Thursday, 23 April 2020

Automation, Learning, and Testing Made Easier With Cisco Modeling Labs Enterprise v2.0

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Cisco Modeling Labs – Enterprise v2.0 is here, sporting a complete rewrite of the software and a slew of cool, new features to better serve your education, network testing, and CI/CD automation needs. Version 2.0 still gives you a robust network simulation platform with a central store of defined and licensed Cisco IOS images, and now it also provides a streamlined HTML5 user interface with a lean backend that leaves more resources free to run your lab simulations.

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CML 2.0 Workbench  

This attention to streamlining and simplification extends to installation and getting started as well. You can install and configure Cisco Modeling Labs – Enterprise v2.0 in no time. And you’ll be building labs in as little as ten minutes.

As you use Cisco Modeling Labs to virtualize more and more network testing processes, topologies can grow quite large and complex. This can strain host resources such as memory and CPU. So after the nodes start, the Cisco Modeling Labs engine uses Linux Kernel same-page merging, or KSM to optimize the lab memory footprint. KSM essentially allows Cisco Modelings Labs to deduplicate the common memory blocks that each virtual node’s OS uses. The result? More free memory for labs.

API First

The HTML5 UI only scratches the surface of what’s new. Cisco Modeling Labs – Enterprise v2.0 is an “API first” application. Each of the operations performed in the UI – adding labs, adding nodes, positioning nodes on a topology canvas, creating links, starting up a simulation, and so forth – are all powered by a rich RESTful API. With this API, you can tie Cisco Modeling Labs into network automation workflows such as Infrastructure as Code pipelines, so you can test network configuration changes before deploying them in production.

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CML API In Action

To make it even easier to integrate Cisco Modeling Labs – Enterprise v2.0 into your NetDevOps toolchains, the software includes a Python client library to handle many of the lower-level tasks transparently, allowing you to focus on the fun bits of putting network simulation right into your workflows. For example, the client library already drives an Ansible module to automate lab creation and operation.

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The CML Python Client Library

Flexible Network and Service Integration


Sometimes your virtual lab needs to talk to physical devices in the “real” world. Cisco Modeling Labs – Enterprise v2.0 makes it simple to connect virtual topologies with external networks in either a layer 3 network address translation (NAT) mode or a layer 2 bridged mode. In bridged mode, the connect node shares the Virtual Network Interface Card (vNIC) of the Cisco Modeling Labs VM. So nodes can participate in routing protocols like OSPF, EIGRP, and multicast groups, with physical network elements and hosts. This lets you integrate external services and tools with your virtual labs. For example, an external network management application can monitor or configure your virtual nodes.

But you can also clone some of these services directly into your virtual labs. Cisco Modeling Labs – Enterprise v2.0 includes images for Ubuntu Linux, CoreOS, and an Alpine Linux desktop. With these, you can run network services, spin up Docker containers, and drive graphical UIs directly from Cisco Modeling Labs. Don’t want to use the web interface to access consoles and Virtual Network Computing (VNC)? Cisco Modeling Labs includes a “breakout tool” that maps ports on your local client to nodes within a lab. So you can use whatever terminal emulator or VNC client you want to connect to your nodes’ consoles and virtual monitors.

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