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SP Written and Lab booked

Posted by Jo on September 4, 2009

I decided to bring my written date forward, so instead of doing it on the 5th of September, I instead did it on Tuesday the 1st. I was fortunate enough that I am between projects at work at the moment, so had time to study extra for it and thankfully I passed. It had been a while since I did a CCIE written exam (my R&S was back in July 2007), and they have changed the format slightly. You can no longer mark questions for review so once they are answered they stay answered so you have to be sure before moving onto the next question etc.

Anyway, now the true lab prep begins. I had a look on the CCIE Lab scheduling site for potential dates and its fair to say there are not enough SP seats to go around. My first preference was to take the lab in Brussels again, but there are no dates available until March 2009 which was a bit too far out. The SP lab is not available in Dubai, which would have been perfect to get to from Doha, but was not to be. I decided to get a date in Sydney, as I could then combine this with a holiday with my wife. We have some friends over there who it would be nice to go and visit, so it made sense really. The only issue is the 20 hours of travel time to get there, so I am making sure that we arrive in plenty of time to acclimatise and adapt to the time difference. I will however keep my eyes open for a slot to open up in Brussels in early January or late December, just in case.

I scheduled the lab for February 24th 2010, which gives me until November 25th to make payment and confirm. By this time I should be able to make a decision on my progress made and if I need to get the credit card out. I am not sure if there is a blueprint update planned by Cisco for the SP track (I am sure now I have jinxed it and there will be), but this date puts me inside of a 6 month window if they were to announce anything sooner rather than later. I guess the next step will be to include the Short Answer Questions, and when these were introduced to the other tracks they didnt give 6 months notice, but thats something I am going to be prepared to face anyway.

So in terms of prep now I am cracking on with the IPexpert Volume 1 labs. I have been tinkering with these in my Dynamips setup and have not come across any problems yet. I will aim to go through these a couple of times before the end of October, then crack on with the Volume 2 multi protocol labs from November onwards, which should give me a good indication of readyness as these are a set of evil labs I hear! Maybe Rick will add a few more labs to these over the coming months to compliment them.

Posted in BLS - Volume I, CCIE Blog, ipexpert, Lab Schedule, SP | 3 Comments »

Now doing SP

Posted by Jo on August 7, 2009

Its official, I have put my voice studies on hold and switched over to the SP track. Its a shame to put the work I have done so far for the voice written to the side, but feel I am making the right choice – this just seems a whole lot more logical as there is a lot of overlap with the R&S.

I have not booked the SP written exam yet, but am hopefully going to go for it in the first couple of weeks of September. I have made a start in my reading list, I have MPLS Fundamentals here with me, and while I have read it before in sections, am reading it again from cover to cover – taking notes. I am making good progress, and am onto to Chapter 7 that covers MPLS VPN. My previous job was based on an MPLS VPN network, so Im pretty comfortable with the concepts and configurations with all thats been in the book so far.

I have made the choice to go for the IPexpert SP workbook Volumes 1 and 2, and have started doing some labs from Volume 1 to get back into the swing of things. I have the topologies set up in Dynamips, so its easy to do a couple of hours worth of labbing anytime I choose. I missed my Dynamips labbing days from the R&S. I know it has its quirks, but I am able to work around these and run the topologies fully loaded on my MacBook Pro running at 30-40% utilisation.

I will post a schedule on here for my planned labs, and am also hoping to write some techincal articles along the way as I go through them. I am going to try and go for the lab before the end of 2009, hopefully in or around the November/December timeframe. Its a shame that there isnt an SP lab at Cisco in Dubai at the moment, as that would have been very convieneient, but I will worry about that when I am done with the written and can book a lab date.

Posted in BLS - Volume I, CCIE Blog, Dynamips, ip expert, ipexpert, Lab Schedule, SP | Leave a Comment »

Voice Lab Changes Cometh…

Posted by Jo on December 2, 2008

The update has been announced – the voice lab is changing.

New details can be found here:

The changes look quite interesting, I wonder how much of the current blueprint will be useful. I am glad for one that CallManger has been upated to something other than 4.1 (actually CUCM 7.0) and Im not sure if they have done away with the 6500 elements all together?

