June 14, 2009
June 14, 2009
June 17, 2009
Electrical and Computer
14.139.1 - 14.139.7
A Virtualized Network Teaching Laboratory
Since for most students, learning dramatically improves with hands-on experience, a good networking lab is an asset for teaching networks. However, building such a lab is usually a challenge. It requires costly equipment and ﬂexible conﬁgurations that are often not compatible with the campus network. In this paper, we describe how we designed a network teaching lab based on virtual machines connected on a virtual network. An instructor can create a virtual network and make it available to students. Students can conﬁgure the network and run experiments as instructed. When the task is complete, the students can submit the result of their work.
Traditional networking laboratories
A good network teaching laboratory is essential to support student learning in a Networks course. A traditional networking lab, in addition to the computers, requires networking equipment such as routers, switches and appropriate connections. The equipment needs to be updated regularly for the students to be able to apply the skills they learn in the lab directly in the work force.
Unfortunately, traditional networking labs are a fairly scarce resource. In addition to the cost of equipment and updates, it is a challenge to design the lab to allow ﬂexible conﬁgurations. These network conﬁgurations are often not compatible with the campus network. Class assignments may be restricted to those that can be performed using the capabilities of the lab. For institutions with limited budgets, it may be impractical to purchase all the devices necessary for each student. Equipment that students have access to are often shared with other students. Usually, students are put into teams and the team must spend time allocated time slots when the lab is available. Once a team has worked in the lab, it may be time consuming and sometimes not obvious how to reset the lab to an appropriate conﬁguration. This effectively restricts the kind of assignments given to the students.
Approaches to use virtualization
Although not speciﬁcally designed for a teaching lab, an approach to simplify the management of networks was proposed by Chandra, Zeldovich, Sapuntzakis and Lam.1 They proposed the concept of a computational kiosk architecture, called The Collective. They utilize virtual machines as the execution environment for all user workstations (henceforth generically called ”computational kiosks” or ”kiosks”). Under The Collective’s model, user ”installations” are dynamically transferred to kiosks upon user login. By exploiting the computational power and the generic VMWare machine’s virtual architecture provided by each kiosk, users are provided high performance. User environments become seamlessly transportable among kiosks, and the kiosks themselves become virtually stateless, and thus quickly and inexpensively replaceable. The
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