Top 3 Labs for Networkers to Get Started at Cisco’s DevNet

Wendell Odom
By Wendell Odom November 3, 2015 07:45

Today’s post gives a top 3 list: For you networkers, what are three labs to try at Cisco’s DevNet Zone, even before you have a lot of confidence with APIs?

As part of my role in the #CiscoChampion program, I wrote a recent blog post over at For that post, I could pick any topic that I thought might be of interest to Cisco followers, and I ended up writing about Cisco’s DevNet Zone, Cisco’s software developer portal. I had a few more thoughts about labs beyond the other blog post, so I put those notes in this companion post. If you’re interested in Cisco’s DevNet Zone, check out both posts!


Lab 1: Do “Coding 101, REST Basics”

The lab coding 101, Rest Basics explores REST, the most common style of API. REST uses HTTP calls to transfer the API requests. Most of us networkers at least know the basics of HTTP, so it gives us a small advantage for learning about APIs, making this lab a good place to start.

Don’t know any languages well yet at least? No worries with this lab. If you think about modern code as (a) taking data from an API and (b) manipulating and processing that data, this lab focuses on part A. And as it turns out, you can do part (a) without any real programming knowledge at all. Instead, you use tools that let you experiment directly with the API, which is a skill you need to learn anyway.

Plus, if you put a lab on a 0 to 10 scale for for much direction it gives you (10) versus how little (0), this one’s a 10. Again, it’s a great place to start.

If you do want to play outside the box a little, I’d suggest that you download the POSTMAN app rather than just using the web interface (as noted in step 1 of the lab). Also, try PAW, an alternative to POSTMAN. (These are apps you can use to test and use any REST API.)


Lab 2: Do an APIC EM API Lab

No Python? No problem. This lab will be a stretch if you’ve never done any developer type tasks, but you will experience to a small degree: Github, Python, JSON, REST, and the Python code is supplied by the lab. That is, your pre-req skill is the ability to follow instructions and use a text editor.

Once you get started, this one is relatively straightforward as well. If you read the first page and get a little intimidated, don’t worry, follow the steps, and you’ll start to hit a groove by step 2 of 7. And if you do the Coding 101 lab first, you will have already learned a good mix of skills, and have already seen something about the APIC-EM API, because the coding 101 labs use that API. Plus you have an APIC-EM community at DevNet where you can ask questions!

The APIC-EM REST Learning Lab continues down the path of teaching about REST APIs. However, the data you will be getting and changing with REST is mostly familiar to networkers – information about routers, switches, IOS versions, interfaces, and the like. It gets right at the core of how to manipulate what a router or switch does with an API rather than a CLI.


Lab 3: Try the ACI Toolkit Lab and Tutorial

This last of three suggestions requires a little more skill coming into the game, but even for newbies, you can learn a lot from starting and reading through the tutorial parts of the lab. And if you have basic Python skills plus interest in Networking, you’ll like this lab.

Given the context of this post, I’m sure you’ve heard of Cisco’s Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) SDN offerings for the Data Center. But how do you practice and learn about ACI if your company does not happen to already be walking down the path to trial and deploy ACI? One answer open to all is the ACI toolkit.

The ACI toolkit gives us a way to implement the basics of the ACI system’s APIs on own own desktop machine, or on a VM, and then write code to learn and experiment with those APIs. For this last of three suggestions, I can give you a couple of vectors of how to learn more.

First, check out Lauren Malhoit’s blog from 2014 that introduces the toolkit.

For an activity, you can either work through the toolkit’s documentation, or work through the lab at the DevNet Zone. Both use the toolkit, and if you take the time to look at both, you can see a fair amount of overlap in the content. If I was picking one or the other, I’d do the lab as shown at the DevNet Zone.

This lab will require a little more skill level than the first two in my top 3 list, but again you learn about ACI along the way as well.


Kick the Tires Somewhere and Join In!

The labs at DevNet Zone are just part of what’s there and available to networkers and developers alike. It’s worth a few minutes to navigate around and look for something more. This list is just a place to get you thinking about labs. Enjoy!


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Wendell Odom
By Wendell Odom November 3, 2015 07:45
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  1. Todd December 1, 19:33

    Hey Wendell,
    I enjoy reading your site. Keep up the good work. There’s so much material out there that I think you do a good job of cherry picking some of the more pertinent topics.


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