the market today, ask yourself this simple question: "When I walk into a server room, how many router simulators do I see?" I often tell students that they'll do their best learning when they screw something up. I've had many a student tell me later that I was right - when they misconfigured frame relay, ISDN, or another CCNA / CCNP technology and then had to fix it themselves, it not only gave them the opportunity to apply their knowledge, but it gave them the confidence to know they could do it. And you can't put a price on confidence - in the exam room or in the network center!
Part of your CCNA / CCNP education is deciding what network topology to use when you're putting together your home lab. Some of you are starting with one or two routers or switches, while others are starting with more. A customer recently sent me a list of his Cisco routers and switches that he has available for a home lab and asked for my help in coming up with the best way to use them. There is no "right" or "wrong" answer to this question; again, part of the learning process is configuring and reconfiguring the physical topology of your lab. Let's look at the routers and switches he has available, including the interfaces on each, and come up with one possible CCNA / CCNP home lab setup. The equipment list: Two 3620 routers. Each has 1 serial port and 2 ethernet ports. One 3640 router. This has two ethernet cards, each with two ports, and two AUI ports. Three 2503s, my personal favorite for home labs! These have 1 AUI port, 2 serial interfaces, and one BRI interface apiece. One 2524 router. This has one serial port, 1 ethernet port, and one BRI interface. One 4500 router. This has eight BRI ports, 2 ethernet ports, and more importantly, four serial ports. He also has a 5200 access server, an ISDN simulator, one 2924 switch, and one 1924 switch. Now, if you don't have this much equipment to work with, don't panic! Most CCNA / CCNP candidates don't; this is more of an exercise in looking at what you do have and using it to the utmost. As I've mentioned in many of my CCNA / CCNP home lab articles, an access server is a great thing to have. All he needs is an octal cable to connect his AS to the other devices we choose to use, and he's all set. (If you need an access server sample configuration, there is one on my website in the Home Lab section.) A frame relay switch is also great to have, and the 4500 will make a great FR switch. Having a frame relay cloud in your CCNA / CCNP home lab is a great way to get experience configuring and troubleshooting frame relay, an essential skill for CCNA success. I would put both of the 3620s on the frame relay cloud via the Serial interface, as well as two of the 2503s. That gives you four routers that will be using frame relay to communicate, and that's the most we can have since the 4500 has four serial ports. The 4500 will need to be configured as a frame relay switch and connected to the other routers via a DTE/DCE cable. (Again, if you need a frame relay switch configuration, the one I use in my pods is on the website in the same place as the access server configuration.) The two 2503s that are on the frame relay cloud should also be connected via their BRI interfaces. The home lab also includes an ISDN simulator, which is necessary to allow routers to communicate via their BRI interfaces. Just get a couple of straight-through cables to connect those two routers to the ISDN simulator and that segment is ready to go. (Remember that you can't connect Cisco routers directly via their BRI interfaces.) All of the routers in this lab have at least one ethernet or AUI port, so we can connect them all to either one of the switches. The switches should be connected via at least two crossover cables to allow practice with trunking, root bridge election, and VLANs. Having two switches really does add quite a bit to a CCNA / CCNP home lab's capabilities. You can experiment with different subnets and vlans with as well. Don't be afraid to dive in - that's what a home lab is all about! So now we've got four routers connected via frame relay, two via ISDN, and the others via ethernet segments. Two of the routers that are not using their serial interfaces should be connected directly via their serial ports. For this, you'll just need another DTE/DCE cable. Knowing how to bring up the line between two directly connected serial ports is an important CCNA skill, and so is troubleshooting it. You should be able to bring such a connection up with your eyes closed, and once you work with your own CCNA / CCNP home lab, you'll be able to! Also, don't forget to add a loopback interface to each one of your routers. I like to use 18.104.22.168 for R1, 22.214.171.124 for R2, and so on. Advertising loopbacks is another great way to get practice with RIP, OSPF, EIGRP, IGRP, and static routing. We've taken a pile of routers and switches and turned them into a fantastic CCNA / CCNP home lab. Whether you're working with two Cisco devices or ten, coming up with your own home lab topology is a great learning experience and the beginning of developing your analytical and troubleshooting skills.
When you begin your CCNA studies, you get hit with a lot of different networking terms right away that you might not be familiar with. What makes it a little more confusing is that a lot of these terms sound a lot alike. Here, we're going to discuss the differences between broadcasts, multicasts, and unicasts at both the Data Link (Layer 2) and Network (Layer 3) layers of the OSI model. A broadcast is simply a unit of information that every other device on the segment will receive. A broadcast is indicated by having every bit of the address set to its highest possible value. Since a hexadecimal bit's highest value is "f", a hexadecimal broadcast is ff-ff-ff-ff-ff-ff (or FF-FF-FF-FF-FF-FF, as the upper case does not affect hex value). The CCNA exam will demand you be very familiar with hex conversions, so if you're not comfortable with these conversions, get comfortable with them before taking the exam! At layer 3, a broadcast is indicated by setting every bit in the 32-bit binary string to "1", making the dotted decimal value 255.255.255.255. Every host on a segment will receive such a broadcast. (Keep in mind that switches will forward a broadcast, but routers do not.) In contrast to a broadcast, a unicast is a packet or frame with only one destination. There is a middle ground between broadcasts and unicasts, and that is a multicast. Where a broadcast will be received by all, and a unicast is received by only one host, a multicast will be received by multiple hosts, all belonging to a "multicast group". As you climb the Cisco certification pyramid, you'll be introduced to creating multicast groups and controlling multicast traffic, but for your CCNA studies you need only keep certain multicast groups in mind. Class D addresses are reserved for multicasting this range is 126.96.36.199 - 188.8.131.52. The addresses 184.108.40.206 - 220.127.116.11 are reserved for use by network protocols on a local network segment, and like broadcasts, routers will not forward these multicast packets. (Packets with these addresses are sent with a Time To Live of 1.) As a CCNA candidate, you should know that OSPF routers use the address 18.104.22.168 to send hellos, EIGRP routers use 22.214.171.124 to send updates, and RIP version 2 uses 126.96.36.199 to send routing updates. RIP version 1 and IGRP both broadcast their updates. Multicasting gets a bit more complicated as you go from your CCNA to the CCNP and CCIE, but by simply understanding what multicasting is, you go a long way toward securing the CCNA.