Aug
29

Our CCIE Data Center version 2.0 Rack Rental system is now in beta testing phase.  Click here to submit a request for beta access and I will contact you directly with more details on timing and availability.

Our CCIE DCv2 Rack Rentals consist of the following:

  • Nexus 9300 ACI Spines
  • Nexus 9300 ACI Leafs
  • Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC)
  • Nexus 7000s with F3 line cards
  • Nexus 5600s
  • Nexus 2300 & 2200 10GigE Fabric Extenders
  • UCS C series rack servers
  • UCS B series blade servers
  • UCS 6248 Fabric Interconnects
  • Nexus 1000v virtual switch
  • Dual 10GigE attached hosts for application testing
  • Fibre Channel SAN
  • iSCSI SAN

The visual topology topology diagrams are as follows:

Apr
18

INE's CCIE Data Center Rack Rentals are now available for public beta testing.  During this beta testing period, racks are 100% free to book for CCIE DC Workbook customers.  Simply login to your http://members.ine.com account, click the Rack Rentals option on the left, and you will see the CCIE Data Center racks listed, as seen below:

Click on "Schedule/Cancel Session" and the calendar will appear as below:

Each rack rental session for DC includes a "base" topology, and then one or more possible add-ons.  In the scheduler you can check which, if any, add-ons you want, and it will then search the schedule to show you which time slots are currently available for that variation.  You can see these as the check boxes as the top of the scheduler above.  The possible variations are as follows:

During the public beta you will be limited to four concurrent bookings at a time.  After the beta period is finished the token cost for DC rack rentals will be 20 tokens for the base rack, and then 5 additional tokens for each add-on, making the maximum token cost 35 tokens per session.  

The goal of the public beta is to get feedback from the community on the usability of both our new content delivery system and the DC rack rental system.  Additionally we will be finalizing and fine-tuning some of the automation features for the racks and the control panel, such as config backup, restore, etc.  As the system approaches full launch I will be posting a video walkthough of the system and the new workbook content delivery system to talk about all the new features we have integrated into it.

As always, feedback is both welcomed and encouraged.  As you are going through labs in the workbook please use the "Feedback" button on the bottom of the page to submit questions, comments, etc. about that particular lab.  If your comments are more general feel free to post them here or to email me directly at bmcgahan@ine.com.

Happy Labbing!

Oct
04

As many of you already know, the launch date for the CCIE Data Center Lab Exam is approaching soon. The CCIE Data Center Written Exam is now live, and lab scheduling will come online in the coming weeks. At INE, we’ve completed two out of our three planned online classes for CCIE DC - CCIE Data Center Nexus Switching and CCIE Data Center Storage Networking. Videos from the Nexus class are currently available for download and streaming, and Storage is currently in post-processing and will be available next week. More information on the Storage Networking class, as well as samples, will be posted early next week. The final portion of our online classes – CCIE Data Center Unified Computing – will be held at the end of this month, the week of October 29th. Seats in the online class are still available for purchase, which includes the downloadable videos after class – All Access Pass members can attend this class live online for free. This brings us to the most anticipated and requested product of the CCIE Data Center line: INE’s CCIE Data Center Workbook and Rack Rentals.

Like our online Bootcamps, INE’s CCIE Data Center Workbooks will take a three-part approach to the topic scope: Nexus Switching, Storage Networking, and Unified Computing. Unlike our previous workbook products, however, the delivery of the Data Center Workbooks will be enhanced. The Data Center Workbook series will be delivered as online content. It will still include diagrams, technology scenarios, configurations, and verifications, but it will also include embedded streaming video content that delves deep into technology breakdowns, verification, and troubleshooting. By delivering the content in an online format as opposed to print-formatted PDFs, we will be able to shorten the time to market for the labs through incremental releases, and we will be able to ensure that everyone always has the most updated version of content without the need for a complicated sub-versioning system. Furthermore, the embedded video breakdown content will take this product above and beyond the incredibly high quality bar that you, our customers, are already accustomed to with INE.

