Mar
01

One of the most anticipated videos series in INE history is now available in our streaming library - Cisco’s Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) Part 1 - Network Centric Mode!

This course is part of our new CCIE Data Center v2 Advanced Technologies Series, which also currently includes the following new courses:

Access to these courses and more is now available through INE’s All Access Pass subscription.

The DCv2 Advanced Technologies Series also has additional upcoming courses scheduled that include:

  • Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) Part 2 - Application Centric Mode
  • Nexus Overlay Transport Virtualization (OTV)
  • Locator/ID Separation Protocol (LISP) on Nexus NX-OS
  • Storage Area Network (SAN) Switching on Nexus NX-OS
  • Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS)
  • Nexus NX-OS Security
  • Nexus NX-OS Security
  • Quality of Service (QoS) on Nexus NX-OS
  • Network Services & Management on Nexus NX-OS
  • Automation and Orchestration with Nexus NX-OS

In addition to the video courses, INE’s CCIE DCv2 Lab Workbook is currently available in beta testing, along with our CCIE DCv2 Rack Rentals. The public rack rental scheduler will be posted shortly, and a separate announcement will be posted about its availability and how to use it.

Happy Studying!

May
02

First off I’d like to thank all of you that participated in beta testing both the CCIE Data Center Technology Lab Workbook and DC Rack Rentals, and for all the constructive feedback that was submitted. Yesterday the DC rack system left beta, and is now publicly available for bookings.

Data Center rack rentals cost 20 tokens for the base topology, which includes Nexus 7000, Nexus 5000, and Virtual Machines. There are three add-ons to the topology, which are Nexus 2000 & SAN, UCS & SAN, and ACE 4710. Each of the add-ons cost 5 tokens apiece, which means the maximum cost for the full topology is 35 tokens per session. With bulk token pricing this equates to about $11 USD per hour for rental, which is much more affordable than any other vendor out there.

For more detailed information on how to book sessions and use the system, please see the CCIE Data Center Rack Rental Access Guide.

Before the end of the month we will also be launching a second "Mock Lab" Data Center topology that will be used for full-scale 8-hour lab scenarios. More information about the availability of rentals on this topology will be posted soon.

Happy Labbing!

Apr
24

Last week we quietly snuck into the All Access Pass the recordings of the live UC on UCS and Nexus 1000v on UCS classes that I ran just a few weeks back. If you have never run Unified Communications in a virtual environment or have never worked with a distributed virtual switch in a VMware environment, these classes will certainly aid you in preparing for that first deployment. If you have worked with either product for a little while, these classes will deepen your understanding of what's needed and what's really going on behind the scenes. The Nexus 1000v class is also very useful for the Unified Communications engineer, as most deployments these days are virtual machines, and the Nexus 1000v is the recommended L2 switch to run them on, since the UCS can only match/mark at L2 CoS, whereas the Nexus 1000v allows you to match the L3 DSCP that the UC servers are natively sending and map them to a L2 CoS value, which is currently the only value seen and honored by any of your UCS or Nexus switches in your modern data centers.

I will be furthering this series with classes on the VSG with VNMC, the ASA 1000v, and later with the InterCloud 1000v as well as possibly more virtual devices in the weeks to come.

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!

Apr
15

After many months of development, INE is happy to announce that our CCIE Data Center Technology Lab Workbook is now available! The initial release of the workbook contains over 100 hands-on lab scenarios that walk you through the technologies used in Cisco’s modern Data Center architecture. Whether you are preparing for the CCIE Data Center Lab Exam, have an upcoming implementation project with Cisco’s Nexus switches or Cisco’s Unified Computing System (UCS), or you simply want to gain hands-on experience with these cutting-edge technologies, this workbook is for you.

The labs in this workbook are all individually focused advanced technology labs that present topics in an easy-to-follow, goal-oriented, step-by-step approach. Every scenario features detailed breakdowns and thorough verifications to help you completely understand the technology. The workbook is subdivided into two sections, Nexus Technology Labs and UCS Technology Labs. A sample of the Nexus Technology Labs can be found here, and a sample of the UCS Technology Labs can be found here. The workbook is priced at $399, and can be purchased here.

