Cisco Learning Network will announce their Cisco Learning Labs today, which offers a full remote lab of networking equipment targeted students in authorised Cisco training. We are finally at a level where we can call training “professional” because the resources are now professionally available.
Some bullet points about the program:
- the environment will be hosted by Cisco and available by remote access over the internet.
- students will pay a fee for “lab bundles” for a fixed amount of time.
- “25 hours of lab time for each 90 day subscription bundle”
- “5 hour extension options”
- the labs are preconfigured to meet the requirements for ICND2, CCNP Route, CCNP Switch, CCNP Troubleshoot, and CCIP MPLS at first release and more are expected to follow.
- The hosted platform uses IOU – IOSô on Unix and includes the new Layer 2 “virtualised switch” rumoured to be in the latest version of IOU so you can practice and test your Layer
- The hosted service will be available for Authorised Cisco Training partners to use in delivering Cisco authorised training.
- expanded programs will be available later presumably to provide labs for CCIE. Although I’m still wondering how they will handle ASA firewalls and IDS units for CCNx Security.
OK, so it’s great that Cisco Learning has finally recognised that access to equipment is necessary and a requirement f|or their own training programs. They may be late to deliver something (IOU has been available for years), but at least students and new starters to networking will have access to necessary tools. We need more networkers in the industry.
- the pricing appears reasonable. I hear that IOS on Unix uses almost no CPU or Memory for even very large number of routers & switches so hosting a couple of UCS systems in the existing Cisco infrastructure is not going to cost much. Most of the internal Cisco cost would be building a system that manages users and does the billing (( and I’m betting it’s been outsourced, not done internally given the state of Cisco internal politics )) .
- It’s possibly cheaper and easier than buying equipment online. It might be time to start selling your home labs.
- Its environmentally friendly – much less power wasted running routers that have no actual purpose.
- Not everyone has Internet connections that allow telnet or ssh through the corporate firewall so you probably won’t be able to use it from the office. Apparently they hadn’t thought of that.
- The configurations are fixed.
- “The IOU software is not being released publicly due to copyright issues”. Huh, a quick check on a bittorrent tracker shows that it is already out there and, corporate ignorance aside, this comment is patently stupid. Uncle John needs to tell the lawyers to get a life in reality and back off.
- This doesn’t solve the problems of people, like myself, who need to design, build and test concepts, ideas, software features, capabilities that are not a part of any learning program.
- Because Cisco is not one company but several different divisions, it seems unlikely that they even recognise that this is a problem at a business level.
I wonder why Cisco doesn’t build a simple subscription program like the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN). In effect, the MSDN lets any qualified Microsoft Professional have the option of a low cost subscription (less than $400 per annum) to every piece of software Microsoft makes. And when joining the program users are required to agree a set of terms & conditions that include copyright and ownership of the software as a temporary license, with no support either implied or guaranteed. As part of the program, license keys are issued
I believe that most people would be happy to pay a reasonable subscription for this kind of service and a license key. The ability to access multiple versions of IOU for testing and validation means that customers can validate change control processes, adopt and implement the amazing features in IOS.
Why is this important ?
I know that many organisations have defined processes for testing and validation proposed changes to the networks using Dynamips, and that the final closure of IOS based on the MIPS processors will be a significant point of change for their organisations. Once they are no longer able to test IOS, they will start to look at alternative vendors.
With that said, neither Juniper nor HP, have yet released emulators their software and we could hope for better from them. For example Arista have released their software which can run on a VM for testing and proof of concept work, and I am aware of several organisations who have purchased Arista where this made a key purchasing influence.
As networks get more and more complex, and there are less and less networking resources there is less opportunities to learn and develop skills in the field. While development in the classroom is important it is equally important to develop post certification skills and meet the requirements of their customers.
The EtherealMind view
It’s great to see a Cisco division doing something in response to what users need and clearly this should have been done years ago so it’s hard to be overly positive about delivering today. This is a case of too little, too late and it doesn’t go far enough.
In particular, IPv6 is going to be a major test for network engineers and the capabilities. We need access to viable platforms to build competency and confidence with IPv6 protocols rooting and security before we can roll them out. For every mistake we make in the field customers will take the view that the network is not reliable, not capable or that the people involved cannot handle the challenges.
I take the view that Microsoft understands this challenge and has made this software is freely available as they can practically make it and this has been a significant part of their success. Adoption of SharePoint by corporate entities has been widespread because it was freely available as part of the MSDN package not because it’s a particularly good or even competent piece of software. It is part of any change for M isicrosoft upgrades to develop allowed inside a virtualised server and test before deployment.
Why are the networking vendor’s preventing us from doing the same and blocking the delivery of real value to our businesses?
Appendix – Petition
As at 9th April, the Cisco IOS Emulator has 1086 confirmed signatures, another 130 non-confirmed signatures (and non-spam). A total of 18000 page view between Jul 2010 to April 2011 on this page alone.
I don’t know, and I didn’t ask, whether the petition had any effect. But I’m hopeful that the community by signing this petition had some impact. If it did, it wasn’t because of me, it was because you supported the petition that asked Cisco to deliver it. By working as a community we can achieve things together, hopefully we will do it again in the future. Thanks for joining in.
Wendel Odom has made several posts at Network World – here is the first one – Cisco Introduces Cisco Learning Labs. Of course, Wendell would know much more, and offer more insight than I can.
I have placed the slides from the presentation that I received†http://etherealmind.com/cisco-learning-labs-slides/