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Cisco UCS potentially changed my mind about the GUI!

The past two weeks of work have been pretty busy; filled with Nexus labs, everyday miscellaneous tasks, and now learning Cisco UCS. Basically, at least the way I understand it, the Unified Computing System is Cisco’s way of bringing your network, storage, and servers of your data center together. I might add that it does an awesome job at that too!

In our rack we have two 6248UPs that connect down to the UCS blade server via FCOE (4 10Gb links to each 6248UP for a total of 8 links). We then have the 6248UP connecting up to the Nexus 7010 via fiber Ethernet (4 10GB links, 2 from each 6248UP). Lastly, we have 4 FC links going from each 6248UP to our MDS SAN. Pheww!! you do not want me to tell you how long it took me to wrap my head around all this lol. The 6248UP is an awesome switch that can speak ethernet, fiber channel, and fiber channel over ethernet which makes it very useful in data center environments. Oh and one more thing, the 6248UPs are also connected to each other through their L1 and L2 ports. These ports need to be connected in order to have the two 6248s run in cluster mode. Also management ports were connected. Okay that’s it I’m done lol. I am posting a picture below of the basic topology of what I described above. The only difference is that our equipment and links are slightly better then what the topology shows.

So yesterday I decided to go ahead and start on the initial configurations of getting this all connected. First I cabled everything up as described above. Next I consoled into the 6248UPs and configured them in cluster mode. The whole setup is very intuitive. All I had to do was enter some basic IP address information on each of the switches and say that I want to run them in cluster mode. I also had to enter a Virtual IP that the switches would share. After all that was done I could then open up my web browser and browse to the virtual IP address. This took me to the UCS manager interface. All I can say is this interface is awesome! it gives you information on the entire UCS system on just about anything you would ever want to know. You can also configure the ports by right clicking them. The only configuration I did was changed the 8 links we have going down to the UCS to server ports. Hopefully today I will have time to go back in and play around a little more. Oh and I forgot to mention the UCS manager even builds you a graphical network topology of what it detects connected to it! :)

Books can’t teach you everything

So having worked as a network engineer for little over a month now I have come to the sad sad realization that the books can not teach me everything about networking. This fact was essentially enforced when I was racking the Nexus 7010/5548s. You really do not realize how many more things go into a data center then just servers, routers, and switches. So much planning and meetings with various vendors to discuss topics ranging from cooling to electricity. It really is all just overwhelming for me at times. One thing that I also find myself somewhat lost in is fiber connectivity. There are so many different kinds of connectors and the idea of fiber patch panels somewhat confuses me as well. I am starting to get a grasp of it a little more and I am sure as I build up our new data center I will get to see how everything is interconnected. Which in turn I hope clears up any confusion I may have.

Today I also ordered Todd Lammle’s CCNA Data Center (640-911) book. The reason I bought this is because I need to get a better understanding of Cisco Nexus at a basic level asap. I am going to have the opportunity to play with the Nexus in a test environment for a few weeks so I want to take advantage of that as much as I can. I am not losing focus on my CCNP studies, that is still my number one priority. However after I pass CCNP I hope to go for my  CCNA Data Center as well as CCDA.

Cisco Study Partners

Cisco study partners? Are they good to have? Or is it better to go through the Cisco certification path alone? What does one expect from their study partner? What if they are not on the same level you are on? If that is the case you will have to waste your time waiting for them to catch up to your skill level. Yes you could help them catch up to you and refresh yourself on some concepts, however that is valuable time you could be spending learning new topics. What if you and your study partner have different schedules? I am sure that will effect studying greatly. A time that is convenient to study for you may bot be so convenient for them.

Personally I have given a study partner a chance when I first started studying for my CCENT, and all I have to say about that is that I h\am never going to have a study partner again. Coordinating schedules was such a hassle and I felt like I was just wasting time often. Lets just say that the study partner and I only lasted for about a month. I truly believe that the path of certifications is a lonely one. You can really only rely on yourself to get the studying done and not expect someone to be right their behind you. I feel that is almost impossible for two people to be able to match each others study habits.

So my recommendation is to just go along the path alone and just focus on bettering yourself everyday. If you do come across a study partner one day and want to give them a shot, go for it, it may work out for you. I am not saying that all study partners are bad, it is just that I had a bad experience and am not willing to give it another chance.

New Addition to Cisco Home Lab – Digi CM32

So a new addition to my Cisco home lab arrived to my house yesterday. Finally! I got a console server! I decided to go with the Digi CM32 because I read reviews that it was a great alternative to the Cisco 2511. The Digi CM32 is also a lot cheaper! I bought mine for $50 USD off of eBay. Great Deal! The setup was also super easy that even a caveman can do it :) All I did to configure the server was change the static IP and also I turned off authentication on each of the serial ports. The reason I did this is because I do not feel like typing in my username/password each time I log into a different device. Another great thing  about the Digi CM32 is that all the console connections are done through Ethernet! It’s as simple as plugging one end into your router/switch console port and the other end into the Digi CM32. All in all I am super impressed so far by the Digi CM32, also I can’t believe I waited so long to get a console server. Labing is a lot less tedious now without always having to move the console cable around. Below is a picture of the Digi CM32 racked at the top.

