You probably don't have tons of money in your IT budget to buy multiple Cisco routers, so testing and planning a routing scenario might be a real challenge. Fortunately, with Gambit's MIMIC, you can simulate a Cisco environment and do all the hard work without buying a single piece of hardware.
Gambit's MIMIC product is significantly different than most other Cisco simulators. The Cisco virtual lab comes from Gambit's MIMIC Simulator Suite, a full-featured, industrial-strength IOS and network simulator that allows you to record a real network and then play it back in the simulator. It's used by some of the biggest names in telecom. Even Cisco uses it in development work.
The MIMIC Simulator Suite version has a development kit that lets you build up virtual network devices such as Cisco equipment or other vendor equipment. Needless to say, this much power and flexibility doesn't come cheap, so Gambit took this core software, removed certain enterprise-specific features, and offered a Cisco BSCN (Building Scalable Cisco Networks) virtual lab and a Cisco virtual lab.
These two packages are much more reasonably priced for the personal certification lab. There's a third package called the Enterprise Cisco virtual lab, which falls in between the home user version and the full suite package.
What are the different versions of MIMIC?
There are three basic versions of MIMIC: Enterprise, Cisco lab, and BSCI (Building Scalable Cisco Internetworks) lab. Let's start with the Enterprise version, which is a cross between a personal and real enterprise product. It's more of a stepping-stone to the full Simulator Suite. The three versions share a common interface, and the MIMIC virtual lab uses Java.
Figure A shows the screen you'll see when you start the Enterprise MIMIC virtual lab for the first time. Right away, you'll get a sense that this simulator is configured differently than the other simulators. The HP Procurve switch is a clue to just how different it is.
|Basic Enterprise MIMIC virtual lab screen|
The three MIMIC products share the same Java shell but have different types of simulated hardware included. The hardware in the Enterprise Cisco lab simulator is a Cisco 7513 router, a 5505 Catalyst switch, a 2524 router, and workstations. Also included is a Cisco 1200 Access point as an endpoint.
By contrast, in the virtual Cisco lab package, you'll have the 2501, 2524, 4500, and 7513 routers to work with; switches 2916 and 3548; and five end systems. The virtual Cisco BSCI lab has a Cisco 3600 and 2524 router and two switches.
The system requirements for MIMIC are different than those for other simulators. Since the application can run across multiple platforms, and since it's not just a command simulator, there's a need for more power than average. The minimum requirements for a Windows-based installation for the MIMIC Suite are:
- Intel Pentium 500 MHz and up
- Windows NT4 SP3, 2000K, XP, or 2003 Server
- Java 1.4 or better
- 300 MB of hard disk space
- 256 MB of RAM (more is better)
- Any NIC supported by Windows
The preferred configuration is a 1 GHz processor, XP or 2000, 1 GB of disk space, and 512 MB of RAM. The CCNA or CCNP version will run fine on the minimum requirements. We did our testing on a PIII 800 MHz system with 512 MB of RAM, and a 2.4 GHz system with 512 MB of RAM. We couldn't really see a difference between the two systems on the virtual Cisco lab.
For those who choose to run MIMIC on Linux or Solaris, the requirements are pretty minimal. The Linux requirements are:
- Intel Pentium 500 MHz or faster
- Red Hat 7.1 or higher
- SuSE 6.1 or higher
- Caldera OpenLinux 2.3 or higher
- Mandrake 9.0 or higher
- 300 MB of disk space
- 256 MB of RAM
- Any NIC supported by Linux
There are two Solaris versions: one for the SPARC platforms and one for the Intel platform. For the SPARC, you need an Ultra Sparc5 or faster, Solaris 2.6, 7, 8 or 9,300 MB of disk space, 256 MB of RAM, and a NIC. For the Intel version of Solaris, you have the same hardware requirements as for Linux, and you need Solaris for Intel version 8.
Windows 98 and Windows Me are not recommended or officially supported because of the overhead of the Java requirements. This isn't to say that it won't run on 98 or Me; it's just not recommended, and our testing verified this with slow response times.
What do you get with MIMIC?
MIMIC comes with a variety of canned labs that lean toward the WAN side of the Cisco certification. The labs are not as comprehensive as those in some simulators, such as Boson's NetSim. One of the outstanding features of MIMIC is the support of Border Gateway Protocol (BGP). The only other vendor to support BGP is Boson, but it's not a full implementation. You must know BGP in order to pass the Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) tests, but acquiring real-world experience can be difficult. MIMIC also covers OSPF and EIGRP to round out the WAN routing labs, and there's the expected RIP and frame relay support and labs.
To use a lab, you select it and then click Apply to configure the hardware with the basic configuration needed for the lab. This spares you from having to type in a bunch of commands just to get ready for the lab. In each lab, MIMIC shows you which pieces of equipment are live and outlines them in green. Red means the equipment is in the "off" state and not part of the lab.
A helpful feature of the virtual Cisco lab is that you can right-click on any piece and get a dialog box with information on the equipment and the various login names and passwords. Another feature is that you can configure the IP subnet range to be either within your network space or in its own IP space.
Gambit is continually improving its product and plans to implement new features, such as:
- SSH support for virtual hardware
- IP version 6 support
- Enhanced IOS support
- Console support along with the current telnet support
IP version 6 will be great as a training aid for network staff and other interested parties. SSH will let you better reflect a production network with security options in place. We always like to see more supported IOS commands and structures.
MIMIC virtual lab is a very powerful network simulator with the ability to emulate a real network and other vendor devices. With new features such as SSH and console support, MIMIC can be a highly useful training tool and network design aid.