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Cisco Learning Labs – Virtual Cisco IOS Labs for Routing and Switching

I received the following email last week:

Cisco Announces a Networking Education Breakthrough with Cisco Learning Labs

Cisco announces a networking education breakthrough with Cisco Learning Labs. For the first time, IT learners can now access real Cisco labs with both routing and Layer 2 core switching features.

Cisco Learning Labs are powered by Cisco IOS® Software on UNIX and enable critical, hands-on lab experience for future networking engineers interested in attaining Cisco certifications.

Elevate your study program with Cisco Learning Labs today and enjoy the variety of lab bundles for Cisco CCNA®, Cisco CCNP®, and Cisco CCIP® certification preparation.

Cisco Learning Labs are available exclusively on the Cisco Learning Network Store.

Review all lab bundles and pricing information now.

This is something that I (and many others) have been looking forward to for some time.  Cisco is providing virtual network labs to help train for Cisco exams.

This is the first time (as far as I know) that Cisco has allowed (legal) access to its IOU (IOS on UNIX) platform to users outside of Cisco and large Cisco partners.  Basically, IOU is an advanced emulator that allows you to run and interconnect virtualized Cisco devices.  It has been used inside Cisco for years now as a way to quickly mock up networks for design and testing.  Some of you may be saying “So what? Dynamips does the same thing.”  The difference between IOU and Dynamips is that IOU can run instances of higher end routers not available in Dynamips.  It can also scale much larger than Dynamips by using substantially less resources.  Finally – and probably most importantly – it can emulate layer 2 devices, which Dynamips cannot (other than some basic layer 2 functionality via a router switch card).  While I would prefer to see IOU released as an application for creating my own virtualized networks, its at least a good first step to see Cisco using IOU in this fashion.

You should definitely check out the Cisco Store page, but I’ll make it easy for you as there is not a lot of detailed information on that page at this time:

There is nothing like the real thing, especially when it comes to preparing for some of the most important exams of your career.

Cisco Learning Labs for routing and switching are real bundles of practice labs, powered by Cisco IOS Software on UNIX.

For the first time, Cisco IT learners can virtually access and implement routing and Layer 2 core switching lab configurations from the convenience of a PC.

Whereas many networking learners might struggle with gaining access to physical lab gear or with the costs and time that are involved with setting up a home lab, Cisco Learning Labs are the hassle-free solution for gaining economical and authentic lab experience.

Prices start at US$50 for 25 hours of lab time. So for just US$2 an hour, you can take the most critical step in preparing for a Cisco certification exam-while saving time and money.

Advance your learning and study regimen today with Cisco IOS Software and take your Cisco certification exam with the added assurance of knowing that you have prepared with real lab scenarios for Cisco CCNA®, Cisco CCIP®, and Cisco CCNP® certifications.

Enjoy these exclusive Cisco Learning Labs features:

* Configure labs in the ROUTE and core SWITCH environment
* No downtime for equipment resets
* Multiple labs available in all bundles (starting at 11 and up to 15 labs)
* Accessible anytime for 90 days (up to 25 hours)
* Supplemental lab time options available (5 hours per bundle)

System requirements:

Cisco Learning Labs require Microsoft Windows-based computers (XP, Vista, or 7) running Windows Internet Explorer (versions 7, 8, or 9).

Here’s what’s available at the time of this posting:

Cisco Learning Labs: CCIP MPLS Virtualized Lab Bundle 25-hours
Price: $75.00

Cisco Learning Labs: CCIP MPLS Virtualized Lab Bundle 5-hour Extension
Price: $30.00

Cisco Learning Labs: CCNA ICND2 Virtualized Lab Bundle 25-hours
Price: $50.00

Cisco Learning Labs: CCNA ICND2 Virtualized Lab Bundle 5-hour Extension
Price: $20.00

Cisco Learning Labs: CCNP ROUTE Virtualized Lab Bundle 25-hours
Price: $75.00

Cisco Learning Labs: CCNP ROUTE Virtualized Lab Bundle 5-hour Extension
Price: $30.00

