I do prefer VM option. Reasons because it is very flexible, you don't need to have any physical gear, you don't have to do any cabling if your want to modify your topology etc. Also, it is free. If you don't have licenses for PA it is fine, for the lab environment, you don't need to have all these. What I have noticed that only PA-VM 5.0.6 is able to show traffic logs in the monitoring tab without the licenses, all other VMs don't. So go for it, install one ( l was using WMWare Workstation as a hypervisor) and do tests etc. You may also kindly ask sales support team in Palo, they might give you trial licenses. Good video training is CBT Nuggets with Keith. Try them really good one.
Below my virtual lab just for example:
Personally, I like to have hardware in my lab, but the VM does have pretty much all you need to experiment.
Licensing can be an issue in the lab. You have to have a business address to assciate a license purchase. For some reason PA won't allow resellers to sell with a residential address even to registered small businesses.
You should also check out the learning resources and free online courses posted on this PA site.
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