Friday, January 30, 2009

CBT Nuggets

Well, I've finished the CBT Nuggets Video on Demand for the CCIE Lab. The first half, which covered the core of the exam, was pretty beneficial. It helped me to understand items such as redistribution and BGP attributes better. The second half though was mostly worthless. It covered the most easy multicast, security and QoS scenarios. Anyway, it was still useful.

I've also found a copy of CBT Nuggets for the QoS exam. No, I'm not tackling two certs at once, I just want to learn more about QoS for the CCIE R&S Lab Exam. I know the basics pretty well, but some of the details get fuzzy. Hopefully the videos will help.

After that, I'll be checking out the IPExpert class-on-demand videos. I don't know what to expect, but I've heard good things about them. I need to copy all of my study material over to a hard drive so that I can take it with me on my trip next week. I'll be at work, but I should still be able to get a good amount of study in. I'll be packing the headphones to drown out the usual office noise!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Life in Northeast Ohio...

Well, pleasant surprise this morning...about 5 inches of wet snow on the ground. So first things first, I had to get out there and clear my driveway. I am quite thankful I purchased a snow thrower this year, although it's less effective with wet snow. Still better than shoveling! Bad news is, we are getting another 6-8 inches before sunset. So that means I'll be back out there again.

On top of that, I've got some work to do. That takes precedence over my studying. Especially since, for the most part, my job right now is to study for the CCIE. I work for a company that does consulting for Government agencies and part of my job is to participate in pre-sales activities. They certainly aren't fun, but it's a necessary evil when working in this industry. Next week I'm taking a trip to company headquarters in Herndon, Va. I've got a quick meeting to attend and then hopefully I'll get started on setting up our CCIE R&S rack. Unfortunately, all these things take away from my studying. I'm a little upset about it since I was on a roll with the CBT Nuggets video. All-in-all, I'm still expecting to finish the CBT Nuggets video next week. Then it's on to the IPExpert Class-on-demand.

I'm not looking to get too much studying done today, but I did want to post a few tips I picked up on from yesterday's studies.

1. Virtual-link IP address is the neighbor's router-id. I knew this already, but this may be an important tip to someone else!
2. User "area x default cost" to set a preferred exit point from an area. (Lower cost on preferred exit point, high cost on alternate)
3. 100/BW(in MB) is the default OSPF metric calculation. Remember this. A 56k link would have an OSPF metric of 1785. You can change this by setting the auto-cost reference bandwidth under router ospf.
4. Tags are very useful when redistributing into OSPF. I always tag because you never know when you may need to use the tag later. I've learned the hard way.
5. For setting tag values, I use the redistributed protocols admin distance. (tag 120 for RIP, tag 90 for EIGRP, etc).
6. When doing mutual redistribution between OSPF and EIGRP, exclude external routes when redistributing EIGRP into OSPF. This prevents original OSPF routes, now in the EIGRP process, from re-entering the OSPF process in another router with a lower AD.
7. External EIGRP routes have an AD of 170. When redistributing between OSPF and EIGRP, setting the OSPF external distance can help ( ospf distance external 171).
8. Always pay attention to network type when using OSPF across Frame-relay networks.

Well that's it for now, back to work, snow-blowing, some studying, and hopefully installing my new Graphics card and monitor today.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A new day

Well, if you couldn't tell from my short, quick post last night, I've moved away from practice labs for now. Why? There are some things that I still don't understand fully. No matter how many times I read them, I still can put the whole picture together. I had a copy of CBT Nuggets for the CCIE Lab that my boss tossed to me several months ago. With no other avenues at this point, I decided to fire it up and take it for a spin.

In taking tips from another CCIE, I decided to stay away from the labs for now until I have a better understanding of the topics at hand. Now while Ethan suggests he should not have started with the practice labs, I disagree to some extent. When you are starting your CCIE Lab studies, fire up a few practice labs first thing. Then you can determine how far in over your head you may be. If you are anything like me, you will jump away from the practice labs until you understand better.

Overall, I'm pretty happy with the CBT Nuggets video, even though it is several years old. But when you get down to the details, the core of the CCIE R&S Lab exam has changed very little. It's the other details that have changed (ATM, ISDN, Multicast, IPv6, etc.)

