The CCIE-lab and why you shouldn’t push it forward

This time 1 year ago I had been CCIE-written for about 3 weeks. I had begun talking with Global Knowledge about arranging the Cisco 360 bootcamps in Sweden because I didn’t want to go abroad. As it happened they were able to to schedule both CIERS1 and 2 in Sweden and exactly the two weeks that I asked for.

Unfortunately I had asked for CIERS1 and 2 to be scheduled close to each other because I was under the impression that you were supposed to take them both close to the exam. As it turns out CIERS1 is meant to be taken early on and CIERS2 closer to the lab. Neither I or the local GK team knew this so in retrospect I have to say that I wish that the instructor (great guy from Egypt) had talked with the local GK team and explained the best course of action. After all, he did say that he was surprised about the scheduling.

CIERS1 took place late August, 2010. It was me and 4 other guys. I was the first person to buy the 360 package in Sweden (at least according to GK) so these guys must have been #2-4 (the fifth was a german). It was fairly obvious from the beginning that only two of us were by far ready even for the first bootcamp. The week passed and we now had 3 weeks to study before CIERS2.

Thursday of the CIERS1 course my boss called me and said that he had been approached by another team within the company. Long story short, I got “upgraded” and I changed groups. It happened so fast. Those three weeks between CIERS1 and 2 just passed and I didn’t have one single study day. But I was still fairly happy with the week. It took place late September and I had originally planned on sitting the lab mid-october. Since I had lost so much study time while changing jobs I had decided to bump it till mid-november and I was fine with that, it felt ok. Buuuuut. New job took all my time. I have no one to blame but myself since my new boss had given an OK for studies. I should and could have studied but I didn’t.

2010 passed and in January (December?) I got the next BIG hit right in my face. That one other guy who I felt had potential to pass had gone for his first attempt. He got torn to pieces. A month or so later he went for his second. And got torn to pieces again. This absolutely wrecked my confidence. If HE didn’t make it, how could I?

Then in April 2011 he finally passed and became CCIE. Since then we’ve been been talking. I’ve been fighting my way through work load and trying to find time for studies. I’ve had at least 3-4 dates set but I keep cancelling. I keep pushing it further and further away.

In exactly three weeks from now I’ll be in my car on the way to the airport. I grabbed my confidence and forced it to schedule. I was shaking so hard when I was entering all the required data. I know that I will probably fail but that’s ok. I can’t keep pushing the date forward. People keep saying how hard it is but I do honestly believe that many people fail simply because they’re not ready. I can’t let “rumors” stop me from even going. I MUST give it a shot so that I can get a true feeling about how it is. Can’t keep hiding from that FAIL e-mail.

I plan on going back in mid-october and PASS…!

…or maybe it turns out that I’ve been scared for all the wrong reasons? Maybe 23 days from now I’ll be sitting on my porch with a glass of champagne? I’ll never know if I don’t try..

3.5 weeks left

Reviewing QoS. And I would like to quote what a friend said after I did a G+ post about FRTS: “this is why you don’t go for a CCIE. Who cares about Frame Relay?”. And you know what, I have to agree with him. I’m looking forward to being done with this (be it a pass or a fsckit) because I’ll be able to keep up with technologies that I actually *need* to master.

One month left

And I’m so not ready. Oh well. Labtime, flight, hotel booked. I’ll be an experience richer if nothing else.  And besides, by accepting the fact that I might fail on the first attempt I avoid the possibility of hitting post-failure depression like some I know.

OSPF Troubleshooting – Lab1

A friend is preparing for his CCNP and asked me to give him an OSPF Troubleshooting lab in GNS3. Didn’t take long and it was a lot of fun. I might, however, have made it too difficult for a CCNA. But hey, learning by doing is the best.

And once again I realize that teaching is so much fun. I’ll try this 14 task lab on my guinea pig and then possibly do a larger workshop with more co-workers.

Complete list of tasks:

Task 1 (2p)

R2 and R3 should have an adjacency in Area0.

