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CCIE Data Center: Version 2.0

CCIE Data Center: Version 2.0

Woah… Deja Vu

matrix1

This all seems so familiar…

OH YEA! I went through this once before already. I took the CCIE R/S version 3 with the high (naive) hopes of passing it my first attempt. #n00b

The challenge I had with the R/S v4 update was that it felt like the content managers had a serious case of ADD. Open ended questions, no open ended questions, troubleshooting, etc… It was frustrating that I had to experience every possible derivative of the v4 lab. I’m just glad I passed before the v5 lab blueprint was out.

Now here I am, ready to rock the lab in January and we announce a v2 lab update. Don’t get me wrong, I really dig the changes. I only wish it happened sooner, so I’d be studying for the new (relevant) curriculum.

Let’s start out with the domain changes.

Domain comparison between CCIE Data Center v1.0 and CCIE Data Center v2.0

CCIE Data Center v1.0

  1. Cisco Data Center Architecture
  2. Cisco Data Center Infrastructure-Cisco NX-OS
  3. Cisco Storage Networking
  4. Cisco Data Center Virtualization
  5. Cisco Unified Computing System
  6. Cisco Application Networking Services

CCIE Data Center v2.0

  1. Cisco Data Center L2/L3 Technologies
  2. Cisco Data Center Network Services
  3. Data Center Storage Networking and Compute
  4. Data Center Automation and Orchestration
  5. Data Center Fabric Infrastructure
  6. Evolving Technologies

Thoughts: Focus on skills & technologies vs hardware. I like what I see so far. You still need to possess design, implementation, and troubleshooting skills just less emphasis on knowing all the intricacies of a certain product. Adding things like automation, cloud and ACI to the blueprint is a VERY good idea since the subjects are top of mind with customers.

Topics no longer included in CCIE Data Center v2.0

  • Implement Data Center application high availability and load balancing
  • Implement FCIP features

Thoughts: No more ACE/WAAS/FCIP. Yea, that’s a good thing considering ACE went EoL back in 2013. I just don’t see enough customers using FCIP these days, so I guess that’s also a good one to remove.

Lab Equipment & Software List

2015-12-07 02.43.09 pm

Thoughts: If you look at the updated 2.0 lab hardware, there is no MDS at all. Goodbye 9222i, you will be missed. IP Storage FTW!

The new thing that catches my eye is the update to the next gen FEX (2300) and N5K (5600). I’m very happy for this as the 5672 has been a great (low latency/1us) L2/native L3 ToR for storage. Deep buffers  (25MB per 12p of 10G) help and it doesn’t hurt that this switch supports unified ports (Ethernet/FC/FCoE).

The servers have been refreshed to M4’s the M-series (cloud scale workloads) chassis is added, emulex mezz card removed.

Now my favorite part. The networking gear update. N9K’s + ACI added, the 7k was updated to 7004 with SUP2E (more VDCs) and F3’s. Glad to see the M/F line cards replaced because of the complexity and having to remember which cards had what capabilities. The F1’s really needed to go!

The Diagnostic Module

2015-12-07 02.55.32 pmThoughts: This is probably the most controversial change.  I know this is the direction to align with the other CCIE tracks, however this is also the area in which many candidates will have MANY questions.

Let me post (inline) all that I have on the subject, but in many ways this feels like real world scenarios. I get this all the time from customers and it’s like figuring out a puzzle. I love doing this in the real world, I just hope the exam diagnostic section captures this experience naturally.

Diagnostic Module Details

The new Diagnostic module, which has a length of 60 min, focuses on the skills required to properly diagnose network issues, without having device access. The main objective of the Diagnostic module is to assess the skills required to properly diagnose network issues. These skills include:

  • Analyze
  • Correlate– Discerning multiple sources of documentation(in example e-mail threads, network topology diagrams, console outputs, logs, and even traffic captures.)In the Diagnostic module, candidates need to make choices between pre-defined options to indicate:
  • What is the root cause of an issue
  • Where is the issue located in the diagram
  • What is the critical piece of information allows us the identify the root cause
  • What piece of information is missing to be able to identify the root causeThe Configuration and Troubleshooting module consists of one topology, similar to CCIE Data Center v1.0. The length of the Configuration and Troubleshooting module is seven hours. At the beginning of the module, the candidate has a full overview of the entire module; and can make a choice of working on items in sequence or not, depending on the candidates comfort level, the overall scenario and question interdependencies.The Diagnostic and Configuration and Troubleshooting modules in the Lab exam are delivered in a fixed sequence: the candidate starts the day with the 1 hour Diagnostic module, which is followed by the 7 hours Configuration and Troubleshooting module. The entire Lab exam lasts up to eight hours. Note that candidates are not allowed to go back and forth between modules.

