Sunday, July 24, 2011

How I passed the CCIE R&S Lab on my 1st Attempt

CCIE 10 Year

I am studying for my CCIE Re-Certification. This has re-kindled my interest in many of the “CCIE Lab” study materials out in the Internet. With all of this material available, I wanted to share what I did to pass the CCIE R&S Exam.

I passed the CCIE Routing and Switching Lab 12 years ago on August 26, 1999. I took my lab exam in the beautiful Halifax, Nova Scotia. This was one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. I took my exam on a Monday and a Tuesday (yes, back then it was a 2 day exam). My wife accompanied me; we arrived on Saturday and spent a day and a half being tourists.

When people in the “know” realize I am a CCIE I am often asked, “How many attempts until you passed”. My response is “one”. I say this, not to brag, but to give some credibility to what I am sharing.

When I started to study there was no study guides. People who had taken the exam would not talk about the test, even the number of routers they saw. The big rumor was there was a major Frame-Relay component, but no one would talk about this.

I found Bruce Caslow’s book “Cisco Certification: Bridges, Routers and Switches for CCIEs”. This was not a “how to pass the CCIE Exam”; it was a structured road map for preparing for the lab. From this book I discovered and learned how to study technologies inside and out.

I put together my CCIE lab rack. I quickly realized there was no need to constantly change the cabling. I needed a configuration that gave me a Frame-relay Point-to-Point connection and a Point-to-Multipoint connection. If I needed additional interfaces I could use Loopback interfaces. Quick tip, If you have an Ethernet interface, but no switch/hub to plug it into, “keepalive 0” will make the interface come up.

Combining the Caslow book with my own plans I did a couple of things structurally that helped:

  • Lab Time
    • Monday – Thursday 7:00pm-Midnight
    • Saturday or Sunday – 8hr
    • Stop Time
    • On Monday – Thursdays I had a hard stop time of midnight.
    • If I completed my tasks with lots of time to spare, I erased the configurations and did it again
    • Otherwise, I used the hard Midnight stop time to pressure me to get it done
    • This way I built in the time factor every day
  • Typical Study Week
    • Each week I had a “topic”
    • One week would be OSPF, the next IS-IS, the next IGRP/RIP redistribution into OSPF/EIGRP/RIP/IGRP, the next week BGP
    • For the week, I would spend the first two days on the easy stuff.
    • The next three days would be “advanced topics
    • On Saturday or Sunday for the 8hr session, I would configure the advanced scenarios from the week and add on other topics to fill out my time

To summarize what it took me to pass the CCIE Lab…
  • From day 1, I followed a regime that enforced timed deadlines. Every day I was pressured by time
  • Each week I focused on a topic learning each and every the nuance
  • I didn't have study guides that gave me a long string of “sample” test questions
  • I studied each of the protocols in detail to learn how they worked
  • I had a relaxing day and a half before my test


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Comcast, Skype announce partnership - Does this kill Cisco umi?

I found this article by Larry Hettick at Network World. Comcast, Skype announce partnership

Comcast and Skype announced a strategic partnership that will bring HD video calls, audio calls, and messaging to Comcast customers' television sets. The announcement was timed to coincide with the annual National Cable & Telecommunications Association's "Cable Show" held in Chicago.

Under the arrangement, Comcast subscribers will be able to connect to each other and to the global base of Skype users. Video calls from the television using Skype will be able to connect to other TVs, PCs, compatible smartphones or tablets...

The service will be delivered to the HDTV through an adapter box, and it comes with an HD video camera and microphones that sit atop the TV set, along with a specially designed remote control that combines a keyboard for texting, TV controls and audio/visual communication controls. The other calling party does not need any special equipment beyond what is needed to use Skype.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The IT Conflict: The Network vs. Users. Part 1

We can all agree, working in IT has its challenges. A friend recently asked me "What has been the most significant challenges in IT recently?"

To that I say "how much time do you have?"

Over the years we have seen many technology innovations.  Some have been business focused while others have been consumer focused.  Business focused innovations improved network performance and reliability, application intelligence, business efficiencies, and security. Consumer innovations have focused on features, functionality, and ease of use. Often, consumer innovations have created headaches for the IT department.

I remember, back in the day, installing VPN servers when dial-up modems were the norm. Who would use a VPN when they could just dial in? A short time later, broadband Internet connections exploded, end user signed up like mad, and nobody wanted to access corporate resources through a dial-up modem any more. We struggled to install VPN servers with enough capacity.

Then wireless Ethernet appeared. Business users could connect their company provided laptops to their home wireless networks, but still had to plug-in at work. Why did they have to plug-in at work?  “Can’t the IT department implement wireless as easy as at home?”

So we struggled to install standalone wireless access points. They were cumbersome, then we figured out centrally managed wireless networks were much more efficient.

Today many organizations have deployed remote-access VPNs and centrally managed wireless networks. Business users, from home, hotel rooms, conference rooms, airports, Starbucks, or other locations, can securely connect to the corporate network. In the physical office, business users can connect with wired or wireless connections and easily access the same systems. We even can support “Guest” wireless connections
We could finally rest,  IT finally caught up to the users. But, like Steve Jobs likes to say, “but there’s more”. ...Great!@$%

Now we have business users bringing in other devices not provided by the IT department. I have a customer who has a XBOX in a conference requiring wireless Internet access.

It is now a reality; IT Departments now have to support Smartphones. Business users expect “always on” connectivity.  Users expect to not only have continuous access regardless of their platform.

Not only does the IT department have to pay for the Data plans, they now have to support the wireless Ethernet connectivity requirements. It would be easy to not support wireless Ethernet connectivity, but the cost of cellular data usage has to be considered. It is now financially prudent to allow Smartphones onto the business network.
Now, do we want the smartphones on the “Guest” wireless network, or the “internal”. Both have their advantages. “Guest” lets the user connect like they are at home but they may have to sign in to a “Guest” splash screen.  An “internal” wireless connection may open up the network to security hazards.

And then someone in management had to go and get a tablet. It could be an iPad or an Android device, it doesn’t matter. The IT department didn’t buy it, but it needs to connect to the network.  When the connection doesn’t work, we hear “what do you mean ‘no more IP addresses are available’”, “when I’m in my office, Angry Birds is slow”.

In my next installment; Unified Communications – home user features vs. business users’ functionalit