Cisco Learning Labs: CCNP SWITCH Virtualized Lab Bundle 25-hours
Price: $75.00

Cisco Learning Labs: CCNP SWITCH Virtualized Lab Bundle 5-hour Extension
Price: $30.00

Cisco Learning Labs: CCNP TSHOOT Virtualized Lab Bundle 25-hours
Price: $75.00

Cisco Learning Labs: CCNP TSHOOT Virtualized Lab Bundle 5-hour Extension
Price: $30.00

There’s only one lab available for $50 and it’s the ICND2 lab.  The rest cost $75.  That means that most of the options cost $3 per hour ($2 per hour for ICND2).  Additional time can be purchased in 5 hour blocks at $6 per hour ($4 per hour for ICND2).  At $3 per hour (again, for all but the ICDN2 lab), this is in line with pricing for many rack rental companies (using real equipment).  At $6 per hour, this is more expensive than many rack rental companies.   Of course, depending on how scheduling of your lab hours works, the cost may be worthwhile.  With most – if not all – rack rental companies, you need to schedule your rack time in blocks of hours.  These blocks are usually in the 4 to 8 hour range.  If you could schedule smaller blocks of time, say one hour blocks, then there may be more value in the Cisco lab bookings.  Also, I imagine that the number of concurrent lab users is limited only by bandwidth (which should be pretty trivial) and processing power to run the virtual instances rather.  This differs from vendors booking real equipment and may mean that you could get instance access to the Cisco virtual labs, thereby bypassing the advanced scheduling required with most rack rental companies.  In other words, you might be able to log in whenever you have some spare time instead of booking a block of time in advance.  You also might be able to avoid not being able to book a lab due to all of the lab equipment already being reserved.  This is only speculation as I could not find any details on the Cisco page.  One of the few details present is that you need to use your lab time within 90 days of purchase.  That’s not too bad of a restriction and should not be a problem…depending on the availability to schedule labs.

So, the cost is not exactly an outstanding bargain.  What about the labs themselves.  Whereas most rack rental companies are selling time on their equipment, this (generally) does not include the cost of the lab scenarios themselves.  Cisco is selling anywhere from 11 to 15 lab scenarios with each block of 25 hours.  Depending on the quality of the lab scenarios, that could make this a great bargain.  Unfortunately, at this time there are no details on the content of the lab scenarios nor sample scenarios.

What can be culled from the web page is that you will interact with the lab environment via a browser.  That’s about it.  This page (and their sales) would greatly benefit from some more details about these labs.  There are some details about the lab scenarios (just the titles) on the pages for the individual lab products.  For instance, here are the lab scenarios for the MPLS labs:

Cisco Learning Labs: CCIP MPLS Virtualized Lab Bundle includes the following labs:

  • Lab 2-1 Establishing the Service Provider IGP Routing Environment
  • Lab 3-1 Establishing the Core MPLSEnvironment
  • Lab 5-1 Initial MPLS VPN Setup
  • Lab 5-2 Running EIGRP Between PE and CE Routers
  • Lab 5-3 Running OSPF Between PE and CE Routers
  • Lab 5-4 Running BGP Between PE and CE Routers
  • Lab 6-1 Overlapping VPNs
  • Lab 6-2 Merging Service Providers
  • Lab 6-3 Common Services VPN
  • Lab 7-1 Establishing Central Site Internet Connectivity with and MPLS VPN
  • Lab 8-1 Implementing Basic MPLS TE

Those look like pretty good scenarios (especially the VPN scenarios), but Cisco needs to provide more details about the lab scenarios.  I would like to see more details about the individual scenarios as well as a sample scenario so I could judge the quality as well as whether the topology could be easily and more cheaply (free!) created with Dynamips.  I’d like to know if the labs are down-loadable or if they are only available via browser when using your lab time.  I’d really love to know more details about scheduling labs as well.  This page is screaming for a video covering some of the details of this product.

Update: There is a video on YouTube that introduces the Cisco Learning Labs.  It too is a little light on details:

Cisco Learning Labs

Cisco Learning Labs

I’m definitely interested in the CCIP MPLS labs, but would like more information before dropping $75.  Especially since the vast majority of MPLS scenarios only require routers and can be done on Dynamips.  The switching labs would probably provide the most benefit for Cisco students at this point as advanced switching tasks are not available in Dynamips.

