Cisco Modeling Labs

Ever wonder what it would be like to have a platform dedicated to Continuous Improvement / Testing / Labbing?

Cisco Modeling Labs

Cisco's put a lot of thought into good ways to do that, and Cisco Modeling Labs(CML) is the latest iteration of their solutions to provide this as a service to enterprises and casual users alike.
CML is the next logical iteration of Virtual Internet Routing Labs (VIRL) and is officially backed by Cisco with legal VNF licensing. It's a KVM type-2 hypervisor, and automatically handles VNF wiring with an HTML5/REST interface.

Cisco's mission is to provide a NetDevOps platform to network engineers, upgrading the industry's skillset to provide an entirely new level of reliability to infrastructure. Hardware improves over time, and refresh cycles complete - transferring the "downtime" problem from hardware/transceiver failure to engineer mistakes. NetDevOps is the antidote for this problem, infrastructure engineers should leverage automation to make any operation done on production equipment absolutely safe.

Solution Overview

Cisco Modeling Labs provides you the ability to:

  • Provision up to 20/40 Cisco NOS nodes (personal licensing) as you see fit
  • Execute "What if?" scenarios without having to pre-provision or purchase network hardware, improving service reliability
  • Develop IaC tools, Ansible playbooks and other automation on systems other than the production network
  • Leverage TRex (Cisco's network traffic generator) to make simulations more real
  • Deploy workloads to the CML fabric to take a closer look or add capabilities inside
  • Save and share labbed topologies
  • Do everything via the API. Cisco DevNet even supplies a Python client for CML to make the API adoption easy!

Some important considerations for CML:

  • Set up a new segment for management interfaces, ensuring that external CI Tooling/Ansible/etc can reach it.
  • VNFs are hungry. NX-OSv images are at the high end (8GB of memory each), and IOSv/CSR1000v will monopolize CPU. Make sure that plenty of resources are allocated
  • Leverages Cisco Smart Licensing. CML uses legitimate VNF images with legitimate licensing, but will need internet access
  • CML does not provide SD-WAN features, Wireless, or Firepower appliance licensing, but does support deploying them

Let's Install CML! Cisco provides an ESXi (vSphere) compatible OVA:

OVF Template
Name and Folder
Review Details
Ready to complete

After It's deployed, I assigned 4 vCPUs and 24 GB of memory, and attached the platform ISO. Search under for Modeling Labs:

Reference Platform

Once mounted, the wizard continues from there. CML will ask you for passwords, IP configurations, the typical accoutrements:

CML Installer, Initial
CML Installer, continued

The installer will take about 10 minutes to run, as it copies all of the base images into your virtual machine. Once it boots up, CML has two interfaces:

  • https://{{ ip }}/ : The CML "Lab" Interface
  • https://{{ ip }}:9090/ : The Ubuntu "cockpit" view, manage the appliance and its software updates from here. Cisco's integrated CML into this GUI as well.

CML's primary interface will not allow workloads to be built until a license is installed. Licenses are fetched from the Cisco Learning Network Store under settings:

Cisco Licensing

CML is ready to go! Happy Labbing!