Introducing Cert Guide Packet Tracer Labs for CCNA 200-301
Back in April 2019 I started a series of posts loosely called “Cert Guide Packet Tracer Labs”. The idea was simple but powerful: Provide Packet Tracer files, along with hints and tips in blog posts, so anyone reading one of my CCNA Official Cert Guides could repeat examples from the book. To date, we managed to post eight posts for eight chapters in the books related to the CCNA 200-125 exam.
In light of Cisco’s announcement of the CCNA 200-301 exam (releasing in Feb 2020), I stopped building those posts and re-evaluated. Now it’s time to start rolling out Cert Guide Packet Tracer Labs 2.0 – with some new simpler styling but with the same idea of helping you have a better lab learning experience with the books, for no extra cost. Read more to find the details!
Packet Tracer History
First, to set the context for the tools, Cisco creates and offers Packet Tracer to anyone taking their Cisco Networking Academy courses. It’s a great tool.
For most of Packet Tracer’s 10+ years of existence, Cisco limited its use to Cisco Networking Academy students. To be an Academy student you had to take an Academy course over multiple school semesters. However, anyone in an Academy course could share the files for PT, or post them online for others to download, with no licensing mechanism to prevent the use of the software after download. As a result, it became common for people to obtain PT with a simple search and download.
Around 2016, Cisco took a new approach and began offering a free Academy course – “Introduction to Packet Tracer” – which allowed the user to download a legal and most recent version of PT directly from Cisco. Now anyone could sign-up for the course and download the latest version of PT.
Why Packet Tracer for the Books’ Examples?
Cisco certification candidates have a variety of useful lab tools available, each with different advantages and disadvantages so that no one tool happens to be the obvious single best choice. (To see more information about the options and tradeoffs, check out this lab tool launch page at my web site.)
With so many options for doing labs, why Packet Tracer (PT) for this series, and why now? Of all the tradeoffs between the tools, PT has a couple of features that should work well with my effort to provide labs to anyone who also happens to use my book:
- PT cost nothing. Anyone can sign-up for the “Introduction to Packet Tracer” course and download the latest version of the code.
- PT topology creation. PT allows the creation of new lab topologies, which lets us create topologies that match the book examples.
- PT and real gear interface matching. I use real gear when writing the books, so matching those interface numbering schemes works well with PT’s interface numbering, which also mimics some real models of routers and switches.
Of course, any solution can have its negative points. PT has one obvious drawback: it comes with no lab exercises. The upcoming posts should help with that issue.
Cert Guide PT Labs V2.0 (for CCNA 200-301)
At first thought, my reaction was: GREAT! Readers have mentioned that they replicate the exercises from the book in their lab, or using some other lab tool. Go for it!
At second thought, I wondered: Could I help readers repeat the examples? So my team built Packet Tracer files and blog posts about some of the chapters in the ICND1 and ICND2 Cert Guides. That worked well, with lots of positive feedback, but I thought we could improve the process.
November 2019: We’re rolling out Cert Guide Packet Tracer blog posts for the majority of the chapters that have CLI commands in the new books. There are some key differences, mainly to reduce the number of moving parts. In particular:
- The blog post, as before, lists all a book chapter’s examples in a list, noting whether we’re supplying .pkt files to match.
- However, instead of supplying up to three different .pkt files per example, with our new approach, it’s one .pkt file only.
To see more information, refer to the Cert Guide Packet Tracer Lab reference page.
Take Our Help, or Don’t – You Can Still Learn!
Before I go on: You do NOT need my help here. You can use Packet Tracer to repeat the exercises in the books, ignore all these posts, and still learn. Go for it!
However, if you use the files we provide, and hints in the blog posts, you may save yourself a little effort. I think you’ll spend more time learning about networking, and less time worrying about how to make Packet Tracer work, or wondering if what you see in Packet Tracer is correct compared to real gear. And you definitely save time!
The Rollout Plan: CCNA 200-301 Posts
The plan may change, but the plan as of today is as follows:
Release an average of one blog post per week for the next 19 weeks, for the 19 chapters in the new books that have meaningful CLI examples.
Let me know what you think about the labs and the series!