Since I do not have my own rack of equipment, I've been using Dynamips. So I decided to cruise the Internets and search for a Dynagen topology file. I found one, but not one I was particularlry fond of. First, the author took the cheap route of creating a "hidden" ethernet switch by using the ethersw directive inside of Dynamips. Well, the lab does cover 3550/3560 catalyst switching, and while using a 3640 with Etherswitch module isn't the same thing, it at leasts gets me in the mindset and allows me to follow the video verbatim. Secondly, instead of mapping multiple DLCIs to the frame switch, they used another serial interface on one of the routers. Perhaps the author simply did not know how to map multiple DLCI's to one interface?

Anyway, I've made it through the first section of OSPF already. If you can tell by my tips, I've already learned quite a few interesting facts. Since I've been studying in my office, with little distractions, I am now able to take notes and draw diagrams. This is going to help me immensly in the long run.

Speaking of my office, I got a surprise yesterday in that my new office chair arrived early. While I was watching my son while my wife was at the dentist, I put the chair together and immediately noticed an improvement. The first half of the day, I sat in my old chair, only to get up for lunch with an aching back and a sore tailbone. The second half of the day, I sat comfortably in my new chair. When I arose at around 6pm, no back aching, no pain. It was great! Also this is not necessarily CCIE related, there is one tip you could take from this. Make yourself comfortable. I find that I am able to focus better now that I am comfortable and not getting up every couple of minutes to relieve my aches.

I also now have a copy of IPExpert's Class-on-demand from a friend of mine. I plan to watch these videos following the CBT nuggets. If I encounter areas within the videos that I am not comfortable with, I will read-up on the topic in my BSCI book, my CCIE Written book or the Cisco DocCD.

Well that is it for now, need to get studying. Oh and by the way, I've scheduled my lab exam - July 27, 2009. The pressure is on!!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Tips learned from CBT Nuggets...

1. Use Multipoint instead of point-to-point frame-relay type when only one side of the link requires a sub-interface.
2. Use wildcard mask to be sure what interface is in the routing processes. I always put the actual network mask, thinking that network will be advertised into OSPF, not what interface will participate in OSPF.
3. To advertise loopbacks as /24, you can use point-to-point network type under interface configuration. (ip ospf network point-to-point).
3a. You can also redistribute connected use route-map.
4. Use large metrics when redistributing another routing process into another. In most instances, you would not want a redistributed route to be preferred over a native route, although I've seen weirder requests on the IEWB practice labs.
5. Type 1 OSPF external routes will calculate their own metric across the path. Type 2 external routes will remain the same across the routing domain.
6. Use neighbor statements at the hub router only in a hub-and-spoke frame-relay network.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

My study area...

Well, I finally broke down and bought the additional items I need for my office. First on the list, was the most important, my new office chair.

I found this little beauty at Staples, with free 1 day delivery. It's not the most expensive, and probably not the nicest, but it's a good price and generally received 4/5 stars. If it lasts me even the next year through my CCIE studies, I'll be happy.

Next on the list was a graphics card and monitor. I had a couple of requirements that I knew off the bat. I wanted to switch to DVI, and I wanted a graphics card with dual DVI for my dual-monitor setup. I also wanted a monitor that was closest in size to my current monitor, a Dell 20.1" widescreen. This is where the research began.

Not only did I research for price, I had to research for compatibility. I knew of DVI and PCI-e, but I did not know the specifics of each. I've been out of the hardware game for a few years now. Several years ago I worked for a small Computer repair shop/ISP. During those days, I could tell you exactly what you need for any setup. During those days, I custom built my own PCs. Today, I just buy what meets my needs.

Yesterday, I had to research the different DVI cables (DVI-D, DVI-I, Dual-Link, Single Link, etc. ) the different PCI-e cards (PCI-e 1.0, PCI-e 1.1, PCI-e 2.0, x1 slot, x2 slot, x4 slot, x8 slot, x16 slot) and what was compatible with my system ( a Dell XPS). I found these gems on NewEgg.

Acer 20" Widescreen Monitor - This monitor was not quite the size I was looking for, but it's highly rated and was priced just right.

EVGA 1GB PCI-e 2.0 x16 Dual DVI Graphics Cards - Nothing too fancy here, but the price was right at $50 with a rebate. It also increases my graphics memory 10-fold from my current graphics card. I could have gotten by with less, but why not improve my system while I am at it?