For now, I’m going to hold off on purchasing any of the labs.  If I do decide to jump into Cisco’s brand new training pool, I’ll post a review here.  I do think that this is a great idea, but would need more information before I would purchase.

So You Wanna Be A Network Engineer?

This is how I spent early Monday morning after I got paged.  Only the names and addresses have been changed:

Site Support [12:18 AM]:
U there?

Me [12:18 AM]:
Yes.  You paged?

Site Support [12:18 AM]:
Entire network is down at site x.

Me [12:18 AM]:
You’re physically at site x right now?  Not VPN?

Site Support [12:18 AM]:
Yes.

Me [12:18 AM]:
Then entire network is not down. Otherwise we would not be having this IM chat.

Me [12:20 AM]:
What leads you to believe that the network is down?

Me [12:23 AM]:
???

Site Support [12:23 AM]:
No one can get to internet.

Me [12:23 AM]:
Intranet is working?

Site Support [12:24 AM]:
yes. Intranet sites up. Internet DOWN.

Me [12:24 AM]:
Give me a URL for an Inet site you can’t reach.

Site Support [12:25 AM]:
websitex

Me [12:25 AM]:
http://www.websitex.com ? Is that the full URL?

Me [12:27 AM]:
Dude. It’s 12:30 am on a Sunday here. Can you verify the URL for me?

Site Support [12:28 AM]:
websitex.com

Me [12:28 AM]:
I’m going to assume that this is http.

Me [12:28 AM]:
I can open port 80 on websitex.com from your user switch.

Site Support [12:29 AM]:
oaky

Me [12:29 AM]:
That means that the network is not blocking/dropping traffic to http://www.websitex.com

Site Support [12:29 AM]:
but internet is still DOWN!!!

Me [12:30 AM]:
I need your IP address.  Please cut and paste http://www.websitey.com into IE and tell me what IP address shows at top of the page.

Site Support [12:31 AM]:
Your IP Address: 1.2.3.4

Me [12:32 AM]:
Okay.  That website that’s showing you your IP address…

Me [12:32 AM]:
…it’s on the Internet.  Network is NOT down for your site.  Internet is NOT down for your site.

Site Support [12:34 AM]:
websitex.com is DOWN!!!

Me [12:35 AM]:
Not from a network standpoint it is not. You might have a proxy issue, but I don’t mangage those boxes so I can’t help with that.

Site Support [12:35 AM]:
Who do I page for that?

Me [12:36 AM]:
No idea.  NOC can help with that.  Is this the only site that is unreachable?

Me [12:38 AM]:
???

Me [12:38 AM]:
I just browsed to the site from my desktop.  What do you see when you go to that site?

Site Support [12:38 AM]:
nothing its down

Me [12:38 AM]:
So you don’t see “website offline for maintenance”?

Site Support [12:40 AM]:
y

Me [12:40 AM]:
Yes you see “website offline for maintenance”?

Site Support [12:40 AM]:
Yes

Me [12:40 AM]:
This is a third-party website that is down for maintenance.  This has nothing to do with us.

Me [12:41 AM]:
I assume that it will restore once they are done with their maintenance.

Me [12:41 AM]:
Please have NOC close ticket.  I am going back to sleep.

Site Support [12:41 AM]:
Who do I page for this?

Me [12:42 AM]:
Huh?  For what?

Site Support [12:42 AM]:
websitex.com down

Me [12:42 AM]:
No one.  Not unless you want to call websitex.com and ask them when their maintenance will be done.

Site Support [12:43 AM]:
How long is mantenance? Site cannot work.

Me [12:44 AM]:
I do not work for websitex.com so I cannot answer that.

Site Support [12:44 AM]:
Who can?

Me [12:44 AM]:
Seriously?

Me [12:45 AM]:
Good night.  Please have NOC close ticket.

