How to prepare for CCNA voice lab exam?

Certification: CCNA - Cisco Certified Network Associate

With the improvisations and changes in the CCNA Voice exams, the requirements for CCNA Voice lab have also enhanced. The latest CCNA Voice exam known as Introducing Cisco Voice and Unified Communications Administration (ICOMM) 640-461 focuses more on the configuration and working of Cisco Unified Communication applications. The lab for the current CCNA Voice exam, therefore, requires an access to these software applications that include Cisco Unified Presence (CUPS), Cisco Unified Communications Manager (CUCM) and Cisco Unity Connection (CUC). As these softwareapplications are an essential factor in understanding the certification curriculum, candidates who cannot access these applications can enquire with the academy of Cisco networking locally if they have the option of enrolling at academic cost for classes in which CUC application are used.

Equipment Requirements for Building a CCNA Voice Lab

Following are the most recommended equipment with best compatibility for a CCNA Voice lab establishment:

  • Cisco 2811 router that runs IOS 12.4T and is installed with a PVDM-16 (Packet Voice/Fax DSP Module - 16) and a VWIC2-1MFT-T1/E1 card.  Some lab requirements may include two Cisco 2811 routers for the headquarter location and branch office each.
  • Cisco Catalyst 3560-24PS switch, running IOS 12.2(53)SEand switchedwith Power over Ethernet (PoE).
  • Another Cisco router to operate as a simulator for public switched telephone network (PSTN). This router should have been installed with minimum two VoiceWANInterfaceCards of Cisco 2nd Generation with one and two Port T1E1 and Multiflex Trunk (MFT) and sufficient resourcesof Digital Signal Processor (DSP) to serve the purpose effectively.
  • Minimum one 7900 Series Cisco IP Phones that has at least three line buttons.
  • Minimum one Cisco IP Communicator (CIPC), which is a soft phone, that can run on at least in one virtual machines or personal computers.
  • Version 8.6.2 of CUCM, version 8.6.2 of CUC and Version 8.6.3 of CUPS than can run in a virtual machine.
  • A machine with a RAM of minimum 8 gigabytes and virtualization software like VMware Workstation or ESXi Server for running the Cisco Unified Communications applications on a server or personal computer. The performance of the virtual machines is majorly dependent on the processing pace of the machine. Though the minimum RAM required for the machine is 8 or more gigabytes, a RAM with 16 gigabytes or more is recommended.

Other Recommended Hardware Resources

As mentioned earlier the above specified models of hardware are the ones best compatible for a CCNA Voice lab, however, there are other models that can also be adequate to serve the purpose. There are four common components for all system models of VoIP phone namely Call Agent, Phones, Power Sourcefor phones and Network connectivity.  The recommended models of hardware are for a lab using both CUCM and CUCME for functioning of phone calls. The minimum lab requirement for the CUCM is version 8.x and as CUCME shares only selected IOS versions, it is important to choose hardware components that support CUCME.

Call Agent:-

Call Agents play an important role in the working of VoIP system by controlling all the phone call operations. Hence selection of a router model that supports CUCME is of prime significance. The recommended models of routers that support CUCME are 1861 Router, 3800 ISR Series including 3845 and 3825, 3900 Series including 3925, 3945, 3925E and 3945E, 2800 ISR Series including 2801, 2821, 2811 and 2851,  and 2900 ISR2 Series including 2901, 2921,2911, and 2951.

Phones:-

The phones are the voice devices in the VoIP systems and the alternative recommended models include 7900 IP Phone Series, 8900 IP Phone Series, 9900 IP Phone Series and Cisco IP Communicator (CIPC). The working of 7900 IP Phone Series, 8900 IP Phone Series, and 9900 IP Phone Series will require newer version of CUCME found in IOS 15 or later. Unlike these three models, CIPC is a soft phone that works inside the virtual machine and without using a power source. It operates on Microsoft Windows 7, Windows XP, and Vista. The working of CIPC requires a CME version 4.0 or later and an audio resource such as a speaker or microphone to be detected on the hardware. 

Power Source:-

CIPC does not require power to operate, but for the other desk phones recommended above power is requires for the phones to operate. The four sources of power for these desk phones can be power brick, power injector, switches supporting Power over Ethernet (PoE) or a router installed with a PoE switch module.

Out of the four power sources, the least expensive model is the power brick (model numberCP-PWR-CUBE-3=) which provides phones with direct power. However, these are not a commonly used in production environment to power phones as a power out situation will interrupt the phone operation. The next least expensive is the power injector (model number CP-PWR-INJ=) which is usually used in production environment where one or two phone devices have to be powered. The power injector helps in powering the phone devices by putting PoE onto the wires between the phone and the switch.

The third model that powering the pones with a switch supporting POE is most commonly used model in the production environment. This model helps in uninterrupted working of the phones even during power outs as the switch is powered in the wiring closet by a UPS. The fourth model is a router installed with a Power over Ethernet switch module and the recommended models are HWIC-D-9ESW-POE, HWIC-4ESW-POE and HWIC-4ESW added with ILPM-4 module. 

Network Connectivity

The network connectivity in VoIP system with a desk phone with PoE switch as a power source or a router installed with switch modules is already set. But when the phone used is either a CIPC or a desk phone powered with power injector or power bricks, a switch which is voice-enabled for allowing configuration of voice VLANs.  The recommended voice –enabled switch models include 2960, 2950, 3550, 3750 and 3650 series switches.

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