Update on the Question of Cisco-Approved IOS for Self-Study

The Equivalent of Dynamips, for All Cisco OSs, Please

The announcement of the new Cisco Learning Labs offering gives us all a great reason to discuss a movement that's been growing over the last several years: to ask Cisco to give us all access to approved IOS images, for use to testing and learning. The pre-release briefing for Cisco Learning Labs gave me a chance to ask the question of Cisco. This post gives some background for those of you who haven't heard about this request; and for those who know about it, give you an update of a recent request.

A Bit of History

Long before I added my $.02 to the mix, many people had clamored for access to IOS images, approved/licensed by Cisco, for testing and learning. That testing might occur on real used gear, or on Dynamips. But access to IOS images was the real key.

Somewhere along the way, a popular blog site, www.etherealmind.com, created a petition to ask Cisco for just that. Greg Ferro, author of that blog, will likely post something today as well about this subject; it should be linked here, but if not, go to the mail page at etherealmind.com. That petition summarizes the core part of what folks have been wanting.

You might recall, last summer I asked the question of Fred Weiller (director of marketing of Learning@Cisco at the time) a question about licensed IOS for self-study, expecting to get very little info. Fred told me that Cisco had discussed it internally, and that they continued to talk about it; so I mentioned the details in a blog post here at the Cisco Cert Zone last summer.

Why Cisco Learning Labs? And Why not IOS Approved for Dynamips?

Last week, in anticipation of the public release of Cisco Learning Labs, I got to ask a few questions of Cisco. Well, at least the folks representing Learning@Cisco, namely Marcello Hunter (senior manager, product management) and Ray Viscaina (technical support engineer). I asked them two questions related to the whole idea that Cisco has not yet given us what we want. The questions:

Why create Cisco Learning Labs?

Why not give us what we've been asking for?

Of these, only the first question a fair question to Marcello and Ray. The answer: Cisco customers want a better study environment, one that uses the real actual IOS. In short, the folks from Learning@Cisco heard customer feedback and created Cisco Learning Labs to meet that need.

The 2nd question may not be fair to ask of anyone at Cisco except possibly John Chambers, because to give us what we want, several groups inside Cisco would need to act. But I asked on the phone, and the substance of their answer was interesting. They can't give us IOS, and they can't give us Cisco IOS on Unix. But they can run it in a hosted environment, and they actually have a lot of experience doing so. And they know a bit about creating lab exercises as well. But Cisco Learning Labs is in part a direct response by Cisco to the kinds of feedback the community of Cisco techies has been giving.

A Channel Through Which to Ask Cisco: Will You Give Us What We Want?

Marcello and Ray were not representatives of Cisco as a whole, and as I said, the whole question of "will you give us what we want" was a bit unfair. But, as part of that pre-announce briefing, they offer to consider any follow-up questions. I asked them if I could float the same question via email, and the PR firm we work through graciously offered to at least pass my questions to Cisco. I thought some of you might be interested to see what I asked Cisco though that channel. I have no idea if it made it very far around inside Cisco, or to whom the question was routed, but I thought you might find it interesting:

      Is Cisco currently considering, or willing to consider, making Cisco IOS Software and Cisco IOS on Unix available, in some approved form, on the user's own hardware, for study and testing purposes? Or some variation on that theme beyond the hosted service provided by Cisco Learning Labs?

It's Not a Simple Question

Clearly, the question is not a simple one. Internally, Cisco has many stakeholders: the folks who own Cisco IOS for routers, the folks who own other OSs, the folks who own Cisco IOS on Unix, Cisco legal, Customer Advocacy (aka the TAC folks), Learning@Cisco, and maybe more. Such a choice would touch many parts of Cisco. It's not as simple as turning a knob, or spending a mere $100Mil, or any single action. It's just a messy question.

The Answer, to Date, Is...

Frankly, I did not expect to get an answer of substance, but I felt like I needed to ask for all of us. I did get one answer so far, but it was basically that they had nothing to say about that question at this time. I've got to believe it's just not something for which they had a ready answer, and it's probably not something for which they'll have a ready answer tomorrow, either. I will post again if/when I hear more.

Related Posts:

Cisco Introduces Cisco Learning Labs

Update on the Question of Cisco-Approved IOS for Self-Study

If Cisco Would Give Us Anything for Learning/Testing…

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