The Hardware and Software list is here:

As an IPexpert BLS customer hopefully they will be able to provide guidance on when the product and Proctor Labs vRacks will be updated to relect the new content.

Im on holiday at the moment out in Sweden, so I will write some more when I get back on all of this. Its good news though I think!

Posted in CCIE Blog, CCIE Prep, ip expert, Lab Schedule, voice | 2 Comments »

My Lab Experience – Part I

Posted by Jo on October 8, 2008

So things have calmed down a little bit for me since yesterday. Firstly I would like to say thanks for all the comments on the site and via email – its great to hear from so many people! Id like to write a little bit about my lab experience in Brussels – it wont go into too much detail about the contents of the lab, but more general covering the complete experience.

Getting there and the night before

I planned to be in Brussels for just one night, but due to a general strike starting on Sunday night for 24 hours I was notified by Eurostar that my return journey on Monday evening had been canceled, so I had to rebook for the next morning. Not a big deal, but it meant I had to take an extra day off from work and pay for another night in the hotel – but at least I would get to Brussels in time, which was the main thing.

The journey was painless from London to Brussels on the train, once I got to the station I had to make my way to Diegem, the suburb where Cisco is located, and had about an hours wait for the connecting train. Once there I headed to my hotel. I booked in at the Formule 1 Hotel, mainly because it was €43 per night and I was on a budget (do yourself a favour – if you are spending $1400+ on the lab exam, spend however much it costs to stay at a decent hotel, like the NH or Holiday Inn, the night before). If I had the choice I wouldnt go back to this hotel, it was pretty basic with no bathroom in the room itself, but out in the hall way cubicle style and shared with all other guests. The TV only had 2 English TV channels (Eurosport and MTV – which was mostly in German). I brought some notes with me and a few solutions guides from IE and IPexpert, and made a start reading through them. I wouldnt recommend doing any last minute cramming, just more of a general read through of some of the basics.

When I got bored with reading (it didnt take long) I got some rest before heading out to check out the Cisco campus and make sure I knew where to go the next day. The weather on Sunday evening was terrible, lashing down with rain and blowing a storm – good job I brought my umbrella. Once at Cisco I had a wander around the deserted campus. The first building I went to I banged on the door and spoke to the security guard who directed me to another building where the lab would be the next morning. I made my way back to the hotel which was a 10 minute walk away – and my umbrella broke under the force of the wind half way there, so I spent the next 5 minutes getting soaked through going back to the hotel. Now that I was umbrella-less I booked a cab for 7.20 the next morning so I wouldnt turn up to the lab looking like a Titanic survivor if the weather was the same.

That night I didnt do any more reviewing of my notes – if I didnt know it by now it was too late – I put the TV on and watched Southpark and Family Guy in German (and didnt understand any of it). I managed to get to sleep somewhere between 12-1am as my mind was racing a little, but thankfully I woke up at 6.30 to get ready for the big day.

Lab day

In the morning I got up, showered went down to have breakfast. The weather was better than the day before but I still had a cab booked which turned up at 7.15 so in I jumped. I was at Cisco by 7.20 and headed into the building. There were three guys there already so we all said hello, but conversation wasnt flowing for obvious reasons. One guy was there to do his R&S lab like me and it was his second attempt, the other two were in to do SP and Voice. Over the next 20 minutes the reception filled up with around 10 of us in total, some people were chatting others were concentrating on the day ahead. We were due to be collected by the proctor at 7.45, but by 7.50 there was still no sign of anyone, which added to the anticipation and nervousness! We all kind of got our hopes up each time someone entered the foyer hoping it was the proctor. Bruno the Brussels proctor finally turned up at about 8.15 and apologised for being late but he was stuck in traffic due to the strike – but we didnt need to worry as the lab is 8 hours based on the start time. We all headed up to the lab, showed our ID and sat at our stations. We were given a briefing by Bruno to check the configs on our racks to see if they tie up with the workbooks. Then the exam started.

