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.