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!

Petr Lapukhov, 4xCCIE/CCDE
About Petr Lapukhov, 4xCCIE/CCDE

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