The time frame for content release of the CCIE Data Center Workbooks is as follows:

  • Nexus Switching: Mid to Late November 2012
  • Storage Networking: Mid to Late December 2012
  • Unified Computing: Mid to Late December 2012
  • Full Scale Labs: Mid to Late January 2013

What about rack rentals? We plan to release access to rack rentals in tandem with the release of the workbook content. Rack rentals will be offered in multiple ways. First we will offer smaller subsets of the overall complete hardware topology that is used to complete specific technology labs. For example, a lab on vPC on Nexus 5000 may consist of 2 x Nexus 5548UPs and an end host. Likewise, as you progressively work through the labs, the topologies will get more complex, ultimately culminating in full-scale multi-protocol labs that require the entire overall hardware topology.

The full hardware topology used in the workbooks will consist of:

  • Nexus 7000s with both M1 and F1 modules
  • Nexus 5500UPs
  • Nexus 2000 1GigE & 10GigE Fabric Extenders
  • MDS 9200i Fibre Channel & IP Storage Switches
  • UCS C Series Rackmount Servers
  • UCS B Series Blade Servers
  • UCS Fabric Interconnects
  • Additional 1GigE & 10GigE attached end servers
  • Fibre Channel attached Storage Arrays

Further details, such as pricing for the workbooks and rack rentals and the availability of the rack schedule, will be solidified within the next few weeks. As always, questions and comments are welcome, and I hope to see many of you in the upcoming CCIE Data Center – Unified Computing class at the end of the month!

 

 

May
02

CCIE SPv3 Rack Rentals - which include IOS XR - are now out of beta and available for normal scheduling via the INE Members' Site. The rack topology is based on our CCIE Service Provider Version 3.0 Lab Workbook and the CCIE Service Provider Version 3.0 Advanced Technologies Class.

Currently each session costs 20 tokens, and each session is 3 hours long. If you purchase tokens in bulk this basically means that SPv3 rack time is around $3 per hour. Token based sessions start on Monday May 7th. People who booked beta sessions before this time (i.e. through Sunday) will still maintain their free sessions. Anyone who booked a beta session on Monday May 7th or later has had your session removed. You can of course add them back through the scheduler, but the sessions are no longer free to book after the end of this weekend.

A brief video on how to use the new scheduling system and SPv3 Rack Rentals is available here.

We’re continuing to add functionality to the new scheduler and its control panel, which includes choosing a config to pre-load before a session starts via the control panel, remote power control via the control panel, loading product configs, saving your current configs, renaming your previously saved configs, downloading your previously saved configs, and re-loading your previously saved configs onto a current session or session scheduled in the future.

If anyone runs into any problems with the scheduler or any of its features please submit feedback so we can get these issues addressed as soon as possible.

Thanks and good luck in your studies!

Dec
08

This is a short publication to help you get started with Graded Labs Racks Rentals for CCIE Routing and Switching. We often see people having repeating issues when renting the rack time, so this is guide on how to avoid them. This document is a companion to the following class-on-demand videos: Using the GradedLabs.com Rack Scheduling System and Access the Racks. It is recommended that you both read this publication and watch these short videos to fully benefit from Graded Labs rack rentals.

Step 0: Do I have good connectivity to GL racks?

First of all, before you spend any money on rack rentals, make sure your upcoming session quality will be good. Most of GL customers are from the United States and normally don't experience any connectivity issues. However, if you are coming from Europe or Asia, it might be a good idea to validate your connection to avoid frustrating experience. Do the following test: using the "ping" command, send at least 100 echo packets to "racks.ine.com" and see the average RTT and packet loss. If your RTT is below 100ms and packet loss is below 5% most likely will will have smooth experience.

$ ping -c 100 racks.ine.com
PING racks.ine.com (75.140.41.59): 56 data bytes
64 bytes from 75.140.41.59: icmp_seq=0 ttl=249 time=13.630 ms
64 bytes from 75.140.41.59: icmp_seq=1 ttl=249 time=14.272 ms
64 bytes from 75.140.41.59: icmp_seq=2 ttl=249 time=13.129 ms
64 bytes from 75.140.41.59: icmp_seq=3 ttl=249 time=11.725 ms
64 bytes from 75.140.41.59: icmp_seq=4 ttl=249 time=9.521 ms
64 bytes from 75.140.41.59: icmp_seq=5 ttl=249 time=11.348 ms
….
--- racks.ine.com ping statistics ---
100 packets transmitted, 100 packets received, 0.0% packet loss
round-trip min/avg/max/stddev = 9.150/12.561/33.581/3.315 ms

avg RTT = 12.56ms
Packet Loss = 0%

Notice that in some circumstances your provider or company may block ICMP traffic. In such situation, you may not be able to ping our rack access server and estimate the RTT/packet loss.

