June 20, 2010
June 20, 2010
June 23, 2010
15.925.1 - 15.925.11
On the Use of Virtualization for Router Network Simulation
The availability of powerful simulators has enhanced the ability to optimize communication network performance. The more complex ones can simulate many different types of network devices but with a limited degree of accuracy for each device. The intent of these simulators is to accurately represent the overall performance of the network in terms of metrics such as throughput, latency, etc. Still other simulators are specifically designed to emulate a particular manufacturer’s equipment, primarily for training purposes. This type can simulate the responses of the devices to a subset of configuration commands and can simulate some types of interaction between the manufacturer’s devices. This paper discusses the evaluation of the open-source Dynamips/GNS3 simulator for Cisco routers undertaken to determine its suitability as a teaching tool. This simulator is unique in that it is virtualization-based. It emulates the hardware of a number of key Cisco routers enabling the virtual router to run the actual Internetwork Operating System (IOS) software. Originally designed as an aid for those wishing to study for Cisco certifications it is extremely attractive as an instructional tool because no actual hardware is required and the simulations can include some esoteric capabilities of the routers. Indeed, fairly complex router networks can be simulated and virtual routers on one computer can interact with virtual routers on another. A number of the important capabilities of Dynamips/GNS3 were successfully executed, but with some difficulties at times. Nevertheless, the virtualization approach is extremely promising, if feasible, for a given type of simulation.
Employing simulations as a teaching aid is very useful, perhaps even more so in a distance learning environment. Southern Polytechnic State University’s (SPSU) Electrical and Computer Engineering Technology (ECET) program is engaged in converting its curriculum to a distance or hybrid distance format. Since all but two of the ECET courses have a laboratory component, this creates a significant challenge in providing a similar laboratory experience for the off- campus students. An obvious choice is to require distance students to visit the campus periodically to perform hands-on lab exercises. This can be difficult for some students to do and will limit enrollment to students who can.
The laboratory for the department’s Telecommunications Engineering Technology (TCET) courses use primarily Cisco routers and switches that students connect in various configurations and program to give them the desired functionality for a given exercise or project. While remote access to a router via the Internet is possible, it must be done in a secure manner, such as through a VPN connection. Because the laboratory supports several courses, instructors change device connections and configurations as needed, sometimes on a daily basis. This instability leads to difficulty in managing distance students’ remote access to the lab.
An attractive alternative is the use of realistic simulations that give distance students a learning experience as close as possible to that of the on-campus students. Some important general criteria for a simulator are listed below.
Li, T., & Thain Jr., W. E., & Fallon, T. (2010, June), On The Use Of Virtualization For Router Network Simulation Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. https://peer.asee.org/15817
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