Network technologies and trends

February 8, 2015  5:09 AM

The Journey of CCIE –  Reference Materials – Series 2

Yasir Irfan Yasir Irfan Profile: Yasir Irfan

In my previous post we discussed about the mental preparations one should undergo before taking up the challenge of CCIE.  These posts are based on the experience I underwent  to achieve the CCIE Routing and Switching lab.

One has to read , watch and practice a lot to pursue CCIE and there are plenty of reference materials available. When it comes to books Cisco Press have many tittles which covers the  wide topics of CCIE, the good reference for this is to go through the INE web site they have mentioned all the books one should refer.  One title I will certainly recommend is CCIE Routing and Switching v5.0 Official Cert Guide Library, 5th Edition, a very well written title by Narbik Kocharians, Peter Paluch, Terry Vinson.


The second most important thing one need to select is the video series he/she wants watch. The most popular among are INE’s CCIE Routing & Switching Advanced Technologies video course and iPexpert’s Cisco CCIE R&S (v5) Lab Video on Demand. These two Companies are offering word class video resources for CCIE preparations.

Personally I went with INE’s CCIE Routing & Switching Advanced Technologies video course as I liked the way Brian McGahan  teaches. I am a great fan of him,  his videos gave me the through understanding of concepts. His way of teaching is quite unique and engaging. The best thing I liked about his approach is , the live troubleshooting he does while delivering the lectures.

This doesn’t mean that iPexpert’s Cisco CCIE R&S (v5) Lab Video on Demand are not good. I heard a lot of great things about them as well. I suggest you to watch the demo video from both INE and iPexpert and then take an informed decision.

In the upcoming post lets see talk about the workbooks available and if possible I will try to review some of them as well.

February 6, 2015  4:13 PM

The journey of CCIE  – Series 1

Yasir Irfan Yasir Irfan Profile: Yasir Irfan
CCIE, Networking

As promised I am back here to share the journey I had, to accomplish the CCIE Routing and Switching Lab. I did received tons of emails, LinkedIN messages , phone calls, Facebook messages etc to know the approach I took.

I believe the courage is what most of us lack to start the journey of CCIE. Most of us are hesitant and afraid of the unseen lab, even before starting most of us gave up the journey of CCIE. The best way to come out of this fear to sit down in a clam place, take a break from every thing do a serious thinking.

Those who ask questions cannot avoid answers. So ask yourself set of questions like and answer them, better write them down in the piece of paper. I have personally experienced whenever I wrote down my goals they were turned into reality

1. Why do I want to be a CCIE ?
2. What is stopping me from becoming a CCIE ?
3. What extra mile I can go to over come my obstacles to achieve my CCIE?
4. What resources I should choose to pass the CCIE?
5. Who else in my professional group are interested in CCIE ?
6. What impact will have on me after CCIE ?
7. What is the time line I am looking for to complete CCIE ?

Once you write down answers for the above mentioned question you will certainly have the clarity and the motivation to start the journey of CCIE.

I literally took a break , went near the beach , enjoyed the cool breeze and wrote down my thoughts and now my dream of being CCIE has turned into reality. I will come back with more suggestions and experiences I had all over the journey.

February 2, 2015  7:50 PM

Passed CCIE Routing & Switching Lab Exam

Yasir Irfan Yasir Irfan Profile: Yasir Irfan

By the grace of Almighty I passed the CCIE Routing and Switching lab exam. I have been preparing for this for almost a year and was vigorously working hard for past four months. The preparation kept me away from blogging for almost a year. My dream to peruse CCIE Routing and Switching has turned into reality. I would like to thank especially my Wife and my Son for their tremendous support. Without their support I believe it was not possible. I would also like to thank Narbik Kocharians for his amazing work books and Brain McGahan for the great Advance Technology Class videos, they are simply awesome. I really enjoyed watching ATC videos and it gave me the thorough understanding of the concepts. Whereas Narbik Kocharians work books gave the practical experience and further strengthened my understanding of the concepts.


Since I passed I received lot of emails, linked messages and phone calls to know what my approach was. I believe IT Knowledge Exchange is a best platform for me to share my CCIE journey not only with my friends but also the readers of this blog.  Sine this is the first post of year I thought of sharing about the work books I used and the videos I watched.

