VIRL Under the Hood in the Dev Innovate Pod

 In 200-301 V1 CCC No Category on Purpose, News

Cisco #VIRL is a little like a car engine in some ways. Most people shop for a new car, not a new car engine. But the cars all come with an engine – otherwise the car’s not very useful. VIRL, Cisco’s new-ish network hypervisor for creating virtualized labs of network devices, acts like an engine, as a vital and important part of something else that you get from Cisco.

Today’s post wraps up a series that looks at Cisco Cisco’s current offerings that include VIRL under the hood, including the often-overlooked dev-innovate pod.

Other posts in this series:


How to Catch a VIRL (That is, how to Get VIRL)

(Pardon my silly heading…)

So, VIRL is the best thing since sliced bread. We all want it. How do you get it? Best I can tell, there are three things you can get today that have either VIRL or some early form of VIRL in it.

Cisco Modeling Lab (CML) Corporate Edition: Definitely includes VIRL. It’s a commercial product offering from Cisco that features VIRL with software support (and more). (Find more at this earlier post or at Cisco’s CML web page.)

Cisco’s Dev Innovate Pod: Definitely includes VIRL. This is a pod of gear + software, leased from Cisco at a nice discount. The software includes VIRL. (More on this option latest in this post.)

Cisco’s Current All-in-One VM: A VM meant for learning about and developing with Cisco’s onePK API. It includes something like VIRL, probably (Wendell’s opinion) an earlier version of what grew to be VIRL, which you can get for free today.

Beyond these three currently-available options, for those of you who haven’t heard… Cisco plans to offer VIRL in some form to the masses, for free/cheap, most likely as follows:

The new All-in-One VM: The open discussion in several forums is that Cisco would update the AIO VM to include VIRL. We keep watching and waiting… just not there yet (as of today’s post). I expect most of the discussion to happen in this part of the community.

Most anyone who wants to work with a Cisco lab has some interest in VIRL. Some have already jumped in with CML, which is great for corporate test labs. Others of us sit here awaiting free VIRL in some form. Cisco may well come out with others. The last option so far, the Dev Innovate pod, is interesting as well – and mostly ignored in VIRL discussions. So I’ll close today’s post with a few words about the Dev Innovate pod.


Cisco’s Dev Innovate Pod

These folks practically tackled me at Cisco Live San Fran last May.  (They were nice in their tackling!) They were incredibly enthusiastic, mostly interns working the booth, telling me that Cisco would give me a rack of awesome gear. UCS. Nexus switches. Software pre-installed: Openstack, Open Daylight, and… yes, VIRL. Give they said. I didn’t believe them! (What they meant was lease for a reasonable fee.)

(One of the Dev Innovate stickers from the show…)

So, here are the big ideas of what Cisco is doing for companies that want to develop apps, test them, and roll them into production. Companies that want to follow a DevOps model for internal rollouts, or develop commercial applications, whatever. One problem that arises is that developers test software on their own machines, or on a few VMs in a server farm. But they seldom test in a realistic network, with current network hardware and software. There are just too many barriers: cost, keeping the software current, cabling, configuration, and skills to do it all.

Cisco’s Dev Innovate Kit (aka Pod) attempts to solve some of these big problems. So here’s what Cisco offers in a Beta program:

  • If you promise to use the pod for development/test, not for resale, Cisco will lease you a pod of current Cisco gear for 1 year.
  • It has current hardware, so you can test with what you might use in production
  • It has current software on the various network devices
  • It has other current software products installed, and ready to use, like OpenStack
  • It has VIRL installed, so you can create the rest of the test network
  • After one year, send it back, or…
  • Sign-up for another year, and Cisco will re-fresh the pod: send you a new pod, then-current hardware and software.
  • They’ll price the lease to remove the price barrier as much as possible.

One goal of the program is to remove barriers for developers to develop, test, and implement new apps. It’s an interesting idea. According to Cisco’s Dev Innovate web page, the program is in beta – just apply, and get the rights to lease the pod.

(Note: I know, I didn’t list a price. All the above notes are from conversations at Cisco Live last May. But the pricing (a) is not currently listed on their web page, and (b) was not discussed at Cisco Live. However, I was told at the show that the lease price was based on highly discounted hardware. And I was told that the hardware and software totaled about $500K list price.)

And here’s a photo of a sample pod from the Cisco Live show. If you look closely, you can see the same sticker in the upper right of the photo.


Do you want VIRL? Maybe. But you wouldn’t go apply for a Dev Innovate pod for your company only to get VIRL. So, once again, VIRL’s an important part of something else. Those of us who want to use VIRL for self-study for Cisco exams still need to wait. But I think we’ll continue to see VIRL in many offerings from Cisco over time.



CML Now, and VIRL One Day
Overlapping Subnets – the Problem
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