For some time, I’ve been wanting to write an article about the product offering known as Cisco Learning Labs. My lack of familiarity of this offering has held me back from commenting in any significant way. A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to spend a significant amount of time using Cisco Learning Labs as an alternative to physical lab equipment. Having had adequate time to form some opinions of the offering, I wanted to share my thoughts with the PacketU community.
In short, Cisco Learning Labs work. They actually work very well. As with any other remote lab delivery, there are a few challenges that may have to be worked through. For example integrating a local terminal client and allowing additional ports through corporate firewalls. The nice thing is that Cisco makes this about as easy as possible. By streamlining the process, users to get down to the business of learning the concepts encompassed in the Labs.
Some of the benefits I found with the Cisco Learning Labs include:
- Customized Putty Client can be installed easily on Windows
- Chrome on Mac prompted to launch terminal with no special settings
- Learning Labs settings can be changed to use a browser-based terminal to overcome firewall issues
- Each lab has an objective (you don’t have to build your own scenarios or topology)
- Job Aids include detailed topology, addressing and relevant information
- Command list and description is provided but out of view
- Tasks can be expanded to reveal detailed steps
- For those struggling, placing the mouse cursor over ? provides the command
- The solution is cost-effective for learners at most levels
- This is an official solution with no concern of violating acceptable use agreements for IOS Software
When comparing Cisco Learning Labs to other methods of lab delivery, I found the following disadvantages:
- Certain things cannot be accomplished or demonstrated (connecting a console cable, utilizing a NetFlow collector, performing password recovery, utilizing a syslog server)
- There is no way to perform a packet capture
- The help facilities are so easy to access, some may not struggle through a given scenario
- An Internet connection is required while accessing and utilizing the lab environment
- Device list and topology is fixed
I believe Cisco Learning Labs is a very good product that solves the problems that Cisco intended to solve. The disadvantages outlined are not fully addressed in any product that I am currently aware of. Cisco Modeling Labs, a product that is expected to be released soon and based on the emulation platform used by Cisco Learning Labs, may address many of these disadvantages. After spending many hours working with the current version of Cisco Learning Labs, I fully believe it to be a viable and cost-effective way of applying the concepts for many Associate and Professional level Cisco certifications.
Disclaimer: I am currently a Designated VIP for the Cisco Learning Network. I am also affiliated with the Cisco Learning Network through my authorization as a Cisco Certified System Instructor and my relationship with a Cisco Learning Partner. This article was written without compensation or requirement and accurately reflects my views on Cisco Learning Labs.