Tag Archives: CCIE

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.

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The others books are the following:

  • Cisco UCS (a bit outdated but still nice to understand)

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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 🙂

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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.



My CCIE Journey


I use to post this blog on my friends blog and I just wanted to put it here since this journey was one of the biggest professional experience of my life. I am starting this blog and will dedicate some time (mostly late at night ..) to write articles (without any flashiness) for every engineers (juniors to experts). You can find the original article here.
The CCIE has now changed and the materials have quite evolved since I passed the lab. The books are still accurate for sure and should be read by any networking engineer. I have been asked many questions regarding the strategy, how do I study etc etc. These kinds of tips/tricks/ways to study (you name it) are personal and I guess they only work for me. We all have our own way to work and studies are no exceptions. The only advice I can give is that you have to be dedicated if you want to reach the goal you have been drooling at … I promise you, the best part of the post is here : “F* Focus” 🙂

The CCIE has recently changed to version 5 but I still wanted to share my journey since it was a huge personal accomplishment.

Here is my CCIE v4 experience and I hope you will find it useful.



In 2008, I was working for the french Air Force and didn’t really enjoyed that. I was in charge of the Help Desk of some buildings on the Air Force Base. I saw a  Cisco book and while I was reading it, I understood that I was ready to move into another career.

The more I read, the more I was excited about. Then I had a look at the Cisco Certifications and I was amazed at the multiple paths that you can choose. My choice was to know how to switch/route a packet first instead of learning how to filter a packet ;) So I was going after the Routing and Switching Path. I did thought at the time that the CCIE was a mountain that I would never climb for so many reasons (I was beginner, it will take time, it’s so hard, I’m having a baby, etc)

But trust me, the CCIE is doable. You ll have to work very very very very hard (I ran out of  “very”) to get it . There is no shortcuts for the certification. One of my main instructors (Brian McGahan from ine.com) told me that the CCIE is not a regular race, it’s a marathon.  I couldn’t agree more.

So I decided to go after the CCNA and since I was a complete “noob” ;) I bought my own lab :

  • 3x Cisco 2950 -24 Ports  to play with the spanning tree
  • 3x Cisco 3640 with NM 8A/S to play with FR and routing protocols

I took the ICND 1 first after 5 months of hard study (remember I had zero knowledge of Cisco Routers or Switches) and and I nailed it. I was so happy and so excited. But the harder exam was coming ; The ICND 2. Studying for that exam will teach you the basics of the most common routing protocols: EIGRP, OSPF, RIP.

This is a very tough exam when you are new into the industry.  After being a CCNA, I was secretly dreaming of the CCIE but it was just too far away from me at that moment.

It was logical to me to stay on this R&S Path because I love the technology so much. For example when I was studying OSPF, the book was saying that OSPF could be interconnected with more than one area but didn’t go too deep. I was so excited to learn how to use more than one area !

The CCNP was pretty straightforward for me. My lab grew and I was still studying at home until 2am on some days

I had an agreement with my wife at that time and this is what makes you know that “she is the one” . My wife has been SO supportive during my CCIE journey I don’t know how much to thank her (I don’t know how much this is going to cost me either ;) )

I continued to do my self-studies every night and that was my preparation for the exams:  BCMSN,  BSCI, ISCW and ONT.

I tried to read TCP/IP Routing Protocol from Jeff doyle for the BSCI but man there was such a gap between my knowledge and the book that I stopped reading after 50 pages. I used so many materials for the CCNP but the exams are not the same anymore so I will not mention them (they were mostly Cisco Press Books)

I took me approx 4 months per exam (studying 5 hours a day). In February 2010, I became a CCNP and decided to pass the CCIE not just to try it ;)


CCIE Preparation

There are 2 exams for the CCIE certification: A written exam and a practical lab that is the hardest of all Cisco Exams (except the CCDE/CCA).

I wanted to have a good  grasp of the theory before going to study with hands on labs, so I bought many Cisco press books and read them during 6 months, I did not touch the CLI at home during that time. In retrospect, this was a mistake, learning with the CLI helps to understand how Cisco implemented the protocols into their devices and how sometimes practice differs from the theory.


I started to read both Jeff Doyle Books from Cisco press. These books are Gold, yes I said it. They are simply amazing. Jeff and Jennifer will explain you how the Routing protocols are working in such a clear way ! I remember the EIGRP scenarios where they explained DUAL and that was just stunning !

The BGP and Multicast Scenario are very understandable when you are already familiar with them.

After these books, I read the official exam cert guide written by Wendell Odom and it was great. It has some mistakes but it was great ! I loved the QoS Section since my knowledge in switching QoS wasn’t that great. It explains how the 3560 switches implement QOS and it’s just great ! Period !

Then I took the CCIE Routing and Switching Written exam in September 2010 (took me 6 month to study that exam) and I also nailed it. I like to come to a place with a very strong preparation because I don’t like when the exam looks impossible to do. I enjoy doing “easy” exams :)

I passed the exam and I didn’t feel like I was an expert. Marko Milivojevic from Google ( 🙂 ) told me when I passed : “Now the fun begins” and man I had no idea how much fun I was going to have during the next 9 months ;)

A lot of people I know used Internetwork Expert for their CCIE journey and so after reading some feedback on the forums I decided to give it a shot as well.

I bought the CCIE 4.0 bundle. I received the 4 workbooks and many videos that I will discuss here:

  • Workbook 1 is the foundations: It will explain EACH protocol and functionnality of the blueprint deeper than the real lab. I did that workbook maybe 4 or 5 times (not in a row ;) ) to burn the knowledge in my mind.