These items should be in next week, when I plan to begin studying in my office. This post is not so much CCIE, related, but perhaps someone will find it useful.

Friday, January 23, 2009

CCIM for me...

Well I finally finished lab 3 after only a few hours today. I've gotta say that I'm burned out after this week. Since I'm treating my studying like an actual job, I am looking forward to the weekend. I'm going to use the rest of my time today to do some reading and studying. I've got to say that after these first two weeks, I'm feeling more like a CCIM than a CCIE candidate. That's CCIM, Cisco Certified Internetwork Moron. Even though I've been working with Cisco for almost 10 years, these labs strip me of all my confidence, and sometimes even my manhood. ;-)

I've got to say that my study approach just is not working. Even though I said I was not going to, I'm trying to limit myself on time for each lab. I just absolutely, cannot do this. Why do you ask? Because I don't understand a lot of the topics fully to implement them without peeking at the answer key.

I've also realized that my "study area" is just not working out. I usually study on the couch with my laptop so that I can spend some time with my family during the day. Unfortunately this is not working out, and not because of distractions. To be able to really understand what I need to do, some topics need to be visually represented for me to understand them. I also need to take notes and build things on paper before I start hacking IOS. Drawing diagrams and notes while on the couch will not work.

So starting next week, I'm going to begin studying in my office, in the basement, with all of my equipment. For this to really work for me, I need a new office chair. My current chair is at least 9 years old, and after years of wear and tear, it just does not support me anymore. I also need to get some notepads so that I can draw diagrams and keep notes. I'm also looking to get at least another monitor. With another monitor, I can have my terminal, the lab docs, and the Cisco DocCD all up at the same time. I know I won't have another monitor for the actual lab, but this will help me prepare. I may also look into using TreePad. Comes recommended from other candidates...

Starting next week, I also need to quit trying to get through the labs. When I see something I don't understand, I need to research it (through the DocCD and OECG) and understand it before I attempt the task. Once I understand the task, then I will attempt it. My goal for the remaining labs is to learn as much as possible. I'm planning on re-reading a few sections from the OECG before I move on to the next lab. I plan to make a second round through the labs, and then and ONLY then will I work on my speed. I may also purchase the 3rd IEWB workbook, which will also help with my speed.

Well that's all for now. Stay tuned...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Redistribution, BGP

While attempting to finish lab 3, I came across many problems that I couldn't solve. The first was the IGP redistribution. I can setup redistribution pretty easy, but the scenario called for external routes to flow through a specific router. This involved route tagging. Ok, so no big deal - I already know redistribution is a weak point. On to BGP I said...

Aghhh. More hang-ups. The BGP section for Lab 3 was more difficult than the previous two. Lots of path adjustments, attribute adjustments, etc. It took me several hours to make it through the BGP section. I at least attempted a solution before looking at the solutions document. The good news? I'm in the ballpark and can usually create appropriate prefix-lists and route-maps. The bad news? I'm no where close to completing the problem, let alone getting it right.

After I complete Lab 3, I think I'm going to return the OECG (Official Exam Cert Guide) to re-read the redistribution and BGP sections. Following this, I need another outside source to shore up my knowledge in these areas. Perhaps some Videos or Class on demand.

I am also begining to use Cisco documentation to help me in my solutions. IE is currently offering a free class-on-demand on how to use and navigate the Cisco documentation.

InternetworkExpert Blog

I highly suggest viewing the class-on-demand. Remember, you can use official Cisco documentation during your lab, but you have to know how to use the documentation and where to find what you are looking for.

I've decided to expand my studying beyond the practice labs. I receive a daily digest from Group Study covering a range of CCIE lab topics. Reading the group study list can only help me in the endevour. I am also reading the blog as well as IE's Blog. My plan is to tackle the labs during the weekdays, and catch up on the reading during the evening/weekends. We shall see....

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

And on to Lab 3...

I made good progress today. I finished up Lab 2 and I have made it almost completely through the core section of Lab 3. I did not take too many notes concerning the remaining parts of Lab 2, because I thought they were pretty simple. Overall, I feel I'm referring to the solutions document way too much. I'm checking the solutions less and less with each lab, so that is promising.