It might be possible that your RTT/Loss may change during the day, depending on the network conditions. So run this test a few times during the day and see if you can get a better RTT.

Step 1: Booking your session

Graded Labs offer rack rentals in 5.5 hour time-slots. People often ask us why not 8 hours or 4 hours? The reason being is optimum hardware utilization. Terminating and re-establishing a rack environment takes time (fixed to 30 minutes in GL environment), so you can't go ahead and pack 3x8 hours sessions in a day. And going down to 4 hours sessions means you have to do a lot of rack resets during the day, wasting people's time. Therefore, it has been estimated that 5.5 hour sessions, four times a day represents ideally balanced sessions duration from both the customer viewpoint and maintenance reasons.

You first goal prior to booking the rack rental session is understanding the rack rental interface. First, be sure to set your time zone correctly. Rack rental sessions start at four fixed time interval during the day, named as "S1, S2, S3, S4". Of course, these interval depend on your time-zone settings. You may change those settings under your INE's member's profile. When you open the rack rental scheduler from within your INE's member's profile you see the following:

rs-rack-retnals-scheduler

Notice the available time-slots, the price of rack rental session and the time-slot starting intervals translated to your local time zone. Use this information to pick up your sessions. Keep in mind that sessions pricing is dynamic and may vary with rack utilization, so "underloaded" days are normally cheaper.

The other question people often ask is whether it's possible to keep the same rack for multiple sessions. The scheduler system automatically attempts to do this every time you book continuos time intervals. And if you have rack sessions booked already, and want to extend it on the same rack, simply try booking consecutive intervals - if possible, the rack scheduler will keep you on the same rack.

To summarize:

  1. Make sure you set the time-zone correctly in your profile and understand the starting times for rack rentals.
  2. Understand that the system will try keeping the same rack for you if you book continuous time slots.
  3. Use dynamic pricing at your advantage: it's a mutual interest for both GradedLabs and the rack rental customer!

Step 2: Preparing for your Session

Since you have booked a rack rental session, you probably know what you will be using it for. If not, it's good time to plan your session. Normally you spend rack time working on either INE's CCIE Routing & Switching Workbook Volume I or INE's CCIE Routing & Switching Workbook Volume II scenarios. These often require various initial configurations. Be aware that you may load all these configurations using the Graded Labs "Control Panel" utility once your session becomes active. Therefore, there is no need to prepare your own set of initial configurations, unless you have a custom scenario. However, it makes sense to spend time reading your scenarios and planning configuration steps in advance. You may also want to spend time analyzing the scenario and drawing the diagrams to save yourself from this during the actual rack session.

Chances are, that you just have started working with INE CCIE R&S products. If that's the case, make sure you allocated enough time to understand the physical cabling topology for INE products. You may find the rack topology diagram here INE's CCIE RS Topology Diagram. Do not just skim over this document, but make sure you know the topology thoroughly. You may want to print it and use as a reference the first few times when using GL rack rentals.

Next, make sure your terminal client (e.g. SecureCRT or PuTTY) is configured to access the GL racks. When you have a session booked, you should have received an email containing, among other things, username and a password for the upcoming session. The username is normally "rsrackXX" where XX is you rack number. For example it could be rsrack1 or rsrack2, or rsrack30. When you rack rental session starts, you may simply use "telnet" to connect to "racks.ine.com" and login using the name "rsrackXX" and the password provided. Notice that if your session has not started yet, you will be given a warning banner and disconnected.

What happens when you login using the "rackXX" name? You actually connect to an access-server having cables to all devices in your rack. You may use the command "show hosts" to see the device names and their corresponding line, then type in the device name such as "r1" to get access to the device console line. Of course, you will need to use the escape sequence "Ctrl-Shift-6 + x" to get back to the access-server prompt and switch between the devices, using either the connection number or command "r [device name]". Make sure you are familiar with using the IOS router as access-server if you plan on using "single login" style.

