Access server options
I am not sure how many of you have been solving ultimate problem of how to access devices, at certain point of building lab :-) I'd like to share some ideas.
What I did so far was buying couple of USB to Serial adapters. Since NM-16A's and 2509s/2511s or any other dedicated RASes are being kept at higher price levels even on ebay, there's need to do a bit of math to check if it is viable option. Depending on how cheap you manage to find those cables and how many free USB ports you have on computer (= need to buy USB hub), for smaller scale labs like CCNA or CCNP this can be more bearable when it comes to spending money.
I went with some no-name cables, Linux and Windows recognize them as Prolific chip. They are working good.
[ 2938.272369] pl2303 6-3:1.0: pl2303 converter detected
[ 2938.293272] usb 6-3: pl2303 converter now attached to ttyUSB0
I use those cables both at home and at work for couple of Cisco routers and switches that happened to be around. Since our IT department is not happy with connecting anything unauthorized to corporate network, they set up an old workstation with Windows XP to be used with Remote Desktop Client. Cables are visible as COM ports, useable with any terminal emulator. At home, I use old Celeron running Linux and connecting to serial ports with minicom or screen. Future plan may be setting up conserver application http://www.conserver.com that allows telnetting directly to ports, session logging, simultaneuous read-only access to consoles for viewers and other stuff.
Couple of things to keep in mind: Since it's on USB, port numbering
varies, depending on position in USB tree and order it was plugged in.
Meaning, cable gets certain COM port number when you plug it in, but
when you restart computer, devices closer to 'root' of the tree get
lower number on bus and numbering can change. Not sure about Windows,
but with Linux/BSD you have option to associate serial number of cable
with specific port. Also, once you have more or less stable topology,
it's not a big deal.