I will keep this short but promise to comeback to share my experience and the path I adopted to pass the CCIE Routing and Switching lab.

December 6, 2014  5:21 AM

VIRL is officially launched

Yasir Irfan Yasir Irfan Profile: Yasir Irfan

The much awaited Cisco’s network simulation software Virtual Internet Routing Lab (VIRL) is available for all. It can be purchased from VIRL Website. We all know when it comes to practice for CCNP, CCIE or any other Cisco certifications we think of having some sort of simulator to practice the technologies or work books provided by leading training companies like INE, Micronics or IPExpert. So far none of the available Simulators/ Emulators provided optimum solutions. Always you find its users tweaking the simulator to fit their needs.

It’s been a painful experience to spend more time on tweaking rather than practice the technologies. I believe everyone was waiting for a Solution from Cisco to practice their technologies on wider scale. Cisco did came out with a solution called Virtual Internet Routing Lab (VIRL) hopefully this servers our needs. I did order a copy of mine online and waiting for a download link from Cisco. The good news is these days Cisco is offering 50 $ discount on personal Edition.

Cisco does offers VIRL in different editions like Personal Edition which costs you 199 USD per year and Academic Edition which cost 79.99 per year.

Once I get the download link, I will install the VIRL and update you all. I am basically targeting the VIRL for my CCIE Routing and Switching Lab preparations.

What is VIRL?

VIRL is a comprehensive network design and simulation platform. VIRL includes a powerful graphical user interface for network design and simulation control, a configuration engine that can build complete Cisco configuration at the push of a button, Cisco virtual machines running the same network operating systems as used in Cisco’s physical routers and switches, all running on top of OpenStack. (Source VIRL website)

October 14, 2014  6:42 AM

What is Route Dampening?

Yasir Irfan Yasir Irfan Profile: Yasir Irfan

In order to reduce the propagation of unstable routes also known as flapping routes, in BGP Protocol one can use the BGP feature called Route dampening. A route is considered to be flapping when its availability alternates repeatedly. Since BGP routing tables are huge, it’s not practical send those routing updates to all the routers especially when a route flap occurs. This could affect the performance of the network as well as consume more routers resources like CPU.

When a prefix flaps it will be assigned a penalty of 1000 and moved into the dampening state “history”. Each flap incurs another penalty (of 1000), which is applied cumulatively. If the penalty reaches the suppress-limit, the route is dampened, meaning it won’t be advertised to any neighbours.

BGP Route Dampening Terms:

  • Flap—A route whose availability alternates repeatedly
  • History state—After a route flaps once, it is assigned a penalty and put into history state, meaning the router does not have the best path, based on historical information.
  • Penalty—Each time a route flaps, the router configured for route dampening in another autonomous system assigns the route a penalty of 1000. Penalties are cumulative. The penalty for the route is stored in the BGP routing table until the penalty exceeds the suppress limit. At that point, the route state changes from history to damp.
  • Damp state—In this state, the route has flapped so often that the router will not advertise this route to BGP neighbours
  • Suppress limit—A route is suppressed when its penalty exceeds this limit. The default value is 2000
  • Half-life—Once the route has been assigned a penalty, the penalty is decreased by half after the half-life period (which is 15 minutes by default). The process of reducing the penalty happens every 5 seconds.
  • Reuse limit—As the penalty for a flapping route decreases and falls below this reuse limit, the route is unsuppressed. That is, the route is added back to the BGP table and once again used for forwarding. The default reuse limit is 750. The process of un suppressing routes occurs at 10-second increments. Every 10 seconds, the router finds out which routes are now unsuppressed and advertises them to the world
  • Maximum suppress limit—This value is the maximum amount of time a route can be suppressed. The default value is four times the half-life.

BGP Route dampening is one of the keys topics covered for Cisco CCIE Routing and Switching exam, so its better to understand the concept of Route Dampening and how it can configured in real networks. In upcoming post I will demonstrate how to configure Route Dampening on Cisco Routers.