I did what all vendors tell you to do and read through the exam – twice. My first impressions were kind of OK – there is a lot of information to digest. Reading the exam twice took about 15 minutes, I wasnt studying it just seeing if I could handle the contents. Once I finished reading I checked over the rack. Initially I was a little confused, there may be troubleshooting tasks in the lab, so I was expecting some errors in the initial config. One thing I wasnt sure about was the level of any preconfiguration that may or may not be applied to the rack. What I was seeing was a fully configured lab in front of me, with totally different IP address schemes. I was thinking to myself I know this is the CCIE lab but this amount of troubleshooting is ridiculous! I jumped up and spoke to the proctor to verify and he said that I still had the config from last Fridays candidate! It turned out that 4 other guys also had the same issue and Bruno may have to grade these labs before clearing the config and giving us our labs. I think its a good job I didnt change anything, and I hope the guy before me passed his lab!

This meant we had to go to the break room for 45 minutes while this took place – we all had a laugh about it, and it gave us a chance to introduce ourselves to each other properly. There was a good mix of people there, a guy from Australia who now lives in Denmark doing his Security exam, a fellow Londoner (via India) who was on his second attempt at R&S, a guy from Norway and a guy from Nigeria (working in Sweden) who were both on their first attempts at R&S. A couple of these guys were flying back to Denmark at 18:45 so were worrying about what time the lab would now end for them, and if they would make check-in for the flight. Luckily for me I was now going home the following day, so no such worry for me.

Once we got the call to come back in to the lab 45 minutes later, we were told that our end time was 45 minutes after everyone else. I made a start on the lab properly. I wont go into any detail about the contents of the lab itself, but it was a solid exam with parts of it that make you think about the solutions. There were a few tasks that I wasnt sure on, but the great thing about this exam is that the answers are all the in the documentation somewhere – its up to you to find it, digest it and apply it appropriately. I know for sure that I used the docs to answer some questions that I didnt know the answer to, but was lucky enough to track down.

I was actually done with the exam (including my first check through) by 15:30, and was due to finish now at 17:43, so I had plenty of time to double check things again. I wasnt 100% confident on all of the solutions, but I had to trust my instinct a little. I was actually really terrified of changing too much, but I answered every question in the lab. My usual weak areas of Multicast and QoS I was sure I had nailed – which was a great confidence booster. I know I missed some points in the core IGP sections, as I had workarounds in place, so I concentrated on these, but didnt change them in the end due to paranoia of breaking other things that I knew were working!

On leaving the exam, I thought I had a good chance of passing. A lot of it is down to interpretation, but I checked a few things with the proctor, who was helpful if you asked him nicely and didnt fish for the answer. He basically would say – ‘what is the question you are asking’ if he felt you were probing too much. The other guys all finished up at 17:43 and we headed out. All of them were sure they would be back for another attempt, and I was feeling quietly confident inside, but never sure. It would be a long wait until I got the result…

Posted in CCIE Blog, CCIE LAB, Lab Schedule, Uncategorized | 9 Comments »

IP Expert Mock Lab 3 (redux)

Posted by Jo on October 1, 2008

Today I did this mock lab again. I ended up with 73 – which wasnt what I was expecting, but highlighted a couple of issues for me. I answered all but one question, but made some really dumb mistakes – things like missing things off of a single trunk to a router (I only applied the config to inter-switch trunks), not paying attention to the irdp config on a couple of interfaces – if you dont apply these commands in order it wipes the address info out of the config, so while I typed all the commands in, they didnt appear on the interface.

Overall I wasnt too happy with the way I approached this lab once it was ‘complete’. I had it all done in 4 hours and didnt check it through too well it appears. Too many small mistakes. I partly put this down to burn out. Today is my last scheduled rack session – I was planing on doing two more, but I think my brain is a little fried. My plan here on out is to read my notes and the DocCD over the next few days while taking it easy.

Posted in CCIE Prep, ip expert, Lab Schedule, Mock Lab | 2 Comments »

The home stretch

Posted by Jo on September 26, 2008

I am in preparation for the home stretch now. My lab is on Monday 6th October, so I have a bunch of rack time scheduled between now and Friday, and am off work – hopefully I can get a good 7-8 hours a day in. Im heading to Brussels on Sunday morning on the train, and hope to have a relaxing day before hand, eating steak, waffles and fries and mayonnaise (not all together)

Ive got sessions booked right up until Friday, and I will be doing the IP Expert mock labs 2-4 again, as well as brushing up on some things like Catalyst QoS labs, and a review of the DocCD.