Packet Pushers Podcast

I listen to quite a few podcasts.  Podcasts like TWIT, Buzz Out Loud, Uhh Yeah Dude, The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe, You Look Nice Today, and many others fill my ears during my commute, while I do yard/house work, and often when I’m designing my latest Visio opus.  The vast majority of the podcasts that I listen to are either news or entertainment shows (or some mixture of both).  For a long time now, I’ve often yearned for a podcast that covered networking topics.  But everytime I thought about what that show would be like, I decided that it would probably be nearly impossible for anyone to create a compelling networking/Cisco podcast.  It would be pretty hard,  let alone boring,  to discuss configuration without video.  There exists some great video shows out there like TechWise TV, but I’ve never stumbled across a networking-centric audio podcast.  Until now.

Packet Pushers Podcast (someone loves alliteration) is an audio podcast covering all things networking.  The show is hosted by Greg Ferro, an Australian born, UK based, CCIE who runs the EtherealMind website. Joining him on a regular basis are Dan Hughes, an Irish blogger (The Roving Network Engineer’s blog) and CCIE, as well as Ethan Banks (Packet Attack blog), a CCIE from this side of the pond.  Those three engineers form the nucleus of the podcast.  They bring in interesting voices from the networking world each week to join them in discussing networking topics.

The podcast is currently on episode 16 and even has some shorter segments (“Runts”) as well as a newly formed spin-off (“Packet Pushers Unplugged”) podcast which covers wireless networking.  In the span of just a few months, they have created quite a bit of content.  I recently saw a tweet stating that the show has about 1500 weekly followers.  Not bad for a new, niche podcast.

I had actually heard about PPP about the time that it launched, but put off giving it a listen until recently.  Not only was I doubtful that the show would be interesting, but I’ve seen quite a few podcasts launch and then die out after only a few episodes.  So after a couple of months of seeing tweets touting the show, I finally dipped into the PPP pool.  I’m glad that I did.

Each episode has a major topic such as Data Center Switching, Enterprise MPLS, TRILL, etc.  In addition, each episode has a number of other discussions including career discussions, tech news, and the state of the industry.  Most of the time the PPP hosts are joined by an engineer whose specialty is the main topic of the show.  The content is not strictly Cisco based and the hosts have no problems taking shots at Cisco.  I’ve been impressed by the breadth of topics and guests.  I also like that the hosts are engaging and not stereotypical dry, networking nerds.

Another big issue for podcasts is sound quality.  I’ve listened to some podcasts with really great content, but shitty sound quality.  Regardless of the quality of the content, most listeners will not suffer through poor quality audio.  I’m happy to say that the sound quality of PPP is very good.

The podcasts tend to run 40 minutes to an hour in length.  The one Runt show that I have listened to clocked in at about 20 minutes.  The editing is pretty tight, which is another thing that a lot of podcasts fail at that PPP does not.

I could blather on about the Packet Pushers Podcast, but you owe it to yourself to test drive the show yourself. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the show is engaging, educational, and well produced.  I have added PPP to my weekly podcast diet.

New Feature: Cool Cisco IOS Commands

You wouldn’t know it from the quality of the end product 😉 , but researching, recording, editing, and posting video lessons can be a lot of work.  Throw in work, entertainment, and home life, and the time to create content is pretty limited.  There are many times when I get some free time, but not enough to put together a comprehensive lesson.  I’m going to utilize those shorter pieces of time to highlight some of the Cisco IOS commands that I find very useful.  These lessons will be shorter (usually less than 10 minutes) and will not include labs or quizzes.

The first of these lessons is about the ‘show interfaces counters errors’ (switching) command.

I hope that you find these lessons useful.

Cisco Flexes Muscles With Blogger

If any of you have viewed any of the Cisco related CBT Nuggets lessons, then you are probably familiar with Jeremy Cioara (his voice, if not his face).  Jeremy has run a blog for five years over at ciscoblog.com.  Well, those days are coming to an end:

Well, after 5 fun years of running CiscoBlog.com, Cisco “agents” have come. I was contacted by Cisco a couple weeks ago stating that CiscoBlog.com violates their trademark. Being that CiscoBlog.com gets 600,000 hits monthly (isn’t that amazing?!?) I thought I could at least get a box of t-shirts out of the whole deal. Unfortunately, the response went something like, “Mr. Anderson…this is a legal matter. We don’t negotiate.”

