I know there are quite a few people out there waiting for a GNS3 WorkBench update. I promised that it would come soon after GNS3 0.8.5, but there have been a couple of significant developments that have caused an equally significant delay.
When I first created GNS3 WorkBench, I had three major objectives:
- To overcome the difficult process of making GNS3 work, especially on Windows.
- To provide relevant exercises to students studying for ICND1, ICND2 or other certifications.
- To overcome some significant shortcomings of GNS3.
Since then, things have changed. Firstly, the GNS3 “all-in-one” Windows version has been around for a long time, and is far more stable than those early windows versions. Secondly, the objectives for the ICND1 and ICND2 exams have undergone major changes, meaning I have had to re-work all of my prepared exercises. Thirdly, GNS3 has evolved to the point where the shortcomings I set to overcome have been met (albeit often through my incessant pestering of Jeremy Grossmann to make changes). Specifically:
- There was no way to integrate the VPCS application with GNS3. I believe VPCS has many features that make it a far better testing tool than simply another router – the ability to do TCP and UDP style “pings” being one of these, the ability to create scripts another. This need has now passed, and you can launch VPCS from within GNS3 and from there load scripts to, for instance, check that an ACL is correctly configured.
- To present a project as an exercise or task, there needed to be a way of presenting a set of instructions. GNS3 WorkBench did this by launching a script that displayed the instructions before launching GNS3. Now, with GNS3 0.8.6, this need has passed. If you load a topology that has instructions, the instructions are displayed as the topology loads.
- There needed to be a way of loading a problem in various stages of development, from completely un-configured to completely configured. I used various names for script files like startup.1 (initial config) and startup.2 (completed config) to achieve this in GNS3 WorkBench. After many iterations, the Snapshots functions in GNS3 version 0.8.6 finally allows us to save and reload configuration in various stages.
The good new is that the GNS3 WorkBench concept can now be reduced to a set of exercises relevant to various levels of study, suitably packaged to match the directory structure that supports VPCS, Instructions and Snapshots.
The significance of this is that, when I complete the re-packaging, GNS3 WorkBench will be available for the first time as an OS X or Windows package – just download to your GNS3 Projects folder and you will be able to use the GNS3 snapshots function to load an exercise, and use the VPCS integration to check your answer. Instructions will appear automatically in your browser whenever you open an exercise.
That’s not to say that I haven’t forgotten the Linux Virtual Machine. It will be available as a Linux Mint 15.0 VM, with GNS3, Dynamips, Oracle VirtualBox, Qemu, Vyatta, Linux Microcore and openvswitch already installed, and script files to help you add ASA and Junos images. There will also be some pretty shortcuts on the desktop and some other nice cosmetic touches that you won’t get in the Windows or OS X packages.
There will also be an install script that will allow you to start with your own copy of Linux Mint and turn it into a GNS3 WorkBench. It might even work on Ubuntu. This is particularly to help people who have limited bandwidth and find it difficult downloading a bloated appliance. Mind you, the script runs a lot of downloads too, but at least if it fails you can run it again and skip the bits you have already downloaded.
So I’m asking all my dedicated followers to be patient a little bit longer, it is currently taking me over an hour to process each exercise and instructions set into the new format, especially if I get carried away adding new tasks or writing VPCS scripts to check answers. In the meantime, why don’t check this link, and see why I have had precious little time to devote to GNS3 WorkBench lately. :)