Task 2 (2p)

Verify that Loopback 0 of R6 appears in the routing table of R1.  

Task 3 (3p)

Verify that R3 is the designated router on the link to R7

Task 4 (2p)

R7 is injecting a default route yet no other router shows a default route.

Task 5 (2p)

Verify that R2 and R9 have 2 OSPF adjacencies.

Task 6 (2p)

Verify that R2 and R9 use equal cost load balancing.

Task 7 (2p)

R9 and R2 peers over two links. R9 should only have one network statement.

Task 8 (2p)

R9 should use link speed of 1000Mbit/s as default for calculating link cost.

Task 9 (3p)

R7 is announcing its Loopback 0 interface in Area0 yet it doesn’t show up in R3’s routing table. Remove the configuration at fault and explain why it appeared in all routers but R3.

Task 10 (2p)

R9 redistributes routes learned from RIP. Verify that R2 sees all these.

Task 11 (2p)

Verify that R2 only has 1 route that matches all 192.168.x.x routes.

Task 12 (3p)

Why doesn’t the cost of the redistributed RIP routes increment as they are propagated in OSPF? Add configuration that changes this.

Task 13 (3p)

R5 advertises several Loopback interfaces in the 172.168/16 range. Why does R1 see most of these as /32 instead of the configured netmask of /24? Add configuration that modifies this.

Task 14 (3p)

Summarize the 172.168.x.x networks into 2 different routes.

I heart CLI

Being a solution architect often means that you are more or less completely detached from the world of operations. I have a few larger customers that I do hands-on for but it doesn’t happen that often. That is seriously affecting my chances to pass CCIE (and therefor kinda pushing me towards CCDE but let’s not talk about that right now). But more importantly, it’s making me a little sad. Operations is fun. Implementations are fun. I miss it.

Verification is the key

Spent 8 hours at proctorlabs yesterday and another 5 at gradedlabs. Status right now is that I would probably get around 65-70 on the lab. And yes, I can say that because I’ve done about 8 graded labs (Cisco 360) and every time I’ve guessed my results pretty close. Except for that one time when I got 90 and expected 60 due to INSANE redistribution that just never seemed to stop fscking up everything. By far the trickiest lab I’ve done so far! And also apparently one of the best I’ve done. I scored 90 because I never stopped verifying.  I’m used to having at least a few tasks that plays with global connectivity but not that many in one single lab. There were so many tasks that completely broke Golden Moment that by end of that day I felt like killing either myself or the lab author. Probably the lab author.

@ioshints creeping me out :o

So it seems I might have gotten started on this blog thing again. I was looking around in the blogger.com control panel thing and saw that they actually have statistics these days (I feel old). What really made me scratch my head was that in march of 2010 I had about 1k page loads. On a blog that’s more or less dead. Weird? Well, I found this: http://blog.ioshints.info/2011/03/interesting-links-2010-03-06.html . Somehow I think that had something to do with it

What the h* happened

Been a while. Pretty much an entire lifetime in the world of IT, to be honest. Since last time I’ve managed to go to CIERS1 and CIERS2. I was about 3-4 weeks from being ready to do my lab.

At about this time I got a job opportunity that I just couldn’t pass on. I had a deal with my new boss that I would still be able to use work hours for studying. He never backed from that promise so I have no one to blame but myself. Work was pouring in and I’m just too nice to say no. So I lost about 6 months.

I have since then started over with doing IP Expert Workbook 1. Due to less than perfect scheduling possibilities at proctorlabs.com I’ve also started using INE and gradedlabs.com . INE has better scheduling possibilities but to be honest their workbooks are not as good as IPX. Which is why I’m using both. I find that it’s really good to use materials from several vendors. I’m currently doing technology labs with IPX  workbooks and Troubleshooting labs with INE workbooks. In a week or so I’ll start doing complete mock labs again. I’ll be using both vendors for this.

I’ve stopped using Cisco 360. My account aged out on may 27th and I have no intention to renew. IPX and INE are more than enough from now on.