I'm pretty burned out and don't feel like blogging much. One tip - to advertise a loopback interface from within area 0 as a /24 into OSPF, make the network type point-to-point. Makes sense now, but not something I knew before-hand.

The labs are getting more difficult and my confidence is slowly growing. I expect to finish lab 3 tomorrow and complete lab 4 by the end of the week. Big difference from last week. Lab 1 took me an entire week and I'm looking to complete 3 labs during my second week. Before too long, I will be completing one lab per day!

More to come later...(if anyone is listening)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Finish Lab 2? Well, not so much...

Whew, what a day. In between a Dr. appointment, dropping my dogs off at the groomers, picking up my dogs from the groomers and watching the historical inauguration (in addition to around-the-house-stuff), I managed to make it up to section 9 in Lab2. No where near where I wanted to be today, but I guess that happens. The last three sections are pretty easy and I should zip through them either tonight or early tomorrow. Overall, I think I'm still making pretty good time.

Lab 2 BGP was pretty simple, but there are still things that throw me for a loop, like prefix filtering and using route-maps. This is definitely one area I need to read up more on. I know how to use prefix lists, route maps, and access lists, I just don't know when and exactly how to use them. I did much better in the peering session, identifying where I need to use route reflectors, albeit I did place them on the wrong end of the session. I truely feel like I now understand route reflectors, which is a good thing.

Multicasting was pretty easy, but ip pim nbma-mode really messed me up. I will certainly need to read up on this and it's purpose. IPv6 was also very simple, only tripping up on my own mistakes and assumptions, but overall, I understood the problem and how best to attack it. I just need avoid assumptions such as eui-64 where it's not needed!

I felt more confident during the QoS section, but I still have issues discerning how to form the access-lists, since you can only do "service-policy output [policy-name]". Again, an area I need to read up on and one I will become more familiar with as I progress through the labs. Policy routing was also slightly difficult, only because I forgot the command sytax and forgot to set next-hop in my route-map. Again, something I will tackle better with time and practice.

Overall, these first two labs have been fairly simple and straightforward. In reading another candidates blog whom used NMC DoIT series, I realized that these labs are simplier than those from the DoIT series. Perhaps the IEWB progressively get harder, we shall see.

I'm also debating taking a boot camp from Narbik. The cost seems right, especially if I can get my employer to pay, I just don't want it to be a waste of money. I want to be the most prepared that I can be. So in short, here is my "new" expected plan of attack:

1. Complete IEWB Workbook I
2. Complete IEWB Workbook II
3. Complete IEWB Workbook III
4. Supplement practice lab with DocCD and Exam Cert Guide reading
4a. Schedule Lab Exam
5. IE Mock Lab
6. Revist Labs
7. Narbik CCIE Lab Boot Camp
8. Revist Labs
9. Cisco Lab Assesor
10. Revist Labs
11. Attempt Lab Exam

Well, it's been a long day so far, and I'm kind of burned out. More later....

Monday, January 19, 2009

On to Lab 2

I started on Lab 2 today. Overall most of the topics were the same with obvious variations. They did throw a few things at me, like creating a backup interface. Again, I don't remember this from my CCIE/CCNP studies. In any event, it was pretty easy to configure. Under the main interface just issue the following:

backup 60 300 (where 60 is the timeout value and 300 is the stable value)
backup interface Serialx/x (this is the interface that will come up/up when primary fails).

Not sure if this is still present on the CCIE track, but it's useful information.

Lab 2 also covered Etherchannels, which I've configured before. An important rule of thumb is that the NM-16 Ethernet Module in the 3600 series only supports etherchannel (channel-group 1 mode on). So, be familiar with how to configure Lacp and Pagp. I was again frustrated by the order of the tasks. Lab 2 again present you with VLAN assignments using VTP, before the trunks were established. I suppose this may be how the actual lab is presented.

Lab 2 also added dot1x authentication, which is something I had no trouble with on the written exam, but presented a problem in a lab scenario. You must remember that once you enable dot1x, it is enabled across the board, so you must keep yourself from being locked-out. 'aaa authentication login default none' solves this issue. Remeber to enable dot1x before assigning any ports, ie; dot1x system-auth-control.

