Happy New Year from The IT Cave! Our Christmas lights have been taken down, tree put away until December, and I’ve been hard at work developing some new content for The IT Cave. One of the most requested features from my readers has been Packet Tracer labs. Cisco networking is a great skill to have. Network engineering jobs aren’t going away anytime soon and thanks to the Internet of Everything, network engineers are going to be right up there with cloud engineers. So this is a new series in The Cave that will probably spin off into its own thing, but to get started, I just wanted to test the waters – mostly with my Cisco Packet Tracer lab creation skills. I can already hear some questions coming so let me answer them first.
Why Packet Tracer? Why not GNS3?
Great question that has a long answer. First, Cisco has opened up Packet Tracer when they re-did the Networking Academy. You can go to the Networking Academy website, register for free, and download it. You just have to enroll in a Packet Tracer course. You don’t have to actually take the course, but I would strongly recommend it, especially if you’ve never used Packet Tracer before. So why not GNS3? When I build labs, I’ll be using routers such as the 2911 which runs IOS 15 and using some features not in the base license. Second, GNS3 still doesn’t have proper support for Catalyst switches. Third, I couldn’t reliably give you a lab environment that works. I legally cannot distribute IOS images. This just introduces too many problems. If you grab the wrong version of IOS or don’t have a license for certain features, the lab won’t work. GNS3 also needs a VM to properly run whilst Packet Tracer doesn’t. The trade off being Packet Tracer can do a lot but it can’t do everything GNS3 can. GNS3 is still a valuable tool which I would recommend using along side Packet Tracer. With Packet Tracer, I can setup the lab exactly and then have you complete it.
The format will be the same for the time being. You’ll be given a scenario to mimic the real world. Such as your boss needs a router configured a certain way. Or a switch stopped working in a branch office, fix the problem. After the scenario, you’ll be given your task list. Harder labs will just give you the crucial details such as symptoms end users are experiencing whilst easy labs will walk you though the steps. You’ll have a screenshot of the topology, a download link to download it, and then the solution, which will be hidden unless you click on it to reveal.
Ready to give it a shot? You can find the first lab here. Feedback is always appreciated!