These pictures are included with brief descriptions to share my home learning/test lab with you.  I have spent a great deal of time working with these devices over the last few years.  While nothing can replace "real" production equipment with live data, a non-production lab serves a crucial purpose: testing and learning.  Changes to existing configurations in a live network should always be tested before hand in a simulated environment like this one.  Plus, when it comes to learning device operation and protocol configuration, nothing beats "hands-on" to supplement hours of "book learning".

All pictures can be enlarged in a separate window by clicking on the image...


How can I work with just one monitor?!




When my wife and I were recently house/apartment hunting, one of the main requirements was a finished basement with ample "data center" room.  Of course the real estate agent had no idea what we were speaking of...


Here are the actual racks of equipment, in reverse order from where they actually stand.  I numbered them 1 to 4 from closest to my desk to furthest.  Whatever your naming/numbering convention is, make sure it is well-labeled, well-documented, and consistent.  A lot of the equipment is very densely racked with very little cable management between devices.  As I get more cable managers (and an additional rack), I will spread the equipment to a more usable and more organized density.  Some of the equipment is "production" and some of it is constantly changing for learning and testing purposes.  The static production connections and cable runs are labeled while the temporary test runs are not.




Rack 1


Rack 2


Rack 3


Rack 4




You will notice that I highly value labeling and documenting the physical network.  Any "production" links/runs should always be labeled and well-documented in spreadsheets and on Visio diagrams.  When it comes to troubleshooting, nothing assists in finding the problem more than a well-organized and labeled physical plant.  All of my labels have the entire run on every label: from beginning device/port to every patch panel to the destination device and port.  It is essential to see the entire path on every label.  My personal choice for wire labeling is the Kroy K2500 labeler.





You will also notice that I use several different cable colors.  As soon as I get a few more rolls of a few more colors, I will put the full color scheme into use: Yellow - main production, Blue - backup production, Red - crossover, Gray - console, Green - lab/test.  There are additional dark green cables that I could not avoid using, which are the octal cables from the 2610 terminal server's NM-32a ports.  They are permanently-attached rollover-cables, so they must be used "as-is".  I have filled my NM-32a ports and will be adding additional terminal servers to my lab like the Digital DECserver or Xyplex Maxserver devices (which do not use a fixed-cable like the Cisco octal cable)



Questions?  Comments?  Send me an e-mail...