Menu déroulant pour mobile

Category : Data Center

My CCIE Journey – Act II

In fact the title should be “My CCIE Journey – Act III” but I don’t want to use that one because I had a bad experience with the CCIE Voice lab exam 🙂

There are many (very good) links about that specific subject but I wanted to give my own opinion as well :). Here is a list (incomplete for sure) of the people that have blogged about their CCIE DC lab experience :

I have shared my journey towards the CCIE RS in 2011 and I wanted to share it again with you. I passed the CCIE DC lab exam one month ago and it was tough, long, hard,arduous, baffling, difficult, exacting, exhausting, hard (yeah I already used it on purpose 🙂 ), intractable,perplexing, puzzling, strenuous, thorny, troublesome, uphill.

As soon as I failed my CCIE Voice exam, my frustration went so high and I needed a break from the Voice exam a little bit. The Data Center exams were released by Cisco and I always wanted to be involved in a Data Center infrastructure project. I immediately decided to jump into the DC field and start to climb the (infinite) ladder.

At this time my DC infrastructure background wasn’t enough to pass the CCIE DC Written, I decided to spend a year reading books and solidify my knowledge.

First and foremost the CCIE DC blueprint is like any CCIE DC, it is VERY large. As an expert that will face customers and other experts, you definitely have to dig very deep to understand what’s going on in every section of your infrastructure (Compute / Storage / Infrastructure).

In my previous CCIE Journey post I used this expression from Brian McGahan: “a CCIE journey is not a short race, it is a marathon”. 4 years after, this applies even greater today. If you have a family, you better have to have a very supportive wife/husband. My wife is the most supportive person I’ve ever met.

We had our 3rd baby 10 months ago and my daughter couldn’t sleep at night. My wife was taking care of all 3 children 24/7 while I was studying. She even stayed at my parents home for several weeks to make my study time more efficient. After all, I can say that we are both CCIE RS-DC right now :).She deserves the title as much as I do … I am pretty sure that the CCIE exam is easier than taking care of the children. What I am trying to say here, is that you have to be dedicated to this exam.

CCIE Written Preparation

I already mentioned before but I read LOTS and LOTS of books. I will give you my list very soon but first I would like to start with one of the best technical book I have read in my entire career.

Data Center Virtualization Fundamentals  written by Gustavo Santana is definitely the best Data Center book out there. If you have some Routing and Switching Skills, you probably read the very famous Routing TCP/IP Books (Volume 1 covers IGP and Volume 2 covers BGP,Multicast and IPv6). All I can say is that Santana is as awesome as Doyle. I don’t want to overemphasize but I really enjoyed every words of the book.

HTML5 Icon

The others books are the following:

  • Cisco UCS (a bit outdated but still nice to understand)

HTML5 Icon

HTML5 Icon

HTML5 Icon

HTML5 Icon

HTML5 Icon

I also read some free ebooks written by EMC and IBM. To me these 2 books regarding Storage Area Networks are great free resources:

I was almost ready to sit the CCIE DC Written exam but I decided to solidify all the theory I have gained throughout the year. In order to do that I gave a look at CCIE Training vendors.

I have a very good experience with all the main vendors and this is probably the most frequently asked question so far : “Which vendor did you use for your preparation”

First I never really picked up a vendor. I tend to prefer to choose an instructor. I went with INE and Micronics Training for my CCIE RS because I heard from close friends that Brian McGahan and Narbik were top notch instructors (and they are). For my voice studies, I went with IPX because Vik Malhi is the best Voice Trainer I’ve ever met (Since that time, Vik has its own training company CollabCert, you should definitely give it a try if you are interested in collaboration). So in my opinion, students should not pick a vendor, they should pick an instructor and an instructor that meets your personal requirements. Maybe McGahan, Kocharian and Malhi are not the best for you but I can tell you from my personal experience that they are the best for me.

Choose wisely ! A training vendor business is to make your studies time efficient.

I bought an All Access Path from INE and decided to enroll myself into the CCIE Data Center Written Bootcamp. If you want to have a look of the teaching style:

 The INE videos are matching all the blueprint : Nexus / Storage / UCS.

