During the 3 months off after the 1st attempt I was able to have a long hard look at the way I studied and what I used – As I mentioned in a previous post a more focussed approach was required – less study material more in depth, narrowed topics to be studied and labbed. I felt the use of a combination of Dynamips and Rack Rentals was the way to go. I now believe that not to be 100% true. The rack rental did not always work out – slots either too short [7 hours] or too long [11+ hours] – work also got in my way a lot whereby I would book several weekends in advance online but then work commitments meant I had to work a given weekend thus screwing up my rental time. Also some technical glitches whereby a ticket would have to be raised and a solution obtained by the support engineers [this was the exception and the response time was good but it did happen nevertheless], on one occasion my internet connection dropped for an hour and finally the continuous setting up of initial configurations and remapping of interfaces took up time – overall the experience was not 100%.
On the Dynamips front [and I’m going against the grain now] I never managed to achieve a full fledged SP Lab to my satisfaction. I used XP with 3GB RAM initially and then turned to Ubuntu with 4GB. It took many many hours playing with Idle PC Values to tweak the devices to as close to 100% peak performance as possible. Even then some of them bugged out once you got your full IGP/EGP configurations going. Sometime the GNS3 software crashed. Other times I would get spurious router errors/messages whilst configuring and having researched on Hacki/Google/IEOC, etc it would turn out to be a known Dynamips issue. Finally, I never got the physical interface bound to my NIC on the PC to allow physical access to my 3550 from the virtual routers. I am firmly of the opinion that Dynamips is cool and great for CCNA/CCNP studies or very narrowly focussed CCIE Labs but not for full SP Lab Exercises.
All in all, I found valuable time going astray in different directions rather than being focussed on the task in hand, namely the SP Lab.
With that in mind and with the current prices of hardware on EBay – I have gone and picked up quite a cool SP Lab for what I consider to be good value. I will detail the lab in my next post as the kit comes to hand but we are talking 2610XM’s, 2612’s, 3620’s, 3640’s and a 3662!
What are your thoughts regarding the above – did I waste my money on hardware? Has anyone found the same situations to be true for them?