Cisco CCNP Route 300-101 exam preparation

*UPDATE*

Now, spending time with VIRL, VIRL is not able to do Frame Relay interfaces which is miserable in itself as who uses Frame Relay anyways.
So, to facilitate using Frame Relay, I’ve had to back out to GNS3.
THEN – I find that Hyper-V (enabled for Docker Desktop) and VMware Workstation for running the GNS3 VM are mutually exclusive.
So, it seems the GNS3 VM running on the same host – at distance – as the host that I’ve got for VIRL seems like the right ticket. I’ll update here as I play it out.
It seems a chap has found his own way of running Docker without requiring Hyper-V, but using VMware Workstation.

*UPDATE*

I’ve chosen to re-certify my Cisco Professional level certifications to maintain an employment advantage.

Out of all the 300-xxx exams, I’ve chosen the Route 300-101 exam because;

  1. I deal with Layer 3 the least on a day to day basis
  2. IPv6 re-education and/or update

Given I currently work least with routing protocols, the Route 300-101 feels like a really good choice for me and I’m really looking forward the challenge rather than working with relatively familiar Layer 2 technologies. I’m also concious it’s 2019 and the Route 300-101 has been around for quite some time. With that in mind, I’m not going to commit to booking the exam until July 2019 and whatever is the current version of the CCNP Layer 3 exam, then, I’ll commit to taking in September 2019.

The Lab for the Route exam will be everything. There’s a few choices to be made in 2019 for working with your lab;

  1. GNS3
  2. EVE-NG
  3. VIRL
  4. Physical Lab

Physical Lab

I’ve owned a physical lab in the past for my original CCNA and CCNP exams. It’s costly – even when buying second hand, requires its own troubleshooting, power and space. That being said, once it was setup, the INE CCIE workbooks made it great to operate. In an age where a great deal of our world is virtualised, I’ve little appetite for going through months of eBay purchases of routers, switches and ancillary devices again. Physical is definitely the least good option here.

Cisco VIRL

I tried out Cisco VIRL a few years back and I wasn’t bought into it.
It had a bad reputation and still carries that with it. Since then, the VIRL team have ironed out some big criticisms. The installation process is now trivial. There’s no need to use VM Maestro any more. Aswell as the long standing API, HTML and CLI operations are now possible. VIRL does have a learning curve which is slightly higher than GNS3 and is also has pay-for annual license. Hold on though. Cisco VIRL is available on Cisco DevNetFREE. All you need to do is register with Cisco DevNet. If you’ve already got a Cisco CCO account you’re already able to access DevNet with that.
The software available to simulate on DevNet is ;

  • IOSxrv 9000 (6.5.1)
  • NX-OSv 9k (9.2.2)
  • CSR1000v (16.9.1)
  • IOSv (15.7.3)

These software images can be deployed with the following topologies, pre-configured in the sandbox ;

  • 8 nodes datacenter
  • 2 ios router
  • 9 router mesh
  • extranet

Free and legal is a really low barrier to entry. And if you get your head round it, the annual Personal Edition license becomes less onerous, running it on your own tin or on Packet.

If you’d like some topologies https://github.com/virlfiles contains some pre-baked topologies to get you going.
With OpenStack being the orchestrater running on top of Ubuntu, you can run any appliance or VM you desire as long as they are imported as KVM images. Aren’t happy with the appliances in VIRL? Import one.
If you’re familiar with Vagrant, VIRL has a devops style CLI available called virlutils built in Python to help code the entire build up configure, verify and teardown process of your environments.

EVE-NG

EVE-NG is the least familiar to me but has gained interest and support in the networking community. It’s free – assuming you can work in the grey area similar to GNS3 of using proper IOS images to inject into the platform. After spinning it up briefly, I felt the learning curve was a bit much considering I’d already invested time into VIRL and with my conclusion to follow, you’ll see why I chose to leave EVE-NG behind.

GNS3

Finally GNS3 which is well used and known by many engineers but has the grey area around legitimate use of images on the software. My experience with GNS3 this time round is that it’s come on leaps and bounds and should be seriously considered if you’re running your simulations on your laptop or desktop computer.

Conclusion

So, my preference, in order for learning in 2019 goes;

  • Cisco VIRL – both the Personal Edition (paid, 20 node version) and the Cisco DevNet free version.
  • GNS3 – If I were to learning on one device and not in different locations with different devices, I would have chosen GNS3, but this time round it’s my second choice.
  • EVE-NG – Unfamiliarity, learning curve and grey legal use of the image files were the basis on third place in this table.
  • Physical Lab – In 2019, there’s really no need for the physical lab and it shouldn’t be considered. There’s a fringe case to have a single switch kicking around for some PoE operations, but that’s about it.

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