There is another useful (free) resource available for you guys: Cisco Live Portal. This place is the place to watch deep dive videos regarding every Cisco topic!  For the DC stuff there are many listed by Brian McGahan on its “how to pass the CCIE DC” blogpost.

I passed my CCIE DC written exam on my second try. It was a really tough exam …

In order to track my studies during the journey, I have used trello and I love this app. Here is an example of how I managed my tasks


CCIE LAB Preparation

The lab is a complete different story and I didn’t really relied on any vendors regarding the workbooks. I used INE and IPX for my online bootcamp but I will cover that later.

So regarding the workbooks, I didn’t really use any of them … I just did a few lab here and here from both vendor but I didn’t really like it. I just wanted to read the config guide, build the infrastructure and then run every show command I could.

For CCIE RS and Collaboration, it is very easy to host a rack in your home or at work. For the DC track, things can get more tricky since you will need a N7K (with VDCs you slice your switch into multiple virtual switches, don’t worry it is part of the blueprint 🙂 ), 2x N5K ,2x Nexus 2232 PP (in order to run FCoE), 2x MDS (9222 is my choice) and a small JBOD (I will make a separate post to show you how to build the cheapest JBOD ever 🙂 ).

INE and IPX racks can be very busy if you want to book the racks with UCS … I also recommend to use the Cisco UCS Platform Emulator on your own laptop (run on ESXi as well if you have a virtualization lab). You can do almost everything with it (except booting your favorite Operation System / Hypervisor).

My local Cisco SE (Vincent, thank you so much !) was kind enough to let me borrow 2x N5K with some FEX and  2x MDS 9222i. I have built a cheap jbod and I could test 100% of the storage feature for the lab exam.

I think the most valuable resources to practice is the Cisco Partner Education Collection .

There are so many labs and hardware there (sometimes fully booked of course) than you can spend countless hours of labs … Joel Sprague (which is an MVE [Most Valuable Engineer] I met during my studies) did a very good job by posting all the valuables labs that you can do with the Cisco PEC. I didn’t do ALL of them but the vPC / Fabricpath / UCS / N1000v are definitely mandatory … The UCS is one of the best because you can boot from SAN and the UCS is yours for 8 hours and for free.. Nothing can beat that !


Even if you are studying for the CCIE LAB exam and that you know that you are going to spend 8 tough hours configuring weird things, you still need to read a lot in order to configure your infrastructure.

I would recommend to read almost all the configuration guides related to the blueprint for the Nexus. For UCS and MDS, You can periodically check but there is no need to read everything like you should do for the nexus part.

I have watched both INE and IPX videos regarding the CCIE lab exam, McGahan and Rick Mur videos are perfect ! McGahan for INE was in charge of storage and Nexus while Snow was in charge for UCS.

I also attended 2 CCIE online bootcamp from INE (McGahan Again) and IPX with Jason Lunde. Both did a great job.

McGahan is definitely the big player here, his complete set of videos (Nexus – Storage – Lab Cram Session) are simply awesome. It covers way more than you need for the CCIE DC exam

Here is a preview of its DC lab cram session:

There are plenty of nice other resources that other CCIE DC have published on their own blog. Here is the 3 I used during my studies:


I decided to book the CCIE the day before my vacations started because I didn’t want to go in vacations with the CCIE still in mind 🙂

So I went to Brussels on July 10th and I was very pleased by the proctor (if you read me, I would like to thank you. The experience was great). The exam is fair, it is hard but fair. There are no second guess like I had in voice. Questions were very precises and if I didn’t understand everything in the question, the task title made me clicked in my head : “Gotcha”.

You have to CAREFULLY read the tasks. If Cisco is asking for an ACL named MYCCIEDCLAB, you will not get the point if you configure it MYCCIEDCLAb. Even if your configuration is correct, they will look for the right naming convention. If you want to prevent all sorts of easy mistakes, your best weapon is the CTRL+C , CTRL+V. I can tell you this is the best thing you will ever need in the lab. Notepad is so useful as well !