  • Workbook 2 is all about full scale labs: You will find 20 labs that varies from difiiculty 6 (Kinda easy)  to 9 (Kinda hardcore ;) . My real lab was about a difficulty 7.5. There will be tricks in the WB2 that will make you think more and more during the lab. For example if the tasks says to configure only the allowed protocol to pass on this interface be sure to also allow IP protocol 41 (IPv6 tunneling) that you configured earlier in the lab ;) . I did this WB 2 times.


  • Workbook 3 is all about speed: in this workbook you will always do the same kind of thing : Basic L2 , IGP-BGP and redistribution. You need to do these labs as soon as possible ;) I did this WB once.


  • Workbook 4 is all about TSHOOT: I LOVED this one … The tickets were tricky enough and you are not allowed to use the show run command. It can be hard to troubleshoot without the show run command isn’t it ? I used it several times during my real lab exam but this was just for a matter of speed. The workbook taught me where to look and more than everything WHY something wasn’t working as expected ! This WB is brilliant.


    • Advanced Technology Class : Brian McGahan from INE did such a HUGE job on this … These videos are just mandatory to understand how the protocols work, especially if you are having a hard time reading the books ;)   The class is about 80 hours long and it will cover the whole blueprint.
  • Community Forums/Lists: This is very helpful if you dont undertstand a task during your lab. there will be plenty of people in the same case as you so you will find valuable information ;) INE IEOC and IPX mailing list

I bought Ruhann’s notes from his website : Routing bits . The notes are simply amazing.  When I was doing some workbooks I was also reading the notes I printed and I carried them EVERYWHERE !!!  There are so usefull. You will always forget something and the notes will always be there when you need to remember the informations. At the end, the notes will be burned into your head and I can now tell you every examples that Ruhann wrote in his notes. I was not sure about some of them so I labbed them and now I’m pretty confident with what I learn :) This products is definitely A MUST HAVE !
You guys are going to tell me : “Ok that’s it ?”  Well no. I also was lucky enough to do 2 bootcamps:

  • Internetwork Expert 12 Days bootcamp in London: The instructor for the bootcamp was Anthony Sequeira. Anthony will explain you how to pass the CCIE lab. His approach on the “how to study” is just great. I had a great time in London and I met a lot of wonderful guys (Daniel, Jose, Frank, Colin, Gavin, Wayne, Olivier,  Joe,  Hussain etc. It was an honor to bootcamp with you guys)
  • Micronics Training : I spent a week in Warsaw listening to the golden lectures of Narbik Kocharian Triple CCIE ! I already did a review of Narbik bootcamp and I can tell you that this is just AWESOME. Narbik also gave me his Workbook and I can tell you that the QoS Section helped a lot for the exam ;)

My employer was kind enough to allocate some time off during my preparation. I was lucky to stay at home for 4 months (non-stop studying) .


Lab Day

I was then ready to pass the CCIE Lab in Brussels.

I went to the train station and found that my train was canceled. This was not the best way to start the day prior the exam. I jumped into another train and finally made it to Brussels. I stayed at the NH hotel which is very very expensive (200 euros for a night and you have to add 10 euros for internet) . I didn’t want to add the stress ofthe taffic jam in the morning so I took the closest hotel from the exam center.

Here is a video that will help you to make your way from NH hotel to the Cisco building (thanks to Marko ):


When I woke up at 6:45 am I was like : “OMG OMG I’m going to pass my lab today ”

I went to the breakfast room, I had some fruits and went right away to Cisco. I plugged my iPod and didn’t talk to anybody because I didn’t want to hear any negative feedback about the CCIE lab like “Gosh this is my 4th attempt, you will see this is not DOABLE, we are doomed and John Chambers is an EVIL Person! ”

At 8:15 am, the proctor comes in and gives you the schedule for the day , he told me what rack  I was going to use and the rules. The computer screen is big enough to put multiple telnet session on it + the diagram. I sat my lab on Friday and the proctor told us that the results will be sent on Monday, I’ll let you imagine how tough it was to wait for a whole weekend ;)

At the end of the day I was pretty confident I had passed, I managed to do all the TS tickets with 20 mins left to spare and I finished the configuration with 1h 30 mins left. I did NOT leave the room until the last minute because I checked EVERY word on each task.  I verified my job maybe 4 times and saved the configuration maybe 20 times on each device during the lab.

I took the train back to Paris and had such a nice time ;)


The Waiting

Sunday night was awful. I went to bed at 3 am and woke up at 4 , 5 and 6:50 to check my mailbox. Nothing !

Took my wife phone that was laying next our bed and configured my Gmail account on it, as soon as the credentials were verified, I received a mail from Cisco. I jumped from my bed with my wife and saw the results: PASS

My wife cried in my arms and I was so happy we finally did it. I cant believe I’m a CCIE but my Cisco learning path is not over. I’m planning to read the whole CCDE recommended list (not because I want to pass the CCDE but rather because I want to expand my knowledge).

After that I’ll be waiting for the new Datacenter certs that should be announced at Cisco Live in the next couple of weeks. I would like to learn NXOS and master the 6500 and 4500 switches. Junos can be also a great OS to learn. I have the knowledge of the protocols, now I just need to learn the Syntax.

Also I’m planning to pass the CCIE security exam by the end of december 2012. This is a long term goal but I want multiple CCIE.

But first and foremost I need to get back home and spend time with my wife and my kid. The family is growing since my wife is pregnant again and that we are getting married next month.

I’d like to thanks all the instructors that I met and that taught me so many things during my CCIE journey but one of them is special to me. Petr Lapukhov helped me to understand some topics deeper than I really need but I wanted to know more and more … Petr without you it wouldnt have been the same. Thanks a lot man. Cannot wait to follow your path *cough* *cough*

Honey those last words are for you: ” I’d like to thank you for all you did to me during my CCIE studies. We finally did it, we are both CCIE #29410  and I can’t say how much I love you.”