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Since I passed the CCIE Data Center lab, I had many demands to share my insights on how to pass the DC. So here we go; but before we start, I have some disclaimers:
- All rights and wrongs are reserved.
- It’s MY approach and it does not have to be yours. It’s a free world we live in. Take what’s best and use it.
- I will not go into the general guidelines concerning the lab, there are enough blog posts about those.
- I will not break the NDA so no specific questions concerning the lab.
It can be broken down into 2 parts:
- I started getting into it in 2013 with INE. I watched all their courses. I think this is the CCIE where I watched more videos than any other so far. Just to give an idea:
- Coming from a Data background, I had to wrap my head around Virtualization, SAN, UCS, etc... There is no brainer you have to spend the time to learn. The pain for most of us is our IP/Data background. We never played with Storage Area Networks or VMware or Unified Computing. Luckily enough, we are only tested on Cisco products, we do not have to worry 'too much' about VMware, even though I must admit that having some knowledge will definitely help on the UCS and Nexus 1000v; but it's not mandatory.
- I had the chance to work in DC and private and public cloud projects for some clients. That also gave me the opportunity to look at the Data Center infrastructure the grand scheme of things.
- I will not do a rerun of the list of books to read, how to approach it, etc. I think Brian McGahan from INE did a wonderful and I abide by it 100%. So here is the link.
- Also, I attended a bootcamp in London with Khawar Butt. It's my second bootcamp in my career and the first one was in 2008. Needless to say that I am not a bootcamp fan.
- Was it worth it? Hell YEAH!!!! Khawar has the experience and the knowledge to take anything complicated and break it down in pieces. He's a pent CCIE and CCDE. I like his approach also of building labs live in the classroom. it's never pre-rebuild. You do it together, add the components, talk about the why, and then get on the equipments to configure it together. it's more of a design/configuration type of approach.
- Also, I had the chance of staying in the same place as Khawar during the bootcamp. Actually, we were next door neighbors . He was kind enough to spare some time after hours to discuss about technologies. I would definitely recommend his bootcamp. Each student had its own full rack, no sharing.
Getting to Brussels:
- With Paris attacks, Brussels was on high alert. I made sure I got to the train station earlier since it's like going to the airport now (check your identity, search your luggages, etc...). In Brussels, you could have sensed the tension in the air, military everywhere.
- Got to my hotel, grabbed a nice Sirloin steak for dinner and off to bed. Woke up in the morning, breakfast, grabbed my bag and off to the Cisco site. I stayed at the NH hotel, first time. Usually I stayed at the Thon Hotel, they have that naturally squeezed orange juice.
- Got to the site, we were only 3 candidates (DC, Collaboration and R&S). Usually there are around 6 candidates in Brussels. Maybe because of the emergency state, they cancelled their lab, then i started thinking, I should have followed my wife's suggestion to postpone my lab. What the heck, might as well die doing what you love, right?
During the exam:
I will start with a good news, they have two 24' monitors now in Brussels . Totally makes sense when I saw the topology of the Version 5 R&S and even SP version 4 exams; also who nowadays only has one screen on their desk?
- I read the whole lab, twice, yes, twice, took notes, noted caveats to watch out for and set up my environment (open terminal, questions, diagrams, Doc CD, etc.…) All this took me 53 minutes. Preparation is half the battle.
- Read each and every question. Every word is important. Do not assume anything. The assumption will get you that $1500 lunch ticket.
- Try as much as you can verify your work with show commands. Show run is for Associates and Professional. This is an Expert exam.
- You have doubts, ask the proctor. Don't be shy, he/she is there for you. Even though most the time, him/herself is preparing a CCIE ;-) One of my configurations was not working, after tumbling down the rabbit for 10 mins I asked the proctor, he told me: don't worry if it does not come up, just make sure that it's configured DUH!!! My comment through the lab critique: Mister Proctor, can you please, next time, in the question, explicitly, mention THAT in the question.
Order of Operations, Order of Operations, Order of Operations, Order of Operations. I cannot stress it enough.
- Copy/Paste is your best friend. Many configuration are redundant. Just like all Data centers :)
- Don’t think you can do it better. DO WHAT YOU ARE TOLD!!!
- There is that moment in this lab where you would just want to get up on the table and dance. It's when you see this screen
About the Lab:
The lab can be broken down into 4 sections:
- Nexus > 40%
- Storage > 20%
- Unified Computing > 30%
- Nexus 1000v >10%
The main pain point about the lab is dependencies:
- If your UCS configuration is not correct, then your SAN will not boot, then forget about the Nexus 1000v points and UCS points.
- If your SAN is not properly configured, then forget about boot from SAN, in the same essence, UCS and Nexus 1Kv points and Storage points are lost.
- Nexus is just one brick and it's the biggest, but it alone, you cannot pass the lab.
- Time is not a concern with the CCIE DC Lab. Most candidates I have met and did not pass is either because their boot from SAN did not work or the SAN did work but they did not pay attention to the details: forget about best practices and do what you're asked. It's not a design exam, the CCDE is meant for that.
Voilà Voilou. I do not like long posts because it tends to wear you out. So i will stop here. If you have questions, feel free to post them in the chat and I will do my best answer them in a timely manner.
Good luck with your studies.