For the Diagnostic module, no device access is provided. Candidates are provided various pieces of information (example emails, debug outputs, example network diagram information that is provided to a Data Center support engineer assisting a customer in determining the root cause of an issue, or an analogy of information that is provided by a colleague who is stuck in a troubleshooting issue).

Within the Diagnostic module, the items are presented in a similar format as within the Written exam.The module includes multiple-choice, drag-and-drop, or even point-and-click style items. The major differences between the Written exam and the Diagnostic module is that the items in the Diagnostic module (called troubleshoot tickets) contain a set of documents that the candidate must consult in order to be able to understand and identify the root cause of the issue presented. Candidates need to analyze and correlate information (after discerning between valuable and worthless pieces of information) in order to make the right choice among the pre-defined options provided.

The troubleshoot tickets will not require candidates to type in order to provide the answer. All tickets will be close-ended so grading will be deterministic, ensuring a fair and consistent scoring process. The new module allows us to grant credit to candidates who are able to accurately identify the root cause of a networking issue, but fail to resolve it within specific constraints (as in the Configuration and Troubleshooting module).

Real-life experience is certainly the best training to prepare for this module. Candidates with limited experience should focus on discovering, practicing and applying efficient and effective troubleshooting methodologies that are used for any realistic networking challenge.

Passing Criteria

In order to pass the Lab exam, the candidate must meet both of the following conditions:

  • The minimum cut-score of each individual module must be achieved.
  • The total score of both modules togethermust be above the minimum value of the combined cut-score. The point value(s) of the items in each module is known to the candidate. Note points are only granted when all requirements and sometimes restrictions of the item are met. There is no partial scoring for any items.

2015-12-07 03.10.01 pm

Closing Thoughts: I would like to think that I’ll pass the CCIE DC 1.0 lab on the 1st attempt this January. If not, I’ll have until July 22nd to pass the current blueprint. After that… I’ll have to figure out if I want to adapt and conquer v2 or just move on to something else like the CCDE.

Important Dates:

 

CCIE Data Center Written Exam v1.0 (350-080 CCIE DC)

Last day to test: July 22, 2016

CCIE Data Center Lab Exam v1.0

Last day to test: July 22, 2016

 

CCIE Data Center Written Exam v2.0 (400-151 CCIE DC)

Available for testing: July 25, 2016

CCIE Data Center Lab Exam v2.0

Available for testing: July 25, 2016

Reference Links: https://learningcontent.cisco.com/cln_storage/text/cln/marketing/ccie-dc-examtopic-delta-v1-v2-01.pdf

CCIE Data: Lab Blueprint 1.1c Implementing Port Channels

CCIE Data: Lab Blueprint 1.1c Implementing Port Channels

CCIE Data Center Lab Blueprint

1.1c Implementing Port Channels

 

ConfigBytes #2

Port Channels

A port channel bundles physical links into a channel group to create a single logical link that provides the aggregate bandwidth of up to 16 physical links. If a member port within a port channel fails, the traffic previously carried over the failed link switches to the remaining member ports within the port channel.

  • F and M series line card port members cannot be mixed into a port-channel.
  • On a single switch, the port-channel compatibility parameters (SPEED,DUPLEX,ETC) must be the same among all the port-channel members on the physical switch.
  • Use port-channels for resiliency and aggregation of throughput.
  • 8 member links per port-channel prior to 5.1
  • NXOS 5.1> 16
  •  member links
  • L2 & L3 port-channels available on NXOS
  • Port-channel interface ID range 1-4096
  • Configuration changes made to logical port-channel interface is inherited by the individual member interfaces.
  • You can use static port channels, with no associated aggregation protocol, for a simplified configuration. For more flexibility, you can use LACP. When you use LACP, the link passes protocol packets. You cannot configure LACP on shared interfaces.
  • PAgP is NOT supported on NXOS
  • The port channel is operationally up when at least one of the member ports is up and that port’s status is channeling. The port channel is operationally down when all member ports are operationally down.
Note After a Layer 2/3 port becomes part of a port channel, all configurations must be done on the port channel; you can no longer apply configurations to individual port-channel members. you must apply the configuration to the entire port channel.