As opposed to single login as "rackXX" to the GL racks, you may want to use separate, per-device login. Many people find this more comfortable, as this allows them having a separate terminal window for every device. To login directly to a console line of device "aa" you need to use the login name "rackXXaa" when connecting to "racks.ine.com". For example, if you want to access R1 on rack22, use the name "rack22r1" and the same password you have been given previously. Thus, you will need to create 10 separate session in your terminal client so you can login to every device separately.

Prior to your session start, make sure you know how to access Graded Labs support system. You may submit an emergency ticket and an on-site technician will be able to help you with hardware issues, if any. You may find information on submitting tickets in your reservation email.

Finally, the rack rental email that you have received should have a link to the "Rack Rental" usage guide, which provides more detailed information on rack access procedure. You may find it available online here RS Rental Rack Acccess Guide. It is highly recommend that you read it prior to your rack rental session as it contains a lot of useful information for people new to the CCIE rack rentals.

To summarize the preparation steps:

  1. Make sure you understand the INE RS topology thoroughly.
  2. Plan your work in ahead, e.g. select a VOL2 lab you need to work on. Read and analyze your scenarios in advanced, make any diagrams you need to make.
  3. Make sure you terminal client is configured to access racks.ine.com.
  4. Know you rack access method: via access-server or via direct logins to the devices.

Step 3: Working on You CCIE Rack

As soon as your session has started, you would be able to control it using the "Rack Control Panel". This utility allows you loading and saving your configuration plus physically reloading any router or switch in your rack. Make sure you familiarize yourself with its interface, as this is your primary rack control tool. The Control Panel has two modes: Rack Control and Config Options. Using the first one you can power-cycle your devices. Using the second one, you can load and save your rack configuration.

Normally you start the session by loading the initial configuration for your scenario. This may take about 10-15 minutes, which you can spend preparing your documents and reading the scenario, if you haven't done so previously. During the time your rack is loading the configs you will not be able to access it. When the configs are done loading, connect the the rack and verify that you can access all devices. Every rack undergoes a hardware check during the time between the rack session (the "intersession interval"), so the chances of having a hardware issue are minimal. However, things do break at times, so we recommend you checking connectivity with every configuration step you are working on.

If during your session you suspect a hardware issue, make sure you have a way to validate it. For instance, if you are blaming a faulty link, configure the interfaces to form a P2P connection, e.g. using HDLC for Serial interfaces or configuring the switch-ports as "routed-ports" so you can ping the directly connected port. If you still observing failure, submit your evidence to the GL support. If there is indeed a hardware fault, the support person will either fix it promptly or assign you to a different rack. Remember, the support personel is not able to help you with configuration issues, they can only fix hardware faults.

When your rack session timer expires, there will be no explicit warning. However, your configuration will be automatically saved and you can access it later under the Control Panel. This will allow you to resume work during the next session simply by loading the saved configuration.

To summarize, the following are your key point when working on the rack:

  1. Know how to use the Control Panel to power-cycle your devices.
  2. Know how to use the Control Panel to Load and Save configurations.
  3. Be able to spot a hardware issue and differentiate it from configuration problem.
  4. Understand how to properly submit an information fault report so that a technician can help you promptly.

Summary

CCIE hardware rental might look a little bit complicated at first, but in fact this is an established process that is easy to get used to. You goal as a customer it to get the maximum of a rack rental session. This publication concentrates on the key aspects of "client-side" optimization of the process. The following are the main factors to a smooth experience:

  • Validate your access-path to GradedLabs RS access-server and ensure you have good RTT and low packet loss
  • Make sure you set the time-zone correctly in your profile and know the starting times for rack rentals.
  • Understand that the system will try keeping the same rack for you if you book continuous time slots.
  • Use dynamic pricing at your advantage: it's a mutual interest for both GradedLabs and the rack rental customer!
  • Make sure you understand the INE RS topology thoroughly before renting a rack.
  • Plan your work in ahead. Read and analyze your scenarios in advanced, make any diagrams you need to make.
  • Make sure you terminal client is configured to access "racks.ine.com".
  • Know you rack access method: via access-server or via direct logins to the devices.
  • Know how to use the Control Panel to power-cycle your devices.
  • Know how to use the Control Panel to Load and Save configurations.
  • Be able to spot a hardware issue and differentiate it from configuration problem.
  • Understand how to properly submit an information fault report so that a technician can help you promptly.
May
31

Hi everyone!