So…I have until July 4th to find a new domain name. I guess if I owned Cisco, I wouldn’t want some hoodlum posting at CiscoBlog.com…so I understand the complaint.

…I just wanted a box of t-shirts out of the whole thing… :o)

Jeremy seems to be taking this is stride and I understand Cisco’s viewpoint (though they should hook Jeremy up with some nice parting gifts).  Given the slight odds (and massive cost) of winning a legal case and the fact that he probably does not want to bite one of the hands that feeds him, he’s most likely just going to move his blog.

I guess that I owe my wife some thanks.  I initially was going to call this site ‘The Cisco Gym’ and had actually created some video under that name.  My wife told me that it probably was not a good idea to do this as Cisco might step in one day and force me to change the name.  The thought of re-recording all those videos made me decide on ‘Packet Lab’.  After Cisco’s takedown of CiscoBlog.com, I’m glad I made that change.

Why I Need To Edit My Videos

Dear Packet Lab,

Your mellifluous voice along with your engaging content keeps me glued to my monitor.  My friends say you use fancy editing tricks to accomplish this, but I think that you just spit wisdom with a flow that needs no enhancement.

BTW, I want you inside me.

Why thank you imaginary e-mailer who writes things that no sane human would actually type.  While it is true that I rock a mic like no other fool, even I sometimes need to use editing.

Why I Need To Edit

Why I Need To Edit

Difference Between BSCI 642-901 and ROUTE 642-902 Exam Blueprints

As most of you already know the BSCI and BCMSN (I always hated that abbreviation) exams will be replaced (respectively) with the new ROUTE and SWITCH exams in the latest iteration of the Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) certification.  Since the BSCI exam has historically covered routing technologies (Layer 3) while the BCMSN exam has concentrated on switching (Layer 2) technologies, this change should not result in too many differences between the old and new exams.  Of course, the fact that Cisco is dropping the ONT and ISCW exams and bringing back a separate, dedicated troubleshooting (TSHOOT) exam in the new three (rather than four) exam certification, means that some technologies will inevitably be dropped or moved to the ROUTE and SWITCH exams.

Over the next few posts I’ll look at what is changing between the old and new CCNP track.  First up: a look at the differences in the exam blueprints between the soon-to-be-retired BSCI 642-901 and the new ROUTE 642-902 exam.

NEW
CHANGED

Implement an EIGRP based solution, given a network design and a set of requirements

  • Determine network resources needed for implementing EIGRP on a network
  • Create an EIGRP implementation plan
  • Create an EIGRP verification plan
  • Configure EIGRP routing
  • Verify EIGRP solution was implemented properly using show and debug commands
  • Document results of EIGRP implementation and verification

Implement a multi-area OSPF Network, given a network design and a set of requirements

  • Determine network resources needed for implementing OSPF on a network
  • Create an OSPF implementation plan
  • Create an OSPF verification plan
  • Configure OSPF routing
  • Verify OSPF solution was implemented properly using show and debug commands
  • Document results of OSPF implementation and verification plan

Implement an eBGP based solution, given a network design and a set of requirements

  • Determine network resources needed for implementing eBGP on a network
  • Create an eBGP implementation plan
  • Create an eBGP verification plan
  • Configure eBGP routing
  • Verify eBGP solution was implemented properly using show and debug commands
  • Document results of eBGP implementation and verification plan

Implement an IPv6 based solution, given a network design and a set of requirements

  • Determine network resources needed for implementing IPv6 on a network
  • Create an IPv6 implementation plan
  • Create an IPv6 verification plan
  • Configure IPv6 routing
  • Configure IPv6 interoperation with IPv4
  • Verify IPv6 solution was implemented properly using show and debug commands
  • Document results of IPv6 implementation and verification plan

Implement an IPv4 or IPv6 based redistribution solution, given a network design and a set of requirements

  • Create a redistribution implementation plan based upon the results of the redistribution analysis
  • Create a redistribution verification plan
  • Configure a redistribution solution
  • Verify that a redistribution was implemented
  • Document results of a redistribution implementation and verification plan
  • Identify the differences between implementing an IPv4 and IPv6 redistribution solution

