How to create a simple network topology using Cisco’s VIRL

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How to create a simple network topology using Cisco’s VIRL

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Added by August 14, 2015

For those of you who are interested in investigating Cisco’s VIRL product, I have created a blog to show how to create a very simple network topology.  You may already use other lab-it-up solutions such as GNS3, Packet Tracer, Boson’s NetSim, or something else.  I promised that I would blog about VIRL once I had a little time to explore it myself, so let’s begin.

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First of all I will assume that you have already purchased your copy and installed it, because I am skipping right to the part where you actually launch the product and use it.  If not, that’s okay – you may want to review this blog first and then make a purchase decision.  I am running VIRL using VMWare Workstation (NOT free).  The Linux box included comes with VMMaestro on its desktop.  VMMaestro is the interface for interacting with the lab environment.  Unfortunately, perhaps due to my machine’s high resolution and as-yet unresolved issues with Windows 8.1, it is difficult to view much of the landscape inside VMMaestro.  Fear not, an alternate solution is to install VMMaestro on your host box and run it from there – as long as you point it to the IP address of the Linux box inside VMWare Workstation.  From there I will launch VMMaestro on my laptop.  The main screen is shown in figure 1.

001-VMMaestro-network-topology-using-Cisco-VIRL

Figure 1

As is readily apparent, the icons and words are tiny; many attempts at adjusting resolution, making items larger or smaller, and beating the screen and keyboard, were all fruitless.  I will just have to live with it until the screen resolution issues are corrected.

We now need to create a new topology project.  There is an icon you can click, but if you don’t know where it is, it is hard to find without a magnifying glass.  For the daring, it is shown in figure 2:

002-Network-topology-using-Cisco-VIRL

Figure 2

It is that little tiny manila-colored folder icon at the far left.  If you like menus, click File, then New, then Topology Project.  Regardless of which way you get there, you will now be presented with the ‘New Topology Project’ window, shown in figure 3:

003-New-Project-Network-topology-using-Cisco-VIRL

Figure 3

I will name my sample topology something easy to track – NewTopologyProject.  Type that in the ‘Project name’ box and click Finish.  You will see the result in the upper left of your screen – I will zoom in a little so it can be seen.  Note figure 4:

004-New-Topology-Network-topology-using-Cisco-VIRL

Figure 4

Now to actually create a topology.  Once again, there is a quick way – use the icon.  Here is a screenshot of which icon and its location:

005-New-Topology-Network-topology-using-Cisco-VIRL

Figure 5

This gets me the Create a new .virl file window shown in figure 6:

006-virlfile-Network-topology-using-Cisco-VIRL

Figure 6

In the File name box, since topology.virl is already highlighted, I can create and choose my own file name.  For this example I will name the file NewTopologyFile.virl.  Note that the file name MUST have the .virl extension and you must type it as it does not add it for you.  The Finish button will be grayed out until you have added the .virl to the file name.

007-finish-virlfile-Network-topology-using-Cisco-VIRL

Figure 7

The left side of the screen looks like what is shown in figure 8 (if not, verify that in the upper right, you have selected the Design tab):

008-run-virlfile-Network-topology-using-Cisco-VIRL

Figure 8

Now when you click inside the topology area (called a ‘canvas’ in VIRL documentation), you will see the ‘Properties’ window.  This is shown in figure 9:

009-run-virlfile-Network-topology-using-Cisco-VIRL

Figure 9

We want to click on the Topology tab, also shown in figure 9.  Within this area you will see a box labeled ‘Validation Rules.’  Select VIRL from the drop-down, as shown in figure 10.

010-run-virlfile-Network-topology-using-Cisco-VIRL

Figure 10

In the Management Network, select Private simulation network, shown in  figure 11.

011-Network-topology-using-Cisco-VIRL

Figure 11

Now select the AutoNetKit tab just under the Topology tab.  In this pane, we will enable CDP in this example by selecting ‘true’ from the drop-down, as shown in figure 12.

012-AutoNetKit-Network-topology-using-Cisco-VIRL

Figure 12

In the IP Address Family box, select ‘dual_stack’ as shown in figure 13.

013-Dual-Stack-Network-topology-using-Cisco-VIRL

Figure 13

While you are here, take note of some of the other aspects of this area of VIRL – such as the fact that much of the scenario is pre-configured for you (IP address space, OSPF info, link info, etc) which will be useful when it comes time to automatically configure your device configurations!  Yes, I did say automatically configure!  Now we will place a couple of IOSv nodes into our topology.  At the upper left, in the Palette pane, click IOSv node to highlight it.  Unlike GNS3, you don’t drag it into your topology, merely selecting it is sufficient.  Then  mouse over into the topology pane and click to place a node.  Clicking again places another node.  Let’s place two of them, as shown in figure 14.  When you have dropped both of them, click Esc to stop dropping nodes.

014-Dual-Stack-Network-topology-using-Cisco-VIRL

Figure 14

Now to cable up our gear.  On the left side above your node choices, click on Connect.  Click on one node and then drag a connection to the other node and click once more.  Figure 15 shows the end result – the interface labels are placed automatically.  Once finished connecting, press Esc.

015-Dual-Stack-Network-topology-using-Cisco-VIRL

Figure 15

Let’s stop here and let this sink in.  You may want to practice just this part of VIRL until it gets to be natural, because if creating topologies to lab up sample network scenarios is painful, you will be less likely to do it.  In my next blog, I will pick up here and show how to configure our nodes, view their consoles, and show that the scenario is functioning as we desire.

As always, if you have any suggestions or comments, please share …

Until next time.

Mark Jacob
Cisco and CompTIA Network + Instructor – Interface Technical Training
Phoenix, AZ

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