GNS3 L2 Switching with Cisco IOU and VMware Workstation


DISCLAIMER: This article is published for educational purpose only. The distribution of Cisco copyrighted software will not be provided.

What is Cisco IOU?

TL;DR. With Cisco IOU, we can emulate layer 2 switching capabilities on GNS3. You don’t have to buy real equipment and save thousands of dollars to do labs even up to CCIE level.


  • GNS3, duh.
  • GNS3 IOU VM, this should match your GNS3 version. To obtain the latest GNS3 and matching IOU VM version, click here. In this tutorial I use GNS3 1.3.10.
  • IOU L2/L3 images.
  • IOURC, the IOU license file.
  • Your favorite virtual machine software. In this tutorial I use VMware Workstation 11.

Step 1: Importing the IOU VM.

If you have already installed VMware Workstation, just double-click the GNS IOU VM file, a window prompt will appear and click on Import.


When the VM is imported, power it on and login as root and cisco as password.

Step 2: Importing IOU Images

Run ifconfig on the console to find out the IP address of the VM.


Navigate to and upload the IOU images and IOURC file.


You might want to copy the full path file of the IOU images (/home/blah…) for the latter configuration.

Step 3: GNS3 Configuration

On GNS3, go to Edit -> Preferences. Go to Server tab on the left. At host binding section, select the IP that is in the same subnet as IOU VM.


On Remote servers tab, insert the IP address of the IOU VM, select 8000 TCP as port, and click Add.


Now go to IOU devices under IOS on UNIX. Click New and then Next, when a prompt appears click OK.  Insert the name and full path to the IOU image. Refer the following screenshot:


Click on Finish. Now we’re done! You can add more images by repeating the steps above.

Step 4: Lab it up!

Now that you’re done, you can drag and drop the switches and router, connect the cables and do labs as what you want to do. Have fun!


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2 Comment

  1. Diaa says: Reply

    Thanks for valued information,
    please could you help how to connect iouL2 switch in GNS3 to cloud connected directly to VMware device (not through local switch) as i want to practice 802.1x
    every time i am trying to connect IOUl2 Switch to cloud i get error “Cloud can only be connected on the same host”
    any idea will be appreciated.

    1. Rio Wuisan says: Reply

      Hi Diaa,

      I’m sorry for the late reply. Direct connection is not supported, but the workaround for this is adding an Ethernet switch between IOU and VMware Cloud. Hope this resolve your issue.


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