Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Anatomy of a virtual network management training appliance


Traditionally, providing a training lab for network management software meant setting up a physical environment featuring the desired variety of networking equipment to cover the training curriculum. Furthermore, certain training scenarios required complicated setup, and required travel to a training site, or time-sharing of central facilities. These limitations made such training cost prohibitive, both for the provider and student, resulting in less than adequate training.

With the advent of ubiquitous virtual machines (VMs) and network simulation, training labs can be provisioned cost-effectively by implementing virtual training appliances on either public or private clouds. Bundling the management app and MIMIC Simulator on a VM image, allows the training provider to instantiate as many training labs as needed at any point in time, and for the student to access the training environment over the Internet whenever and as long as needed.

Benefits of cloud based training

Besides the obvious benefits of reduced customer support, higher customer satisfaction and more customer loyalty (thus, repeat business), here are some additional advantages of appliance-based training:

  • On-demand pre-sales training can be used for application evaluation. With a larger variety of scenarios, training can be tailored to the customers needs.
  • Partner training reduces the sales cycle and improves closing rate by better demonstrating features that specifically solve customer requirements


MIMIC Simulator is a software suite including SNMP simulation designed to accurately create virtual environments to interoperate with network management applications. This simulator is already used in a multi-tenant cloud offering called MIMIC Virtual Lab Cloud, with on-demand training pods for Cisco CCNA training from training houses like Kaplan IT/Transcender. This offering leverages the Cisco IOS simulation features of MIMIC toward low-cost CCNA training. OEMs layer their own training curriculum on top of the virtual lab.

The virtual training appliance can easily be implemented as an on-demand, single-tenant offering. Similarly to traditional software installations, the network management application is installed in a VM along with MIMIC Simulator. The simulator transparently provides a scalable, dynamic network environment to be managed by the application. The student does not even need to know what is running behind the scenes.

Setting up a training environment and all feature-specific scenarios can be a significant task. It can be alleviated by leveraging the work of the engineering folks. R&D and Quality Assurance departments already test network management applications against MIMIC Simulator. They setup the simulator to provide predictable, repeatable, regressionable scenarios that run the management software through its paces. Those scenarios can be adapted for training.

An extra customization adds a simple training scaffold to provide the student a user-friendly choice of scenarios to train on. Each scenario configures the simulator to create a particular network configuration and traffic patterns to impact the management application. For example, a faulty configuration can be simulated to train troubleshooting procedures.

Once a snapshot of this VM is saved, any number of independent instances can be provisioned for the required training periods. The cloud framework isolates each of the VMs from each other, preventing them from impacting each other.


A combination of MIMIC Simulator and network management application bundled on a virtual machine provides cost-effective, on-demand training tailored to customer needs. Deploying this appliance on the public cloud scales the training resources at incremental and predictable cost.

Contact Gambit’s support to help you setup a virtual appliance for your training.

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