This workbook is also the first to use INE’s new online content delivery system, which will continue to evolve over the next few weeks to add new features as well as additional content. Ultimately this new content delivery system will be extended to all workbooks and tracks, i.e. R&S, Service Provider, Security, Voice, Wireless, etc. We encourage all users to submit feedback not only on the technical nature of the content but also about the usability of the system. To do so use the “Feedback” link in the bottom right portion of the page of each lab, as seen below:

The rack rental scheduler for Data Center will appear on Wednesday for public beta bookings.  We've already been piloting both the workbook and the rack rentals in private beta for a few weeks, but this week we will be releasing the racks in public beta.  Basically what this means is that if you are a workbook customer you will be able to book DC rack sessions for free.  The goal during the beta period is to get feedback from our customers on the usability of the system as well as to fine-tune our automation system.  Once public beta is completed in about a week or two then the rack scheduler will be available for public consumption.

During this next week a lot of additional content will be added to the Nexus section of the workbook, including the OTV and FabricPath sections just to name a few, which are currently in final editing.  As I mentioned this is initial release of both the workbook and the new content system, so we are encouraging users to submit as much feedback as possible on it.  I will be posting a more detailed overview of the content system later this week along with some videos that walk through the specific features that are available, and the ones that are in development and are slated for upcoming release.

 

Thanks, and happy labbing!

Apr
05

Today my support team forwarded me an interesting ticket where a customer was complaining about not being able to login to their Data Center rack rental session. The support team was confused because INE's CCIE Data Center Rack Rentals and workbook are currently still in closed beta, with a select few testing out the rack rental system and the workbook content. As this isn’t the only ticket they’ve gotten about the situation, I thought it was appropriate to address it publicly. In short, these tickets relate to another vendor's Data Center rack rental issues as INE’s CCIE DC Rack Rentals are not yet publicly available.

The reason they got this ticket and the other related ones is that another vendor has pre-sold Data Center - and I believe also Wireless - CCIE rack rental sessions that don’t actually exist, and a few people are confusing INE with them. Apparently once it’s time to actually use your pre-paid rack session you get an email similar to the one below:

From: (redacted)
Sent: Monday, April 01, 2013 1:43 PM
To: (redacted)
Subject: Data Center Rack

(redacted),

We are going to have to cancel you 20:00 session today and upcoming sessions at least up to the 15th of April due to the fact that the DC rack is not complete at this time. We are expecting to get this up and running in the next couple weeks. We apologize for the inconvenience this may cause. You will receive a replacement voucher for all canceled sessions.
--
Regards,

(redacted)
Technical Support/ Editor (redacted), INC.

 

The CCIE Data Center Facebook group has had a bunch of posts about this recently as well:

Normally I try to stay away from this type of industry drama, but I want to make sure that INE is not lumped in with the rest of our competitors that have this type of shady business practice. Pre-selling vaporware not only hurts the end customer and the vendor, but also other vendors in the CCIE training business, as apparent by the support tickets that we received. If you’ve found yourself in this situation and are being offered vouchers instead of a refund then I would suggest to get in touch with your credit company to dispute the charges, as this is pretty cut-and-dry as a product paid for and not delivered.

As for INE’s rack rentals, like I mentioned we are still in closed beta. Public beta is going to be starting next week, and if you are interested simply send me an email to bmcgahan@ine.com with the subject “DC Beta Testing”. If you already submitted a request you don’t need to send another one, we will be following up with everyone shortly after the weekend.

Mar
24

Update: The CCIE Data Center Technology Lab Workbook is now available here

After a long and highly anticipated wait, INE’s CCIE Data Center Workbook and Rack Rentals are (almost ;) ) finally here! This post covers three items of business, the state of the DC Workbook & Rack Rentals release, and the Implementing Nexus 5-Day Bootcamp that I am running online next week.  This post ran a little longer than I had initially anticipated, so below are some quick links to the particular sections that you may be interested in:

Implementing Nexus 5-Day Bootcamp
DC Workbook Delivery
DC Rack Rental Topology
DC Workbook and Rack Rental Pricing

Implementing Nexus 5-Day Bootcamp

Like I said, next week I’m running an online version of our Implementing Nexus 5-Day Bootcamp.  Attendance for this class is split into two groups, those who formally registered, and AAP members. For those who formally registered for class you already know who you are, and you will be getting equipment access as this class is mostly a hands-on one. All other AAP members are more than welcome to attend the lecture portion of class, which will include me showing hands-on examples, explaining the technologies, and taking questions. Class starts tomorrow morning at 07:00 PDT (GMT -7). The link to attend can be found in your members account under the All Access Pass section, as seen below:

Data Center Workbook Delivery

Now onto the real order of business, the DC Workbook and Rack Rentals! Those of you that have been following our DC products know that we’re a little behind schedule for the release of both the workbook and the rack rentals, and I wanted to address here specifically the reasons why. Since Data Center is a completely brand new product line for INE, it has given us carte blanche to build it differently from the get-go, taking into account a lot of feedback that we’ve gotten from customers over the years on how INE’s content is produced and delivered for other tracks. This August will mark the 10-year anniversary since Brian Dennis and I started INE, and we’ve learned a lot over the years as to what works and doesn’t work in respect to building product lines.

The first big change for the DC product line is that the workbook will be delivered exclusively as online content. In the past our workbooks were formatted primarily for print, with online delivery secondary. With DC and with our other workbook products going forward, we’re going to be focusing on an online delivery primarily, with print still available at your own discretion, but not the main focus. To accomplish this we’ve internally developed a new content management and delivery system, which is part of the reason for a delay in our release. As they say in project management you have the options to have it cheap, fast, and good, but you only get to pick two out of the three. Actually in this case I think we only got to pick one out of three because it’s been neither cheap nor fast ;) Without boring you will all the specifics of the new system, here are the important highlights about it:

  • Content is still DRM-free

For me personally this is a big one, because I really really despise all forms of DRM. DRM only hurts paying customers, and at the end of the day doesn’t stop someone from stealing your content if they really want to. A lot of INE’s competitors still use DRM, and I’m whole-heartedly against it. Companies that use DRM do so because they care more about their bottom line than about their end customer’s experience, plain and simple. Case and point is EA’s recent debacle with the release of their new SimCity game. Because of DRM, SimCity is on track to be the worst rated product in Amazon’s history.  If you are like me and don’t want DRM-based products then vote with your dollars and don’t buy from companies that use it. Okay now I’ll get down off of my DRM soapbox ;)

  • Print is still available

For the first time in a long time, I recently bought a hardcopy book. This particular book was on VMware, I got about one chapter in, and then found myself reading the same book on my iPad through Safari Online the next day.  That poor book is still sitting in the same place that I set it down a few months ago, but I digress. Maybe you work for the LaserJet business unit at HP, or at Dunder Mifflin Paper Company, or maybe you just really hate trees, who knows? Regardless, if you want to print out the content you’re more than welcome to. This means you can also print to PDF to take the documents offline.

  • Content is now searchable and bookmark-able

This one is pretty self-explanatory. Bookmark a place in the content so you know where you left-off next time. Search will become increasingly more relevant for the delivery system once we begin to port our other content into it, such as the CCIE R&S Lab Workbook Volume 1, which has over 500 pages just in the QoS section alone!

  • Making updates and maintaining errata are now much easier for us

With the sheer volume of content that we currently manage, making even the most minor updates becomes a very large project for us. The new system fixes this on our end so we can make updates on the fly which everyone immediately has access to, which also eliminates the need to maintain errata.  This also means we can more quickly respond to feedback and bug reports, which leads us into the next point…

  • Simplified feedback submission and bug reporting

While most errors in our content are minor, it can be very frustrating for candidates when I wrote “R1” but I really meant “R2”. Technical accuracy of our content is key, and if you find a problem we want to know about it so it can be fixed. With the new system you’ll be able to submit feedback directly on the page where the content lives, which means that on our end it will make the tracking and fixing of problems must faster and efficient.  We also have more staff dedicated to technical editing and quality assurance of content, so this process will continue to improve from now on.

  • More community interaction

Discussion of a particular lab/task will be more tightly integrated with the content itself. This way you can see other peoples questions, comments, etc. that relate to what you are currently working on at the time.

The system of course will continue to grow and improve over time. As it stands the content for the DC workbook is essentially done, the backend for the content management and delivery system is done, but we’re still finishing up tweaking the front-end of it. The system will be going into beta sometime this week, and with your feedback we hope to go to full public launch shortly afterwards. Below you can see some preliminary screen shots of the front end of the system:

 

Data Center Rack Rental Topology

Last, but definitely not least, is the Data Center Rack Rentals.  After all, without equipment to actually do the labs on the content is useless, right?