During your daily job you would still do it right ? What if you want to configure vlan 100,200,300,400,500,600 in all your devices (let’s assume VTP is bad … wait a minute … it is bad .. in my opinion 🙂 ) You would open a notepad, type your commands , and paste into all devices right ?

My advice is to do the same for your CCIE Labs.

As Brian McGahan said, I did my happy dance when you see the UCS-B series booting ESXi 🙂

HTML5 Icon
I finished the lab with 1 hour left. Now the critical thing to do was to stay there and look for small mistakes I could have make during these very long 8 hours. I found some and for every tasks I checked that what I did was still working and that 100% of the requirements were met.

Finally I left the building and asked the proctor when can I expect the results to be delivered. He told me : “within few hours” . I thought he was making fun of me but he was right.

I went to the airport to meet a friend from Belgium and I received the score report notification.

Was thrilled to see the results : “PASS”

The exam can be tought but again it is doable. During my studies I have met a much better DC engineer than me, he failed the exam twice 🙁 . So please be sure to read slowly and try to understand what they really want…

So what’s up to me now that I am a double CCIE. In the beginning of the post I said that I started to climb the infinite ladder, what does that really mean ? It doesn’t mean that now that I am a CCIE, I can rest and that I can live like that and that my knowledge will stay at the same level through my career. People who think they are done with learning  are wrong.

Knowledge has to be sustained ! I still have to work on every protocol if I want my knowledge to be intact. I also have to learn new emerging technologies like Dev-Ops (not new but still new to me) / ACI / NSX etc etc in order to become a better engineer !

I hope you enjoyed the blogpost and in the meantime, if you have some questions, you can leave a comment below.



Cisco ISLB Issue

Usually people are blogging on a certain topic because they want to share they knowledge with a certain protocol or product.

Today I ll take another approach with that fact and I will actually do the exact opposite. I have an issue with ISLB which allows load balancing for my iSCSI sessions. Today I will elaborate each steps needed to make it work. I have failed this configuration a LOT of time and I have followed the same steps over and over. I decided to make a blogpost about it to keep track of what I should do next time I want to configure it.

I did not play with VRRP yet but this can be an idea for a following blogpost.

The topology is the same as in my previous blog posts related to the MDS.



The difference here is that both MDS will have an iSCSI interface bound to their gigabit interface. (iscsi 1/1 mapped to gig 1/1).

ISLB on Cisco MDS

I will start from scratch and setup the infrastructure:

The outpout above prove us that the JBOD has registered to the fabric and that VSAN 10 is running on the E port between MDS01 and MDS02. Another proof is that the FCNS commands on MDS02 has the JBOD PWWN in its database.

Now we will setup Device-alias, we will activate a test zoneset on vsan 10 because ISLB requires an already active zoneset if you want to use the auto zone feature. If you do NOT have an active zone, you will have to manually perform the zoning configuration.


Now we can start our ISLB configuration. Again we will first configure the infrastructure and check that both iSCSI interfaces are reachable from the L2 domain.


ISLB configuration can now start and you will see it is very brief:

We first need to check the IQN of our servers.

\IQN Win 2008 IQN Win 2012


The configuration has been commited and MDS02 should have the ISLB configuration and the zoning configured on it:

All is all right here and none of the iSCSI initiator have yet logged in the fabric:

Let’s now activate debugs on both switches and try to initiate a Fabric Login from the iSCSI initiators (Server 01 first then Server 02)


MDS01 has performed a FLOGI onto itself on the VSAN10 and it has been mapped to interface iSCSI 1/1.

We can also see that the initiator has been correctly mapped to the JBOD

Let’s now try with server 02


Note that the MDS02 will only see 1 FLOGI and that MDS01 will see both FLOGI from its local FC Disk and from its iSCSI Initiator.

Both servers are able to map the drive and everybody is happy 🙂


As I mentionned at the beginning of the post, I did not played with VRRP on purpose and I will relate about that in a following blogpost 🙂

Cisco MDS Port-Security with Auto-Learning

I have been learning about Cisco MDS port-security recently and I have been struggling with this feature because it was different from what I expected. What I was expecting was something very similar (and easy) like the good old Ethernet Port-Security feature.

