CCIE Home Lab Spaghetti

Last week I’ve been messing around with my CCIE Home lab and since a picture says more than a thousand words let me show you this:

CCIE Home Lab

After my frame-relay router died I decided to do something about it so i replaced all my routers with GNS3 and connected them to my real switches (3550’s and 3560) by using a breakout switch.

This works perfectly! I’m not using any physical router anymore Next week i’ll show you what it looks like now and what you need to do to connect your GNS3 routers to your switches.

To be continued…

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Written by René Molenaar - CCIE #41726

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About the Author: Rene Molenaar

René - CCIE #41726 is the creator of where he shares CCNA, CCNP and CCIE R&S labs. He also blogs about networking on


  1. Hi,
    I’d like to include switches in my GNS3 lab too. Do you think 4 x WS-C3560-8PC-S are enough? I mean, are more than 8 ports per switch needed? Does this smaller switch have the same commands of the bigger one?
    Thank you

  2. Hi Roland,

    I believe the commands are the same as the big ones. You can use them but if you want to use them for CCIE i’d get the bigger ones.

    I’m using the INE topology and there are 4 switches, each switch has 3 links to all other switches so that’s 9 links in total…and there’s 2-3 interfaces connecting routers per switch.

    I’m using 2x 3550 (those are cheap) and 2x 3560 (1x 3560 is fine as well…just need it for private vlans and QOS).

    I’m also using a 3550 for the breakout switch since it’s the cheapest switch that can do QinQ. Only downside is it can’t do l2 tunneling on trunk interfaces so you won’t see CDP on the real switches from your virtual routers. Another option is using quad-nics…

    To make a long story short…i’d get 3x 3550 24-port and 1x 3560 24-port ;D

  3. Hi Michael,

    If you have a spare 3750 that’s nice, but I think it’s a bit overkill just for the ‘breakout switch’.

    I’ve only worked with the INE material but it’s probably fine for the other material as well. The 3650 has different QOS than a 3550, and on the 3550 there’s no support for private vlans. That’s all..

    Rack rental is probably cheaper than buying all your own equipment. I like the idea however of being able to play with my own stuff when/where I want 🙂 Besides I can use it for teaching as well.


  4. Hi Rene,

    I was thinking about putting 3570 as a breakout sw due to CDP.
    Is there a need in CDP in any lab?
    does everything else works fine except the CDP?

    and another question what is cheaper and better home lap with gns and switched or a rack rental?

    Thanks in advance.

  5. Another question regarding topology, will it be fine for all of them, INE, 360, netmaaterclass, to have 3×3550 and 1×3560?

  6. Hi Rene,

    Thanks for your answer.
    But you didn’t aswer if there is any need in the labs for the cdp. I mean if using 3550 as a breakout switch can limit me?

  7. I am using the GNS3 / INE combo to prepare for my CCIE. I have used the GNS3 / Real Switch combo, but those switches belonged to my previous employer and once I actually figured out how to integrate GNS3 with the real switches, I got another job, so I am just using GNS3 right now…

    I sometimes run into problems with GNS3 and find myself spending more time troubleshooting it, then working on the actual task at hand… Now I am at the point that I am thinking about buying all real gear. GNS3 is a wonderful, great tool, but I need to maximize my study time and not worry about arbitrary GNS3 issues…

    For those of you who are using the GNS3 / Real Switch combo, has it worked out great for you? Instead of buying all real gear, I am thinking about just trying the GNS3 Virtual router / physical switch setup… Thoughts?

    Thanks in advance =).

    1. If you use GNS3 for the complete CCIE lab you’ll be in trouble because the switching support is drama.

      The 4x switch + GNS3 routers combo works excellent and that’s what I am using. I sold all my real routers and this is what I’m using right now:

      2x 3560 + 2x 3550…3x quad NIC and a machine running GNS3.

      It works wonderful and many others did the same thing 🙂

      1. Ok, cool. That’s what i’ll do then :).

        I remember reading a while back that it was recommended to use all 3560s instead of the 3550 because of I believe the QoS, Private VLANs and some other features…

        I saw that you are using INE as well… Have you run into any problems in the workbooks that you couldn’t perform a task because you were using the 3550s?

        Also, how do you dictate which switch is using which platform? Meaning:

        Switch 1 & 2 – 3550
        Switch 3 & 4 – 3560

        1. Yes the QoS is different on the 3560 compared to the 3550. Private VLANs are only supported on the 3560 and not on the 3550.

          I’m using the 2010 version of their workbooks and they still use 2x 3550 and 2x 3560 in it. It probably didn’t change…


          I started with some old 2621XM routers but got sick because of cabling and they didn’t support MPLS. This is the best solution for me so far!

  8. Hi, Rene

    I’m going to purchase your books and challenge CCIE.

    Do you still recommend following combination of the switches?


    Your post was more than 2 years ago and I want to make sure that I buy best switches for your lab.
    If you have any recommended combination, please advise.


    1. The 3550 is just a cost effective way to do the vast majority of things for the blueprint. Given CCIEv5 is out, and Rene and I both passed v4, I am not 100% sure if 3550s will be good anymore given potentially new switching features on the blueprint. I would recommend you check out the newest blueprint and compare it to v4, annotating any different switch features. It’s HIGHLY likely that 3550 will still meet 95% of your needs though.

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