What is Your CCIE R&S Practice Rack?

I am really looking forward to the Layer 2 IOS and ASAv coming to Cisco VIRL Personal Edition this month (April 2015). This will permit me to lab up scenarios for my students of R&S that include switching and also to have great practice with many Security technologies at the same time.


I would love to hear from those of you on the CCIE R&S track regarding your practice rack currently…are you doing GNS3 with IOU, rack rentals, your own rack in the basement, Cisco Learning Network Store?

Let me know in the comments below and be as specific. You might also share any negatives or positives with your practice equipment approach. This will benefit many of our readers I believe…

40 thoughts on “What is Your CCIE R&S Practice Rack?

  1. Hi Anthony, am looking forward as well, should say desperate to get the L2 IOS feature as the current IOU with GNS3 is not sufficient to test some features. I tried using Q-in-Q lab and end up getting no commands for l2-tunnels. It also did not work. Also, ‘dynamic desirable’ mode is not present in the L2 IOU as far as my labbing is concerned.

  2. Yeah – I got the GNS3 with IOU working a couple of weeks ago after a bunch of wrestling with it…then next night it would not work – I dumped that idea real quick. I would much rather rent rack time as a student than deal with that.

    1. Hello Anthony ,

      Can you please clarify whether you are providing online rack rentals and where can I get more information such as pricing and dates I can rent space for me to practice my CCIE R&S and SEC?

      thanks in advance

  3. Anthony,

    I’m using physical equipment for later 2 and VIRL for later 3, I can’t wait for later 2 support in VIRL as well as ASAv!

  4. Hi Anthony,

    Hope you are doing good.Can you please list the platforms that we can simulate with a) VIRL b) GNS3.

    1)VIRL – I guess IOS , NX-OS

    2)GNS3 – IOS ( AFAIK and no switching)

    3)For CCIE Sec – what all devices we can simulate using the above two ?


    1. VIRL emulates IOSv, IOS-XRv, NX-OSv, and CSR1000v – this month they are adding Layer 2 IOS (think 6500) and ASAv.

      GNS3 emulates IOS, Layer 2 IOU, and ASA.

      For CCIE SEC – you have the ASA, L2, and L3 stuff you can practice. Notice you a missing a bunch of the other required devices like WSA, WSE, IPS, etc.

      1. Thanks Anthony .You are doing the true job of a mentor/coach.I feel like you are a messenger send by God to help clear CCIE ….:).Regards,

  5. Hi

    I’ve come to love GNS3 IOU since the new 1.3.1 version has come out.

    I can simulate all ccie rs v5 lab scenarions, with a few minor exeptions.

    Regards /Morten

      1. There are so many vendors that cover R&S lab scenarios it is sick – just use Google and ask the vendors for samples. You need to see what you are buying before you buy it. Also – be sure to get graded on your attempts before you go the actual lab – NetMasterClass offers this and it is KILLER.

  6. Hi Anthony, I have my own physical equipment in a Skeletek rack in my bedroom, comprised of 2x 3550, 3x 3560, 3x 1841, 2x 871, 4x 2610/2620XM and a TS. When I can’t be bothered firing it all up though I am happy using GNS3 with my laptop.

    1. VIRL emulates IOSv, IOS-XRv, NX-OSv, and CSR1000v – this month they are adding Layer 2 IOS (think 6500) and ASAv.

      GNS3 emulates IOS, Layer 2 IOU, and ASA.

  7. VIRL is good!…But have you guys tested UNL (Unified Network Lab). This tool will provide you to run almost all devices using the concept of qemu, dynampsis.. you can run almost all devices out there like Juniper vSRX, vMX, Cisco IOU (both L2 & L3), csr1000v, NX-OS (Titanum), Cisco 7206VXR, ASAv, Check Point firewall, Alto Pato, F5 load balancer,……give it a try!

  8. I used real 3560 switch of 4 and GNS3. Tens of USB Ethernet interfaces to connect clouds in GNS3 and switch ports respectively. It worked perfectly but I failed LAB V4 before it’s terminated. Don’t have confidence to take V5 LAB and my written exam is about to expire. What a sham.

    1. I stumbled across it the other day when I was killing time and checking out their latest products. It looks KILLER. I will be sure to book a session and blog about it here. I will do so this week.

      Thanks for the reminder!

    1. No – not yet – but this new update will get us a lot closer. The issue is there is still a ton of Layer 2 missing from that emulator. We have a ton of ayer 3 features we can play with, but the Layer 2 is tougher for them to emulate. At least we will be getting FabricPath in this new rev due in April 2015. So, the short answer, it is better than nothing at this point. 🙂

  9. Hi Anthony,

    I am currently using three different setups and all three are working for me:
    1. GNS3 with physical switches using a breakout switch.
    2. GNS3 with L2IOU
    3. GNS3 with USB network cards and physical switches.

    I have also worked with CSR1000v but not using that at the moment. Primarily I am using GNS3 with L2IOU for most of my labs and physical switches where L2IOU fails. Setting up GNS3 with a breakout switch was the most difficult of all the different options I tried but it has been fine since I got it up and running.

    Thank you for all the wonderful work you are doing 🙂


    1. Hi Waqas!

      Thank you so much for this post on my site! Great to learn of your lab setups.

      Layer 2 finally arrived in Cisco VIRL today – I will be doing a bunch of posts on that that you might be interested in. But of course since your setup is working great for you – remember the old saying – if it is not broken, don’t fix it.


      1. Haha, true. If it had arrived a couple of weeks earlier, it would have saved me hours of headache and some dollars. But well I am sure it’ll come handy in the future. I’ll keep an eye on your posts regarding VIRL, particularly how the L2IOS works on it.

  10. Hey Anthony,

    With the new update to virl do you think it would be suitable to CCNP study ? I know there’s no support for private vlans and span but I could probably lab that at work 🙂

    1. I think it is the third best option for CCNP R&S that exists right now. I think the order is 1 – Real Gear, 2 – Rental of Real Gear, 3 – VIRL. You can even argue that it beats out rentals I guess!

      1. Ya i think VIRL is the cheapest and probably the best solution so far for CCNP study.

        Are you going to be posting some guides on CCNP study with VIRL ?

        1. I am going to create a new course for CBT Nuggets on VIRL. I will probably call this one – VIRL with Layer 2 or something like that. I want to include a Nugget for each major cert that will include topos for download. So for example, I will design a VIRL CCNP R&S top, demonstrate how to make it in VIRL, then offer it for download for those that don’t feel like making their own. 🙂

    1. Oh yes – this number of nodes permits you to practice every single specific tested technology. Keep in mind that you might run into issues with a training vendor’s full-scale labs that require more devices. When/if you get to that stage, I guess you could always rent at that point.

    1. VIRL is pretty far from allowing you legit CCIE DC practice. You can only practice Layer 3 and very little Layer 2 from the NX-OS perspective. You are basically just getting a feel for the NX-OS on the 7K type platform.

      When it comes to serious CCIE DC practice, it is still all about Rack Rentals.

  11. Hi Anthony, did you get a chance to try out Cisco’s CCIE Lab Builder? I am trying to find a professional opinion before I ask work to pay for some subscription time.

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