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Break the Network Emulators out of the Cloud

Cisco IOU and JunoSphere

Recently both Cisco and Juniper have announced the availability of online resources to provide hands on training over the internet. They have built software emulators in the cloud that can be accessed remotely for a cost. These solutions are based purely around the certification programs and therefore are pretty rigid in the topology that are provided, not to mention the re-occurring cost.

Rack Rentals

There are training providers such as Internetwork Expert ( and IPexpert ( who provide rack rentals based on their training materials. These guy cannot possibly compete going forward. To keep these sustainable they will need to reduce the overhead of building physical racks, providing power and space for the racks. Using emulator based "racks" just blows this stuff away. For example: a 1 RU server, Intel dual Processor dual/core with 8GB of memory would be able to run multiple Cisco IOU racks (pure speculation from what I have heard about IOU) but would think guesstimate 6 Racks worth of routers for a server of this specification. That is just a massive saving in power and space. Surely Cisco/Juniper should be releasing some sort of programme were these guys and build there own virtual lab, if not then how can this valuable training resource continue going forward.

Engineers like me

I am already CCIE qualified so the training racks, virtual or not are of no interest to me. I do however have an interest in verifying network changes I am going to make to customer networks before doing so in a live environment. In the past I have used GNS3 but always had issue scaling it to a large number of routers, so now I have a rack of eBay acquired routers and switches which allow me to verify 75% of changes I need to do on customer networks before going live. This has a great advantage to prepare commands in advance both for implementation and backout. Whilst it does not give me the facility to test hardware features, it does have a massive advantage in reducing risk and making changes go smoothly as possible which is alway pleasing to customers. Having access to an offline version of the these emulator would make a huge difference to engineers and customers, customers could create virtual model of their environment, therefore allowing more accurate testing before changes are implemented. Any customer that can reduce risk during changes is going to look more favorably on vendor who can provide this facility (ARE YOU LISTENING CISCO/JUNIPER). Engineers can create there own ad-hoc test environments also reducing risk to customers which again look favorably on the network vendor.

Curiosity is the other part of being an engineer, although I am CCIE qualified, I still like to play around with different ideas and try new thing. When I come across something that I feel is useful, then it might be something I would suggest to a customer, and as a result would mean they need to go out an buy more hardware. Yes ohh fracking yes it will drive sales, I have no doubt about this.


This is your chance Junpier

As I have said I like to play around, and in the Cisco fraternity for years GNS3/dynampis has given us our playground, a playground which is pretty simple to get up and running. Nothing like this exist for Junos, sure there is something out there running openBSD but its hard work, too hard for me to devote my time to get up and running and I would guess many CCIE's would feel the same. Let me paint a picture of what would happen if I could access a Junos environment easily.

  • I would want to play

  • I would challenge myself to setup my customers Cisco topology/configuration in the Junos environment

  • I would get comfortable using JunOS

  • I might do some basic Junos certifcation

Now when my customers are renewing hardware and it's a Juniper/Cisco desicion, I am in a much better position to say "yes we can do it with Juniper", the more Juniper aware engineers out there the easier it will be for Juniper to make the sale.



These Cloud based virtual networking rack environments are only good for one thing at the moment, revenue generation for the training divisions withing Cisco and Juniper. They will put pressure on external training providers who cannot possibly compete competitively in rack rental. They don't help engineers who are already qualified and need tools to prepare network changes or explore new features which in turn will result in hardware Sales. They don't help customers with change management.

Juniper are following Cisco, they need turn this into a competitive edge and break this out of the training division, make it available outside the cloud and get it to engineers for "play time", then "play time" will turn into "real time".

Cisco IOU is already out in the wild, it is time for Cisco to round it up and bringing it under their control in a way that will benefit customers so they can build virtual environmental for managing change,  let training provider build virtual racks for there great independent training materials, and finally let engineers have a playground. So Cisco and Juniper : Break the Network Emulators out of the Cloud.



  1. First, Olive is FreeBSD (because Junos is based on FreeBSD).

    I'm loving Junosphere though. Great for any customer for building conceptual topologies before they invest in Juniper hardware.