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Decided to start Chris Bryant CCNP course early

So two days ago I decided I was going to start the Chris Bryant CCNP Route series a few days early. The reason for this is because I really wanted to start getting back into my home lab and personally I enjoy following along with Chris Bryant as he configures throughout his lectures. Basically my plan is to do 3 lectures a day and lab along with them (1-2 hours). After that I will work through the 101 CCNP Labs workbook (1-2 hours per day). This book is a beast. I printed it out and it was over 1700 pages!! I have to take a picture of this monster and show you guys, and yes I did print double sided.

At this point I have gone through about 6 lectures and have been enjoying them a lot. Chris Bryant is very knowledgable and I really like his teaching style. However, I do wish the eBooks were included with the purchase of the course. So far I have gone through a review of routing fundamentals and EIGRP fundamentals. Both sections were a nice review of the basics. I hope to move into Advanced Eigrp lectures tomorrow since tonight I will be going out with a friend.

Lastly I do recommend the Chris Bryant CCNP series for anyone considering going for their CCNP. You will not be disappointed, I promise.

 

Home Lab vs Emulator/Simulator

Oh a question that has been asked time and time again….What should I use for my Cisco certification studies? Should I buy a home lab or use packet tracer/gns3? I am going to come right out and say this. If you are NOT in the networking field and are pursuing Cisco certifications you need to get a home lab. Period. The troubleshooting experiences that you will experience through your home lab is something no emulator/simulator can teach you. I can honestly tell you this because I am speaking from experience. I am someone that started out as a desktop engineer and have worked my way up into a networking position within a year. Not only does a home lab make you a better engineer but it will also impress employers during your interviews. Again, I am saying this from my own experiences. Why would employers want to give you a shot at becoming a network engineer if you have never even touched Cisco equipment? Think about that. Would you rater hire someone that has a year of hands on experience in a home lab environment or someone that has a year experience messing around in GNS3. Having a home lab shows your potential employer that you are dedicated to your studies.  
 
I am not trying to knock GNS3 because I do use it often when I am traveling. It is a very useful tool to have in your arsenal. However it should not be your means of getting “hands-on” Cisco experience. Yes a home lab may be expensive, but truthfully the experience you will gain from it will pay itself off. Also do not go out and spend a ton of money on a home lab if you are just starting out with your CCNA. Start off with 2x switches and 2x routers. Add things to your lab as you find necessary. 

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(My CCNP home lab)

Saying goodbye to your current employer

So this morning I decided it was time to give my two weeks notice. I was extremely nervous and anxious because I have never done something like this before. As you know I am still young and have only held one IT job. I talked to a few family members and they gave me some good advice on how to approach the situation. I wanted to be as honest as I could with my employer because I knew this would be the last time that I could get things off of my chest. Obviously I would do this in a professional manner.

So when I went into my managers office and told him about the new job I have accepted he was surprisingly happy for me. He even said that he didn’t expect me to be working here very long because of how driven I was to work in the networking field. This calmed my nerves a lot and I really do hope to keep in contact with him. I really will miss the people I currently work with. Of course there are ups and downs but I do genuinely like the people and work I get. It’s going to be hard to say goodbye, but I know I am making the right decision to accelerate my career.

Offer Accepted – I am a Network Engineer!

So I finally got my offer letter for the position of Network Engineer. I am super excited about the position; it has been what I have been working towards for the past year. I feel very privileged to have been given this opportunity because I am still very young and also do not have much real-life IT experience. However the company that is willing to give me a chance sees the potential I have and is willing to give me a shot. I study very hard just about everyday and certification is very important to me. The company sees this passion I have and they think it will be of added value to their network team. They even told me that I can setup a lab at work so I can practice topics in my free time. Finally! A company that encourages me to go towards higher level certifications! I really hope I exceed expectations in this new position, but I know it will be a huge transition for me. I only have about two years IT experience (1 year interning, and 1 year as desktop support). I believe that as long as I continue working hard in my studies everything will work out for me and I will grow into a great Network Engineer. Wish me luck. :)

CCNP Route Study Update – 4/2/13

Just wanted to make a quick update on where I am at in my CCNP Route studies. Yesterday night I finished up with IPv6. For the rest of the week I am going to be reading Chapter 1 and 7 from the CiscoPress FLG Route guide. The following week is where I will begin Phase 2 of my study plan (I have a post with my study plan attached). Phase 2 will consist of me going through Chris Bryant’s CCNP Route video series along with labing each day for about two hours. This should take a little more than a month to complete.  I will continue update the blog periodically.

Suit Up and Show Up

So I have been coming across this question quite often lately. “Should I wear a suit to my interview?”; we are strictly talking about IT jobs here ranging from a helpdesk to director interviews. Personally, I wore a suit to both IT interviews I have had. One was for a desktop engineer position and another was for a network engineer (I got the job both times). I have read comments online saying that suits aren’t necessary for any kind of IT support role rather a suit should only be worn when going to interview for a management position. My response to this is that it is better to be over dressed than under dressed. Don’t you think an employer wants to hire someone that knows when/how to dress professionally?

I am going to be honest, I actually do really enjoy wearing a suit whenever I get the chance. I feel that it gives me added confidence during the interview. Even if the position allows the employees to “dress-down” I think the suit is still the way to go for the interview. Perfect example is Google, they allow all their employees to wear jeans and t-shirts to work, however they expect all their interviewees to be dressed professionally.

You have nothing to lose wearing a suit to an interview so I recommend you go out and buy yourself a nice tailored suit. It does not need to be super expensive or made by some famous designer. Their are plenty of alternatives including Jos A. Bank and Men’s Wearhouse. I personally recommend Jos A. Bank because they always have great deals and offers year round.

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