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CCNP Switch Study Update – 9/9/13

My studying hasn’t been where it should be these past two weeks. Lot’s of things have been coming up with life/work which obviously had to take precedence.  In addition to the below study plan I have also been reading Data Center Virtualization Fundamentals in my free time. It really is an outstanding book that also coincides in some ways with my CCNP Switch studies. I have noticed that the Data Center topics have a good amount of overlap with Switch, which is really nice because I am really really growing a liking towards Data Center tech.

I am going to try and kick some of my studies into high gear considering I am nearing my halfway point. If you didn’t know I typically give myself 20 weeks to pass an exam. :)

Week 8  INE Lab Completed
Monday High Availability

High Availability Part 2
Tuesday Layer 2 Security
Layer 2 Voice & Video Support
Wednesday OFF
Thursday Wireless X
Friday OFF
Saturday OFF
Sunday OFF
Week 9  Video Training Lab Completed
Monday OFF
Tuesday CEF Optimization
Wednesday Lecture 2-5 2hr X
Thursday Lecture 6-8 1.5hr X
Friday OFF
Saturday Lecture 9-10
Sunday Lab

Data Center Virtualization Fundamentals Purchased

So in light of me wanting to expand my knowledge of data center technologies I have decided to go ahead and purchase a book published by Cisco Press titled “Data Center Virtualization Fundamentals: Understanding Techniques and Designs for Highly Efficient Data Centers with Cisco Nexus, UCS, MDS, and Beyond”. Quite the long book title if I do say so myself. The title alone stood out to me because it mentions 3 technologies that I have been immersed in since starting my new job. Nexus, UCS, and MDS are advanced technologies that I hardly even knew anything about 3 months ago and now I am expected to bring myself up to speed ASAP. Well I don’t have to bring myself up to speed, I can just sit back and enjoy the ride however I am not that kind of person. I want to understand what I am working with as well as be able to explain it to someone else. So basically I looked through the books chapters and I saw that it would be very helpful so I went ahead and placed an order for it. What made it more appealing for me is that it is a recommended reading for CCNA/CCNP/CCIE Data Center candidates. As we know there aren’t many published training materials for that certification track yet.

I did buy a book about two months ago published by Sybex titled “CCNA Data Center Introducing Cisco Data Center Networking 640-911″. I skimmed through this book rather quickly however it did not go nearly as in-depth as I needed it too. I could probably even pass the first part of the CCNA:DC at anytime. Seemed like a lot of review of CCNA topics with some Nexus stuff thrown in.

Technologies that I am currently learning for our new data center include Nexus 7010, 5548UP; UCS Blade Servers as well as 6248UP Fabric Interconnects; MDS 9513. Hopefully this book will give me a much greater understanding of all the above.


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! :)

Cisco VIRL Demonstration

Here is a short demo of Cisco VIRL that I thought would go well with my last post. I am really impressed with what has been shown and I can’t wait till it is released.

(Video provided by Cisco Systems)

Cisco VIRL – The Homelab Killer?

So as many of you probably have already heard Cisco announced at Cisco Live that they will be releasing their own routing simulator called VIRL – Virtual Internet Routing Lab. Basically it is similar to GNS3 simulator, but offers a lot more flexibility in terms of what sorts of IOS you can run on it. The Cisco Virtual Platforms that will be supported are IOS, NX-OS, IOS XR, and IOS XE. You can imagine my excitement about this product because of my interest in data center and having Nexus equipment in my home is not very feasible. I was unable to find out if VIRL is going to support switching but I would assume that it would. At least I really really hope it does.

I do not want to speak to soon since VIRL has not been released yet but I think this may actually replace my home lab. This is hard to say since I have spent so much time and money on my home lab already, but it’s true. There really will not be a need for me to have expensive physical gear running in my home in order to get in some good lab sessions. I must say though I would still recommend new CCNA candidates to have a home lab. Getting just that little it of hands-on experience can go a long way. It sure helped me out a lot in my early days of studying. Plus its kind of nice to have a rack in your home. However now that I am getting deeper and deeper into my studies I came to the realization that I really will not need a home lab if VIRL lives up to its expectations. Release date I’ve heard is around January 2014.

