Newer Cisco switches and routers have the ability to connect to the console port with an USB cable. The RJ45 is still there, no need to worry about that yet. To connect you need a cable that has a male type A to a male mini B contact. See the picture below:
You can order a cable when you order your switch/router but unless you want to pay a lot more for it just buy it in a regular electronics store. I paid about 6$ for mine (converted from swedish currency) and Ciscos list price is 30$ for a 6 ft cable.
You need to download drivers from Ciscos website (requires a login). Go to the download software section and choose a device like a 3560 switch and then choose USB console driver:
The file is a zip, download it to somewhere and then unzip the file. You will have a few different folders depending on what operating system you run. I used the setup file from the Windows_32 folder. This will install the software. When you insert the USB cable into your computer Windows will detect it and install the driver. You will have a new COM port in device manager that looks like this:
Create a regular connection with your favourite terminal program and use the regular settings, 9600 bits, 8 data bits, no parity and 1 stop bit.
So what have gained from using the USB cable instead? Not that much, we don’t need the USB to serial converter any more and it’s cheaper to buy an USB cable instead of a converter. A cable we might already have if we have devices like a digital camera. As long as the regular console port is left we now have two options which is good.
Since I have started studying for the CCIE I needed a lab. I don’t have the space/money to get a dedicated home lab so I have to use Dynamips and GNS3 instead.
It is well known that Dynamips runs better on Linux, I am by no means experienced in Linux but Ubuntu is very easy to run. Since I wanted to use the laptop I have at work I didn’t want to risk doing a dual boot and messing up the MBR or something like that. Booting on a live-cd would work but then I wouldn’t be able to save anything.
Instead I installed Ubuntu on an USB memory stick. The capacity of it is 2GB which means I can have 1GB for installing stuff and saving topologies etc.
Start by downloading Ubuntu. I have 4GB RAM so I used the 64 bit version.
Follow the instructions on Ubuntus homepage which means downloading Universal USB Installer.
I used these settings:
Make sure you don’t have anything important on it before you do the format. You want to use persistence if you want to be able to save on the USB. If you have a larger USB you can choose
a larger filesystem so you have more space available.
When the installer is done you can boot from the memory stick. You might have to change the boot order in BIOS if Ubuntu doesn’t start.
I then followed this guide.
If you extract the files to / the .net file will be correct if you are using the same IOS. If you are using another version you have to update the .net file.
The important thing is to run multiple hypervisors which will be done if you use the .ini that is supplied.
Following this guide I was able to run 15 routers at about 60-70% CPU and around 1.5GB RAM. My laptop is a HP Elitebook 2530p Core 2 Duo L9600@2.13GHz with 4GB RAM installed. I run Windows 7 when I don’t
lab and now I can boot Ubuntu from an USB when I want to lab without having to mess with my regular harddrive. If you have any issues post them in comments and I will try to give feedback.