Implement Layer 3 Path Control Solution

  • Create a Layer 3 path control implementation plan based upon the results of the redistribution analysis
  • Create a Layer 3 path control verification plan
  • Configure Layer 3 path control
  • Verify that a Layer 3 path control  was implemented
  • Document results of a Layer 3 path control implementation and verification plan
  • Implement basic teleworker and branch services
  • Describe broadband technologies
  • Configure basic broadband connections
  • Describe basic VPN technologies
  • Configure GRE
  • Describe branch access technologies

Removed:

Describe integrated IS-IS

  • Describe the features and benefits of integrated IS-IS.
  • Configure and verify integrated IS-IS.
Implement multicast forwarding
  • Describe IP Multicast (e.g., Layer-3 to Layer-2 mapping, IGMP, etc.).
  • Describe, configure, or verify IP multicast routing (i.e., PIM Sparse-Dense Mode).

A lot of the content has stayed the same between the two exams.  Given the inclusion of the phase “given a network design and a set of requirements” in most section headers and the copious use of the word ‘plan’, it looks like Cisco is putting more of an emphasis on design in the new ROUTE exam.  This makes a lot of sense in my opinion.  As a Professional, you should be able to not only configure the various routing options, but you should be able to aid with design in larger implementations and handle most (if not all) of the design in small to mid-level implementations.

This new exam blueprint lines up very well with the routing requirements of the current Routing and Switching CCIE Lab Exam, with the exception of the curious absence of multicast routing.  I haven’t done a stare and compare between the BCMSN and the new SWITCH exam, but I would be surprised if multicast moved over to that exam (or the TSHOOT exam).  This is odd because multicast is definitely on the current Routing and Switching Lab Exam.

The exclusion of ISIS surprises me less as this protocol will most likely end up exclusively in the Service Provider track.  ISIS is not currently on the Routing and Switching Lab Exam.  That’s not to say that ISIS is not important, but you’re far more likely to find it implemented in a Service Provider network than in an Enterprise network.

I am surprised at the absence of MPLS in this exam.  Perhaps it’s present in the SWITCH exam (MPLS is a layer 2.5 protocol so that’s possible) given the presence of that technology on the RS Lab.  It may be the case that – along with ISIS – MPLS gets delegated to the Service Provider track.

The bottom line is that a very large percentage of the technologies covered in the BSCI exam have made it into the new ROUTE exam.  What will be interesting is how Cisco handles the design elements in the new ROUTE exam.

Cisco SDM: The King Is Dead, Long Live The King

Those of you who are studying for the Cisco CCNA Security exam are probably aware that this exam includes a heavy dose of Cisco Security Device Manager (SDM). Cisco SDM 2.5 is the latest version of that program. In this case, “latest” is relative as that version was released in December of 2007. It’s been slightly over 2 years now since SDM has been updated.

Well, it turns out that 2.5 will be the last version of Cisco SDM. This is not a big surprise as Cisco announced back in 2008 that they would be replacing SDM. Now Cisco has officially sounded the death toll for SDM and officially announced its replacement: Cisco Configuration Professional.

Hi,

I am the Product Manager for Cisco Router and Security Device Manager (SDM).

You are receiving this mail because you have downloaded a copy of SDM 2.5 from www.cisco.com/go/sdm in the last 60 days.

We are currently in the process of initiating the End of Life for SDM.

SDM will now be replaced by Cisco Configuration Professional (CCP). A copy of the latest version CCP 2.1  is available for a free download from www.cisco.com/go/ciscocp.

CCP incorporates all the functionality of SDM and has added support for  the following:

Ø  Additional security feature configurations  like GETVPN
Ø  Wireless
Ø  Unified Communications  (CME, CUE, SRST, CME as SRST)
Ø  New interfaces such as 3G
Ø  The new ISR G2 routers
Ø   We will also continue to enhance existing security features in CCP in future releases

Some additional resources:

List of router platforms supported

Regards,

Shankar Ramachandran
Technical Marketing Engineer
Access Routing Technology Group

I’ll blog more on the differences between the two programs in the future (basically they’ve added a bunch of new features, but CCP is not supported on some platforms which SDM is supported on), but the question is: What does this mean for Cisco exams?  It probably means that we’ll be seeing a newer version of the CCNA Security exam in the near future with focus shifted from SDM to CCP.  I’m sure that there’s no rush to take that exam because of imminent changes, so you’re still cool to study with SDM.  I would suggest that you do take CCP for a spin though.  It’s more feature-rich than SDM and – although it does not support some platforms – I can see CCP being used extensively in the enterprise, while I don’t think that you’re likely to see SDM “in the wild.”