Book Recommendation – Network Warrior

Network Warrior Book Review

If you have not heard of the book Network Warrior I highly suggest you check it out ASAP. If you are already in the networking field I am sure you have heard of this book because it is such a great reference for all things networking. Well maybe not all things but a great deal of topics are covered. When I first passed my CCNA I picked this book up because it advertised itself as “Everything you need to know that wasn’t on the CCNA exam”.  At the time I read through many of the topics however I didn’t really appreciate the use that this book could have. Yes the book was well written and yes it covered a ton of real-world topics. The problem was that I couldn’t relate very much since at the time I was still working in desktop support. Don’t get me wrong I still recommend this book if you are trying to get into the networking field.

Ever since starting my first networking job I brought this book along with me. I wasn’t sure if I would ever actually have to use it but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to keep at my desk. Network Warrior has proven to be a invaluable resource for me during the trails and tribulations of my first networking job. My favorite part about the book? The new edition covers Nexus! I take this book with me every time I go into the data center before I start configuring. Another topic that I find very useful that is covered is ASA Firewalls. The CCNA obviously does not go into any configuration of firewalls. However, firewalls are a huge part of an enterprise network that often fall under the responsibility of a network engineer. Definitely a must read topic to at least get some foundational knowledge.

I really couldn’t ask for more in a book. This is the type of book that should be at every network engineer’s desk. If you have not heard of it please go check it out. You will not be disappointed!


Expectations of your first networking job

So I am just about 3 months into my first networking job and things are going great. I have been learning a ton and working on technologies that I never expected to have a chance to touch so early on in my career. However not all has been great. There are times where I am given work and I say to myself “How is this the responsibility of a network engineer”? I am someone who will get the work done no matter if it falls under my title or not. After all I am trying to help the company succeed, not be someone who constantly complains about the work they are getting. Also I remind myself of all the great things that I get to work on as well. One example of this “petty” work I get is escalated desktop support calls. I am not used to this because at my last job as a desktop engineer I would never escalate a ticket to a network engineer. Typically that would only be an absolute last resort.

I sometimes have to take a step back and realize that I am still very new to the IT field let alone the networking field so having these expectations is unreasonable. Everything has been going great so there is no reason for me to get annoyed or flustered. I am on the bottom of the totem pole so what did I expect? I often feel that many people that are getting into the networking field for the first time feel a lot like I do right now. So I am telling you just take a step back and look at the bright side of things. Continue your studies and show your worth in your everyday actions.



Cisco Nexus Self-Study Training

Well to top off my CCNP Switch studies I have also been learning about Cisco Nexus. One good thing I have found about this is that a lot of topics from my CNCP Switch are reinforced throughout my Nexus studies. I am not really going for any type of data center certification just yet, however my current company is implementing Cisco Nexus so I kind of have to familiarize myself with all things Nexus. I don’t want to get left behind while all the other engineers understand Nexus and I am always having to ask them questions about it. Basically I am just going through the CCIE Data Center Nexus INE videos to get some kind of grasp for the technology. I feel like I am trying to tackle something that is so far beyond my skill set, but this is something I have to get under my belt.

Currently in our test lab we have 2x 5548s. 2x 6248s, 1x UCS, and 1x Nexus 7010. Another rack is being put together and will basically have the same hardware installed. I really enjoy Data Center technologies and I think it is something that I want to become my main focus in the future. I am not going to lie though, I feel even MORE overwhelmed now. I always take a step back though and think to myself how lucky I am to have been given this opportunity, and that within a years time I will have progressed so much. Heck, just 2 years ago I was taking my A+!


First time consoled into a Nexus!!! :)


CCNP Switch Study Update – 7/17/13

So I am about 1.5 weeks into my studies and have already covered a lot more material then I had expected. Last week I was able to cover the following:

Week 1 (VLAN & STP) CBT Nuggets OCG Completed
Monday -The Switches Domain: Core Concepts and Design

-VLANS: Configuration and verification
-VLANS: In-Depth Trunking
Chapter 2 X
Tuesday VLANS: VTP Chapter 3 & 4 X
Wednesday -STP: Foundation PVST Concepts Part 1
-STP: Foundation PVST Concepts Part 2
Chapter 5 X
Thursday STP: RSTP Concepts and Config Chapter 7 & 8 X
Friday Chapter 9 & 10 X
Saturday Ether Channel: Agg. Redundant Links X
Sunday OFF

The first 4 chapters were a breeze…and then came STP….I don’t know what it is about these study guides but they always start out so fun and easy and then they punch you in the face with a confusing topic :(. lol. Right now I am just trying to get a solid overview of all the topics so I am not stressing to much if I don’t understand something perfectly. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to