We are excited to announce our newest release of IEWB-VO VOL1 labs covering the new CCIE Voice blueprint, which becomes effective as of July this year. The first of the CCIE Voice v3.0 labs are now out in beta format, in addition to new Voice Racks available to rent covering the new topology! All current customers who have purchased IEWB-VO VOL1 will automatically receive the new updates in their members account at no additional cost. Each section of the new VOL1 includes technology-focused labs with explanations, verifications, further reading links, and dedicated troubleshooting sections.

The initial release covers Cisco Unified Communications Manager Express (CUCME, formally known as Call Manager Express or CME). We will continue releasing new voice content covering all new blueprint topics, with a new section being released each week. The next release will include more CUCME labs, as well as Unity Express tasks, followed by the first of the new Unified Communications Manager Labs! The initial VOL1 release covers the following topics:

CUCME Basic Configuration
Phone Registration & Number Assignment (SCCP Phones)
SIP Phones
ISDN PRI
IOS Call Routing
Voice Translation Rules
Shared Line
Night Service
After-Hours Setup
Single Number Reach
Softkey Customization - SCCP
Softkey Customization - SIP
Octo-Line
Conference Resources
Transcoding Resources
B-ACD
Voice Hunt Groups
Ephone Hunt groups
Dynamic Hunt groups

The new voice racks are fully compliant with the CCIE Voice hardware specification posted at Cisco’s website: CCIE Voice Hardware Specification. To many folks out there, the new hardware lists is a huge relief, as the many old and expensive devices including the 6500 switch and the VG248 are now gone. Plus, the addition of SIP phones allows for more flexible choice of softphone software, not limited to the small set of SCCP-compatible products available on the market.

As for the people preparing using the old blueprint, our rack rentals support the old CCIE Voice hardware specification as well. Nothing will change until the lasts days the old blueprint remains valid.

Thank you, and be sure to check back often for more updates!

Oct
25

Recently as most rack rental customers are aware of it's not easy to find an available rack or mock lab session.  Our security rack rentals are running near 100% capacity, the SP racks are also near 100% capacity, voice is already near 75% capacity and R&S rack rentals are near 92.5% capacity.   Currently we are out of power and space at our two offices in the Reno Technology Center.  We have just signed a lease on a new 4200sqft hosting facility.  This will allow us to expand to over 400 CCIE racks.  We have already started purchasing the additional hardware for the new racks and they should start becoming available in November so watch for sessions that are currently sold out to become available.

Around the middle of November you will see the start times of the rack rentals and mock labs vary (every 3 hours a session will start).  This is designed to accommodate our customers in Europe, the Middle East and Asia.   Currently the sessions start at inconvenient times for customers in these locations.

The voice racks now support EZVPN and SSL VPN connections.  We have installed two VPN routers for redundancy and to allow for multiple connections.   This means you can now use your own phones and/or soft phones.  We are also adding additional 7960s to each rack.  After next week you will see one additional 7960 phone added to the HQ site bringing the total to three 7960s and one additional 7960 for the BR1 site bring the total to two 7960s.

We will have a voice bootcamp rental kit available for anyone running their own voice CCIE bootcamps.   Currently vendors that are renting out our voice racks for bootcamps need to provide their own IP phones and router/PIX/ASA for the VPN connection.  The new kit that is identical to the kit we will start using for the voice bootcamps includes (per student) three 7960 phones, an ATA 186 and an analog phone.  There is also one VG248, two 3550 24 port PoE switches, one 2811 and the necessary cables needed to connect everything up.

I would like to add that our voice rack rentals are only $15 per 5.5 hours.   In addition to our voice products and classes you should be able to do any vendor's practice labs on our voice racks.  To view our topology click here.

Subscribe to INE Blog Updates

New Blog Posts!