Network Monitoring And Management

The Top 5 Network Simulation Solutions

Explore the top network simulation solutions with key features like scalability, performance, and security.

The Top 5 Network Simulation Solutions include:
  • 1. Cisco Modeling Labs
  • 2. Cisco Packet Tracer
  • 3. ContainerLab
  • 4. EVE-NG
  • 5. GNS3

Today, networks are designed to meet a broad range of expectations and deliver an ever expanding range of services. In order to facilitate and manage this breadth of capabilities, unique, highly specialized networks are developed to meet these needs. It is not always feasible to practically build these networks due to their level of complexity. In these cases, network simulation solutions are used to model, test, and validate network design and management.

Network simulation solutions digitally create a network, thereby enabling developers to test and try out strategies or different configurations. In a virtual, isolated environment, network simulators can act as a sandbox and allow for the identification and subsequent analysis of potential problems, without impacting the wider network.

Network simulation solutions are an economical and efficient way to test network setups, routing algorithms, and policies before they’re applied in the real world. Not only does it help to save resources, but it prevents potential network failures and downtime in real, operational situations. These simulations can also act as an isolated environment for education purposes; IT students and trainees can experiment and learn without the risk of affecting active network infrastructure or traffic. 

This type of solution is used to optimize networks, evaluate the impact of scaling, and creating playbooks to prepare for potential security threats. Network architects and engineers can intricately model their networks, experimenting with different variables to find the optimal configuration, all while ensuring robust security and high-performance metrics. 

These solutions vary widely in terms of user interface, use-case, supported protocols, and scalability. In this article we’ve compiled some of the best solutions available on the market. Each listing contains a deep dive into the features and benefits of the product; we will consider factors like scalability, performance, security, and customer support. 

Cisco Logo

Cisco Modeling Labs (CML) offers an on-premises network simulation platform that is designed to improve the experience of NetDevOps. The tool allows IT professionals to simulate both Cisco and non-Cisco networks, using authentic Cisco IOS images, making it a reliable resource for network design, testing, and troubleshooting at a reduced cost (compared to setting up physical networks). The platform is equipped with an intuitive user interface grounded in the familiar Cisco DNA Center Canvas. This helps developers to efficiently build and dismantle simulated environments. The platform supports most of the major IOS variants, including IOS, IOS-XRv, and NX-OS, and offers utility images like Linux hosts and a WAN emulator.

The platform has a dedicated maintenance mode which helps in planning and notifying users about forthcoming updates or maintenance, ensuring effective oversight of labs and nodes. Users can deploy CML on the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud, eliminating the need for purchasing or maintaining separate hardware for CML operations. Cisco Modeling Labs is a scalable platform and is integrated with a comprehensive API that facilitates automated simulation configurations, thereby simplifying the process of testing and deploying new network configurations.

Cisco Logo
Cisco Logo

Cisco Packet Tracer is a dynamic network simulation tool that is designed to allow users to visualize and practice various networking, Internet of Things (IoT), and cybersecurity skills within a virtual lab environment. Cisco offer a series of training courses to upskill employees and introduce new cyber areas to help close the skills gap. The training requires no additional physical hardware and facilitates the creation and visualization of both simple and complex networks. Users can also hone their skills in rack, stack, and cabling tasks within this virtual lab. In addition, the tool offers the ability to integrate IoT devices, Python code, or network automation seamlessly, thus providing a realistic, hands-on experience in network configuration and operation.

The Networking Basics course (which falls under the Network Technician career path) serves as an entry point for those keen to understand the foundations of networking. This course encompasses learning about network devices, media, and protocols, offering a thorough introduction to the intricacies of networking, potentially paving the way for a fulfilling career in the tech industry. There is an active community surrounding Packet Tracer where individuals can collaborate, compete, and share network designs for feedback. Connecting through a global Facebook community, users are able to exchange ideas and gain inspiration from peers worldwide. It is worth noting that this tool is primarily designed for training and experiential purposes, rather than for simulating your own, existing network and its related features.

Cisco Logo
ContainerLab Logo

ContainerLab is designed to streamline the process of orchestrating and managing container-based networking labs. Through its command-line interface, users can initiate containers, establish virtual connections between them, and effectively manage lab lifecycles. This capability facilitates the creation of user-specific lab topologies without being hindered by the limitations often encountered with other container orchestration tools such as docker-compose. Through the integration of vrnetlab or boxen, ContainerLab can launch a range of virtual machine-based routers such as Cisco IOS XRv9k and Juniper vMX.

At its core, ContainerLab simplifies lab orchestration by offering a declarative way to define labs through topology definition clab files, thus abstracting complex start up requirements and allowing users to concentrate on use cases, rather than infrastructure obstacles. Native support encompasses multiple common operating systems including Nokia SR Linux, Cisco XRd, and Azure SONiC. One of ContainerLab’s key characteristics is its capacity to support both native containerized network operating systems and traditional virtual machine-based routers. ContainerLab maintains a neutral stance, supporting systems from various vendors and open-source projects.

ContainerLab Logo
EVE Logo

The EVE-NG PRO platform is a clientless multivendor network emulation software. The platform is designed for a wide range of users and use-cases, including enterprises, e-learning centers, and individual or group collaborators, aiming to help create virtual proof of concepts, solutions, and training environments. This platforms range of capabilities make it a viable option for enterprise engineers seeking to operate in an isolated environment, unhindered by corporate security policies. The software provides an array of functional features designed to enhance network design and testing within a multivendor environment.

EVE-NG PRO also includes a dynamic console porting with no limits, supporting up to 1024 nodes per lab, and offering features like lab timer for self-training and multi-configuration options for a single lab. Users experience is streamlined through functionalities such as “click and play” topology designer and picture import maps. Alongside this, the platform delivers custom kernel support for L2 protocols. The platform also supports a multi-user environment, with the inclusion of administrator role and user account access time limitation to maintain a structured management approach. Through this platform, users can benefit from an enhanced control management system that allows for meticulous lab designs, templates for node deployment, and efficient control of running labs and nodes per user.

EVE Logo
GNS3 Logo

GNS3 is a reliable software tool used by network professionals globally to emulate, configure, and troubleshoot both virtual and real networks. In the past decade, GNS3 has expanded to support a multitude of devices from various network vendors. This has resulted in a comprehensive, risk-free virtual environment for pre-deployment testing and network simulation. Users have the flexibility to integrate GNS3 with real networks, further enhancing its utility and range of use cases. GNS3 is a resourceful platform, fostering both professional development and innovation in network design and testing.

One of GNS3’s key features is its real-time network simulation feature which eliminates the need for actual network hardware, making it a cost-effective solution for individuals and companies alike. The open-source and freely accessible platform, continues to be actively developed and supported, promising sustained growth and adaptation in accordance with the demands of the network engineering sector. As a versatile tool, GNS3 not only serves as a platform for network professionals to design and test network maps and topologies, but also doubles as an educational tool for aspiring network professionals gearing up for certification exams such as the Cisco CCNA.

GNS3 Logo
The Top Network Simulation Solutions