I again had issues with the frame relay traffic shaping. QoS in a whole is a weak area to me. I've learned that if you know the formula, this can be achieved pretty easy. BC = CIR * TC. Using this, you can pretty much figure out what to set bc and tc to. Still trying to figure out BE, so I'll be sure to post that later.

In the IGP section, I encountered RIP using an offset list. This was totally foreign to me. The lab requested that the RIP process not access routes with an even second octet. Figuring this out using an access-list was easy. will give you all routes with an even second octet. After this you set the hop count to 16 which poisons the route.

I'm still really weak when it comes to IGP redistribution. Especially when it comes to metrics and distance. After going through the labs, I intend to re-read the IGP redistribution chapter from the CCIE Exam Cert guide, in addition to other chapters such as BGP.

I feel more confident about my time management. I'm now on track to complete one lab in two days time. Now I realize the actual lab is only 8 hours, but I'm reviewing my solutions after each task, so this is essentially doubling my time. The only question I have now is - when to schedule the lab? I know there is a waiting list, so I went online and checked. Looks like there are dates available in July, which would be the absolute earliest I would even think about taking the lab. I held off on scheduling the lab. I want to complete all 20 practice labs to gain some confidence, and then schedule the lab. That should give me 3-6 months to complete my studying, take some mock exams, etc.

I'm taking a break. Hoping to tackle BGP later for lab2.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Finishing up Lab 1

Well, I finally finished Lab1 this morning. The final sections covered QoS, Security, system management and IP services. The one thing that really threw me for a loop was the section on RMON. I've never had to configure RMON before and I don't recall seeing it in my CCNP or CCIE study materials. Perhaps this was left over from an old CCIE Lab Framework? I'll have to double-check the current framework to be sure. In any event, it was not that hard to configure, it's just not something that I have done before!

Looking back, I would have to say that I did not expect this to be that hard. After completing the first lab, I've learned a lot. The most important thing is learning what they expect from the way they phrase the questions. Hopefully I'll pick up on this over the next couple of labs. I am curious as to how much the remaining labs differ from Lab1.

Overall, I think my dynamips setup is working well for me. Again, I did have some weird switching issues, but I'm not sure if this is dynamips fault, or the patchwork "switching" by using 3600 ethernet modules. Hopefully once I get the lab setup at my workplace in Februrary, I can get some studying time on actual Catalyst 3560 switches. I'm looking to start Lab 2 a little later this evening. Going forward, my hope is get the core setup correctly. Hopefully, I can get some of my co-workers to study with.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Lab Core Setup

Well after 3.5 days, I've finally setup the core for my first lab, which totals 50% of your available points. I know I need to focus more on BGP path selection and IGP redistribution. Outside of that, I'm pretty familiar with all of the core topics covered. Some may have taken a little longer than needed, mostly because I did not remember some of the commands.

The workbook goes on to tell you that you can pick and choose the remaining tasks, picking the easy ones for quick sure points, and returning to the remaining tasks to tackle them. This seems very smart. Time is the enemy during your CCIE lab.

The one thing I have discovered is why I am doing these practice labs. Right now, I'm not doing the practice labs to speed up my time, I'm not doing them to get them right, I'm simply doing them to learn. After a period of time, I will have to focus on getting the tasks done right and quickly, but right now I'm just learning. It's not that I don't understand the topics at hand. I've passed the written test and posses both a CCNA and CCNP certification, but the lab is a whole separate beast. During a written test, it's pretty easy to see iBGP and know about full-meshing the peers, but during the lab, this can easily be overlooked. Plus there is no multiple choice or memorization!!

After a few hours at a less-than break-neck pace, I've decided to call it a day. I've got a headache and still have to clear my drive-way of snow. I've made it through the multicast and IPV6 portion of the lab, pretty easy stuff. I just have to remember to enable ipv6 unicast routing. Maybe later tonight, and tomorrow I plan on completing the lab. One week and only one lab complete, sounds scary. At this rate it would take five months just to make it through all the practice labs once. I'm not worried as I know things will speed up after the first few labs.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Still on Lab 1

Whew, what a day. First, my day started off with someone crashing through my lawn, due to ice on the roads. So after digging someone out of my lawn, I was able to get into Lab 1 again, albeit late. Things seem to go smoother today, but I still ran into some weird switching issues. I don't know if this is due to Dynamips, or due to "patch-work" switching by using NM-16 Ethermodules on a 3600 router. I've always done switching on switches, so this is kinda a new to me.