I re-did IP Expert mock lab 1 again today – but yet again the grading script failed on me – which was a shame as I wanted to get a gauge on how I did. I checked though the PG and probably did really well from what I can see – but its always nice to get an independent answer. I also re-did IE mock lab 5 on the rack we have at work, and I was comfortable with the tasks on there – I got over 90% according to my marking. I know these are repeat labs, but they cover some good technologies and I use them to work on my speed. I finished each one within 5 – 5.5 hours, so I am happy with that side of things too.

I think at this point in my prep Im not going to ‘learn’ anything new, although there are a few areas that I am less confident on, and will be brushing up on. Hopefully CCIE Lab Karma wont come and bite me and I get more things that I am sure of on the exam than not.

Routing & Switching Pod 108 Sep 26 8:00 AM Sep 26, 2008 3:59 PM
Routing & Switching Pod 113 Sep 27 8:00 AM Sep 27, 2008 3:45 PM
Routing & Switching Pod 113 Sep 28 12:00 AM Sep 28, 2008 7:45 AM
Routing & Switching Pod 111 Sep 30 8:00 AM Sep 30, 2008 3:45 PM
Routing & Switching Pod 109 Oct 01 8:00 AM Oct 01, 2008 3:45 PM
Routing & Switching Pod 109 Oct 02 8:00 AM Oct 02, 2008 3:45 PM
Routing & Switching Pod 109 Oct 03 8:00 AM Oct 03, 2008 3:45 PM

Posted in CCIE Blog, ip expert, Lab Schedule, Mock Lab | 2 Comments »

Change of Lab Date

Posted by Jo on March 2, 2008

So, I have been reading through the various blogs out there and boot camps seem to be a hot topic of thought at the moment. I have been deliberating about whether or not to attend one, I am mindful of the good reviews received for Narbik Kocharians‘ bootcamps, and he has finally announced some dates for London classes.

I was contemplating going to Dubai for his class, but now he is coming to London it works out even better on price. I am going to book a place on the bootcamp starting on the 7th July – unfortunately this is when I had my lab date booked for, so I have pushed this out a couple of months so I can absorb all of the bootcamp material. I don’t mind doing this as I am not in a particular hurry to get my CCIE done. Also, attending the bootcamp will give me some additional material to work through different to the IEWB materials, so will be able to get a different perspective I hope.

If anyone out there is interested in attending this bootcamp get in touch with Narbik through his website and let him know.

Posted in Bootcamp, CCIE Blog, Lab Schedule | Leave a Comment »

1,7,8,9,10 & 11

Posted by Jo on October 19, 2007

As a side note a new highly successful approach that we (InternetworkExpert) are recommending to certain candidates is taking only 5 or 6 full scale labs but doing them 4 or 5 times each. Then during the last week or two before the real lab taking 2 or 3 additional full scale labs and doing them once or twice each. This approach should get you to the point where you can do any of the 5 or 6 labs within 4 hours and be able to complete the additional 2 or 3 labs within 5 to 5.5 hours. You would be amazed at the amount you can learn by doing a lab more than once. Plus one of the big benefits with this approach is that you gain speed and accuracy (accuracy = correct configuration the first time around) which is important in passing the lab.

Brian Dennis, CCIE4 #2210 (R&S/ISP-Dial/Security/SP)

The above passage was from Brian Dennis of InternetworkExpert posted on GroupStudy. I guess the key to this statement is where Brian say’s ‘for certain candidates’, I think it is an interesting approach and I may look at it for this next phase. As much as I would like to work through all 20 labs in the v4 workbook, Im sure there is a lot of repetition in some of the tasks, so concentrating it down to 6-7 may be a good idea. Having looked through the labs they seem to be a good mix covering lots of different topics – so will see how it goes. I still plan to do the core sections first on these labs to get my speed up in these areas.

Posted in CCIE Blog, Lab Schedule | Leave a Comment »