October 2, 2014  5:31 AM

A review for “CCIE Routing and Switching v5.0 Official Cert Guide Vol 1”

Yasir Irfan Yasir Irfan Profile: Yasir Irfan

I have been waiting eagerly and patiently for the release of the title CCIE Routing and Switching v5.0 Official Cert Guide Vol 1 from Cisco Press. There were two reasons behind my eagerness first being written by two different authors Narbik Kocharians and Peter Paluch and the second reason being the version change of the CCIE Routing and Switching exam. Thanks to Cisco Press and a Jamie Shoup for proving me the copy of the CCIE Routing and Switching v5.0 Official Cert Guide Vol 1.


The tile CCIE Routing and Switching v5.0 Official Cert Guide Vol 1 does follows typical style and format of other Cisco Press books, yet it’s quite different in many aspects. In past one volume used to cover all the topics of the CCIE Routing and Switching exam, however for version 5 Cisco Press came out with two volumes, the first volume covers topics like

  • –Virtual LANs and VLAN Trunking
  • –Spanning Tree Protocol (STP)
  • –IP services (ARP, NTP, DHCP, NAT, SNMP, NetFlow, and more)
  • –RIPv2 and RIPng
  • –EIGRP
  • –OSPF v2 and v3
  • –IS-IS
  • –Route redistribution, route summarization, default routing, and performance routing

This approach is quite good especially when the CCIE Routing and Switching exam demands more resources in depth, which the authors Narbik Kocharians and Peter Paluch have done in an excellent fashion. The OSPF chapter is the most liked chapter for me, especially the way the authors have simplified the topics is quite interesting. OSPF always remains to be the confusing and hard topic either when it comes to wither exams or a job interview. This chapter certainly helped me to understand the concepts in much more simpler fashion.

The second thing I liked about this title is the language used by the authors, it’s quite simple, easy to understand and the examples demonstrated for any topics are quite helpful.

I have been using the Advance CCIE Routing & Switching v5.0 work book developed by Narbik and it’s quite good, and did had huge expectations from Narbik Kocharians and Peter Paluch which they kept.

This title does comes with practice test as well, the good thing I noticed from Cisco Press is they included the “ Do I know this Already” questions from the title. This makes life easier for the CCIE aspirers.

When it comes to resources for the CCIE Routing and Switching exam one does needs to go thorough lot of resources, I certainly recommend this title to part of their journey of CCIE Routing and Switching exam. Once I get an opportunity I would certainly like to review the second volume.

In a nut shell a very good resource not only serves the journey of CCIE Routing and Switching exam but also serves as a reference guide for Network Engineers.

July 2, 2014  10:04 AM

CCIE Lab exams to cost more

Yasir Irfan Yasir Irfan Profile: Yasir Irfan

Recently Cisco increased the exam costs for various certification exams. The details can be found in the below table.


Now CCIE written exam will $ 400 each whereas the lab will cost $1600 per attempt. In past the CCIE written exam was priced at $ 350 and the lab was priced at $ 1500. From now on the CCIE aspires have to ensure that they have to pay $ 2000 as test fees which does not include the travel cost. You can find the new fees at following link.

April 19, 2014  8:03 AM

INE announced their detailed CCIE Routing and Switching version 5 blue print

Yasir Irfan Yasir Irfan Profile: Yasir Irfan

As we all aware that the last day for CCIE Routing and Switching v4 Lab exam happens to be on 3rd of June 2014. Even those who want to book the CCIE Routing and Switching v4 Lab exam before June 4, 2014 they all ran out of luck as all the seats are full. This gives us the hope to look forward for CCIE Routing and Switching v5 Lab exam which Cisco is offering from 4th of June 2014.

Those who are preparing hardly for this prestigious certification, they always keep a close eye on its development. The biggest contributor in terms of study materials and work books for CCIE certifications happens to be INE. I found their materials to be of high quality and they do produce their material to equip the INE students to understand the concepts well and always ready to face the challenge of CCIE labs.

Some of their material really helped me a lot in resolving real time problems especially in the routing and switching segment. Just two days back INE announce their detailed blue print for the CCIE Routing and Switching Version 5 exam. It’s worth to have a close look at this blue print, this blue print is certainly helping us to  come out with the detailed study plan for CCIE Routing and Switching v5 Lab exam. I am pretty sure once their Work books are out, they will guide us towards the successful journey of CCIE

March 6, 2014  10:24 AM

How does the new CCIE Routing and Switching Version 5 lab format looks like?