The equipment build for DC has actually been the most complicated of my career, as our main goal has been to provide a mix of feature availability and affordability to you, our end users.  I thought that our CCIE SPv3 build was complicated, where when everything was said and done a rack costs us about $15,000 - $20,000 to build give or take, which includes two IOS XR routers.  With DC though it’s not that simple, as a single 10GigE M1 line card for Nexus 7000 retails for about $50,000.  It’s not even eligible for free Amazon Prime shipping!  What a rip-off! ;)

In the end we came up with some creativity in the build, which actually results in us having two separate topologies.  The first topology, which is the one I used for the Implementing Nexus 5-Day Bootcamp last week and am using again for the class next week, can be thought of as the “DC Technologies Topology.”  This is the rack rental topology that will be launching first, as it allows the most affordability and flexibility in which equipment you get access to.  The second topology can be thought of as the “CCIE Data Center Mock Lab Topology”, as it will more closely mirror the topology used in the CCIE DC Lab Exam.  First I’m going to talk about the specifics of the technology topology, and then afterwards talk about the mock lab topology.

Specifically, the DC Technologies Topology is made up of the following equipment:

  • 2 x Nexus 7010s, each with 10GigE M1 & F1 Linecards
  • 8 x Nexus 5020s, each with a Fibre Channel expansion module
  • 2 x Nexus 2232PP 10GigE Fabric Extenders, paired to the 5Ks
  • 8 x Windows VMs, dual 1GigE attached to the 5Ks
  • 1 x Windows Bare Metal, dual 10GigE attached to the 2Ks
  • 2 x UCS 6248 Fabric Interconnects
  • 1 x UCS B5108 Blade Chassis
  • 2 x UCS B22 M3 with VIC 1240
  • 1 x UCS B200 M2 with Emulex CNA
  • 1 x MDS 9222i Fibre Channel & IP Storage Switches
  • 3 x MDS 9216i Fibre Channel & IP Storage Switches
  • 1 x ACE 4710
  • 3 x Apache VMs for ACE testing
  • 2 x Catalyst 3750Gs for misc. 1GigE connectivity
  • Fibre Channel SAN

The above physical topology then breaks down into four logical racks.  In other words, the rack rental scheduler will start with four racks in inventory for every time slot.  Each rack rental is assigned base set of equipment that all rentals get, and then there are then three possible “add-ons” that you can choose.  The add-ons include one for Nexus 2K & SAN, one for UCS & SAN, and one for ACE.  From a high level overview the equipment groupings are as follows:

Specifically the groupings include the following equipment:

  • Base N7K & N5K Rental
    • 2 x Nexus 7K VDCs
    • 2 x Nexus 5Ks
    • 2 x Dual 1GigE attached Windows VMs
  • ACE Add-on
    • ACE 4710
    • 3 x Apache VMs
  • N2K & SAN Add-on
    • 2 x Nexus 2Ks
    • 1 x Dual 10GigE attached Windows bare metal
    • 2 x MDS 9200’s
    • Fibre Channel SAN
  • UCS & SAN Add-on
    • 2 x UCS 6248 Fabric Interconnects
    • 1 x UCS B5108 Blade Chassis
    • 2 x UCS B22 M3 with VIC 1240
    • 1 x UCS B200 M2 with Emulex CNA
    • 2 x MDS 9200’s
    • Fibre Channel SAN

Physically the racks are highly interconnected, which down the road will allow candidates to build larger topologies by renting multiple racks at the same time.  At launch time only one base rental will be allowed per booking, but this will be extended in the future.  Physically the overall topology looks as follows:

 

A more detailed version of the diagram can be found here.

Data Center Workbook and Rack Rental Pricing

This of course now begs the question, how much will it cost?  After all, a $700 workbook that requires you to spend $12,000 in rack rentals with little-to-no availability probably isn't the best investment of your time or money ;)  For INE's pricing the DC Technology Workbook will be priced at $399, and base rack pricing starts at 20 tokens for a 2.5 hour session.  Each add-on costs an additional 5 tokens per 2.5 hour session.  In other words if you wanted the base rental plus all three add-ons, the maximum cost is 35 tokens per 2.5 hour session.  With bulk token pricing this equates to about $11 per hour for the entire topology, or about $6 per hour for the base N7K & N5K topology.  As I said our main goal has been to find a happy medium between functionality and the feasibility of people to actually afford renting the sessions.