I can't reiterate enough that if something isn't working (and your using Dynamips and not actual switches), save and reload your "switches". After learning the hard way, this has fixed almost every one of my weird switching issues. I've never ran into issues like this using real catalyst switches.

Today's topics covered mostly routing, which I'm very familiar with. That later end of chapter 3 covered redistribution which I am very weak in as I've never had to redistribute between different routing protocols. Hopefully I can reinforce my redistribution skills through the labs. It's interesting with the way the ask questions, and the solutions I come up with. One question asked "that other hosts on a segment between two OSPF routers not intercept the OSPF traffic". My solution was authentication, but the solutions document was to use ospf host network addresses. In the real lab, is only one solution correct? Also beware, sometimes the solutions document suggests legacy way to do something that is not much simpler. For instance you can use a interface statement such as "ip ospf 1 area 0" to advertise a network (without using a network statement) instead of clumsy redistribute commands.

Another tip, always statically set your router id's within each routing process and always set these to the same address as any available static loopback address. This will save you trouble later. Also, always read the ENTIRE TASK before doing ANYTHING. I learned the hard way when I completed the first step in a particular task across all routers, only to get down to step 3 and have to re-do all that work again! Sigh!

Going through the labs is definitely taking longer than I first imagined. This is partially due to my weaknesses in some areas, partially due weird switching issues with dynamips and partially by design. After I finish a task, I immediately check the solutions document. As some one else pointed out, what is the purpose of going forward, or waiting until the end? The purpose of the practice labs is to learn and hone your skills. I'm spending about 4- 6 hours a day and I've only made it through the first lab, which is a difficulty 5. I imagine as I make it through the remaining labs, I will pick up the pace as I become more familiar with the topics at hand, and with the way the questions are asked.

I plan to take the next three months to make it through both workbooks. I don't plan on studying on the weekends, mostly so I can spend the most amount of time with my family. So 4-6 hours a day, 5 days a week should take me about 2-3 months. I've also got to make time to setup our CCIE lab at work, so a few trips to D.C. every month will take time away from my studying. After I complete the first two workbooks, I plan to tear into the 3rd workbook using the lab at my workplace. Once I complete that, I plan to actually schedule the lab as I've heard you need to book your appointment several weeks/months in advance.

Once my appointment is scheduled, I want to take the Internetwork Expert mock labs. These mock labs are graded which should give me a good idea of how ready I am. I also plan to use the Cisco CCIE Lab Assessor to guage how prepared I am.

Well, that all for now. Now I've got to help my wife with dinner, play with my son, do some laundry, and clear the snow from my driveway!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Well, I started into the InternetworkExpert Lab Workbooks today. I'm starting with Volume I Lab 1 and have already ran into a few problems. First, the solutions document does not appear to cover the entire solution, leaving out several steps, a few of which I am still trying to figure out. Either that, or the initial configs for the devices are not correct, I'm not sure which. I can't seem to get an answer from the IE Forums.

I can't see to get IP reachability across all ethernet connected interfaces, which is quite frustrating as this is very important. I only hope that the issue is my fault, and not the fault of the workbooks. Once I find the solution, I'll be sure to post it.

I'm trying to get 6 - 8 hours of study time in every day. With the issues I'm running in to, I have not even completed the first lab after a full day of studying. Studying can be hard sometimes with a wife and 18 month old child, but I think I'm dealing well so far. I try to spend as much time as possible with my family, so I study on my laptop in the living room, accessing my lab which is downstairs in my basement. I figured I don't need to be next to the equipment. That's how the actual lab is setup anyway.

So after a couple hours of frustration, I wiped all my routers and started from the beginning. Guess what - everything works! While I am happy everything works, I am quite upset I couldn't figure out what was wrong before. Layer2/3 networking is nothing new to me as I have been doing it for almost 10 years and it's my job! All my trunks were up carrying all the VLANs, the preconfigured IP addresses were correct, and all the ports were in the right access VLAN. I guess I'll just chalk this up to an anomaly. Hopefully I don't run into anything like this again - I hate to restart another lab being halfway through!

