As I started preparing to lab for the CCNP SP, I found myself wanting a decent way to manage access to my lab devices without remembering IP addresses or port numbers or spending money on a terminal server or any of that. I don’t use the graphical frontend to GNS3, so that wasn’t an option either.

Aker for Lab Management

One day, my boss (@joshobrien77) dropped a link into chat for something called Aker. Intrigued about its purposes for network device management, I began hacking on it to extend it from just supporting servers and SSH keys to supporting username and password combinations. The maintainer, thankfully, was amenable to the changes and graciously merged them.

The next step for me was simple packing and deployment for my lab in case the topology ever changes. While I did this and submitted the changes, the pull request was ultimately closed. That’s probably my fault, because I fell out of the loop with the maintainer due to the holidays and crazy work stuff.

My changes live, though, and they’re packaged up as a Docker container to boot. Add in docker-compose and we’re off to the races! The work is in a repository here. Below you can see examples of how I use this in a lab environment, followed by instructions on how to get started.


Connecting to Aker

Here’s what it looks like when I want to log into a lab device:

Aker Gateway

Searching for Devices

Another cool feature if you just have a ridiculous amount of lab devices is that you can type to search. Check it out!

Aker Search

Reliving the Session

I can then attach to the container and get all of the details of that session! Here’s how:

Here’s an example of a session:

[email protected]:/opt# cat /home/supertylerc/supertylerc-cust-b-ce1-20170121-212542_63577_a4136159-3886-4b34-8b7e-4ff944de9f8f.log

* IOSv is strictly limited to use for evaluation, demonstration and IOS  *
* education. IOSv is provided as-is and is not supported by Cisco's      *
* Technical Advisory Center. Any use or disclosure, in whole or in part, *
* of the IOSv Software or Documentation to any third party for any       *
* purposes is expressly prohibited except as otherwise authorized by     *
* Cisco in writing.                                                      *
cust-b-ce1#sh ip int br
Interface                  IP-Address      OK? Method Status                Protocol
GigabitEthernet0/0   YES NVRAM  up                    up
GigabitEthernet0/1         unassigned      YES NVRAM  administratively down down
GigabitEthernet0/2         unassigned      YES NVRAM  administratively down down
[email protected]:/opt#

Note that, unless you built a container based on the original, the username should be lab instead of supertylerc.

Running Aker for Lab Management

First thing’s first: you need Docker. My instructions would suck compared to the official documentation, so go read it here if you don’t have Docker running already.

Next, you’ll want to clone this repository:

git clone

Now, change to that directory:

cd docker-aker

Copy the sample config file:

cp aker.ini.sample aker.ini

And then edit it:

vim aker.ini

If you aren’t comfortable with vim, just use your text editor of choice. I won’t judge you.

This is another one of those places where the official documentation is better than anything I could write, so check it out here.

Once you’ve edited your aker.ini, it’s time to edit the docker-compose.yml:

vim docker-compose.yml

Again, just use your text editor of choice here.

You’ll want to edit the extra_hosts part to properly map your hostnames to IP addresses. It’s pretty inconvenient to have to manually edit the docker-compose.yml file. I’m all ears on how to make that not required anymore.

Finally, start the container using docker-compose:

docker-compose up -d

Now, you should be able to log into Aker with the username lab and password demo:

ssh [email protected]$CONTAINER_HOST_IP -p2222

Replace $CONTAINER_HOST_IP with the IP address or hostname of the server running the Aker container.

All done! Enjoy!