Windows for Network Engineers
Part two in my series of apps for network engineers across the three major platforms. I previously did the post for Mac when I first refreshed my laptop and purchased my first new Mac in 8 years. Issued by work, my daily laptop is a Windows machine which is fine with me. I would prefer to use Mac but give me a machine that has the tools I need and I’m fine. So with that in mind, I am going to list my favorite Windows tools for Network Engineers.
What can you say. It’s Putty. A go to application for so many and you can’t blame them. It just works, it’s free, and lightweight. I don’t use it regularly but it’s hard not to put on this list as it’s my go to download when I’m on a machine that’s not mine and I quickly need a decent terminal application.
It’s hard for me not to love this tool. There are some features that just make my day that much easier. Logging is simple to set up for every session. It supports sending commands to multiple sessions at one time. Also a hidden gem in the ability to highlight keywords in the output of the terminal. Again, this tool functions very well with all of your serial adapters.
A tool to go right along with Putty. It actually uses Putty but adds an additional GUI to allow tabs and quick connections from the title bar.
Sublime is a very popular text editor and syntax highlighter. Whether just writing a config file or script to push to a device, or writing code for web page, or maybe diving into Python for the SDN rush. This is just a solid go to text editor with great features such as column editing and much more.
I absolutely love Notepad++ on Windows. It has some of my favorite features like syntax highlighting, customizable color schemes, and column edit mode to name a few. One of my favorite features is the “find in files” feature. It makes digging through multiple folders and files for the same text string a breeze. Also, the ability to replace across files is simply amazing as well.
I think almost anyone that has used a Windows computer for managing network devices has used this application at least once. Easy, lightweight with some additional features. Personally, one of my favorites is it’s built in syslog collector. Makes it nice to send debugs straight to my machine in some instances where I may not have a syslog server or don’t want to clutter up the terminal.
Solarwinds TFTP Server
If you’ve been around networking you’ve heard of Solarwinds. They have a very robust monitoring and management portfolio. They also offer some free basic tools such as the TFTP/SCP Server. Another great option for such a simple task.
I think this is a given. If you do anything with network equipment, servers, applications, etc. you use Wireshark.
Quick wireless checks for noise and neighbors.
My favorite tool on Windows for comparing two configurations side by side. Great for those late night eye strains where nothing looks the same or different. Easily move the missing line to the other side. This tool also integrates nicely into the Windows right click menu. Select both files you want to compare, right click, and open with Winmerge. Absolutely awesome!
This is the kind of network diagrams. However, as noted above it will require some means to run in on your Mac. Many people user either Parallels or VMware Fusion to run a Windows VM on their Mac for apps such as this. I have had pretty good luck using CrossOver by CodeWeavers to run Visio. Crossover allows you to use some apps without a full virtualization of Windows helping with resource utilization.
Proof of Concept Tools:
GNS3 is a heavily used means of running Cisco software to do proof of concept on many routing and firewall topologies. It also supports many different vendors to test interoperability and much more. With recent upgrades they have added the support of IOU based switching for some limited Layer 2 abilities.
Ciscos Packet Tracer is an often used tool for educating students in the Cisco Network Academy on CCNA level topics. While it has it’s limitations it can be a simple PoC tool or mentoring tool with the ease of sharing files back and forth. While it isn’t native on the Mac, tools such as Crossover or the common VM platforms will allow you to run it when need.
Recently Cisco has made their VIRL product publicly accessible. It has some great features such as quick topology spin ups including preconfiguring basic IP addressing and routing protocols. This is a product to keep an eye on for learning and PoC as it appears Cisco is going to keep putting more development time into it and enhance it with more and more features and Cisco OS versions.