My CCIE Data Center Lab Exam Experience

A couple of weeks ago, I took the CCIE Data Center Lab Exam.  As prepared as I thought I was (hey, I can configure OTV in my sleep: both Inline and OTV-on-a-Stick variants), I still failed.  This is an exam that will really test not just the advanced Cisco Data Center technologies, but your knowledge of the fundamentals as well.  More details after the jump…

So, let me get the obvious out the way for the folks looking for detailed reports of the exam content:  No, I will not be revealing any of the questions from the exam either here or via e-mail to any degree.  Cisco is very particular about its NDA requirements, and I would prefer not be banned from their Certification Programs.

With that out of the way, here are a few observations\tips to help you in your own CCIE Data Center Journey.

1. Depending on your experience level with Cisco Data Center Tech, you may be ready to skip CCNA & CCNP Data Center and to go straight to the CCIE level.  I have almost 2 years of UCS Professional Services experience and significant hands-on with Nexus and Storage technologies.  So, I opted to go straight for the Expert-level exam.

2. DO NOT neglect the networking fundamentals.  Anything on the CCIE Data Center Blueprint is fair game.  So, master the technologies explicitly listed as well as the foundational technologies that the DC topics are built on.

3. Practice intelligently – Don’t just work on features in a vacuum, i.e. FabricPath by itself.  Practice vPC+ along with FabricPath for network connectivity to hosts and FC\FCoE for the host storage connectivity.  A CCIE Candidate is expected to perform real-world configurations, not just to remember how to configure a certain feature on its own.

4. Get access to a rack with the required equipment.  If you are not fortunate to have an employer that has a test lab, INE and other companies have great environments available to test with.

5. Don’t expect that taking Cisco’s Data Center Courses (DCUCD, DCUFD, etc.) are sufficient preparation.  Go to the Cisco Live 365 site, and read & watch as many Data Center presentations that you can that relate to the CCIE Data Center Lab topics.

6. Buy and read, cover-to-cover, Ron Fuller’s book: NX-OS and Cisco Nexus Switching: Next-Generation Data Center Architectures (2nd Edition)

The book lines up nicely with the CCIE Data Center Blueprint.  It doesn’t cover everything on there, but it comes pretty damned close.

If you’d like to hear more about my experiences with the exam and my preparation for it, I recorded a quick YouTube Interview at Cisco Live with GS Khalsa for the vBrownBags:

20 thoughts on “My CCIE Data Center Lab Exam Experience”

  1. Great comments. I recently passed my lab on 6/21, and I agree fundamentals are key. Practice, practice, practice – my weaker areas were on UCS, and the UCS sandbox in the partner labs were invaluable.

    1. Thanks for the feedback Craig, and Congrats on passing! Yeah, practice, practice, practice is supremely important. It’s even better to go off the path that the scripted lab guides suggest and to create your own scenarios. I’ll be doing a lot of that between now and when I sit the Lab again.

    2. Congratulations Craig !! After your suggestion I have recently done practise ,UCS , on this lab .It clarified lots of my doubt.
      My lab is scheduled on October .Pls suggest for Nexus as well.

  2. I know that guy! 🙂 I’m about to start studying more seriously as well, but you’re obviously further along than I am… Keep in touch man!

    1. I don’t think the test itself is too hard. The challenge comes from the breadth of content. Hit the books hard, man!

  3. I saw vce (This was a Twitter photo of Vmworld) has introduced professional certification programme which requires knowledge of ccie data center.
    Do you have any information on that.

    1. Hello Wilfred. I’m still getting up-to-speed myself on what the Certification Programs will entail. I will share whatever information that I can find.

      1. Hi, Any update on vce certification programme. will this certification be open to all or to vce partners only.

        1. Hello Wilfred. I have not found any plans for implementing a Program this year. Look out for announcements next year.

  4. Guys i want to schedule my lab exams I’m trying to find as much i could from anyone please provide anything avilable with you guys here thanks

  5. Can anyone here tell me how can i practice labs of CCIE Data Center..
    I have to practice of CCIE Data Center Labs plz advice me anybody.

    Thanks

    1. Hello Sajid,

      Thanks for checking out my blog. The only two practice labs that I know of are from INE and IP Expert.

      That being said, they are VERY popular. So, it may take a few months to get access. As you wait for access to labs, I highly recommend researching sample configurations and reading Ron Fuller’s book:

      NX-OS and Cisco Nexus Switching: Next-Generation Data Center Architectures (2nd Edition)

      Good luck with your studies, and let me know if you have any more questions.

      -Trevor

      1. I need some simulator for lab work ?? Or can i work in GNS3 ? if yes then i couldnt find IOS for Nexus Devices.?
        plz advice.

        Thanks in advance.

        1. For a simulator, I would look into Cisco’s VIRL solution. It can run on VMware Player, Workstation, Fusion, and vSphere, and it can simulate NX-OS devices. There is also a UCS Platform Emulator to practice your server configurations.

          I’m not aware of any simulators for the MDS devices, but NX-OS includes fc and fcoe modules. Hopefully, the VIRL simulator supports fc. Unfortunately, I do not believe that GNS3 is capable of running NX-OS devices. At least that was true the last time that I used it.

  6. hello sir, just wondering about rental of labs on line, if you know good resources about, and and if the are useful as well for CCNP cert.

    thanks in advance.

    +vRay

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