There are many aspects to developing the skills to be an effective network engineer and this skill set falls into a few different categories. Logically the first step to conquer is understanding the various networking technologies and protocols. This requires a more traditional form of learning— studying protocols through specs or RFCs, reading whitepapers etc. The next step is implementing this knowledge through configuring network devices. Learning this skill is more like trying to learn a different language. The BGP protocol itself adheres to a set of standards, but each network device might present the configuration of BGP in a different way. The final, and possibly most difficult skill to acquire is a combination of the first two: troubleshooting.

Effectively troubleshooting requires not just a solid foundational knowledge about the technology and how it works, but also the need to understand how to configure and validate that configuration on the network devices. The foundational knowledge permeates through the various implementations regardless of vendor, but configuration and validation vary drastically from one to the next. This leads to perhaps the most difficult aspect of troubleshooting. It’s not just enough to understand how a technology works, but you must also understand a vendor’s implementation of that technology.

To help address this, NVIDIA created a set of Challenge Labs to guide a user through various networking scenarios.

The goal is to help the user identify, isolate and remediate a network issue in a fabric running NVIDIA Cumulus Linux. The initial selection of scenarios were identified as common issues faced by NVIDIA users based on both support cases and services engagements. Each scenario was crafted to target a specific issue, so a user can focus on building their troubleshooting skills on NVIDIA Cumulus Linux.

The initial set of Challenge Labs includes 4 scenarios, covering topics such as VLAN tagging, routing and Ethernet Virtual Private Networks (EVPN). After requesting your NVIDIA Cumulus in the Cloud (CITC) instance and selecting Challenge Labs, the content will be set up within your environment. Each lab is set up and validated using the bundled script. The script uses Ansible playbooks to provision each scenario and introduce a fault into the network. A built-in lab guide will walk you through each challenge.

If you get stuck, hints are included to help guide you towards the resolution without giving away the answer.

Once you are confident you have identified and resolved the issue, the bundled script can also be used to run an Ansible playbook to validate the solution.

Over time, scenarios will be added, or existing ones adapted, to help keep the content relevant and help users build their troubleshooting skills on current technologies.

If you would like to contribute a scenario to the Challenge Labs, a Contributing Guide is included to help get you started. Simply create a scenario with the desired content and submit a pull request. The NVIDIA team will review the content and add the new lab so you can help the community as well.