A Virtualized Monitoring Lab With SolarWinds and GNS3

Back in 2014, I wrote the first version of this guide  because GNS3 had just come out with the ability to run VMs (i.e., servers) inside the same virtual space where the virtual routers, switches, and other network devices were doing their thing. And it worked… assuming you had the hardware to run everything. Let’s face it, the Orion Platform isn’t exactly a svelte application. Nor is the SQL database it depends on. And if the network design was on the larger side… well, you’re talking about a server-class machine just to run your “little” virtual lab.

But 6 years later, I felt I needed to take another look at this modest solution and bring it into the cloud era. This was aided by the fact GNS3 hadn’t stagnated during the intervening time. Now, in addition to being able to run virtual machines (VMs) inside the GNS3 virtual space, you could also connect to the virtual devices from outside the GNS3 framework. Most GNS3 users limited this ability to connecting via telnet or ssh into their virtual routers. But for a monitoring engineer like me, it meant a whole world of possibilities.

When you coupled this capability with the availability of (relatively) cheap, pay-as-you-go resources in the cloud—not to mention point-and-click convenience of SolarWinds solutions on the major cloud provider’s marketplace/store catalogue, and I realized a lot of the barriers to usage had been overcome.

This document provides step-by-step, command-by-command, show-me-with-pictures instructions for installing GNS3, creating a virtual network, installing SolarWinds tools like Network Performance Monitor, Network Configuration Manager, NetFlow Traffic Analyzer, and Server & Application Monitor, and monitoring those GNS3 devices. We’re assuming (almost) nothing about what you, the reader, know and providing detailed instructions for all of it.