Packet Lab Finally Launching

I’m about to go have a beer…or 20.  I finally launched packet-lab.com  It’s not perfect, but it’s good enough for the InterWebs.  :-)  The structure is built and – apart from a few minor issues/tweaks – looks and performs pretty good.  Now I can finally stop playing with Joomla, PHP, CSS, Moodle (for now), MySQL….  I can now concentrate on adding content.  I’m currently working on adding quizzes to all current lessons and will (hopefully) start adding labs sometime next week.

The War On Dynamips…Not So Much

It looks like the war on Dynamips is over before it even began.  Ivan Pepelnjak at the excellent Cisco IOS Hints and Tricks blog sets the record straight:

Let’s start with the sad fact: Dynamips’ lifeline was cut years ago when Cisco introduced the ISR routers. To run IOS on a completely different mix of hardware, Dynamips has to emulate the router’s hardware, from CPU to every single I/O device. That was “easy” (OK, doable) when Cisco used off-the-shelf components from commodity manufacturers (Motorola, AMD) who publish the detailed specs of their hardware. That tradition was broken in the ISR routers which use I/O chipsets from another manufacturer that gives you data sheets (and in-depth specs) only after signing an NDA agreement (believe me, I’ve tried and got nowhere). That’s why Dynamips supports only the 2600/3600-series and not 2800/3800-series.

The high-end routing products introduced after the 7200 series (and all switches) use customs ASICs. Obviously these are not documented outside of Cisco and thus one cannot emulate them without thorough reverse engineering.

With all these limitations in mind, it should surprise no one that you can run IOS release 15.0 in Dynamips only if you use the 7200 images (the IOS support for the x600-series routers was stopped with the release 12.4(15)T). And here comes the fatal bug in the story: IOS licensing was introduced on the ISR-G2 platforms. It is not used (yet) on the high-end boxes and will probably never be used on the 7200 platform. It should be obvious to anyone that this change in IOS deployment model has nothing to do with Dynamips (but then the story would immediately lose all its appeal).

As I stated in my previous post, I have not played with IOS version 15 yet.  I did see that there was IOS version 15 code for the 7200.  The lack of code for 3600, 3700, and 2600 just happened to be due to the end of life limitations of those platforms.  As Ivan stated, you can run Cisco IOS version 15 in Dynamips…you just need to use a 7200.

Of further interest to Dynamips devotees is that a comment that seems to have been authored by the creator of Dynamips, Christophe Fillot:

Indeed, Dynamips cannot emulate any of the platforms which run “universal images” with IOS licensing, so considering Cisco did this intentionnally is a bit strange (in my mind, this is completely unrelated, they just wanted the customers pay for the features they use). 
As you noticed, the 15.0 release just runs fine on Dynamips with a 7200 platform. 
 
If Cisco really wanted to break the emulation, that would be very easy to do (emulation can be detected because of inaccurate timing in the virtual machine, incomplete CPU and I/O device emulation, …), no need to look for a complicated method. 
 
Being the author, I obviously knew from the beginning that the program would have a limited lifetime, due to the platforms going EOL/EOS. I guess one day the 7200 will be declared EOL too. Like Stretch, I would really like that Cisco provides a full featured image running on a PC but limited in performance, or that stops working after 4 or 8 hours, for example (that’s what Xilinx, a FPGA vendor, does for evaluation purposes). Some Cisco engineers told me that technically it wouldn’t be a problem to do this, the problem is that Cisco then must have teams for the program maintenance.

Currently Reading
CCNA Security Official Exam Certification Guide  (Exam 640-553)
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CCNA Security Official Exam Certification Guide (Exam 640-553)
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