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ISCW Building your lab

Most of the posts summarize my studies after a completion of a topic I’ve been working on. This approach both helps me to organize my thoughts about the materials and keep my commitment to you as high as possible.

Now that I’ve finished watching all the videos and reading the book (both volumes), I’m ready to move forward and start the 2nd phase of my studies which include two parallel tasks: Lab & Memorize Definitions.

Memorize Definitions is as simple as it gets: I read all my notes and make sure I remember the acronyms and can explain what they stand for. I also make sure I know the order of important processes (like forming a VPN connection or configuring AAA).
Though this part look simple I’m not good at memorizing so it’s not fun.

LAB is the fun part which sometime gets difficult but is always challenging and usually more interesting than the memorizing part.
In this post I will give details on my ISCW lab equipment.


  • Use equipment that simulates the topics as they show in the exam. Buying more or better does not help passing the exam.
  • Try to use existing equipment – lucky me, I have some spare routers and switches at the office which I can use for this lab. If you have to buy, eBay is your friend.
  • Whenever possible, use live equipment. I prefer spending my money on a rented rack then buying a simulator (though they are almost as good)
  • ISCW requires later IOS version (12.4 and later). There a reason Cisco make this note so do not use older IOS versions as it can cost you few questions!
    The routers should support the following feature sets if you want a complete exam supported environment:
    Advanced IP Services
    Advanced Security

ISCW doesn’t need too much. 3-4 routers can do the work because unlike BSCI or BCMSN this exam does not use routing protocols in a way that require testing propagation.

I have 3 2600XM’s available for my lab. That is a good start as they support Advanced IP Services & Advanced Security.
While I’m covered for two of the three sets, I could also use 1801 or 1841 as cheap alternatives that also support these features or 877 that support all the above.

The 3rd feature which I feel is the most important for the exam is IPSEC 3DES. 3640 support this feature but since I do not have one (I have one old 3620 that is useless here) I will use something similar (though not identical) – Cisco PIX.
I have a spare PIX firewall in a working test environment where I can “play” with the configuration and create as many VPN tunnels as I want. Going over the exam materials I think it will offer all the options that ISCW cover and more. If you have to buy a router 3640 is relatively cheap and this is an important topic (both for the exam and life) so this is not the right place to save few bucks.
Another inexpensive option is getting a couple of 1710s with VPN Module. They come with 2 Ethernet interfaces, run IOS 12.4 and cost way below $100 on eBay.

Tip: How can you tell if the router you have\buy support the required features?
Use the Cisco Feature Navigator tool. Use it before you buy anything and make sure you get the right router. Not only you’ll waste your money on a router that cannot provide, you’ll waste precious practice time and this is more valuable than the cost of the router!

Additional information:
I found this document on the Cisco Learning Network, it uses 3 2811s for to simulate HQ, Branch & ISP. The suggested lab topology is good and I’ll use it as my reference while building my lab.

Good MPLS lab with config sample is available on this Pearson document.

The following book have good reviews, I’ll be able to comment after I finish my lab work: CCNP Implementing Secured Converged Wide-Area Networks (ISCW 642-825) Lab Portfolio.

Now it is your turn to bring in your experience, thoughts and ideas!

Only 194 days left to complete my CCNP

Find more labs here

  1. YY Ng
    January 20, 2010 at 9:33 pm

    Hi Rofi,

    Your suggested lab is excellent!
    Keep it up.

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