2015-04-06 08.14.44 am

Compatibility Requirements

When you add an interface to a channel group, the software checks certain interface attributes to ensure that the interface is compatible with the channel group. For example, you cannot add a Layer 3 interface to a Layer 2 channel group. The Cisco NX-OS software also checks a number of operational attributes for an interface before allowing that interface to participate in the port-channel aggregation.

The compatibility check includes the following operational attributes:

  • (Link) speed capability
  • Access VLAN
  • Allowed VLAN list
  • Check rate mode
  • Duplex capability
  • Duplex configuration
  • Flow-control capability
  • Flow-control configuration
  • Layer 3 ports—Cannot have subinterfaces
  • MTU size
  • Media type, either copper or fiber
  • Module Type
  • Network layer
  • Port mode
  • SPAN—Cannot be a SPAN source or a destination port
  • Speed configuration
  • Storm control
  • Tagged or untagged
  • Trunk native VLAN

Use the show port-channel compatibility-parameters command to see the full list of compatibility checks that the Cisco NX-OS uses.

 

You can only add interfaces configured with the channel mode set to on to static port channels, and you can only add interfaces configured with the channel mode as active or passive to port channels that are running LACP. You can configure these attributes on an individual member port. If you configure a member port with an incompatible attribute, the software suspends that port in the port channel.

 

Alternatively, you can force ports with incompatible parameters to join the port channel if the following parameters are the same:

  • (Link) speed capability
  • Speed configuration
  • Duplex capability
  • Duplex configuration
  • Flow-control capability
  • Flow-control configuration

 

Port Channel Load Balancing

  • Port channels provide load balancing by default
  • Port-channel load balancing uses L2 (MAC), L3 (IP), or L4 (port) to select the link
  • SRC or DST or both SRC and DST
  • Per switch (global) or per module. Per module takes precedence over per switch
  • L3 default is SRC/DST IP address
  • L2/non-IP default is SRC/DST MAC address
  • 6.0(1) for F series line card L2 load balancing
  • Must be in the default VDC to configure

You can configure load balancing either by the entire system or by specific modules, regardless of the VDC. The port-channel loadbalancing is a global setting across all VDCs.

If the ingress traffic is Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) traffic, the software looks under the labels for the IP address on the packet.

The load-balancing algorithms that use port channels do not apply to multicast traffic. Regardless of the load-balancing algorithm you have configured, multicast traffic uses the following methods for load balancing with port channels:

  • Multicast traffic with Layer 4 information—Source IP address, source port, destination IP address, destination port
  • Multicast traffic without Layer 4 information—Source IP address, destination IP address
  • Non-IP multicast traffic—Source MAC address, destination MAC address
Note Devices that run Cisco IOS can optimize the behavior of the member ports. ASICs if a failure of a single member occurred if you enter the port-channel hash-distribution command. The Cisco Nexus 7000 Series device performs this optimization by default and does not require or support this command.

Cisco NX-OS Release 6.1(3) supports a new Result Bundle Hash (RBH) mode to improve load balancing on port-channel members on Cisco Nexus 7000 M Series I/O XL modules and on F Series modules. With the new RBH modulo mode, the RBH result is based on the actual count of port-channel members.

 

LACP

2015-04-06 08.15.47 am

 

 

  • Feature disabled by default. Must be enable feature first
  • Up to 16 active interfaces with 5.1>
  • Active 8, 8 Standby before 5.1
  •  Modes are active, passive, or ON (static port-channel NO LACP)
  • ON mode or static port channels is the DEFAULT mode

Both the passive and active modes allow LACP to negotiate between ports to determine if they can form a port channel based on criteria such as the port speed and the trunking state.

 

The passive mode is useful when you do not know whether the remote system, or partner, supports LACP.

