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CCIE R/S v5: Everything’s Gonna be Alright

CCIE R/S v5: Everything’s Gonna be Alright


It’s been roughly five months since I passed the v4 CCIE R/S and I’m starting to hear potential CCIE R/S candidates freaking out about the upcoming changes. I know this feeling all too well, because like many of you I started on v3 and passed on v4. I will never sugar coat this, it’s a royal pain in the arse when the blueprint gets revised, especially if you have been studying (really studying) the current blueprint. That being said, I generally love what I see with the v5 blueprint and believe it’s best for the program to evolve and stay relevant. Let’s take a look at these changes and I’ll do my best to summarize what I know so far.

Six main pillars for written and lab.

1.0: Network Principles
2.0: L2 Technologies
3.0: L3 Technologies
4.0: VPN Technologies
5.0: Infrastructure Security
6.0: Infrastructure Services

Why do I like this? Well they really just consolidated the 11 topics from v4. Since we are not only dealing with MPLS VPN, but also IPSEC VPN/DMVPN it makes sense to group these together under “VPN technologies”. IPv4/IPv6/L3 multicast/routing protocols are now grouped under “L3 Technologies” and “Network Principles” is really only applicable to the written (in the “real world” this is a prerequisite) and completely new to the blueprint. “Infrastructure Security” will cover technologies such as router and switch security features, but also PKI/crypto. Finally, “Infrastructure Services”. Expect things like management, QoS, services, optimization, etc here. I would imagine since they are moving LAN QoS OFF the lab and into the written, things like SRR/WRR/RSVP are GONE. Thank goodness!!!

Not so bad right? Well let’s talk more about what was taken off the written and lab.

Topics Removed from the CCIE RS v4.0 Exam:

• Flexlink, ISL, Layer 2 Protocol Tunneling
• Frame-Relay (LFI, FR Traffic Shaping)
• IOS Firewall and IPS

If your like me your excited to see things like WCCP, IOS FW, and RSVP go bye bye. I did scratch my head on one of those subjects perhaps it’s because I spent so much time on the technology, Frame Relay. The only reason I say this is because many carriers are still using frame relay as the encapsulation for MPLS VPN solutions on TDM transport. This is going away, but it’s still out there in production just at a much lesser degree then 5-10 years ago. Still, I’m sure many are happy to see my good old friend Frame Relay put out to pasture.

Let’s continue with the subjects moved to the written, but removed from the lab.

Topics Moved from the CCIE RS v4.0 Lab exam to the CCIE RS v5.0 Written Exam:
• Describe IPv6 Multicast
• Describe RIPv6 (RIPng)
• Describe IPv6 Tunneling Techniques
• Describe Device Security using IOS AAA with TACACS+ and RADIUS
• Describe 802.1x
• Describe Layer 2 QoS
• Identify Performance Routing (PfR)

Oh man, there are so many on this list that I’m happy to see go to the written. Where do I begin… PfR!
PfR could be an exam of it’s own. If you don’t believe me go and configure a complex policy with multiple probes and get back to me with a verdict. Very happy to see 802.1x and v6 multicast move to the written as well. I kind of liked the ipv6 tunneling stuff on the lab, but that’s just me. GOODBYE RIPng, sorry nobody ever used you.

Now the fun begins. Here are topics that were added to the written, but not in the lab,

Topics Added to the CCIE Routing and Switching v5.0 Written Exam:
• Describe basic software architecture differences between IOS and IOS XE
• Identify Cisco Express Forwarding Concepts
• Explain General Network Challenges
• Explain IP, TCP and UDP Operations
• Describe Chassis Virtualization and Aggregation Technologies
• Explain PIM Snooping
• Describe WAN Rate-based Ethernet Circuits
• Describe BGP Fast Convergence Features
• ISIS (for IPv4 and IPv6)
• Describe Basic Layer 2 VPN – Wireline
• Describe Basic L2VPN – LAN Services
• Describe GET VPN
• Describe IPv6 Network Address Translation

ISIS? OK, so FabricPath and OTV leverage ISIS under the covers, but really adding it back to the written? Poor ISIS, your hot then your not, then your hot again. One word comes to my mind “pong”.
I like the IOS vs IOS XE, PIM snooping, switch virtualization, BDF/BGP, and CEF topics. GET VPN? Well, I guess someone is using this out there for it to be put on the written exam. Overall these additions to the written seem to allow Cisco to vet out candidates for the lab a little better and bring the curriculum a little more current.

“The decisions regarding which topics should be added, moved or retired were based on feedback received from key industry Subject Matter Experts (SME). These decisions reflect the evolution of the expectations of a candidate performing on the job role.”

I will agree with that quote. It’s from the learning@cisco exam update for v5.