Feature-wise there are a few limitations of this topology, for example the Nexus 5020s don’t support Adapter FEX or Multihop FCoE like the 5500s do, but in the scheme of things the topics that you cannot do on this topology are minor.  However, for the sake of completeness of content we will also be building a second more advanced topology that will remove these few feature limitations.  This second “CCIE DC Mock Lab Topology” will more closely mirror the actual lab hardware list, and when you rent the mock lab topology you will always get all equipment, including all of the Nexus 7K VDCs, Nexus 5548s, Nexus 2232PPs, UCS B & C servers, MDSes, etc.

This then leads us to the question, how does the workbook relate to the rack rental variations?  From a high level, the workbook is split into three main sections: Nexus Technology Labs, UCS Technology Labs, and CCIE DC Mock Labs.  The initial release of the workbook will be the first two technology labs sections, followed-up by a separate product that is the CCIE DC Mock Labs.  As a parallel to our other product lines you could think of this as similar to the division between CCIE R&S Volumes 1 & 2.  The CCIE DC Mock Lab Workbook will require the CCIE DC Mock Lab Topology, as the name implies.  However for the technology labs, not all labs require access to all equipment.

As part of the introductory section to each technology lab, a note is included to tell you which particular topology is required.  For example the ACE labs obviously require you to rent the ACE 4710, but they don’t require you to rent the Nexus 2K or UCS add-ons.  Likewise a large number of the Nexus Technology Labs only require the base Nexus 7K/5K rental.  As you can probably guess, essentially all of the UCS Technology Labs require that you rent the UCS add-on.  Mostly this is self-explanatory, but it is clearly spelled out in each lab so that you can plan ahead with your rack rental and study schedule.

As I mentioned this week I’m running an Implementing Nexus 5-Day Bootcamp, so all of the equipment will be utilized for that class and won’t be available for beta testing the rack rentals.  The current plan is for DC rack rentals to go into public beta (we’ve already had a number of people doing a private beta for us) the week of April 1st, along with the workbook.  If you are interested in beta testing just send me an email at bmcgahan@ine.com with the subject line “DC Beta Testing”.  For those of you that already previously submitted an email I still have them and I will be contacting everyone shortly with more details on the beta process.

As always, questions and comments are welcome.  Also feel free to visit the CCIE Data Center General and CCIE Data Center Technical sections of our online community for more detailed discussions.  I’ll be posting another follow-up blog post as the beta progresses and then of course as we go into full public release.

 

Thanks!

Feb
26

Our new CCIE Data Center Written course has been released. For the All Access Pass members it's already available in your members site account. Below are some sample from the new course.

Nexus 5000 & 2000 Hardware Architecture:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WyoPUCIzzgc

NX-OS Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yGycLnWNDxQ

UCS :: LAN Modes and Behaviors :: Part 1
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mxaVLfH6xlE

Here is the playlist:
CCIE Data Center

Feb
13

We are postponing both of the 1-day classes -Nexus 1000v and UC on UCS) to focus on what everyone really wants -- Data Center Labs. We apologize for any inconvenience. For those of you who were planning on attending the Nexus 1000v, please note that most all of this training can be found contained in the 5-day Unified Computing class, beginning here.

Also note, that more content related to both Nexus 1000v, ACE and everything else in the written exam will be shortly forthcoming as Brian and I just wrapped on recording that class this past week.

Feb
11

Firstly, the IOS XR Primer class that was scheduled for this week has been postponed due to a time crunch in my schedule. Sorry for the late notice on this, but for those of you that were planning on attending I'll be posting an updated date for this class soon, which will likely be in about 6 weeks.

Next, the Nexus NX-OS Primer class is now available for streaming for All Access Pass members, as well as a standalone download for just $99. This class is great for anyone that has an upcoming project on Nexus and quickly needs to get up to speed on using NX-OS.

Now - the topic that everyone has been waiting for ;) - Data Center Labs and Rack Rentals! Both our Nexus and Unified Computing System Hands-On Labs are nearing completion, and will begin posting within the next two weeks. This release will also coincide with the launch of our Data Center Rack Rentals to support the labs. Both the Hands-On Labs and the Rack Rentals will be using a new delivery system, so right now we're looking for beta testers that are interested in trying out the new delivery system and giving us some feedback on it. If you are interested simply send me an email to bmcgahan@ine.com with the subject "DC Beta Testing", and I will get back to you with more information later this week. Pricing for both the labs and rack rentals is still forthcoming.

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