I was browsing Barnes & Noble about a month ago, and while I was there, I bought Wendell Odom’s CCNA 200-301 Official Cert Guide, Parts One and Two. It wasn’t really a career choice: I had the books for CompTIA A+, Network+, and Security+ on my shelf already, plus plenty of Raspberry Pi and Arduino books. I didn’t know much about networking (the CompTIA Network+ book is the most neglected book on my shelf), so I figured I might as well learn something about networking.
After downloading Cisco Packet Tracer, well… Cisco Packet Tracer is fun, but I prefer learning in a hands-on environment. I built my desktop computer in 2016 when I was 14, and I learned quite a bit during that project. I have the collection of eight Raspberry Pi computers on my desk thorough which I learned Linux (1, 2, 3, 3+, 4 2GB, 4 4GB, Zero, ZeroW) and the Arduino Uno from 2011, through which I learned the basics of the C programming language. With some spare money in my pocket, why not learn with something physical? I have plenty of Ethernet cables in the closet…
My initial impulse was to open up eBay and start looking for Cisco routers and browsing on r/Homelab. What I didn’t immediately realize was that the CCNA 200-301 had only come out about a month or two earlier, and it requires Cisco IOS 15. Fortunately, I realized the difference between IOS 12.1 and IOS 15. Most of the r/Homelab guides and videos (particularly this one from only a year ago) advised buying some Cisco 2621s and 2950s because they are cheap and plentiful. What they failed to mention was that with the new unified CCNA certificate launch, knowledge of IOS 15 is required and these older recommendations from only a year ago only run IOS 12.1.
In the end, I purchased 3x Cisco Catalyst WS-C3560G-48TS-S. I could have also done some 3750s, but I was happy with this one as it came with power cords, bezels, and console cables. The 3560 has 48 ports, some variations (such as this one) support IOS 15, it has 10/100/1000 Ethernet, and it is only about $50 per unit. Also, it is a Layer 3 switch, meaning that it can be configured to take on most (but not all) of the functions a separate Cisco router would have. The general advice online is to get at least 1 router and 2 switches, and so to have one device which can do almost everything is excellent.
The package comes tomorrow. My Serial->USB adapter comes on Saturday (delayed Amazon Prime because of a certain pandemic), and my desktop 8U Rack mount on Friday. This will be interesting.
As for the rest of equipment that I have right now: I have the homebuilt computer from 2016 (it’s still got 16GB RAM and an i5-6500), Original Prusa Mini 3D Printer, piles of books, the 8 Raspberry Pis, 2 Arduinos, Intel Edison Board, Ti Launchpad, piles of other odd equipment that came with the hardware raffle, MacBook Pro and iPad, and a Netgear AC1750 router that I flashed with OpenWRT. It’s a good beginning.
If you are looking for more information on what to buy for Cisco routers, this impartial guide was very valuable.