Introducing the changes

As you have probably heard already, Cisco announced changes to the CCIE SP blueprint, that go effective as of April 17th 2011. There is some good news and some bad news. On positive side, the new blueprint looks really good technology-wise – just look at the detailed checklist here: https://learningnetwork.cisco.com/docs/DOC-10145 and see the mentioning of VPLS, Carrier Ethernet, FRR and other features. On the opposite side, the equipment requirements for the new blueprint put extensive toll on an average CCIE candidate’s budget (unless you work for a big Cisco partner and can “borrow” equipment for your lab). The new test will build upon XR12000, 7600, 7200 routers and ME3400 switches – for more information look here: https://learningnetwork.cisco.com/docs/DOC-10121. One problem is that Cisco did not yet specify the detailed hardware requirements, e.g. linecards for the routers. The other problem is that “simulator” mentioned in the hardware specification. There is no doubt that Cisco has software emulators for IOS XR routers and 7600 devices, but it is not clear whether those will be available to general public.

Based on the above observations, we are still considering the impact of changes on INE product offering. While our product line will definitely stay there, we will not officially announce any changes to our hardware specification while we wait for more information from Cisco regarding the hardware and availability of simulator software. It is our priority to keep the CCIE training affordable to the students, and thus minimizing the rack hardware cost is very important.

Passing the old test is still an option

If you don’t like the coming changes, you still have about 6 months to prepare and pass the CCIE SP lab exam using the old blueprint. Best of all, you may not even need any real hardware – all training could be done using INE’s Dynamips topology. This blog post presents a three-month training program based on INE products that represent the complete, end-to-end solution to passing the CCIE SP exam. It is important to stress out that the program is a crash-course for the candidates who have already passed the CCIE SP Written test and are ready to start hands-on practice right away. The program ideally fits CCIE R&S candidates looking for a second CCIE, as there is large overlap in topics between the two tracks. Based on our estimations and surveys we made, you should allocate at least 20 hours a week studying to complete this program successfully.

Start by picking up and booking a lab date. Remember, you need to pay the exam 3 months prior the actual date. Make sure you can dedicate those 3 months to your studies. As soon as you have made up your mind, star studying approximately 3 months before the lab exam date. The following are the three general steps in recommended program:

Step 1: Warm Up. Weeks 1-5
Step 2: Core Practice. Weeks 6-10
Step 3: The Last Mile: Weeks 11-12

We assume that you will be using the following INE products for your studies:

  1. CCIE SP Advanced Technologies Class on Demand
  2. CCIE SP Workbook VOL1
  3. CCIE SP Workbook VOL2
  4. CCIE SP Core Knowledge Simulation
  5. CCIE SP Bootcamp Class on Demand

If you don’t have these products yet, then notice that in conjunction with this guide, we have released three new bundles priced for any budget. You may find the bundles here: CCIE SP Bundles.

Step 1: Warm Up. Weeks 1-5.

During this stage, you main goal is to build understanding of MPLS VPN fundamentals and develop hands-on configuration skills for core SP topics. The two main products for you to use during this stage are the Advanced Technologies Class and SP VOL1. There are 38 scenarios in SP VOL1 and you need to complete about 8 of these a week. Interleave hands-on practice with ATC videos, but focus mainly on the hands-on. This could be a lot of work, and you need to pace yourself through it. In addition to the mentioned resources, you main reference for additional information should be “MPLS Fundamentals” by Luc De Ghein. You may skip the “IPv6 over MPLS” and “VPLS” chapters, and skim over “MPLS and ATM architectures” chapter.

Additionally, If you need more information on core topics, aside from the “Advanced Technologies Class on Demand” we may also suggest you the following class-on-demand courses:

  1. MPLS Training
  2. Quality of Service Training
  3. BGP Training
  4. Multicast Training

These video training product are focused around specific topic, and could be used in parallel with the Advanced Technologies Class-on-Demand product.

Step 2: Core Practice. Weeks 6-10

You should be ready for full-scale hands-on labs now. The next 5 weeks are dedicated to CCIE SP Workbook VOL2 and CCIE SP Core Knowledge Simulator. It is important to spend full 8 hours on every lab, as you need to get used to lengthy and complicated scenarios. However, do not frustrate if you some topics seem to be unfamiliar to you – you are still learning during this stage.