 

Ports can form an LACP port channel when they are in different LACP modes if the modes are compatible as in the following examples:

 

  • A port in active mode can form a port channel successfully with another port that is in active mode.
  • A port in active mode can form a port channel with another port in passive mode.
  • A port in passive mode cannot form a port channel with another port that is also in passive mode, because neither port will initiate negotiation.
  • A port in on mode is not running LACP and cannot form a port channel with another port that is in active or passive mode.

 

LACP System ID is the combination of the LACP System Priority and MAC Address. Value of system priority is 1-32,768. Lower priority value = higher system priority. 1 being the highest priority.

 

Port Priority values are from 1-65535. Port priority + port number (interface ID) = LACP Port ID

Lower PortID value = higher priority to be chosen for forwarding/active vs. standby links. Default port priority is 32,768

 

Prerequisites for Port Channeling

Port channeling has the following prerequisites:

  • You must be logged onto the device.
  • If necessary, install the Advanced Services license and enter the desired VDC.
  • All ports in the channel group must be in the same VDC.
  • All ports for a single port channel must be either Layer 2 or Layer 3 ports.
  • All ports for a single port channel must meet the compatibility requirements. See the “Compatibility Requirements” section for more information about the compatibility requirements.
  • You must configure load balancing from the default VDC.

Guidelines and Limitations

Port channeling has the following configuration guidelines and limitations:

  • The LACP port-channel minimum links and maxbundle feature is not supported for host interface port channels.
  • You must enable LACP before you can use that feature.
  • You can configure multiple port channels on a device.
  • Do not put shared and dedicated ports into the same port channel. (See “Configuring Basic Interface Parameters,” for information about shared and dedicated ports.)
  • For Layer 2 port channels, ports with different STP port path costs can form a port channel if they are compatibly configured with each other. See the “Compatibility Requirements” section for more information about the compatibility requirements.
  • In STP, the port-channel cost is based on the aggregated bandwidth of the port members.
  • After you configure a port channel, the configuration that you apply to the port channel interface affects the port channel member ports. The configuration that you apply to the member ports affects only the member port where you apply the configuration.
  • LACP does not support half-duplex mode. Half-duplex ports in LACP port channels are put in the suspended state.
  • You must remove the port-security information from a port before you can add that port to a port channel. Similarly, you cannot apply the port-security configuration to a port that is a member of a channel group.
  • Do not configure ports that belong to a port channel group as private VLAN ports. While a port is part of the private VLAN configuration, the port channel configuration becomes inactive.
  • Channel member ports cannot be a source or destination SPAN port.
  • You cannot configure the ports from an F1 and an M1 series linecard in the same port channel because the ports will fail to meet the compatibility requirements.
  • You cannot configure the ports from an M1 and M2 series linecard in the same port channel.
  • You cannot configure the ports from an F2e and an F3 series linecard in the same port channel because the ports will fail to meet the compatibility requirements.
  • Beginning with Cisco NX-OS Release 5.1, you can bundle up to 16 active links into a port channel on the F1 series linecard.
  • F1 Series modules do not support load balancing of non-IP traffic based on a MAC address. If ports on an F1 Series module are used in a port channel and non-IP traffic is sent over the port channel, Layer 2 traffic might get out of order.
  • Only F Series and the XL type of M Series modules support the RBH modulo mode.

 

Feature History for Configuring Port Channels

Feature Name Release Feature Information
Display policy errors on interfaces and VLANs 6.2(2) Added the show interface status error policy command.
Prevent traffic-drop during bi-directional flow on F2 or F2e modules 6.2(2) Added the asymmetric keyword to port-channel load-balance command to improve load balancing across port channels.
Result Bundle Hash load balancing 6.1(3) Support for the RBH modulo mode to improve load balancing across port channels.
Minimum links for FEX fabric port channel 6.1(3) This feature was introduced.
Port channels hash distribution 6.1(1) Support for port channel hash distribution fixed and adaptive mode.
Load-balancing supports F2 modules 6.0(1) Added support for F2 modules on load-balancing across port channels.
Port channels 5.2(1) Support increased to 528 port channels.
Minimum links and Maxbundle for LACP 5.1(1) This feature was introduced.
Port channels 4.2(1) Support increased to 256 port channels.
Port channels 4.0(1) This feature was introduced.

