So what do my little pal and my computer have in common? GNS3
That’s right, my reptilian friend can program your 2960! That’s a lie, and it’s wrong of me to do so. Actually, the only connection is that Sandwich (my 3 year old son picked his name) is the shade-shifting species of lizard on the GNS3 logo. This post, however, is not about my chameleon, though he is awesome.
GNS3 is awesome-er….maybe. So, I’m taking my first Cisco cert test in three weeks and spending a lot of time in Packet Tracer. Huh, no “|” pipe. Huh, ##### command isn’t available. Geezuz, this white prompt is making my eyes bleed.
Enter GNS3. Now it can’t do everything (no switch image support), and I’m not technically competent enough to tell you how it works, but if you have an image for an IOS router, you might as well have the real thing. Simply load up your legally obtained images and build the topology. I’ve also read around that you can emulate Cisco switches via a VM over linux, and supposedly there’s a way to map your switch of preference onto the topology as well.
|Requires Cisco Academy||Requires access to images|
|Many Devices, Limited Functionality||Functionality per image specs|
|Strongest in Switching||Strongest in Routing|
|Did I mention no pipe | ???||Has Chameleon|
|Built in Ugly-ass Command tool||Putty!|
|Handles complex topology very well||Topology complexity burdens your PC|
So, a lot of this is opinion and personal experience, so take with a heap of salt. Which one should you use? Both. Both GNS3 and Packet Tracer have really cool features, and both will require a sprinkling of unicorn tears at some point. Cisco really needs to step up their game in this arena, as the biggest drawback to both is Cisco’s fault. Images for GNS3 must be acquired; Packet Tracer is only available to Cisco Academy students. Cisco sells books at (enter bookstore), so why not either give out PT for free (yeah, right) or allow it to be free trial/paid. Let’s face it, we are tech people. If you lock us out, we may very well break the lock. Cisco’s attempts to lock out those who want to learn from PT and images, without spending $3,000 on a class, is one of the best running jokes in networking. On the other hand, we buy the books and guides because it feels good to do so. Why not sell training images and PT subscriptions? Almost every engineer I’ve met is self-taught anyways.
*Don’t tell me how you get your IOS images or packet tracer.
I don’t want to know.