Saturday, November 16, 2013

my Schedule

After playing for a few days with the online lab scheduling, i managed to schedule my lab exam for 10th of February 2014 (this means that i had to pay at the same time). Since i wasn't so lucky to find an earlier date (there are various work projects scheduled for February 2014, where i wanted to be free of non-work matters), i started looking for important things (besides dealing with these work projects) to do before the 10th of December 2013, where i am planning to actually start my lab study.

First of all i needed to find some mock labs in order to rate myself. Unfortunately i couldn't find any, because as it seems only R&S mock labs are available from most trainers. Since no SP mock labs are available, i decided to follow another path. Get some time on rack rentals, find some workbooks with labs inside and make my own version of mock labs. What does this mean? Run an 8-hour lab on online racks and then grade myself based on the expected results. Like i did in R&S, honesty is what counts most, so even the smallest error will make me lose all the topic points.

I did a quick research and i ended up with INE's rack rentals in combination with their workbook (a bundle for which i got a nice offer). The workbook contains 4 full scale labs, 2 of which i'm planning to run at least twice. So in total i am planning to run my own version of 6 mock labs. I don't know if i'll be able to do some of the other staff in the workbook (besides the labs), but i hope i do find some time to test a few of those things too.

At the same time, i am planning to run some of the above labs on my upgraded dynamips environment, in order to get used to the technologies that i feel weak. That means that i'll have to prepare my virtual lab for that. I'm not planning to use IOU/VIRL/etc, because my current hardware setup is able to cope easily with the required amount of dynamips resources and i mostly want to focus on the technologies themselves rather than on the virtual environment or the actual device configuration.

After i covered the practical side of preparation, i needed to do something for the theoretical too. So i ordered two new books based on the list at My library already has most of these titles, so i went for "MPLS-Enabled Applications: Emerging Developments and New Technologies" and "Traffic Engineering with MPLS" which seemed interesting, although the topics are well-known to me.

Last but not least, i ordered a new MP3 player/recorder (my old had broken one year ago). The reason i use such a tool has been described in my previous CCIE. I still consider this hear-yourself tactic as of major importance for my preparation.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Take a break

From 05/Nov/2013 to 08/Dec/2013 the lab exam...

...take a vacation... new printer inks... with projects at work...

...prepare the virtual lab at home...

...get some new books... for online SP labs...

Monday, November 4, 2013

Refreshing matters

Today i passed the CCIE SP Written (350-029) exam, something that was mainly done in order to renew my CCIE certification.

I was positively surprised to meet the following topics:
  • A lot of questions about IPv6, CGN, etc.
  • Many questions about AToM, EoMPLS, VPLS, etc.
  • Quite a few of questions about fast convergence and MVPN
  • Some references from Cisco Live slides
On the other hand, ATM/FR had their section and the usual annoying questions that nobody cares to remember had a small presence too.

If Cisco removes completely the last part (like it partially did for latest R&S), then this is going to be one of the most interesting exams for service providers. I entered more than 20 comments as a feedback (i love doing that), hoping to make the exam even more useful in the future.

I spent a whole week studying for this exam (with an average of 5 hours per day), but i fell happy when i realized that this was a nice push to refresh my knowledge. Luckily, due to my daily job, i knew most of the staff quite well, so i had only to take a review on most of them.

Since i answered some questions totally in random but i passed with a high score, i tend to believe that some of them were put there as an evaluation and they were not actually graded. After all, why does the candidate need to remember all those numbers included in IANA & IETF docs? When i need to find something like that, i just need to know where to look for it; that's where the exam should focus.

Written Week

From 28/Oct/2013 to 03/Nov/2013

After one week of exhaustive reading for the written exam, this (46,5%) is my personal rating. Please keep in mind that most of these topics were already known to me, due to my daily job.

I can't say i'm happy with this as a starting point for the lab, but i feel confident enough that i can increase it using the right pace.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

my CCIE Service Provider Lab Exam v3.0 Checklist

After having a look at the topics that are included in the CCIE Service Provider Lab Exam v3.0 Checklist, i decided to make my own version of a checklist, from which you can find a sample below.

Next to each topic, i have rated my current perceived knowledge/experience about the specific topic, so i can easily keep track of my weaknesses and my progress. I only rate the sub-topics (x.y.z); everything else (x.y and x, as you can see in the 2nd sample below) is computed automatically as a weighted average of the included sub-topics.

Some explanations about the rating i have used:

Rate Explanation (move from 90% to 10% when checking your progress)
10% You have heard of this feature and you know where it applies to
20% You know the theory behind this feature and you are able to explain it
30% You know enough details about this feature in order to start experimenting with it
40% You have done some basic experimentation with this feature
50% You have used this feature in the past, but you need to freshen it up
60% You have used this feature recently, with some external help (friend/docs/etc.)
70% You use frequently this feature, sometimes with external help (friend/docs/etc.)
80% You are able to use this feature without any external help (friend/docs/etc.)
90% You are an expert on this feature

Generally, if something is rated above 50%, then i feel confident enough due to having both good theoretical knowledge & practical experience; i just need a recap. If something is below 50%, then i need to focus on that and definitely test it on a lab. Anything below 30% means no practical experience at all. Although the written exam might include some different topics, i don't think you should try the written exam without having at least 20% on half of these topics and above 40% on most of the others. You'll be cheating yourself otherwise.

I haven't used 0% and 100% for the following reasons: 0% means you haven't heard of that feature, so don't even bother taking the exam (especially if it's a critical topic). 100% means you know everything about this feature, so you're probably lying to yourself (unless you wrote the code yourself).

I consider achieving something around 75%-80% in all topics is more than enough to help me pass the CCIE SP lab. Actually some topics (the ones that aren't used as a base for others) do not need such a high percentage, but from a general knowledge perspective it will be good to reach that number in every topic.

You can watch my progress by clicking the "Progress" tab on the header of the home page. Once i start my lab preparation, i am planning to make updates once per week, most probably every Monday. At the same time i will also try to make some posts about various interesting things i am encountering while preparing for the exam.