SPARK: VIRL is launched!

Cisco VIRL

Cisco VIRL has been officially release. Cisco VIRL is Ciso’s network topology platform that allows the study, testing, simulation and validation of enterprise and service provider topologies in a lab environment. Built on KVM using OpenStack, this platform enables network administrators to build powerful topologies that allow test, validation and architecture exploration of new technologies. It also allows old dogs like me to study against it for my CCIE certification.

As per the VIRL site,‘s words

  • Build highly accurate models of existing or planned networks.
  • Design, configure, and operate networks using authentic versions of Cisco’s network operating systems – IOSv, IOS-XRv, NX-OSv, and CSR1000v.
  • Integrate 3rd-party virtual machines, appliances, and servers.
  • Connect real and virtual networks into high-fidelity, high-scale development and test environments.
  • Design and test anywhere – VIRL is portable!

There are two ways to purchase VIRL. Both are annual subscriptions which in my opinion are a fair and reasonable price. One is 199.99 USD per annum. This is the non-commercial personal use. The other is academic pricing. Both have a gift-card format which allow parents or educators to share the love! Quite a simple shopping cart feature for such a powerful reward. Regarding price – I have two mindsets about this.

Firstly, 200 dollars per annum is great when you’re in full study mode. I’ve spent more on rack rentals in a year. It is great to be able to pay for something and it just works. I can think of the countless hours spent wasted troubleshooting scenarios only to find out it was a hung process in dynamips or GNS3 didn’t do something or I had the wrong revision of a code for my physical device.

Secondly, I think the price has the sticker shock element to it. This might be to an internal struggle to not allow it to ship for free and recouping costs to the fact they wanted a litmus test. The fact that VIRL was touted as free has made this per annum model harder to swallow. I see it in alignment with all other training and service styled solutions. INE’s All access pass, Cisco Learning Network subscription all have you pay a per annum fee and you get updates. I don’t see why you wouldn’t get updates with this.

NX-OS excites me as you can test and validate code. I’ve used VIRL in its many forms over the last few months and I’ve integrated into my physical network, VMware’s corporate WAN and my Singapore cloud for additional testing capability. It’s a flexible platform and I think I’ve logged more CCIE hours against this than GNS3. I know there has been less time wasted troubleshooting the GNS3 platform than my environment with VIRL – I always never knew if it was CPU exhaustion to GNS3 or PEBKAC when I built CCIE labs in GNS3. Having a new born child, an hour of study is really 55 minutes of study thats certification focused and not stuffing around with setting up GNS! – VIRL50 coupon will get you 50 dollars off at checkout on the annual personal edition!

If you need documentation or support you can find it all here –

Disclaimer I received a 100% discount coupon for my first years annual subscription for VIRL. This was through feedback from the BETA in which I was a participant. My standard disclaimer applies to this post, like all others. I have also paid for an Academic copy too.

REVIEW: CCIE RS v5 certification guide ROUGH CUT

SPARK : CCIE RS v5 certification guide ROUGH CUT

I am currently working on my CCIEv5 RS. The new blueprint change has added some good new information and removed obsolete technologies from the test. The rough cut of the new CCIE Routing and Switching v5.0 Official Cert Guide v1 5e book (which at this stage has chapters missing) appeared on Safari Books recently. This was great for me as my workplace provides me a subscription. Written by the ever so smart Narbik Kocharians this book takes the certification series to the next level. I thought I would post my thoughts on it so far.

Writing style

Narbik has a legacy around how much he knows. He can recite all sorts of technology details and is big on what he terms ‘chalk talks’. These ‘chalk talks’ are deep dives into a technology leave no stone unturned into why the technology we use behaves in the way it does. The best part about this is that this has translated into his book. The book is filled with examples of how and why the technology works. This is also followed up with an analogy or an explanation. What is good about this is that most topics have two examples where he explains a topic. Many times its reading the first or second explanation I understand the interpretation and it sticks in my head.

The best example of this was feasible distance with EIGRP!

Code and example output

The book is an epic two parter. It makes it an awesome reading source. It should come with must, dust and cobwebs because the size of the collective book makes TCP/IP look small. This is in part to the detailed and in-depth examples for many if not all of the topics. The best part, in true Narbik style, the code blocks are commented. This provides context around what is being discussed and ensures that the reader is following the authors train of thought.


I will be buying this book. I will get a hard copy because books such as these server as a great reference. Alone a certification guide will not pass an exam for you but what it can do is allow an author to explain a topic or concept in a different fashion. This is great for someone like me to ensure a concept sticks.

Rough Cut
> Whilst the rough cut is not a finished publication there is a lot of information in there to glean. It is important that you’re viewing an early copy of the book and it should not be a reflection of the final product.