One important tip. I've seen goofy things happen with Dynamips that I've never seen with physical routers. If something is not working, and you have verified with the solutions document, then restart the router(s) through Dynagen, but first export your config for import later (wri mem does not save between reloads due to the presence of the cfg parameter in the .net file).

Monday, January 12, 2009

Routers, and Switches, and Labs - Oh My!

Well, finally got my "lab" up and running.

My lab consists of two servers and one desktop, all running Dynamips. If you don't know what Dynamips is, it is a Cisco Router emulator. Now, this isn't your Boson or other lab sim as Dynamips actually runs real IOS images and best of all - it's free! Also checkout Dynagen which is a nice front-end to Dynamips.

You may be asking - why servers? Well, it got them for a great price from Each one costed me $130. The include dual AMD 2.0Ghz+ dual-core processors with 4 GB of RAM. The only down side to these servers is they do not include any Floppy or Disc drives. So to install CentOS, I simply plugged a DVD drive into one of my many USB/IDE external adapters. I was then able to boot up the CentOS 5.1 DVD and install CentOS onto the 80GB IDE drive. One other great thing about these servers, they are IPMI capable. What this means is I can remotely turn them off and on from anywhere in the world. Seeing as these things are pretty loud, my wife appreciates this and I appreciate the reduced electric bill when I am not using them. The desktop machine is actually my old desktop machine with an old AMD 2Ghz processor with 4Gb or SDRAM. Check out the pictures of my lab.

To equalize the load, the two servers and the desktop all run their own separate IOS instances. Dynamips is running over a base CentOS 5.1 installation. If you are going to use Dynamips, I highly suggest using Linux. With linux, you will have more available resources to dedicate to your router/switch instances as opposed to Windows. If you are new to Linux, it's still pretty easy to get CentOS 5.1 up and running and getting Dynagen/Dynamips installed. Some people have had success running all 15 router instances on their personal desktop. This may work, but I did not want to bog down my desktop and in keeping the instances spread out, I achieve almost real-life responsiveness from my routers.

As I mentioned before, I am using the Internetwork Experts Dynamips Lab Workbook version 4.1. I had to adjust the dynagen .net configuration file so that I could spread out the router instaces, but outside of that, everything is running great. The one thing I couldn't get working was the Terminal Server. I couldn't quite figure out how to add another loopback or tap interface to CentOS. Seeing that I am using SecureCRT, this was not a huge deal to me. I just save all my router sessions in SecureCRT to a folder, and load them up all at once. I know how to use a terminal server, but it was not critical to my success in practicing for the lab.

That's all for now. I've actually started into the first lab exercise and I've already run into some problems. More on that later.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The trip begins...

So after almost nine years in the networking arena, I've decided to go for my CCIE R&S certification. For those of you who don't know, this is the Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert, Routing & Switching certification. This is Cisco's top certification for Routing & Switching and one of the industries top certifications. It involves a long written test, and an 8 hour hands-on practical lab at one of Cisco's lab testing facilities.

For those of you who have known me a long time, I once "joked" that someday I would be a CCIE. Never did I believe that I would actually attempt this, esepecially at such a (relatively) young age.

I already hold several certifications including MCP, A+, Net+, MCSA, CCNA and CCNP, so certification testing was not a new thing to me. The CCIE written examination was one of the toughest written exams to take. It included over 100 questions over a wide range of topics. On top of taking and passing the test, I had to worry about Cisco's "forensics analysis" which included how quickly you answered each question, how many times you changed an answer, and if you returned to a previous question, among other factors.

After about three months of studying, using the Cisco Official Exam Certifcation guide (which I highly recommend), I decided to take the test. The test is every bit about answering questions, as it is completing the test in the allotted amount of time. That being said, I passed the test with about 10 minutes to spare and a score of 910. After passing the exam, you are told your score needs to validated by Cisco. This takes about 48 hours. You can view you results online and I was elated to see that not only did I pass, but my score was validated.

So I am starting this blog a little late in the process being that I have already passed the written. I've created to blog not only to help others, but to keep notes as I go along to help myself pass the exam.

I've chosen Internetwork Experts CCIE Labs using Dynamips. I'll get in to that at another day.

I've been following someone else on their track to their CCIE R&S Cert...

Check it out as it is very useful and insightful.