Boson Network Simulator software

27 08 2010

I got a nobbled version of this with a book I’d bought. I installed the software and had a look, but the instructional videos that came alongside didn’t work properly – I can’t remember the exact issues, but I do remember it being troublesome. It also allowed you to do only one example configuration once installed, so was quite restricted, as I guess it was supposed to be.

I thought I’d buy the full version from the Boson web site to see if this corrected the issues. This was around £66.. It didn’t correct the issues, but I didn’t do a fresh install, which may have. I wanted to get my hands dirty as soon as possible ; )

I found this quite a useful product for supplementing my learning for the CCENT. You drag and drop routers and / or switches on to the work area and create links between them in the Designer element, and then load them in to the simulator to configure them.

Saving the architecture of each network allows you to load the original configuration again and again, so you can practise configuring the network in different ways, for instance with different routing protocols.

I did find the process of designing the network in one application and then loading it in to another a little confusing and perhaps unecessary – I’m sure it could have been more slick. But it’s OK once you get used to it.

Once the network is designed and loaded in to the simulator, it’s time to configure the devices. This works very well, and contributed well to my gaining experience of the Cisco IOS in the first few months of my study.

A particularly good aspect of this, and simulators in general, is that they allow you to play with configurations without any risk of bringing down a production network. If you break a particular configuration, load the network again, and start again.

The downsides to this are that the command set is restricted to only those commands found on the CCENT syllabus. So no interface-range command, which was frustrating as it was mentioned on the Train Signal CBT and I wanted to check it out.

I guess this is fair, as there has to be something to differentiate the product from the CCNA and CCNP versions, which are more expensive, but it was a frustration all the same. As with the CBT videos, I’d recommend buying at least the CCNA version of the simulator to avoid this. If budgets are tight, however, then this will go a long way to helping gain the practical experience needed for the exam.

It also takes a fair amount of time to set each network up, but so does real kit. The only thing you miss is the physical elements – racking the kit (may not happen in a home network anyway), and physically cabling it – which end of the DCT/DTE cable goes in which router? Should I use a cross-over or straight-through for this link? What happens when I cable it incorrectly? These elements are hidden when working with simulators.

Overall, this is a great tool if realworld Cisco gear is not possible for any reason, or to supplement real gear for when you’re away from the kit (and have it loaded on your computer). Even though the CCENT is the entry level Cisco exam, you *MUST* have experience of using the IOS – books simply do not provide this.

One last point – this applies to real kit too – it’s a good idea to have some planned configurations in mind before starting. For instance: set up two linked routers with a few networks on either side, and implement and test static routing. Then remove the static routes, and set up RIP, etc etc.This keeps a focus and structure, and ensures efficient use of study time.

SCORES:

Hands-on: 4/5

Theory: 2/5

Keep my attention: 3/5

TOTAL: 3/5

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