Week 06: VOL2 Labs 1,2
Week 07: VOL2 Labs 3,4
Week 08: VOL2 Labs 5,6
Week 09: VOL2 Labs 7,8
Week 10: VOL2 Labs 9,10

Start every lab answering four new core knowledge questions. You may practice additional questions after you have completed the lab. Use the further reading links in the questions to clear your understanding of the questions you cannot answer correctly. Notice that every lab from VOL2 could be completed using Dynamips simulator or online rack rentals. It’s up to you to select the best option. Use the ATC and the “MPLS Fundamentals” as your main resources to clear the understanding of unknown topics. Refer to INE online Community (IEOC) to leverage experience from your peers and our instructors.

Step 3: The Last Mile. Weeks 11-12

By this time you should have solid hands-on skills in practically every relevant SP topics. Use the Week 11 to cover the topics you feel unsure about, e.g. L2 VPNs – read books, practice scenarios and answer core knowledge questions. Prepare yourself for the last week of your training program that deals with the 5-Day CCIE SP Bootcamp CoD.

The 5-Day Bootcamp is your last preparation step. It offers three unique mock labs along with detailed, instructor-led breakdowns recorded for the CoD version. Spend the last week completing these three scenarios and comparing your solutions to the reference. Grade yourself and look toward obtaining the score of 50 points or higher in every lab. The scenarios are designed to be harder than the real test, so do not frustrate if you cannot get high scores in those. Make sure though that you do understand all topics and solutions in the scenarios.

The day before the lab

If you went through the complete program you should be fully prepared for the test. Make sure you arrive to the test location having at least one day before the lab exam – so you can rest, familiarize yourself with the area and get plenty of sleep before the exam. We do not recommend you cramming the last day before the test – this does not help much, you should already know all that you need to know. Instead, make sure you have enough walk and fresh air to catch some good sleep. And good luck with your test!

About Petr Lapukhov, 4xCCIE/CCDE:

Petr Lapukhov's career in IT begain in 1988 with a focus on computer programming, and progressed into networking with his first exposure to Novell NetWare in 1991. Initially involved with Kazan State University's campus network support and UNIX system administration, he went through the path of becoming a networking consultant, taking part in many network deployment projects. Petr currently has over 12 years of experience working in the Cisco networking field, and is the only person in the world to have obtained four CCIEs in under two years, passing each on his first attempt. Petr is an exceptional case in that he has been working with all of the technologies covered in his four CCIE tracks (R&S, Security, SP, and Voice) on a daily basis for many years. When not actively teaching classes, developing self-paced products, studying for the CCDE Practical & the CCIE Storage Lab Exam, and completing his PhD in Applied Mathematics.

Find all posts by Petr Lapukhov, 4xCCIE/CCDE | Visit Website

You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

27 Responses to “How to pass CCIE SP Lab before the changes”

  1. Tobi says:

    Wonder why all the dates are booked up till May’11. Is there a possibility some people cancel their appointments to make room for others?

    • @Tobi,

      Not sure how it’s working now, but in the past this is how we did it

      1) Find a friend willing to “donate” you a lab date. Even now a lot of people just “hold” the date, deciding whether they are going to take a lab or not. This is how i got my Voice exam lab :)
      2) Use the FF plugin that refreshes the page every 15 minutes and keep watching for lab date to pop up. Normally they release seats at midnight PST time, but you may occasionally see a drop earlier, if someone cancels his booking.


  2. Nguyen Tuan Anh says:

    I’ve been preparing for CCIE-SP since I was certified in the R&S track, but I’ve not taken CCIE-SP Written exam yet and thus I cannot browse the earliest Lab Date for SP track in CCIE Database online. My favourite destination is Sydney, Australia.

    Some people told me that there’re only few lab seats remaining to be scheduled and not all lab locations allows for doing that. It’s the only thing that I’m worrying about now.

    For the new blueprint, I felt impressive but a bit depressed because it looks like that all technologies in carrier-grade Service Provider are mentioned, lots of knowledge!

    Nguyen Tuan Anh

  3. Carlos Figueroa says:

    Impressive, when INE will offer the steps for security track. Your guidance is great!!!


    C Figueroa

  4. orestis iordanidis says:

    Hi Petr

    Since carrier ethernet services full support platform for Cisco can be found on 76K using ES/ES+ cards (and ASR9K as well), that imposes IOU (ios on unix) that can simulate 76K equipment ? And what about 12K series, there is nothing in the blueprint v3 announcement for 12K simulators or IOS XR simulation ?

