Looks like the rumors have finally become true. Cisco announced official changes to its most popular CCIE track – Routing and Switching. The changes will become effective as of October 18 2009 and both written and lab exams are affected. Compared to the previous changes, this seems to be a major one. Let’s take a brief overview of the changes made to the CCIE R&S lab exam:
1.1) Replacement of IOS 12.4 with recent 12.4T versions
2.1) Replacing older router models (e.g. 3725s) with 1841s and 3825s.
3.1) Only 3560s will be available in the racks (Actually, 3560-E as they say)
2) Major New Technologies:
2.1) MPLS and MPLS VPNs (PE, CE, P devices configuration).
2.2) Performance Routing (PfR) and Optimized Edge Routing (OER).
2.3) More IPv6-related topics like IPv6 EIGRP and IPv6 Multicast.
2.4) More Security: Zone Based Firewall, IOS IPS (5.x), 802.1X (IBNS).
2.5) Any other potential 12.4T features, such as HQF
2.6) IP/IOS Features: EEM (Embedded Event Manager)
3) New Lab Format
3.1) Lab split into two sections: Troubleshooting and Configuration
3.2) Troubleshooting Section is 2 hours long, Configuration is 6 hours.
3.3) Sections are independent. When you’re done with Troubleshooting, they load new initial configurations for the other part.
3.4) Open-Ended Questions (OEQ) to remain in the lab.
As for the written test. They do provide an updated blueprint at CCIE R&S Written Blueprint and it looks very familiar to the lab exam topics. Seems like Cisco is finally trying to bring both exams in sync. One new big area of interest in the new blueprint is “evaluate proposed changes to the network” meaning you should analyze the impact of changes and select the proper answer. They also promised addition of new simulation-based questions to the written test.
What should we do from now on
First of all, anyone having the exam date prior to Oct 18 may relax and continue using the older material ;) The other "not so lucky" folks don’t have any reason to panic or get depressed, as they got ample time to prepare for the new exam (plus it's going to be more fun!). Here is how we get you covered:
1) Our current materials cover approximately 70-80% of the new blueprint already. For example, contrary to many beliefs Frame-Relay was not removed from the new blueprint. Plus, all the older technologies remain there, including all current core topics, such as OSPF, EIGRP, BGP and LAN Switching.
2) The new changes have long been rumored around, so we were planning new updates (MPLS VPNs, new IPv6 topics, 12.4T features) in ahead. And thus as soon as we’re done with BGP this month, the new updates are coming, covering OER, new IPv6 topics, MPLS VPNs and so forth.
3) For people that didn’t have much exposure to MPLS VPNs, there is no need to be awfully scared. The depth of the covered in the R&S blueprint is not going to be too big (e.g. no VPN multicasting, MPLS Traffic Engineering). And we’ll surely cover MPLS VPN foundations in a separate new VOL1 section.
4) For people using their own racks and thinking of swapping 2600XMs with the ISRs and replacing 3550s with 3560. We will try to come with a new topology that requires minimal changes to the existing one. For example, instead of swapping all 6 routers with ISRs you may only have to replace just 3 routers. We’re reviewing the new material and seeing the optimal hardware configuration to support it. A draft of the updated topology will be posted within a month or so. For those of you who cannot afford getting bunch of ISRs, a good alternative is using the Dynamips emulator, which is going to be supported by our labs too.
One special note about the 3550 switches. While Cisco is replacing those with 3560s, you can still keep a pair of 3550 and a pair of 3560s. With respect to many features this combination still works perfectly – you can simulate some complicated STP tasks and practice the new 3560 features.
5) For people worried about the new lab format (2 hours of troubleshooting + 6 hours of configuration). This is one of the major changes, and it really is a paradigm shift reflecting modern real-life requirements. To help you with that, all our VOL2 labs (20 of them total) and Mock Labs will be rewritten to include two separate sets of tasks: Troubleshooting part and Configuration part, each having its own initial configurations.
6) If you are still feeling uneasy about OEQs, our Core Knowledge simulator is constantly being updated. We will add more questions to reflect the addition of new technologies and respond to the paradigm shift in the new blueprint.
What is the timeline for the new updates?
Guess this is the first question that everyone is going to ask :). Here is our draft timeline for the new product updates.
1) May-June: Release the updates covering new technologies that could be simulated using just software updates (no hardware changes yet). This includes OER, new Security features such as ZFW and IPS and other topics such as IPv6 multicasting. At the same time, a new rack hardware list will be posted so can start upgrading your own racks.
2) June-July: We’ll throw out some new VOL2 labs (full-scale labs) built around the new exam format. Since that moment, VOL2 labs will be updated gradually along with VOL1 technology-focused labs. Additionally, we’ll post new incremental updates to the technology CoD (IEATC-CoD) covering new topics such as OER, ZFW, HQF, IPS etc.
3) July-August: Remaining VOL1 labs will be released, most notably the MPLS VPN section. You will see our racks updated with new hardware (ISR routers). At the same time, we will finish updating IEATC-CoD to reflect the new VOL1 contents.
4) Sept-Oct: Final Phase, remaining VOL2 labs updated to match the new format. Around this time, we will launch new RS bootcamp and Mock Lab workshop based on the new blueprint and replacing the old format.
Please keep in mind is that above timeline is only a rough draft yet. We’ll keep you posted about our progress by means of this blog and our website. And last, but not least – anyone buying our existing products automatically becomes eligible new products updates FREE OF CHARGE !
Oh, and just to keep you posted: we just released new labs under IEWB-RS VOL1 BGP section. It's about 50 pages of new content and more updates are coming soon. Have fun!