 

Example Lab Question and Configuration

 

Port Channel Task

Assuming that more links will be added later, with the desire for minimal traffic disruption (LACP), configure the following:

Configure trunking on port channel 100 from N7K1 to UCS FI-A, and ensure that the same port channel number is used later from the UCS side.

 

interface Ethernet1/22

  switchport

  switchport mode trunk

  switchport trunk allowed vlan 100,200,300,400,500

  channel-group 100 mode active (LACP)

  no shutdown

 

Configure trunking on port channel 200 from N7K1 to UCS FI-B, and ensure that the same port channel number is used later from the UCS side.

 

interface Ethernet1/24

  switchport

  switchport mode trunk

  switchport trunk allowed vlan 100,200,300,400,500

  channel-group 200 mode active (LACP)

  no shutdown

 

Ensure that both of these port channels transition immediately to a state of

forwarding traffic.

“Int port-channel 100” & “Int port-channel 200”

“spanning-tree port type edge trunk”

 

Ensure that the N7K1 is the primary device in LACP negotiation. Ensure that the hashing algorithm takes L3 and L4 for both source and destination into account.

“lacp system-priority 1” Lower system priority value = higher priority

1-32768

“port-channel load-balance src-dst ip-l4port”

 

Trunk only previously created VLANs 100,200,300,400,500 southbound from N7K1 to both FIs.

 

Verify with “Show port-channel summary”

 

DocCD: http://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/td/docs/switches/datacenter/sw/nx-os/interfaces/configuration/guide/b-Cisco-Nexus-7000-Series-NX-OS-Interfaces-Configuration-Guide/b-Cisco-Nexus-7000-Series-NX-OS-Interfaces-Configuration-Guide-6x_chapter_0111.html

 

Cisco Modeling Labs 1.0: First Impressions & Getting Started

Cisco Modeling Labs 1.0: First Impressions & Getting Started

2014-09-16 01.30.37 pm

When a Legend becomes Real

I’m still pinching myself. Last week I delivered my very first Cisco Modeling Labs (CML) 1.0 demo to a customer. Overall, they were pretty darn excited, however there are some things that we need to address to make it a GREAT fit for their specific testing/validation environment.

Let’s take a step back and talk high level about CML for a moment. CML is the Cisco TAC supported variant of VIRL. The FCS date for CML 1.0 was 08.11.14. Almost a month later and several hours behind the wheel, I can say it was totally worth the wait. If your looking for a deep dive into the architecture behind the scenes, check out my previous blog post on the subject.

Let’s start with some of the most important aspects of CML to set expectations accordingly.

  • CML is NOT an emulator. The CML images are compiled specifically for the virtual machine environment (KVM). This is how you can scale to 150-200 nodes. It’s actual IOS/XR/XE/NX-OS code optimized for the VM. I was a huge fan of GNS/Dynamips, but the scale always left something to be desired. This is one of the major issues with emulation, PERFORMANCE.
  • CML WILL NOT validate ASICs, line cards, or any other hardware specific functionality/behavior. If your getting CML for this reason, it will NOT be a good representation.
  • CML is GREAT for config verification and migration/functionality testing. For example going from single IPv4 stack to dual stack, testing PfR configs, IGP configs, route policies, etc…
  • CML will also be GREAT for testing new code and features. The BU’s are committed to updating the CML images. For example: My IOSv image is 15.4(2)T1 which is pretty recent.  “IOSv Software (VIOS-ADVENTERPRISEK9-M), Version 15.4(2)T1”
  • CML is GREAT for troubleshooting problems in an isolated environment.
  • CML allows you to integrate the virtual simulated environment with the physical lab network.
  • CML images available TODAY/09.16.14 are IOSv (included with your 15 node base license), IOS XR, and IOS XE in the form of CSR1000v. There is also a Linux server image for hosts.
  • CML team recommends UCS C220 M3 server or C460 M2, but you can really bring your own hardware for the host. ESXi 5.0, 5.1 or 5.5 is REQUIRED. Check out this URL for the data sheet and requirements. 
  • There is NO cloud/hosted offering of CML.
  • Be sure to check out the CML Q&A for anything I may have missed.