    Kind Regards
    Orestis Iordanidis

    CCIE #25808 (SP)

  5. Chris says:

    Well anyone who wants to swap their pre-April 18th lab for my May12th, please feel free!

    As Cisco have SP Ops, SPv2 (e2e services), it’s a shame SPv3 couldn’t be slotted into another CCIE for SP Carrier Services.

  6. cimic says:


    you can find a lot of seats for SP in Sydney.

  7. Mbong says:

    I was lucky to have gotten a strange slot in Singapore and since I don’t require a visa to enter Singapore, my credit card was immediately activated. I called Cisco earlier to explain why they had canceled exam dates in most cities like Brussels and only left Sydney open…I was told plainly to keep searching but two weeks before the announcement, I had a deep feeling that Cisco would change the blueprint very soon and I wasn’t surprised.

    Its a great thing that Petr recommends MPLS Fundamentals…I have read that book three times from cover-to-cover and practiced all the examples in it. My knowledge of MPLS has been acquired from that book. I pray I make the lab next month.

  8. Barooq says:

    Isn’t there a plan to upgrade products/racks before or close to deadline ?

    If for instance I want to take new SP lab, do we have a tentative schedule on the development of products ( workbooks, COD)? how long do we have to wait before the updated products are available?

  9. Youssef says:

    Just been certified R&S, will wait after the change for SP like i did for R&S (v3 to v4) … i like the new ones :)

    Good luck for the others

  10. Bob says:

    Too bad the queue has been about 7-8 months for a while now.

  11. Bob says:

    When I did my CCIE SP attempt I visited the lab the day before (not important why). There were only TWO SP seats in Brussels. TWO! And BOTH of them were no-shows on that day! That’s why the line is 7-8 months.

    • @Bob,

      When I was taking the SP lab there was just one seat, and I think it was a remote connection somewhere in SJ :) They were doing something to improve it, I believe, but no one knows for sure. Other reason for “blackout” date might be proctor availability at the site – but this is only a guess.

  12. @Barooq,

    There definitely going to be updates before the deadline. We are trying to collect more information from Cisco – it is not a problem to assemble a rack for product development, but we want to create a topology that is affordable to anyone.

  13. JJUNIOR says:

    Hey guys.

    “There is no doubt that Cisco has software emulators for IOS XR routers and 7600 devices, but it is not clear whether those will be available to general public.”

    But is it possible that Cisco make available the IOS emulator “IOS-on-Unix” to General Public ? Do you have any idea about that ?

  14. [...] 2011, this is very¬† risky because I have only one chance to pass. Petr Lapukhov has published a great article about this strategy on INE blog. CCIE SP Lab    OSPF LSAs [...]

  15. Ivan says:

    there is no emulator for XR, there is no emulator for 7600 platform, there is no plans to release IOU for general public.

  16. TonyC says:

    I had my 2nd attemted at the the SP lab last month in RTP.They used to have 2 SP seats but this has been changed to one seat now.From what I gathered from the proctor this is the policy for all the locations now.The way it was explainded to me is:
    If 2 people where already booked before they made the change then 2 seats are allowed but if one of those 2 happened to cancel the canceled seat is not put back in the pool.

  17. Jim says:

    anyone interested Service Provider a lab date in Brussels at 13th April? Let me know: erutku at yahoo dot com

  18. timaz says:

    do some prayer for me so i can take my Cisco exams. I’m living in Iran and as you don’t know, Iranians are not allowed to take their exams anywhere. I’m crazy about networking but ….. have you ever feeling like being in the jail?! … I’m currently feeling like this; I want and really i can can get my CCIE, but I’m not allowed to do that. ……

  19. Tamer says:

    i have passed lab but failed OEQs, frankly talking, OEQ is just a silly trick from Cisco , they have created this, as an obstacle for candidates to pass. Non-sense to pass lab, and fail in rediclious questions. By the way Cisco knows that well based on discussions with proctors, so take care guys of it and study hard for it

    Best of Luck

  20. Laurent Prat says:

    Hi Petr,

    First of all thanks for your great job.

    Do you any news regarding the detailed hardware requirements, e.g. linecards for the routers fo the CCIE SP v3?

    Have you heard information from Cisco regarding the hardware and availability of simulator software?

    What about INE training materials for v3? Do you any idea when it will be released? I have heard end of summer 2011.

    Best Regards,

  21. Ananthan says:

    Hi Peter,

    INE have any Rack rentals for CCIE SP V3.0 track ??



Leave a Reply


CCIE Bloggers