    Dynamips is a wonderful tool, though we are all aware of its shortcomings. IOU fills in some of those gaps but is far from supported.

    Juniper has definitely changed the entire network education landscape, as now you can buy daily or monthly lab time to build whatever topology you like with whatever virtual hardware you like. So as far as your "This is your chance Juniper", all of your wishes have been granted!

    I'm not sure where you're getting your information (from the sounds of it, Greg Ferro, who often has no clue what he's rambling on about), but Junosphere is absolutely *not* a rigid environment. You can absolutely purchase lab guides and have your lab match them, but that's certainly not a requirement.

    There's also nothing wrong with recurring cost. How is this different from INE/IPX? I would gladly pay for a virtual environment, which I can meld to whatever topology I need, and is 100% officially supported.

    Furthermore, unlike Dynamips, I'm not sure "emulator" is the right word for Junosphere, considering Olive isn't an emulator (it's an M-series router which is lacking a PFE), and Junosphere is based on Olive (to what degree, I'm not 100% sure).

    Would love to see Cisco compete with Juniper in the training space, but they seem less interested. For Cisco, they know everyone will go to them for certification. Juniper needs to try a little harder and offer better incentives (like free material, half price JNCIA exams, etc) due to the obvious difference in market share.

    Hope that clears up some of the confusion that has been spreading...

  2. IMO:For the majority of people getting Olive up and running is too hard.

    Junoshere are IOU are comparable, currently Juniper have only announced cloud classroom which is no use to me as a independent consultant, just as the IOU is no use to me on the Cisco training web site. Both these product are set purely at the training market.
    If Juniper announce in the future something that lets me have a playground in the cloud in the future in an ad-hoc manner then that may be of use. But there has been no announcements so far, and seems very directed to existing Juniper customers.

    I don't believe I have even discussed the specific with Greg, but I shall send him your regards.

    Dynamips is history IOU is the future, which is also not an emulator. But the ability to work local is essential, especially if you work on Ministry of Defense sites. I would also question up loading customer configuration into he cloud for verification and I am sure the Security Department would have a field day.

    I agree free training material from Cisco would be great.

    Once Juniper announce what will be available in its entirety, then that will clear up the future.

  3. I... just told you. You can build whatever topology using whatever "hardware" you choose. It's not tied to any sort of classroom scenario unless you buy the classroom package (that comes with workbooks).

    This will be a fantastic tool for consultants like myself. I couldn't care less that it's cloud based. Local stuff won't happen, so just be happy that they're giving you as much as they are. Otherwise, go do what consultants have been doing for decades: build your own lab.

    Again, hopefully that clears up the confusion that seems to be spreading. I'm not sure why people keep saying the Junosphere labs are static... Maybe I need to do a blog post so the bad information can be kept from spreading further.

  4. "This will be a fantastic tool for consultants like myself. I couldn’t care less that it’s cloud based."
    Its not going to cut it putting customer configuration out in a cloud as their security department will have a field day.

    "Otherwise, go do what consultants have been doing for decades: build your own lab."
    Unfortunately there is no eBay market for second hand Juniper Equipment, at least not in my price range.

    Again, hopefully that clears up the confusion that seems to be spreading. I’m not sure why people keep saying the Junosphere labs are static… Maybe I need to do a blog post so the bad information can be kept from spreading further."
    Perhaps if Juniper described their offering in detail, that would clear it up.

  5. I can't imagine needing ebay for Juniper hardware... an SRX100 is a couple hundred bucks...

    If a cloud based offering isn't enough for you, then don't use it. There's no sense in complaining about it. They did exactly what they should have done. They can't please everyone, apparently.

  6. John,

    It looks like Arista will be coming up w/ a virtual environment for their switches in the next quarter or so. What do you think about that and wouldn't that help you adopt Arista more?

  7. Assuming I can get relatively easy access that allows me to play, and that I have a good experience with Arista software in General. Then I would expect that Arista hardware would come up in discussion with customer who might be looking at alternatives to Cisco, especially in TOR switching, or small Campus Environments.


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