Craig Brown (TME): Cisco Modeling Labs Overview

Getting Started (see inline for ordering info)

  1. Download the install guide
  2. Setup your ESXi host
  3. Download the CML OVA
  4. Deploy the CML OVA
  5. Run through the “First Time” scripts on the Ubuntu guest
  6. Install the necessary license keys
  7. Add any additional images (IOS-XRv, CSR1000v, linux server)
  8. Download the CML client (OSX or Windows) from http://IP_OF_CML_SERVER/download
  9. Connect to the CML server
  10. Design, Build, Visualize, Simulate

This is a really just an overview. Your gonna want to go through the install guide and ensure your following the requirements and recommendations. I’ll be posting an instructional video on youtube shortly with a step-by-step guide on how to get started.

Caveats

  • Only GigE virtual interfaces are supported currently. No serial interfaces or 10G/40G
  • Additional images (IOS-XRv, CSR1000v, etc) must be purchased separately. Only IOSv is included with the base license
  • Modeling of traffic patterns (traffic flow creation) are slated for the CML 1.1 release

Thoughts and Closing

In closing, I hope your as excited as I am about CML. It’s been a long time coming and I’m really glad the CML team took the time to get this right. I see many applications for CML in my personal journey. Let’s start with my home lab. I’m blessed to have access to Cisco hardware, but my lab gets HOT and my electric bill goes through the roof. I’ll use CML to validate customer configs, design and test IWAN/PfR configs, CCIE DC studies (NX-OSv image), EEM applet validation, and routing configs. Hopefully this saves me from the hundreds of dollars in electric to run a cat6500 and nexus 3k’s at home. 🙂

I used GNS3/Dynamips and IOU/IOL for many years. I will just say this, CML blows them away. I love GNS, but my problem has also been two fold. Scale and relevance. With regards to relevance, I was running the 7200 image and old IOS code. It’s just not current enough and emulated platforms suffer when it comes to performance. IOU/IOL is internal to Cisco only.

If your wondering about VIRL personal edition, my understanding is we’ll eventually release this to Cisco DEVNET. I just don’t have any committed date (update Dec 1st, 2014) at this point in time. This is going to be great for those studying for Cisco certifications from the CCNA to CCIE level.

If your interested in a 30 day trial of CML, reach out to your Cisco account team.

I hope you found this post informative and helpful. If you have any suggestions on how I can best demonstrate CML, please leave feedback. I’m going to talk to the CML team and see if they plan on conducting a WISP lab at Cisco Live next year. If not, I’ll be hosting one. It’s that good. EVERYONE needs to see it.

UPDATE: I’m told by one of the TME’s that CML will be demoed at Cisco Live, Cancun in Nov. 

Ordering Information

2014-09-16 02.13.06 pm

CCIE #40755 (Routing & Switching)

CCIE #40755 (Routing & Switching)

“It’s gonna take time, a whole lot of precious time, it’s going to take patience and time to do it right child.”
“It’s gonna take money, a whole lot of spending money, it’s going to take plenty of money, to do it right”

-George Harrison
Song: I got my mind set on you 

I’m pretty sure George had the ladies on his mind and NOT the CCIE when he wrote that song. I can tell you no other lyrics resonate as strong as these when it comes to my personal journey of becoming inducted into the League of Extraordinary Engineers. Yes my friends, after 5+ LONG years, I’m officially in da club. My number is 40755 and oh boy does it feel AWESOME.

Because this journey was very difficult, I would go as far to say it’s the most difficult educational challenge I committed myself to, it’s only right that I share my story with other CCIE candidates to instill hope and encouragement. If it was easy, everyone would be a CCIE. Just keep that in mind as you embark on your own journey.

And so the story begins in 2008 when I passed the CCIE R&S written and only had a small window to take the v3 lab. This was sometime in september if I recall correctly. I was naive in thinking this is going to be cake, I mean how hard could this lab really be? I was thinking that I may only need 1-2 attempts, but I should have it done by the end of the year no problem. Well my first lab was v3 (lab guide printed on REAL paper in binder) and I actually did pretty good. My major issues were managing the clock and weakness on certain on security related services. Other than that it was a noble attempt. This gave me confidence and when I went to reschedule I realized something awful. The blueprint changed and there were no more seats left for the v3 lab. Now hear comes the madness, I was offered a “free” beta lab for the v4 which I accepted the challenge. Let’s just say that after taking the v4 beta, I was humbled in a the most extreme way. Now begins a radical format change (changes) to the lab. Open ended questions, troubleshooting, removal of open ended questions. I tried very hard to adapt to these changes, but as a poor test taker to begin with it was very challenging to say the least.