Yasir Irfan Yasir Irfan Profile: Yasir Irfan

CCIE Routing and Switching lab version 4 lab format consists of two modules namely

1)      Troubleshooting

2)      Configuration

However with the announcement of CCIE Routing and Switch Version 5 we are going to see some significant changes in the lab format and how it is delivered. The new lab format consists of three modules namely

1: Troubleshooting (TS)
2: Diagnostic (DIAG)
3: Configuration (CFG)

CCIE V5 Lab1

In past only TS lab were delivered using virtual devices (IOU) however with the introduction of V5 both the CFG and TS are delivered using virtual routers ( IOL –IOS on Linux) and Virtual Switches ( L2IOL – Layer 2 IOL). These type of delivery will provides an option to reload the initial configuration for any devices much faster. Also one more difference we are going to experience is there are only Ethernet and Serial interfaces no more fast Ethernet or Giga Ethernet interfaces.

Web delivery

By adding new module Diagnostic (DIAG) Cisco is now giving the flexibility in timing for TS and CFG modules, one has the freedom to borrow 30 minutes from either TS or CFG modules, however the borrowed time maximum of 30 minutes has to be compensated, for example if one use 2hour 30 minutes for TS lab then he is entitled to get only 5 Hours 30 minutes for the CFG lab as shown below.

DIAG module works with no devices, basically it is designed to test the troubleshooting and analytical skills of CCIE exam taker. It comprises of multiple choice question including drag and drop questions and the time allotted for this module is fixed and cannot be varied. One gets a maximum of 30 minutes to answers all questions with no access to any devices.

Cisco says “A new exam module called “diagnostic module” has been added and will focus on the skills required to properly diagnose network issues. The time for this new lab module is fixed to 30 minutes, no more or no less.”

I wish all the CCIE dreamers best of luck in their exams, please do share your ideas in the comment box.

March 6, 2014  5:18 AM

Review for “Cisco CCIE Routing and Switching v5.0 Configuration Practice Labs, 3rd Edition”

Yasir Irfan Yasir Irfan Profile: Yasir Irfan

When it comes to CCIE Routing and Switching lab exams every CCIE dreamer will certainly look at possible Lab scenarios, practice materials and work books which they practice in real Cisco Switches and Routers. It’s a known phenomenon that without appropriate practical practice for CCIE Lab it’s hard to achieve.

Cisco Press are the first one to release practice lab guide called “Cisco CCIE Routing and Switching v5.0 Configuration Practice Labs”.  This title really aims to prepare the CCIE dreamers practically in terms of configuration for the version 5 lab exam. This title comes with 3 full practice labs which covers all the layer 2 and layers 3 topics of the CCIE Routing and Switching Version 5 blueprint as shown below

CCIE topics

These practice labs ensures that the CCIE aspirer is spending 8 hours in solving each practice lab.  Which comes very handy and gives an edge as well as confidence to those who are appearing for the CCIE R & S V5 lab exam.

Each practice lab starts with the topology used along with the list of equipment’s required to setup the lab at your home. The handy thing about this title is it comes with the configuration files both the initial and final in the text format which you can use to build your own lab and can also verify your configuration with the final text file as well.

Each Practice labs addresses question seven sections with predefined points which will certainly give an overview of the progress you are making and can further strengthen the concept where you are failing, I likes this approach. One more key point I would like to highlight is “Ask the Proctor” part of this title, which provides the clarity, direction and clue to the each question asked in every section of the practice lab. This seems to be very handy especially when one finds the task quite challenging. Each practice lab ends with Debrief and Lab wrap-up. The debrief part if very helpful as it gives  you a very clear view on the points you scored for the each task and further provides you an opportunity to further strengthen the concepts which you are failing.

Over all I found the title “Cisco CCIE Routing and Switching v5.0 Configuration Practice Labs” quite handy and helpful for the preparations of Cisco CCIE R & S V5 lab exams, for which I would like to thank the author Martin James Duggan. If the Lab topologies were provided in single pages that would have been very handy and helpful for the candidates, and if Cisco Press would have provided an option of bundling the title “Cisco CCIE Routing and Switching v5.0 Configuration Practice Labs” with some real gears or Virtual labs for practice would have added more value.

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