Cisco DevNet – The Next-Gen IT Sandbox

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When it comes to IT topics such as programming, one concept that is critical to the process is the test environment or “sandbox”. The idea is to have an environment where you as the user creating the application or testing a system for instance, can have a place where you have a chance to change settings on the fly, without risk of affecting the production environment. Having the benefit of not being in production allows for no consequences when mistakes are made and we all know how many mistakes can be made in the development process.

One thing I have learned in the past that development is much easier with programming or something in a server environment (usually). Now hear me out on this one. In past with some of my programming projects, I would just clone a VM, power it up on an isolated network, and work away. I could make (and break!) my applications and reset with a simple restore point. This was very helpful to allow be to try new ideas and processes to try to find the benefit for my application. Trying to relate this testing process to networking proved difficult though…

$$ The Networking Sandbox $$

Think of a recent project you worked on and were preparing for. Maybe you were creating a script to clear logs on networking interfaces daily, or adding a rule to a firewall when a malicious IP was detected by your malware protection suite. Without a proper network sandbox, you unfortunately might find yourself working on a production, or semi-production network. We all know the bad things that can happen when someone does this. The reality of the situation is that not every business will be able to provide their own networking based sandbox. Wireless controllers, data center switches, and security gear come with a price that makes dedicating gear for learning and testing difficult. That’s not good news if you are in the process of developing your next project. Cisco DevNet has you covered.

Real World Testing

If you are anything like me, you see the value in beta testing. For networking applications though, beta testing might be difficult. Maybe you are monitoring a network edge and want to be able to monitor security events, vpn connections, or something of that nature. Simulating “random” events can be difficult when trying to accurately test a script or application. That’s where DevNet can help and it does so with the use of “commands”. For instance, I was checking out a FMC and Splunk sandbox which I had an interest in for something I am currently working on. I could set this up and see it working, but without the data coming in, it would be useless to me! The DevNet sandbox gives me the ability to generate real security events, to give me the data I need to make the sandbox operate like a real network would:

Now not every sandbox has these, but where they are beneficial you might see them and by beneficial, I mean required to be able to do the intended testing.

R&D Without Commitment

The last call-out that I think definitely has merit is how up to date the sandbox scenarios are on DevNet. Whether it is something in Cisco DNA Center or maybe the new 9K switches, you have the access you need to the latest technology on the market. Forget about programming and application dev and testing, there is tremendous value in DevNet for testing and being able to understand how the latest technology works.

 

Recently, I was lucky enough to hear from Ashutosh Malegaonkar who is a long time engineer at Cisco about their “best kept secret” at the Cisco Live 2018 Tech Field Day Extra event. I was still pretty new to the DevNet platform, but had used it a few times. Being able to see some real world examples from real companies I know and frequent was impactful. I see much more value when the examples are truly real-world and this presentation from Ashutosh did not disappoint! See the video below to see the presentation I was able to be a part of:

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