I was working at a small ISP in Central, PA at the time of this endeavor. God opened up a great door of opportunity in August of 2010 and I jumped in feet first… Where did I go??? CISCO!!!

While this major transition is occurring we’re also expecting our third child. I started on August 1st and Leo was born on August 28th. Man life was crazy and through all this I was sticking to my studies. I forget the details, but since my CCIE written was first passed in 2008, I had to take the written again before I could schedule another lab. I did this december of 2010 and would actually wait a full year before taking the v4 exam again. My third attempt was in Nov of 2011, this is where it gets interesting. I took the lab in San Jose instead of RTP this time. I flew out of Philadelphia airport and my laptop was stolen out of my checked in luggage. The TSA agent even left one of those “inspected by TSA” tickets in the bag. It was a surgical strike as only my laptop and power cable were removed from the bag. All my study notes were on that laptop… Needless to say, this was one heck of a trip. I did not pass, but did OK. The troubleshooting section was VERY tough.

Now pay attention because this is where I made the biggest mistake. I took almost a full year before my next attempt. NEVER DO THIS!!! If you can manage it, keep coming back every 30-60 days if possible. No more than 90 days. Things just got so busy between life and work that I waited yet ANOTHER year before diving back. By this time RTP had a new proctor (David) and let me tell you all this. He is by far my favorite proctor. David constantly encouraged me and drove me to keep coming back ASAP. With his recommendation and such a strong support system behind me I was able to pass after my 3rd consecutive attempt. It feels great to have my life back and know I can focus on the most important thing that was neglected… My family. While my wife and children supported me through this endeavor, there is no doubt that it took it’s toll on all of us. I could not have done this without the support of my family, friends, and colleagues. THANK YOU!!!

Passing lab experience:

September 28th, 2013

I drove down to RTP, NC from Central PA early Friday morning. My stomach was bothering me the night before probably due to nerves. I get so sick just thinking about the exam that I’m miserable every time I went to building 3. I get to RTP at about 3pm on Friday and ate a bland meal at Chipotle in Morrisville. I went back to the hotel room and practiced INE labs and reviewed my TS notes. My weak areas are still services because there are so many and being an expert in all of them is impossible (at least for me), but there are some that I take pride in my knowledge like EEM and multicast. Here’s the worst part. I could NOT sleep. I think I may of had 45min – 1hour, but that’s it. No matter what I tried I could not fall asleep. In addition, my stomach is a wreak. I drink half a bottle of pepto in hopes of relief. It did not come… Now for those of you who know me. I don’t drink or smoke. Heck eating some spicy foods is about as risky of a move that I make when it comes to what goes in my body. I NEVER drank anything like red bull or monster in my life. Those of you know know me would probably say that I’m wired to begin with. Why the heck would I even need something like that in the first place. Well this morning I did and my buddy John told me it helped him get through the lab the prior week before. So I drove to sheetz early in the morning and bought a red bull and start bucks energy drink. I settled on the Starbucks and drank the whole can. It was tasty, but what the heck is 80mg of caffeine going to do to me? I’ll tell you what it did. I became Bevis aka cornholio. I was so wired within 30 minutes of drinking that I forgot I was even tired. When I got to Building 3 we all went in and I began right away. Thanks to the power of caffeine, I was typing at like 150 WPM. Hit some major roadblocks in TS, but the energy infusion was too powerful an ally for TS to overcome. I felt good based on my results that Starbucks and I conquered TS. OK, well perhaps the Holy Spirit and me because there were some miraculous things that happened in the last 15-20 minutes.