Topics Added to the CCIE Routing and Switching v5.0 Written and Lab Exams:

• Use IOS Troubleshooting Tools
• Apply Troubleshooting Methodologies
• Interpret Packet Capture
• Implement and Troubleshoot Bidirectional Forwarding Detection
• Implement EIGRP (multi-address) Named Mode
• Implement, Troubleshoot and Optimize EIGRP and OSPF Convergence and Scalability
• Implement and Troubleshoot DMVPN (single hub)
• Implement and Troubleshoot IPsec with pre-shared key
• Implement and Troubleshoot IPv6 First Hop Security

Alright here is where things start to get interesting. For the most part these subjects make sense and don’t seem “crazy”. But, things like IPsec/DMVPN and IPv6 First Hop Security are going to raise some eyebrows. I cannot agree more with putting in DMVPN/IPSEC. For one thing it’s relevant and in almost all my clients networks. Second with Cisco pitching iWAN as transport independent (DMVPN), intelligent path control (PfR), optimizing (WAAS), and security (CWS) you can see where this is going.
Having expert level knowledge in VPN, BDF/BGP, troubleshooting, and packet capture interpretation is only going to make you a better engineer in the long run.

Finally, and I saved the best for last. The format of the lab. Please don’t shoot the messenger, but keep in mind that the CCIE is the most prestigious certification in our industry. It’s the top of the summit, the best of the best, unrivaled, CCIE is the #1.

In order to maintain that level of prestige the certification program for CCIE has to continue to evolve and mature. I remember thinking of quitting when v3 changed to v4, but then I pressed on and I’m so happy that I did because it was the hardest I have done from an education perspective, but it’s also the most rewarding.

OK, enough stalling. Here is the skinny. The lab format will consists of the following modules.

1: Troubleshooting (TS)
2: Diagnostic (DIAG)
3: Configuration (CFG)

CFG and TS are using virtual devices (IOU). This is nothing new for v4 TS, but for CFG this is new. The content delivery system will be similar to the web-based system for v4. My thoughts are that since the v4 TS supported large topologies, you may see this on v5 CFG now. More realistic, but also more overwhelming in my opinion. DIAG has no devices and I’ll get more into this later.

Here is the flow: TS(2hrs/variable) > DIAG (30 min/fixed) > CFG (5.5 hours/variable)

Now here is the cool part. Your TS section will allow up to 2.5 hours, but the extra 30 minutes will be deducted from the CFG section. If you spend less time on TS, you get that time in CFG. Pretty awesome as I always needed more time on TS myself.

2014-03-03 03.16.14 pm

Let’s talk turkey on this DIAG section as I’m sure many of you are curious like I was. “No devices” what gives man?

From Cisco directly…

“A new exam module called “diagnostic module” has been added and will focus on the skills required to properly diagnose network issues. The time for this new lab module is fixed to 30 minutes, no more or no less.”

Use this link for all the details on the DIAG module, but here is my summary. It’s a multiple-choice (drag and drop as well) section that will test your troubleshooting and analytic skills. It’s not open-ended questions (praise the Lord!!!), so there will be the “RIGHT” answers. Perhaps this is CEQ vs. OEQ on v4.
I’m not going to embellish here, this would be my biggest point of contention if I was taking the v5 lab for the same reasons I had with OEQ on v4. They are already testing you on theory (written) and troubleshooting (TS section), is this really necessary as it will be weighted on the overall grade. If you do terrible on this section, but passed TS and CFG you will not pass the lab. It’s extra stress that I don’t feel is necessary. Just my 2c that’s all. All that said, just like when I took the v4 and it had OEQ, you want to be the best? SUCK IT UP and DO IT!

2014-03-03 03.15.42 pm

Were almost at the home stretch. Let me summarize a few key things here.

The exam should be the ROUTING and switching exam because clearly L2 technologies are not as prevalent as L3. Perhaps moving CFG to IOU has something to do with it, but it’s clear that your going to want to really study up on L3 this time around. It’s nice from a focus perspective. Here is the breakdown which is awesome.

2014-03-03 03.23.36 pm
Exam Number: The exam number has changed from 350-001 to 400-101 and the written format is the same as v4.

Lab Gear: The recommendation for lab gear is ISR G2 2900 w/ 15.3T and 3560x with 15.0SE (IP Services). I don’t have a handle on how many are required. I think this may be a challenge because they are able to create large CFG topologies in IOU. Perhaps VIRL when it comes out.

Lab Dates: The CCIE Routing and Switching (R&S) Written and Lab exams are being revised from v4.0 to v5.0. The last day to test for both the Written and Lab v4.0 exams will be June 3, 2014. The CCIE R&S Written and Lab exams v5.0 will be available for testing on June 4, 2014.

Words of Encouragement: Sure things have changed and some of these changes are overwhelming right now, but I love the fact that routing is back in vogue and they removed some of the older “noise” from the exams. I never agreed with PfR on the CFG section and absolutely hated ZBF on v4 lab. GOOD RIDDANCE! INE and IPexpert already seemed to have good materiel in the works for v5 and #CLUS 2014 will have some practice labs for v5. Obtaining the CCIE is and always will be the pinnacle of my career certification goals. While the road was challenging and a little bumpy, I would not have it any other way. In fact, I’m gearing up for #2 with Data Center later this year.

If it was easy, everyone would be a CCIE. Just keep that in mind as you embark on your own journey and NEVER GIVE UP!

I leave you with a song I think was made for CCIE’s in training. ENJOY!

“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”
“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”

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

Man, that song was really made for CCIE candidates!


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.


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.