Cisco Live Sunday Labtorial

Read­ing Time: 4 min­utes

This post is late in com­ing, con­sid­er­ing that I’ve been back from Cis­co Live for a good cou­ple of weeks now. Nev­er­the­less I’m post­ing it now, so hope­ful­ly some­one finds the infor­ma­tion use­ful.

With­out going into the details of the entire Cis­co Live expe­ri­ence, I’d just like to talk about the class I took on the first Sun­day of the show–or the day before the show offi­cial­ly starts, depend­ing on who you talk to.

On Sun­day I attend­ed a full-day mock CCIE R&S lab (Ses­sion LTRCCIE-3001). This was an instruc­tor-led affair, with Bruce Pin­sky (Dis­tin­guished Engi­neer) and Bruno van de Werve (Prod­uct Man­ag­er) act­ing as facil­i­ta­tors and proc­tors. Con­sid­er­ing Bruno’s expe­ri­ence as both a proc­tor for the actu­al R&S lab, and now the head of the R&S pro­gram, this was an expe­ri­ence well-worth hav­ing if only for the abil­i­ty to ask ques­tions.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly for all of us, and through no fault of either Bruce or Bruno, the in-class net­work was crashed from the moment we all got there. There were a num­ber of fail­ures, includ­ing some bad cables (how do you miss that in test­ing) which result­ed in all of us essen­tial­ly sit­ting around for over an hour.

To make up for the delay in get­ting start­ed, some­one from Cis­co came in and apol­o­gized and hand­ed out gift cards to Man­dalay Bay. It was a nice ges­ture, but con­sid­er­ing the gift cards had a face val­ue of five dol­lars, it might have been bet­ter to not hand out any­thing. It had the affect of actu­al­ly irri­tat­ing sev­er­al stu­dents, and giv­ing the rest of us some­thing to joke about for a while. The class cost $1000 (or 10 Cis­co Learn­ing Cred­its) so the val­ue of even an hour should have been clos­er to $125 or so.

After that sna­fu, and a brief pre­sen­ta­tion by Bruno and Bruce on num­bers of CCIE in the world, with break­downs by region, we got start­ed with the meat of the class: the labs them­selves. We were all look­ing for­ward to this, since it was being run by Cis­co and had the smell of real-world vs. some of the third-par­ty labs (note that I use third par­ty labs for train­ing, and have no prob­lems with them, but this was offi­cial­ly sanc­tioned and so had a lit­tle some­thing extra, at least in “feel.”)

The trou­bleshoot­ing sec­tion came first, and used the same sys­tem as the real lab so that was a nice touch. In our case we had only five trou­ble tick­ets to com­plete in one hour vs. the real lab which has ten in two hours. I believe this was done to facil­i­tate the “instruc­tor led” nature of the class, and allow us to ask plen­ty of ques­tions. Bruce and Bruno were stel­lar in this regard, com­ing around to any stu­dent with a ques­tion and help­ing them to under­stand the prob­lem or just pass­ing out hints to those who still want­ed to fig­ure it out on their own.

I learned a lot about myself and my trou­bleshoot­ing tech­niques dur­ing this por­tion of the day, as I got bogged down on the first tick­et and blew the rest of my time. It was a rel­a­tive­ly straight­for­ward tick­et where a par­tic­u­lar address was­n’t answer­ing an ICMP Echo to anoth­er device. It was a few routers togeth­er, with BGP. I spent the entire hour re-archi­tect­ing the BGP–down to bare met­al and rebuild­ing the con­fig from scratch–and almost was done when time expired. As it turned out, it was a sim­ple address state­ment that was miss­ing.

Bruno got a chuck­le out of this and point­ed out that the lab is not intend­ed as a “best prac­tices” lab. He said that in most cas­es you won’t be remov­ing con­fig­u­ra­tion at all dur­ing the TS sec­tion; you’ll sim­ply be adding some­thing miss­ing or cor­rect­ing route state­ments, etc. It was help­ful for me to hear this and to go through the expe­ri­ence, because it taught me that I real­ly need to focus on find­ing the sim­ple prob­lem quick­ly and not rebuild­ing things the way I think they ought to be built. After 17 years in the indus­try, that’s a dif­fi­cult habit to change, but one I’ll have to in order to be suc­cess­ful on the real lab.

After a brief recap and break, we moved on to the con­fig­u­ra­tion sec­tion. For the most part there were no sur­pris­es here, and I had my Layer‑2 (Frame, Span­ning-tree, VTP, etc.) and IGP (RIP, OSPF, and EIGRP here) set up quick­ly enough. Redis­tri­b­u­tion was what you’d expect, with a lot of every­thing going every which way. Again, no one in their right mind would ever design that net­work, but it’s what you can expect to see in the lab.

The one thing I did miss and had to have Bruno point out to me, is in a redis­tri­b­u­tion task regard­ing OSPF. The task want­ed a route from one area to show up in area 0. I got the route there, but Bruno said that I had it wrong. Rea­son? The area where the route orig­i­nat­ed was dis­con­tigu­ous, or detached from area 0. We all know that typ­i­cal­ly means you want a vir­tu­al link, but since the task did­n’t spec­i­fy this I sim­ply brought the route into area 0 as an exter­nal. Bruno said that the task “implied” a vir­tu­al link, and while I dis­agree with the word­ing of the task and the nature of implied con­fig­u­ra­tions, it was help­ful to hear since this is like­ly the same kind of thing I’ll see in the real lab.

Where I slowed down–and I knew I would–is on the MPLS and BGP con­fig­u­ra­tion sec­tions. As a long-time enter­prise engi­neer, I sim­ply don’t touch either of these tech­nolo­gies in the real-world, and I haven’t spent enough time with them in the lab to feel com­fort­able. I still mud­dled my way through some of it, but with the amount of time it took I’d nev­er make it through the real lab. The mes­sage for me here is that I real­ly need to take some time with these tech­nolo­gies until I not only under­stand them well, but can con­fig­ure them quick­ly.

Over­all, this was a very valu­able expe­ri­ence and one I would hearti­ly rec­om­mend to any­one look­ing to take the R&S lab. It gave valu­able insight into the time pres­sures you’ll face, as well as the num­ber of tasks, the word­ing, and the lev­el of dif­fi­cul­ty you can expect to see. This is just one more rea­son that Cis­co Live is where you want to be every year if you’re at all seri­ous about your net­work­ing career.