Virtualization Providers

netlab uses third-party orchestration and virtualization tools to create, start, stop, and destroy virtual labs. It supports the following virtualization providers:

  • libvirtlibvirt virtualization abstraction layer (tested on top of KVM/QEMU on Ubuntu) orchestrated with Vagrant using vagrant-libvirt Vagrant plugin.

  • clab – Docker containers (tested on Ubuntu) orchestrated with containerlab.

  • virtualbox – VirtualBox virtualization orchestrated with Vagrant using built-in VirtualBox plugin.

  • external – meta-provider you can use to configure hardware devices.

Using External Provider

You can use netlab to create addressing plans and device configurations for a hardware lab as long as the topology file contains an accurate description of the hardware lab.

You can use any device supported by netlab with the external provider, but you might have to customize the lab topology file – hardware devices might use:

  • Preconfigured management IPv4/IPv6 addresses

  • Interface names different from names used by virtual devices

  • Different access credentials.

Static Management IP Addresses

To specify a static management IPv4/IPv6 address for a lab device, set mgmt.ipv4 or mgmt.ipv6 node parameter. To set the management interface name, use mgmt.ifname parameter:

  • You SHOULD set static management IPv4/IPv6 addresses for all devices in your hardware lab.

  • You don’t have to set the management interface names for most devices – management interfaces are usually not configured during the initial device configuration process.


    mgmt.ifname: ether9

Setting Interface Names

netlab creates device interface names based on the naming conventions used by virtual devices. If your hardware devices use the same interface names, and if your lab topology lists links in just the right order to generate the desired device interface names, you don’t have to specify interface names in the lab topology. In most other cases, you REALLY SHOULD specify interface names using ifname interface (node-to-link connection) attribute.


- r1:
    ifname: sfp-1
    ifname: GigabitEthernet0/3

Access Credentials

It’s STRONGLY RECOMMENDED to use usernames and passwords hardcoded into netlab with hardware devices (see devices section of topology-defaults.yml for more details).

Access credentials are stored in Ansible group variables and derived from the group_vars section of device defaults. To change access credentials for a device type, set the defaults.devices.<device>.group_vars.ansible_user and defaults.devices.<device>.group_vars.ansible_ssh_pass parameters.

You can also change the access credentials for individual nodes – set ansible_user or ansible_ssh_pass node parameters, for example:

    mgmt.ifname: ether9
    ansible_user: Vagrant
    ansible_ssh_pass: "vagrant!"