If Cisco Would Give Us Anything for Learning/Testing...

Getting Specific as to What We Really Really Want

Down deep inside, when I heard of Cisco's new Cisco Learning Labs service, part of my gut reaction was negative. Imagine a little devil on my left shoulder: "That's nice, but it's not what we want." "Cisco didn't approve IOS images for Dynamips" (this demon clearly read the Etherealmind.com petition.) "It... costs... money!!! (gasp)" Then the angel pops up on the right, a whispers a few alternatives: "It will be helpful and useful to some people". "It may be a sign that Cisco may do more!" And the one that gets to me today's post: "Don't whine, but tell me what you want - what you really, really want?". And I want your help. In fact, I really almost beg for your help, on that last question.

(Yes, this little angel is a spice girls fan - and the song has been running through my head ever since she said it.)

If you look at the current possibilities for learning and testing with Cisco routers, switches, and other platforms, and you're completely content, stop reading now. If you think that Cisco Learning Labs takes care of any lingering issues, and you're now 100% happy with what's available for testing and learning, then you too can stop here. If you're thinking there's more to do, more Cisco could do for us - or you're at the far end, and thinking "Arghh - we're nowhere close to what I want, what I really, really want", then let me tell you what I want: I want you post and tell me one thing that you'd want.

What I Really Really Want You to Do Here in This Post

See a thread somewhere online that discusses this topic? Post a link.

Have a thought about what you want for learning and testing, from Cisco? Tell me here.

See something that's already been said, but feel strongly about it? Post your agreement.

Don't think we need something that I mentioned, or that someone else mentioned? Don't think we really, really need it? Tell me.

Like what some other vendor does in regards to testing and learning environments? Tell us, link to it, whatever it.

Why I Want a Lot of Input: Cisco People Deserve It

The people at Cisco - not the company, the institution, the borg-like vision of a behemoth company - but the people at Cisco who care enough about this issue to think about it, and possibly take action, deserve to hear what we really want. Sure, a free, licensed router IOS that is blessed by Cisco to run on Dynamips would be a great step. If you are truly satisfied with what's already available, that's fine. But if you're disappointed, frustrated, or somehow thinking there's more to do, then let's tell them.

If Cisco opened up the IOS download site tomorrow, and made all IOS images available to all, would that do the trick? And if they made a license code for IOS 15.x that worked for 12 hours at a time (good enough for most testing and learning) - would that be enough? Or if you got that, would you still want more? If you stop and think about that, and then think that you'd still want more - then let's tell Cisco. Specifically, let's discuss it here as food-for-thought to the people who'll at least talk about it internally.

The Same Virtualized Testing Environments as Cisco

In a perfect world... well, scratch that right off the bat. It's not. A perfect world for what we the Cisco Techies are after? How about setting the bar based on what Cisco does internally.

If Cisco finds it worthwhile to build an internal tool for testing a particular OS - eg, the "Cisco IOS on Unix" software to test Cisco router IOS - then Cisco should take the extra step to do what it takes to give that to all of us. If Cisco has an OS that's a tweener in regards to creating a virtualized testing environment, then ask Cisco to consider the needs to the Cisco Techie community as well. Maybe that would tip the balance. Cisco to take time and treasure to give us the same testing and learning tools, tools to run IOS and other OSs virtually.

Specific Questions for You

Stream of consciousness time: reply if any of these strike an interesting thought.

  1. Does it have to be on your hardware? Think twice. Could a hosted service that gave you full control over the virtualization platform work? If you could remote desktop to a Linux image, hosted by Cisco, where you ran the virtualization stuff?
  2. Does it have to be free? Certainly, that big whopping vision statement, to execute it, would cost a lot. Tens of millions a year? It would cost more for Cisco than they could make up by just asking a few departments to cut down on business travel this summer.  If Cisco charged something, even enough to recoup some costs, is that a problem?
  3. For those of you who already use Dynamips, compare what you have today with the following. Cisco gives you IOU, on your hardware, all the router IOS images you want, but router only - in other words, as close to functionally equivalent with Dynamips as we can make it. It costs $x per year to recoup Cisco's incremental cost to make it available. Honest Abe here folks: Would you use something that cost money versus the free Dynamips? What's the price point? Or would you really just keep cranking along with DM?
  4. Same question, but the IoU supported the same switch build as found on the CCIE R/S lab and Cisco Learning Labs.
  5. The Cisco Learning Labs pricing model has an incremental cost, which I think makes sense given that it's a hosted model. Imagine if Cisco Learning Labs progressed to where it included free play on any topo you can create, routers and switches, up to say 25 devices (plenty for CCNP, probably plenty for CCIE R/S). However, as a hosted service, it still had usage-based pricing. What's the price point? What would you pay?
  6. NX-OS: Gotta have it? Like to have it?
  7. IOS-XR: same question
  8. If this broader solution was available only to Cisco partners and customers, but not to those not working for either a partner nor a customer, and Cisco Learning Labs still existed in its present or future more functional form for those not working for partners or customers, is that good enough?

Pie in the Sky Final Thought

Finally, just to take a crack at it, I think I'd settle for something like this:

Cisco IOS on Unix, router IOS, switch IOS, NX-OS by 2012 sometime, on my Sun workstation, for $250 - $500 per year per seat. Or maybe the same, hosted by Cisco, with maybe a few price tiers for number of supported devices. (Want to test 500 routers instead of lab with 10? Pay more.)  Plus include Cisco Learning Labs, because in my opinion, when studying for the exams, the lab content is as important as the IOS.

Time to comment, agree, and disagree. Thanks!

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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