A maker of Cisco network simulators has found a new way to use its products. Gambit Communications said that its software could help enterprises make sure they are hiring legitimate Cisco-certified engineers to run their networks.

According to the company, its MIMIC Virtual Lab software, which has been on the market for about four years, can help resolve the recent spate of cheating on Cisco certification tests by enabling enterprises to run network operations candidates through sample scenarios before hiring them. This allows enterprises to screen candidates to ensure they are not hiring fraudulent network operators at handsome salaries.

Cisco recently moved to thwart cheating on certification tests by employing photo identification requirements and a data forensics programme. According to Cisco, pilot programmes using the new detection methods have already uncovered 1,400 suspected cheaters who hired proxies to take the exams for them.

But Gambit claims the photo and forensics programs only go so far: what about the many unqualified candidates already hired by enterprises prior to the new Cisco enforcement programmes? Sit 'em down and run them through a simulated lab environment, Gambit says.

Gambit's CCNA Virtual LAB software starts at US$99 (£50) and can be downloaded to a laptop or PC. It creates a simulated environment with seven Cisco devices - Catalyst 2950, 3550 and 6500 switches and 2620, 3640 and 7206 series routers - and users can type in IOS and SNMP commands to configure devices and protocols.

Test conductors and "students" can replace and establish LAN, WAN, ISDN and serial links, change IP addresses and create virtual LANs with the program, but cannot change the devices themselves. Also, the program is not certified by Cisco but is resold by a Cisco - certified training partner, Tech 2000. Cisco also uses the CCNA Virtual Lab's predecessor, the MIMIC Simulator Suite for IOS, Gambit said.

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