Way too Easy - Nowhere to Dynamips Under Linux was a Breeze

Dynamips under Ubuntu Proof of Concept was Easy Peasy

I'm beginning to wonder why I didn't do this earlier. Of course, I'm speaking figuratively here - I do know that I had little time for non-essential work, and a rack full of gear in the next room already - but so far it looks like the path to a humming fast Dynamips (DM) server isn't all that painful. I'm still working on what to buy hardware-wise. Today I'll give you a quick update on my progress, and focus on how I ended up picking Ubuntu over other Linux variants, at least for my initial foray into a dedicated DM server. For you DM experts out there, I'll ask to see what Ethernet NICs you might suggest.

For those of you that didn't look at the previous post, here's a big picture overview. The overall premise is that most folks who pursue Cisco certifications long term, particularly past the CCNA cert, will at least consider using DM, and many will use it heavily. Most people start by installing DM on their current computer, and then eventually decide to get serious and buy some hardware to run DM, with enough performance to handle the topologies typical to the various CCIE lab prep books, which typically have 10-12 routers. For different reasons, I'm at the same place now, so I'm sharing the journey towards getting the hardware, and getting used to running DM for a variety of lab topologies.

First big choice: Running Linux. We had a few folks post here that Win7 and MAC OS work fine as well, but most of the evidence points towards better performance with Linux. I frankly didn't spend a lot of time revisiting this choice.

Second big choice: Running Ubuntu, rather than some other Linux variant. The short version is that it looks like all of them are reasonable, and that it's low risk to pick one, use it and learn, and switch if you find a reason to do so. Here's a summary of how I got to this decision: 

The PDF tutorial of how to get started with DM/DG/GNS didn't suggest which Linux. It didn't even suggest that Linux was best. However, it used Ubuntu in the examples. 

Hacki's forum has a section for Linux. I spent some time looking for preferences, and lots of posters used lots of variants, including Ubuntu.

I'm confident that I could start with a particular flavor of Linux and migrate to another later without it being that big a deal.

I plan to load ESXi (a VMWare product that runs directly on the hardware to manage virtual machines). I figure I can install another potentially better Linux later, and migrate my topologies etc to that new Linux, once I get some experience - so it didn't seem like a big deal to choose one and go for it.

If I really get into it, I'll probably end up with a less overhead build of Linux, Like the LFS as suggested by someone in the previous blog post, but for now, I want something that reduces the time I spend getting used to Linux, and Ubuntu fits that bill.

I did a quick proof-of-concept this week. First, I took out my ancient old PC, dusted off the vacuum tubes, and installed Ubuntu (desktop) 9.10. The installation required 5 minutes of answering/clicking to choose options, but otherwise, it took almost 3 hours to install and boot up.

Getting DM/DG/GNS3 working was a little tougher, but mainly that was because I got in a hurry. I wanted to test the GNS3 PDF tutorial, but I got in a hurry and instead tried some shortcuts - to my detriment. Once I started over and followed the tutorial PDF, it installed - it was a little different than the PDF said, but the differences were somewhat obvious, and were just differences in what to click from the GNS3 GUI.

The big takeaway for me from this first effort into DM on Linux was that if I had meticulously followed the PDF tutorial, I probably could have installed Linux, DM etc, and started my first Virtual Router (VR), with only about 30 minutes work. Elapsed time would've been a little more than 3 hours, but most of that would've been waiting on the installations to complete. However, my old slow computer was slow just bringing up new windows in Linux - quite a surprise.

So, I'm psyched up, and ready to get my new hardware ordered and software installed - but I promised my wife I wouldn't wrap it up and put it under the tree for Christmas!

OK experts, a couple of questions for you in prep for my next tasks. One of the things to research for new hardware is to choose the number of PCI slots and USB ports, in particular to support Ethernet NICs. So... suggestions on specific cards? (By the way, I hadn't even thought of using USB Ethernet NICs - thanks for the posts on that from last time.) Can anyone confirm whether you've seen the USB Ethernet NICs work with DM when connected to a USB hub? I've started looking into PCI NICs that support 802.1Q - feel free to suggest there as well.  

I'll say more about the Ethernet stuff at some future post, but for you other relative newbies to DM, the Ethernet NICs are needed so the virtual routers can communicate outside the computer to real external devices. In particular, a NIC that supports 802.1Q is needed for the VR to use 802.1Q trunking to communicate to a real LAN switch, which is something I want to be able to test.

Thanks ya'll, and post away!

PS When I mention DM, I'm still meaning "DM and other related components", like Dynagen and GNS3.

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