This is clearly not the case and I will show you how to configure a basic port-security using auto learning. You still can manually configure entries on the MDS but I wanted to check how to feature was interacting with CFS and how it was implemented.

We will use the same topology as the one we used previously:


VSAN 10 is the only VSAN created in the topology for clarity’s sake.

As every feature in NX-OS, there is a need to activate the feature on both MDS:

Since we want to play with the feature auto learning and CFS distribution , we need to enable it since it is not enabled by default.

As we can see above, if you enable the distribution of the port-security feature, this will not replicate to other switches in the fabric. Here the behavior is different than what we can experience when activating enhanced zoning within a storage fabric.

We do have to activate it on the other switches as well.

As soon as it is done we now need to learn some WWN into the fabric. As soon as you activate port-security for a particular VSAN, auto-learning is automagically (type made on purpose and copyrighted by Vik Malhi 🙂 ) started as well.

The output above shows us that the fabric has been locked for this particular VSAN and application.

In order to remove the lock and spread the configuration into the fabric, we need to commit the changes we’ve done here:

So, learning is enabled and a database has been activated as well. Same analogy as zoning here, there is a config database and active database. The active database has been replicated to the other switches but not the config database … Sounds like basic zoning right ? but the problem here is that the config database has NOT been replicated on MDS01 where we typed the configuration. So we need to replicate that active database to the config database on both MDS.

Let’s check what’s in the database first and :

On MDS01, we can see 3 WWN :

  • 21:00:00:18:62:8d:e8:b7(pwwn) is the pwwn owned by my JBOD and attached to the logging point 20:05:00:0d:ec:71:f1:40 on int fc1/5
  • 20:00:00:0d:ec:94:3c:c0(swwn) is the swwn owned by MDS02 and attached to the logging point 20:01:00:0d:ec:71:f1:40 on int fc1/1
  • 20:00:00:0d:ec:94:3c:c0(swwn) is the swwn owned by MDS02 and attached to the logging point 20:01:00:0d:ec:71:f1:40 on int fc1/2

The logging point here is just the switch wwn (swwn) where we type the commands, we can verify it

We will have the same kind of output on MDS02 :

The tricky part here is that you cannot copy the active database to the config database if auto-learn is running on the VSAN:

So we need to de-activate that feature:

After a copy run start we should be good to go !

But we have to bear in mind that since auto learning is now DISABLED, if any array tries to login within the fabric,it will be blocked 🙂

Feel free to comment or correct me by posting a comment below 🙂



If you now try to connect an Array to the fabric here is what you will have 🙂

Device Alias on Cisco MDS

It is definitely not convenient to configure a zone or any CFS application using WWpN.

20:ab:3d:2c:4f:89:fa:ab is not very human readable and it is definitely not efficient to keep traces of the WWpN in your MDS configuration.

Device-alias is a proprietary feature created by Cisco to make your life much easier. It will map an human readable description to WWpN.

Let’s first setup our infrastructure for this blogpost and it’s a rather simple topology, but it sums up what we are trying to achieve:



Let’s first setup our VSANS,FCDOMAINS and E ports on both MDS


I wanted MDS02 to be our principle switch for both VSANS into our very large fabric. 🙂


The JBOD has to be linked with VSAN100 .


The Fabric is stable and both VSANS are being forwarded on both trunks.


Device-alias has 2 mode of configuration :

  • Basic :  Applications that will use device-aliases like zoning will expand them to regular WWpN.
  • Enhanced:  Applications that will use  device-aliases like zoning will keep track of the alias and will use it in a native format

What does that really mean ? We will configure 2 aliases and 2 zones using both methods and you will be able to check by yourself what does Cisco wanted to achieve.

Let’s check that the whole fabric (2 switches 🙂 ) is in basic device-alias mode:

Now let’s configure the device-alias for the JBOD and for a fictitious initiator

CFS should lock the Fabric from a configuration point of view, no other users would be able to override the configuration unless they clear the lock.

