Can you really obtain a Free virtual switch…
Virtual NOS images can help you get your feet wet into the wonderful world of networking without the need for purchasing physical switches. There are tons of virtual switches or networking operating systems that can be loaded onto your favorite hypervisor that can be had for free. However, one must scour the ends of the Internet for a legitimate downloadable virtual NOS. I want to save you some time and heartache, so I’ve compiled some information on how to obtain a few of these freely available Virtual NOS images. Don’t worry; the list contains well-known network operating systems such as Cisco, Arista, and Extreme Networks, which are widely deployed switches and routers.
Extreme Networks - EXOS/VOSS
One of the easiest virtual switches you can get your hands on is virtual EXOS or virtual Extreme Networks NOS. You can download an ISO or qcow2 image, which can be loaded onto your favorite hypervisor, such as ESXi, KVM, or VirtualBox. You can grab the image from the Extreme Networks Github Virtual_EXOS page here. You’ll also find VOSS or the Virtual Service Platform Operating System, which Extreme Networks acquired from Avaya sometime ago and is still going strong as one of Extreme Networks core network operating systems. There’s no need to enter any personal information. Just find the version you want, and off you go. There are detailed directions for loading images onto ESXi, virtualbox, and GNS3 on the Extreme Networks Github page.
Cisco - Virtual IOS-XE
Cisco also has a virtual version of IOS-XE, which you can find labeled as CSR 1000v. The CSR 1000v is known as Cisco Cloud Service Router that runs IOS-XE. IOS-XE also runs on some of the newer Cisco platforms, so CSRv is a great way to get acclimated with Cisco CLI syntax. I was able to find a version of the CSR-1000v software after creating an account with Cisco at https://software.cisco.com/download/home. The latest version I was able to download without requiring a service contract was 3.12.0S(ED). Unfortunately, I couldn’t download a more recent 16.x code train that runs on the newer Catalyst series unless I purchased a service contract.
Arista - vEOS
Arista offers a virtual version of their NOS, Arista Extensible Operating System.
You can register for an account on https://www.arista.com/en/login using a personal email account. Once you create an account, you’ll have access to the support portal, which grants you download access to vEOS. I downloaded vEOS64-lab-18.104.22.168F.vmdk, which I was able to load with VirtualBox.
Juniper - vQFX
Juniper vQFX has a free unlimited trial of vQFX https://www.juniper.net/us/en/dm/free-vqfx-trial/. When I signed up with my personal Gmail email account, I couldn’t access the vqfx free trial. You’re going to have to use a business email address to create a non-guest account to access the vQFX download.
Other resources to consider
If you want to practice getting used to Cisco CLI syntax, Cisco Packet Tracer is free. You’ll have to create a Cisco Netacad account for access https://www.netacad.com/. Packet tracer is a software package that simulates Cisco devices for practicing CLI syntax, building, and interconnecting Cisco devices. There’s also a macOS version of Packet Tracker too.
Cisco also has VIRL, another extensive virtual lab suite that allows you to spin up a bunch of Cisco virtual switches and routers depending on your available hardware resources, but it will cost you. The devices in VIRL are virtual versions of Cisco’s network operating systems and are not simulated like they are in Packet Tracer. Full-blown virtual versions of Cisco IOS allow you to generate and forward actual traffic through the virtually interconnected Cisco devices if you wish. The downside is that you’ll need some heavy compute resources to run VIRL.
NRE labs or network reliability labs has some lessons on automation that spin up access to Linux and Juniper’s virtual network operating system vQFX via a web browser. There’s no need to enter any personal information or download any images. You can hop straight into a web-based lesson and run through some free content. To access NRElabs click here https://nrelabs.io/
Then there’s GNS3 https://www.gns3.com/ one of the favorites among networking folks. GNS3 can emulate hardware for virtual NOS images such as the images from Cisco VIRL and provide simulation functions. It’s a very well rounded software suite and there’s plenty of documentation across the web on how to get started with GNS3.