Happy New (CCIE?) Year!

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to all the people out there and also a very warm welcome to my blog: Kuhlcloud – IT Networks & More. Now we left the year 2020 behind and it is 2021! A new year has began and it is time to start new things and I have planned a lot of them…

If you want to know me better check out the About section where I did a briefly introduction or get in contact with me at the Contact section. I am always looking for new contacts from the IT and Networking community. Now let’s see how I got to the point why I want to start a blog, even though so many do these days on various platforms. Anyway, I prefer traditional blog writing.

It was about 3 or 4 month ago when I decided to start a serious study journey towards the CCIE Enterprise Infrastructure certification. As I am currently holding the CCNP Enterprise certification I am eligible to book the CCIE lab exam. During the planning phase I was reading through some blogs from the Networking community which I was already following. Then I realized that it would be a good idea to reflect my study progress and share in my own blog. I think that sharing your experiences and your knowledge with the community makes every single individual better and we all can benefit from each other. Every individual’s passion about topics should be shared with others and now I am here to do so.

The blog will not content only topics of my CCIE studies for sure as there are so many exciting things to learn out there in IT Networking. I hope I can share some stuff I will learn during this journey, get good feedback and help from the community, and also inspire others to evolve their knowledge and became life-long learners. Especially the last points are very important for me because my CCIE path was not that successful until now.

A Brief History Of Wasted Time?

During my career there were different times where I was planning to go for the CCIE and I also started several times to study for it. At that time the CCIE was called Routing & Switching and Version 4 was active shortly before Cisco moved to Version 5. Some of you guys know these times with Frame Relay very well…

During the time the CCIE Routing & Switching Version 5 was active I started two times some study for it, but both times it was not very well structured. I read a lot of books, articles, blog posts, and many Cisco documentations. I did not really practice a lot in the lab because there was the hurdle of the CCIE Written Exam. After about a year of learning the theory parts and some practice on the job (mostly Switching stuff and some lower Routing parts) I went to the Written Exam and passed it. It was not only to be eligible to book the lab for 18 month then, it was also good to re-certify my CCNP status at this time.

Well, the 18 month went over without any lab attempt but I could evolve my knowledge further more on my job during several cool customer projects. Shortly after the CCIE Written expired, I started the second time studying for it. Due to some private issues there was also no well structured approach. This time I did not pass the Written exam in the end and the CCIE journey ended this day for now.

To be honest there was always a will to earn the CCIE certification, but if I look back today I would say there was no serious plans to go the journey till the end. Was it wasted time? I think it was not. I have always learned something, not only technically but also about myself and how I can improve the ability to learn. Now it is the time to move on and to complete the thing finally.

My Study Materials

I know that there are many good study resources from various providers out there and most of them have really good trainers hired, but I think in the end you need to pick one, two, or three of them as your base. That doesn’t mean that one provider is better than the other, but sometimes you feel more comfortable with one than the others. It’s just human.

The Cisco Learning Network

The starting point for all CCIE studies is the Cisco Learning Network. Not only the information about the ENCOR exam or LAB exam should be in your focus, there are also free webinars and videos available. If you have any questions or you want to start a discussion you can submit those at the community section. I encourage to take a look at it. Unfortunately, I don’t stop by there at the moment, but I’ve also made this point my goal for the new year.

Cisco DevNet

The Cisco DevNet is my first place for Network Automation and Programmability topics which has now its own section on the lab exam topics. There are many different Learning Tracks, Videos, Sandboxes, and many more for all the various platforms.

Books, Books, and more Books

If you study for something you need a good foundation to begin with and later deepen your knowledge and books are the essential for that. Apart from book list mentioned on the CCIE Enterprise Infrastructure Learning Matrix available on the Cisco Learning Network, I would also add the following books as well:

I know that the book list could be extended at any time of my or of your studies, so I am happy to add your proposals. In my opinion you don’t have to read all books from first to last page and you can pick parts or sections of your interest, but in some cases in makes sence to follow the authors intention to teach you the topics and to understand as well in the end. It is also a thing of everyones level of knowledge and what learner you are.

Cisco Documentation

Besides all those books there are a lot of good documentations available on Cisco‘s website. The Configuration Guides and the Command Reference Guides are very good sources and include also a lot of additional information and detailed step-by-step approaches. Here are a small portion of links I have booked-marked:

Video on Demand and Live Sessions

I started with using INE’s NETWORKING PASS with its courses for CCNP Enterprise and CCIE Enterprise Infrastructure, because I am working with INE for some years now and feel comfortable with them as I already described before. INE has also some good technology lab workbooks for practice on their own labs you can rent or using their topologies on your own lab.

Besides INE I was looking for some Instructor-Led live online trainings because I like to interact with people and appreciate the opportunity to ask questions during these live sessions. This brings a lot of benefit in my opinion when you follow a topic during live courses and a questions comes to your mind which you can immediately type in the chat and it will be discussed and answered then. It brings also benefit to the other participants as they possibly don’t think about this question now.

During my search I found the Instructor-Led CCIE Enterprise Training by Orhan Ergun and there was a new class planned in December 2020 which fits perfect for me. I already followed him on Twitter and LinkedIn and I really like his personalty and his work about Network Designs for CCDE candidates. Related to the changes of the CCIE Enterprise Infrastructure lab exam in February 2020 with adding a Design Module to it, I thought it was the right choice. As of writing this blog post the Network Design aspects were taken into considerations of the topics during each theory session so far and I am curious about the following sessions.

Practice Labs

First I started using Cisco Modeling Labs (CML) which you can purchase via the Cisco Learning Store. Since CML is available in version 2 (previous named VIRL) it has some major enhancements and it can cover many of the scenarios and topologies during your CCIE study. It also has an API with a good documentation available. Last year I wrote an article on LinkedIn about a preview of the Cisco Modeling Labs Sandbox available on Cisco DevNet. In summary I would say that CML is a good basis which is available to use with no further setup after installation, but if you move forward with you CCIE studies you realise that you need some additional tools to cover all topics in practice.

The second lab software I am using is EVE-NG. It is a multivendor network simulation software which can really cover most of the technologies needed for the CCIE studies. The platform is not ready to use after the installation as you need to have the images for the different devices and they need to be integrated into the simulation software etc. This could be a time-consuming approach. I did the installation on the Google Cloud Platform which was very good described at the documentation. I had no issues with the installation and it is a pay-per-usage model which works fine for me so far.

There is also GNS3 out there which I used in the early days of my career. In the end you must decide for yourself what lab software you want to use, but there is no way around it to do a lot of practice for any learning in IT, not limited to the CCIE.

My Blog Content Plans

I plan to create a post for each section of the CCIE exam topics with sub-posts on its largest topics. For sure I won’t be able to cover everything, but I will try my best to take all the aspects the Design module as well as the DOO (Design, Operate and Optimise) model into account of the different topics. Since the exam format changed in February 2020, the Design module was integrated to proof the CCIE candidates are also familiar with the Design of a given scenario and can cover the whole Network Lifecycle process during the exam. You can find more details about the exam on the CCIE Practical Exam Format page.

I hope you enjoyed my introduction blog post and you will follow along with my blog. As I already wrote there will be also other topics besides my CCIE journey, but this will be the focus during 2021. Stay tuned! I wish you all a great start into the new year 2021. Please be kind to each other and stay healthy!

Photo sources:
1st Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash
2nd Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash
3rd Photo by Susan Yin on Unsplash
4th Photo by Drew Beamer on Unsplash

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