Commit the device-alias is mandatory in order to spread the entries throughout the whole fabric.

As we can see, the Aliases have been synchronized. Now it is time to configure a zone and check how the basic device-alias mode is different than enhanced device-alias mode.

The zoneset needs to be activated (INITIATOR does not have a fcid because it is a fake WWpN and hence the fact that it has not registered to the fabric)

As we can see the active zoneset has both the device-alias and WWpN, same thing happen for the FULL zone

Now let’s add another aliases but with the enhanced mode feature this time. You will see that the enhanced mode can be configured only on one switch in the fabric. It is automatically replicated to all other switches in the fabric using CFS

Device-alias configuration is similar to the one we did previously

The zoneset application should now use the device-alias mode to display the aliases using the native format instead of WWpN

We can now check the final result of our tests:

VSAN100 zoneset is using device-alias in basic mode while VSAN200 zoneset is using enhance mode

It is been a long post and some readers might find it annyoing but I wanted to scrutinize every steps of the configuration to understand how it really works behind the scene.

Please feel free to share your experience or comments.


vPC order of operations

Cisco Nexus can be very temperamental or capricious (pick the one you prefer 🙂 ) and the vPC technology is not an isolated case.

There is a certain way to configure vPC and we will see that in that blogpost.

The following topology will be used:


vPC diagram

Enabling the feature

Obviously we need to activate the vPC and LACP feature in order to build a proper vPC configuration.


Peer Keepalive connectivity

The Peer Keepalive link is used to detect failure between the peers. It is definitely not used in the data plane. On N5K, the management interface is usually used for the Peer Keepalive Link and management purpose. On N7K, Cisco does not recommend to use the supervisor interface as a vPC peer-keepalive link since it can introduce failure if that supervisor crashes…..

In our example we will use the management interface in order to have IP connectivity between our vPC peers.

Now let’s check if N5K-1 can reach N5K-2

The behaviour above is normal since we are trying to ping using the global RIB and the mgmt 0 interface does not belong to that RIB. Instead it does belong to the management vrf . So if we add the “vrf management”  keywords, everything should be fine !

and it is 🙂


vPC domain and vPC peer link configuration

Now let’s create the vPC domain and the vPC peer link.

Please be aware that it is a best practice to configure an unique vpc domain ID for every pair of Nexus. The vPC domain ID will be used to build a system mac-address. So if 4 nexus are connected together created 2 vPC domains and if both vPC domains have the same system mac-address, you will experience something funny 🙂

I decided that N5K-1 will be elected as the Primary vPC peer and N5K-2 will remain Secondary vPC peer.

Please note that if you do not specify a keyword for the peer-keepalive destination command, the switch automatically use the management vrf.

As we can see above, the vPC keep-alive status is OK since we have reachability between our mgmt 0 interface.

We will now create our vPC peer-link that will be mainly used for CSF and many other things (will be detailed in a future blogpost)

Enabling the vPC peer-link on the port-channel automatically set the type to network for that interface. This means that we just enabled bridge assurance on that link. In a vPC topology, Cisco recommends to enable Bridge Assurance only on the vPC peer-link.

We can now enable the interface to check the status of our port-channel.

Our Port-channel is functionning properly so we can check the status of our vPC peer link now

Everything looks so far so good !

Do you remember when I explain about the dependencies between vPC domain and vPC system mac-address ? 🙂 here is the result

vPC Configuration

We will now create a vPC towards an LACP neighbor which in this case will be a server.

Here is the configuration used on both Nexus

Let’s assume that our server’s NIC team is already configured for LACP. Let’s now check the vPC status

Consistency parameters are matching on both vPC peers and our vPC towards that server is functional 🙂


LACP verification

The following output will confirm that we are indeed having an LACP port-channel between the server and the vPC peers

This post was a bit basic but it can get tricky to troubleshoot a vPC so be sure to follow the steps above in order to save time in your deployment/labs.

We will dig deeper on vPC tricks soon 🙂