Cisco VIRL : Autonetkit

Cisco Virtual Internet Routing Lab (VIRL) is a platform that allows administrators and developers the ability to test changes, new technology, or try new architectures in a safe lab environment. This is a fantastic tool for studying the CCIE. It allows you to spin up network topologies on the demand. A feature within VIRL is the ability to point and click and drop an IOSv image and automatically configure IP addressing, L3 routing, BGP and VRFs.

It is called Autonetkit. It takes a set of predefined variables and injects them into the environment. I will give you a glimpse of how I can cut down a massive amount of time configuring a base environment. When learning a new feature within BGP for example and you’re setting up GNS3 or another environment you can spend a lot of time setting up an environment. There have been many times where I may have had 90 minutes of study time. 25-30 minutes may have been thinking of a topology or addressing scheme and configuring that. Whilst not a hard task it is time that gets sucked away. Now with this feature you can have the core infrastructure up and running very quickly and focus on deploying BGP communities, MP-BGP or working with advanced functions.

Before I start working on the basic Autonetkit configuration I have simply selected IOSv and clicked three times on my canvas. I have subsequently stitched together my links with some ethernet.

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Clicking on the canvas shows global Autonetkit features. Here you can see features such as Infrastructure subnet, loopback subnet and VRF subnet. You can also note there is address family v4. Good news. Dual stack, v6 are there too! If you want to default the setting then click default otherwise alter it to suit.

If you select an individual router or device you can select Autonetkit features that are pertinent to that device. This allows deviation from the overarching AS or routing instance. It allows you to quickly configure the basics. If you do not want Autonetkit simply click the check box next to “Auto-generate the configuration based on these attributes.”

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When you start the instance (green play at the top) and get it running you notice that the actual IOS configuration is generated. On the configuration tab within the properties view you can see the actual config. It is also VERY VERY easy to save, import and export topologies and configuration. This was something that was a little immature within other free platforms.

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I have consoled to the respective devices and simply run basic verification commands. Show ip route immediately shows the extent of how powerful automated base configuration is.

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As a part of VIRL (This is an Extended Field Trial and not a final consumer product) I can load my topology against Cisco Modeling Labs visualisation engine. I believe what I have is just a visual representation) due to the visualisation engine being the same. This allows for the visualisation of the topology across a variety of views. IPv4, physical, IGP neighbours, BGP peerings are just a few. This is a view of my topology that I generated with Autonetkit that models ebgp_v4 peers. You can see I have different peelings between the green AS and the yellow AS. If I hover over the devices I get contextual information about the session.

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Here is a quick little video demonstrating this feature.

This is only one minor feature of VIRL but it already has saved me 30 minutes per study sessions since I picked it up. That was 25 minutes more time at the CLI working on technologies opposed to simply inputting addressing. Pretty cool stuff! Plenty more coming including GitHub integration, connections to real devices, IOS-XE, NX-OS, L2 IOU and more. That is, if I am not study in my very easy to access and consume lab! Onwards to the CCIE!

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