Social networking

I work for one of the biggest consultancy firms in northern europe but in my region there’s not a lot of networking guys around. I very rarely get the chance to just sit down and rant about networking stuff. It’s mostly VMware, Server, Storage and stuff like that. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy these areas as well. After all, I’m a networking guy with a background in server administration (oh the years of all-night-linux-HOWTO-reading). Keeping track of all areas is extremely important if you want to be a good network administrator. Every IT function depends on the Network but the Network really doesn’t depend on any other function. It’s autonomous, so to speak. But just like any other support function the Network would not exist without all those servers and clients. We need to know how they work to be able to support them.

So how to fill the void?

I’ve had a twitter account since..since.. I’m not sure, I’d like to say since 2006 but I’m not even sure twitter was around back then. Anyway, the point is that I’ve had an account but I’ve never really gotten into it. Last week or so I’ve been looking around and I’m hooked. There’s just so much information. Today I found a link to a great CCIE mindmap in #CCIE.

Another extremely good thing is the Packet Pushers podcast. Listening to this just gives me a big smile on my face. It’s like those times when I go to meetings with the national specialist group of IPC-consultants. I’m reminded of all those things that tends to slip away while talking about the latest VMware features. It’s like coming home. That sounds a bit sad but I don’t care! 😛

Cisco 360 and INE SP comparison

I’m using Cisco 360 and the Service Provider package from INE.  They’re covering different tracks so they are not directly comparable. I will share some thoughts of the two.

360

This is pure VoD in the sense that it’s not a recorded class. They follow a script and it’s very smooth. If something doesn’t work as planned they have the ability to stop, go back and do over. If it’s a recorded class you need to live with the Demo Ghost that inevitably slows things down.

There’s a lot of written material available for those times when you get bored with VoDs. I like this a *lot*. If they published it in book form I’d buy it.

It also has excellent tips for the lab itself. How to structure your lab with a work sheet and such. Very good!

The material covers all protocols but other parts also helps you understand how to actually apply the knowledge in the lab itself. I guess this is a great thing if you don’t have a lot of experience.

A few bad things. You need licenses to be able to view the materials. This is of course included in the 360 fee. You’re limited to 2 computers and the VoD player doesn’t work in OS X which is a problem for me. The pdf viewer works in OS X, though. However! When you open a workbook scenario in OS X you get the message “you are not allowed to view this file on Mac OS X”. This is not acceptable! Cisco can not control what platform I’m using! I figured I could run the viewer of remote desktop to a Windows machine but alas, the software recognizes when you’re trying to do this and tells you kindly to go away.

One of the instructors is rather aggravating. Annoying intonations and also a habit to repeat himself.. “so I will now do *insert a lot of things* and I will do that now so I will go ahead and do that right now”. That gets a bit annoying after a few hours 😉

The SP materials from INE

This is a recorded class. This is noticable in the sense that by the end of the day the instructor is beginning to sound tired. Sometimes it loses tempo and you start to drift off. 360 has shorter segments and who knows how long breaks the instructors takes between recording.

There’s no written material apart from EXCELLENT lab materials. You’re simply expected to have more knowledge to begin with while the 360 materials can be used by a less experience person (I’d recommend at least CCNP for faster processing..).

The sessions can get a bit long. Expect at least an hour per session and it’s a LOT of information. It’s easier to stay focused if you attend the class than if you’re watching the recorded materials (at least for me).

A very good thing is that there’s a lot of real configurations as well as a lot of good tips regarding debug and such. Most of the configuration steps are supplemented with debug information which really helps you understand what actually happens when you do stuff. I like this a *lot* as it’s something you need in your real life if you’re actually working with it and not just polishing your framed diploma.

There’s no license required for the viewer which means that you can run it on any computer with a browser. This is really good!

 Summary

 I like them both, they compliment each other nicely and in the long run I hope I will be able to finish both RS and SP before they update SP to include features that I don’t have access to in my labs. Would be waste of time and money if I have to start over..