I don’t even waste time, I jump right into configuration and heck I don’t think I even used the bathroom up to this point. No time for potty breaks. I get my configuration and my smile is ear to ear after reading though it. Let’s just say this, it was a test that jives with my skills. I felt good about the objective this config had set before me. I felt like I was running in auto pilot mode. My typing is loud and fast and I’m starting to feel bad because none of the other candidates were using ear plugs. I must have sounded like an old school author with his typewriter. By lunch I’m done with all L2/L3 and started on some of the services. Best time I had yet. Lunch is quick and I get back to it. By 1:30, I’m done with everything I could possibly configure. I take the next 45 minutes for verification, config backups, and reload. I’m pretty sure at a little after 2pm, I ended the lab. My heart was still racing, but something strange happened to my body. My guess is all the caffeine wore off as well as the adrenaline and I was crashing. I actually went into the break room and sat in the chair for a quick power nap. David stopped by and we talked a little about the lab. I felt really good about it and told him “If I don’t pass it this time, your might see a grown man crying”. To which he replies, “that’s nothing new”. Now comes the worst part… WAITING. I grab some food and head back to the hotel room. My intention was to eat and sleep, but again I could not fall asleep. My body and mind are a complete disaster. I’m waiting for this email with the results and it probably won’t be till tomorrow I find out if I did it. So, I do something that I have not really done in the last 5 years. Enjoy life’s simple pleasures. I go to the local movie theater and see Riddick. It was OK, but no pitch black. By this time you would think sleep was inevitable right? WRONG! I can’t sleep one wink. I get in the shower at 3:30am and check out of the hotel by 4am. I’m on the road heading back to PA. I keep checking my email every chance I get, still nothing. I stop in VA for some rest and decided to check my email. THIS IS IT! I have a message. The anticipation is killing me, do I even want to look at this now… I did and this is what I got!

  •  Your CCIE status is Certified ( CCIE# 40755 )
  • Your next CCIE Recertification due by September 28, 2015

I notify everyone via FB, Twitter, text, IM, calls, you name it. Then I crash in the car only to wake up at like 10am. My excitement level at this point is sky high. I can’t contain myself when talking to people on the phone. I’m thinking about all the things I wanted to do when I passed. Get a custom tag with my number, finally buy the pinball machine I have talked about for years, but the most important thing was this… Reconnect with my wife and family. When I reflected on my attitude, especially when studying for each lab attempt it was like I was a non-existent husband/father. So, it’s with great happiness and peace that I enjoy life again and return back home both physically and mentally.

In closing, I leave you candidates to be with the following wisdom.

1) Be prepared to make great sacrifices on this journey

2) Never give up

3) While it’s one of the most challenges journeys you can embark on, it’s also the most rewarding

4) Never give up

5)  Always keep in perspective that all your hard work will make you a better engineer regardless if you pass or not

6) Never give up

7) If you need a boost, drink some serious caffeine before taking the lab.

8) NEVER GIVE UP!

I want to again thank God, my family, friends, colleagues, INE, for the support and encouragement that was essential for my success. Oh! one more thing…

“And this time I know it’s for real, The feelings that I feel, I know if I put my mind to it, I know that I really can do it”

Man, that song was really made for CCIE candidates.

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CCIE: R&S Lab Attempt and Next Steps

CCIE: R&S Lab Attempt and Next Steps

So, it’s been over a week since my last lab attempt and I have had plenty of time to reflect.

I will say that I underestimated the troubleshooting section considerably. My advise is when you hit a difficult question, do not linger on it, move on and try to come back if you have time. It’s hard to assess which tickets are the challenging ones without a little investigation. I will say that if you cannot solve the ticket within 10-15 minutes… MOVE ON. Next the configuration section was challenging, but very very passable. This is the CCIE lab after all, should we expect anything less that a formidable challenge?

I’m bummed out, but now it’s time to hit my study material and work on areas that need attention such as PfR, 802.1s, IPv6, ZBF, IPS, 802.1x, WCCP, EEM, and LAN QoS.

I’m going to try things a little different. I have used INE, CCBOOTCAMP, and Narbik materials in the past. This time I’m using two things. The Blueprint, and Cisco documentation. I’m going to work my way through (bottom up) the blueprint and after I’ve completed go back to my INE Mock Labs and see the results. My plan is to so engrain the theory and configs into my head, that I don’t need to worry about accessing the reference material when I take my next lab. I would highly recommend the vendors workbooks (INE’s worked the best for me) as the starting point, but I need to try something a little different and the Cisco documentation goes into much more detail.