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.
There are training providers such as Internetwork Expert (http://www.ine.com/) and IPexpert (http://www.ipexpert.com/) 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.