Networks Lab COP502 at Loughborough, including Junosphere
blog by Olaf Maennel, Iain Phillips, Joel Obstfeld, and many others... :)
The students are supposed to build and operate their "own ISP"; from
scratch. This includes, addressing (dual-stack, IPv4 and IPv6), IS-IS, BGP, BGP polices
with communities, running own authoritative DNS, webservers, etc...
(They later do a module on protocol-design, which focuses on layer-4
Format of the course
The module runs in intensive format for three weeks,
which means the mornings are roughly lectures, the afternoons in the lab to
play. During the second week there are less lectures
and more time in the lab. In the 3rd week the students prepare mainly for
the assessment. Our assessment is partly by a report and partly by a class test - this gives us the ability to test individual students progress and add it to the groups'.
For the lab-work the students form groups of three. Each group is an "AS".
Each group has physical access to three routers, three
laptops (which form their data-centres), and three virtual routers in the Junosphere
cloud. We have 8 sets of physical equipment. One I use for lecturing, that means we
can have up to 7 groups a 3 students.
Access to physical equipment
The physical routers are vendor C-flavor, but vendor doesn't matter. For us
it's really important that students can touch physical equipment first. It
makes it so much easier to explain what a subnet and interface is, if
students can touch a physical cable.
We strongly believe the following
parts need be taught hands-on (with access to physical equipment):
what is an interface, what is an address, how does forwarding work?
The first time we gave the students very well defined examples and they
just ran it and were done with it. It was almost a bit boring. The next
time we made it a bit harder and leave it more open how to create the
network. Of course we guide the process and discuss "good design" in a
lecture. So that, for example, the students come up with the idea that they
need to design a redundant network. If they don't, well, we have those
lab-sessions and we will just switch off a router or unplug a link... then
we discuss with the students what they could have done better... ;)
that's a lot fun (also for the students i hope) and teaches the best lesson,
We don't want to be one-vendor-biased. So we use the hybridge connector
to allow that each group can connect to a virtual part of their AS in the
cloud. That means each group runs and manages it's own AS, three routers
are physically based in the lab and via a big switch they can connect to
three routers in the cloud. Thus, their AS has now six routers in total. On
the cloud-side the access is organised via vlans. Although we discuss
vlan's in the lecture, this is transparent to the students (well, they see
it in the configs, and we explain what we do).
Due to the fact that Joel needs to setup the routers in the cloud, the
connectivity in the cloud is pre-given... while in the lab, they have the
possibility to "negotiate" their own connectivity between different groups.
We try to encourage to select a "peering-coordinator", but this only works
One of the best bits about the interaction with the cloud is that the presentation is a single physical port on a switch in the lab, one for each group. They then run a cable to this switch. The cloud is then all hidden away by magic (well actually a cable to a vmware-esxi host running the connector in a VM with some crazy VLAN config). While we tell the students what's there behind - they don't need to know the details to achieve the learning.
Overall, for the students this keeps not only the motivation high, but also
the workload. We typically get feedback back that this was a "fun and
interesting module", but quite a lot of work... that they wish they would
have had more than three weeks...
It also is quite a lot of work for us, but we think it's a worthwhile start.
All the teaching is IPv4 and IPv6 in parallel. IPv6 is NOT introduces as a "new" protocol, but just as two IP-versions that we have.
Andy Linton and Quincy Fu are doing with their students the Hurricane Electric's Certification https://ipv6.he.net/certification/. Thanks Andy and Quincy for this idea!
Thanks and acknowledgements
Credit belongs to Randy Bush, Philip Smith, Hervey Allen,
and others, who has developed a lot of the material for their training at the
"Network Startup Resource Center (NSRC)". We have
received a lot of help from really fabulous guys, hacked a little on
their material and then contributed back.
The material we use, in particular
in the lectures, was developed over many years and we are not the first
who find it useful in a teaching environment. We owe them a big 'thank you'!
I'm more than happy for any suggestions and feedback.
E-mail me for a password.
- Layers, addressing (v4/v6) (pptx)
- Protocol Design (DNS, ARP, DHCP, HTTP, email) (pptx)
- IOS Basics (pptx)
- Layer 2 and VLANs, 802.1Q, Spanning tree (pptx)
- Routing: Introduction/theory, ISIS, BGP, BGP wedgies&examples. Network Management, SNMP. NATs and firewalls briefly. (pptx)
Lab Supporting Material
|Olaf Maennel | skype: olaf_maennel | e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org | 01 Mar 2014 ||