Archive for the ‘My Project’ Category

Invitation: My new Exchange blog

July 28, 2010 Leave a comment

I started a new ‘study from scratch’ Exchange blog.
Read all about it here: and bring your friends 😉


End of an era

May 15, 2010 4 comments

You can call it a coincidence, luck or destiny but the day after my CCNP completion I noticed a job post that two weeks later became a signed contract.

Back in June 2002, during the FIFA world cup held in Korea\Japan I started working for my current employer, a broker dealer.
In exactly 4 weeks, June 2010 – 8 years, 3 kids and 1 CCNP later the world cup is here again and I am about to start my new job. Coincidence?

In my new job I’ll join the company’s support team and after few month of intensive training I’ll start working on customer tickets. Since they work with enterprise level customers I’ll have to adjust my thinking and use my entire set of tools.

I’m very excited about this new opportunity and going to use the time I have before I start working to improve some of my skills, starting with SQL. Expect some SQL notes in the coming days.

ONT – the last piece

March 15, 2010 3 comments

Earlier this year I started chasing my 6 exams \ 2 titles in one year challenge.
After completing ISCW and BSCI I am closer to my end goal and it feels good.

Avaya IP Phone

Today I’m doing the first step toward the last piece of my CCNP puzzle, ONT studies. Unlike the other three exams which included materials I’m familiar with from work, ONT’s Voice and QoS concepts are a new territory. My work environment include Avaya equipment (is it okay to mention this name on a Cisco post?) but other than some basic tasks I do not manage it so that does not count.

My plan is watching Jeremy Cioara’s CBT Nuggets video and hopefully by the time I complete the series it will have a different feeling. I trust Jeremy’s enthusiasm to do the job as he did so well before.

Only 138 left to complete my CCNP (but I think I won’t need them ;))


February 1, 2010 11 comments

Just completed my exam, wasn’t easy but I passed 🙂

I’ve taken my previous Cisco exams not only in the same center but in the same room. Arriving the scene this morning I noticed that this room has only one available computer and asked if it is possible to take my exam in there. The reply was NO, the free computer was broken and I had to use a different room. This was a bad start…

The next step was walking in, taking my sit and running the practice pre-exam test. It felt weird, the chair was not so comfortable, the desk was a bit too low for my legs, specially when pulling the keyboard (required for configurations) and the room experience felt uncomfortable. The other room, the good room has 4 computers lined on one wall. The new room had 2 lines of 4 computers each (facing the wall) so you have people sitting behind you and it is annoying.
I know it’s all in my head but when you get the bad room you’re looking for every excuse to hate it!

Then came the exam. As you know Cisco’s Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) prohibit sharing thoughts on the content so I’ll do it carefully within the allowed boundaries.
My take on these exams is that the multiple questions should only take 10-15 seconds each. Either you know it or not. But the exam had more scenarios than I expected which took much of my time and at some point I’ve started feeling the time pressure (though at the end I had 10 spare minutes).
Switching between the screens, Topology, Scenario, Questions sometimes SDM or Console (or few of them) – it does take time and since they use an old 17″ monitors you get small screen space that cannot show everything and make you flip forth and back while wasting your time.

Through the last 20 minutes I was busy with exam retake scheduling thoughts, when will I retake and how am I going to change my study method. I did not have a good feeling so when I finished the exam and found out I’ve passed it was  not happiness but surprised relief that took over.

Breaking down the exam performance by topics (not sure if I’m allowed to discuss it – NDA again) I see what I would have expected with higher percentage at the more familiar topics and lower on the new materials (the only surprise was MPLS with kick ass performance!)
I think my ISCW study notes where good and helped me pass the exam and obviously the lab is very important.

The only draw back of passing the exam is the next one…
To complete my challenge on time with 181 days left for the current CCNP track, I can not afford more than one evening off (maybe two) before I start working on the next exam.

My next decision is BSCI or ROUTE, I’ll have to read both blue prints and decide in a day or two but first I have a hot date with my lovely and very supporting wife tonight 😉

CCNP status check

January 31, 2010 Leave a comment

It is exactly a month since I started my studies and I’m overwhelmed with the number of people who join my little world reading, commenting, subscribing and most important encouraging. As I noted before writing helps me digest the materials, getting the perspective of things while motivating me as I stand here and commit to you. This is also a good way for me to share the knowledge and experience, helping others the same way they help me. So thank you for the support, I’ll work even harder to keep you pleased, pass my exam and write as interesting and focused as possible.

Deep into my final preparations I’ve been going over everything again, reading my study notes, watching few videos (mostly PPPoE and AAA configuration) and working my lab.
I hope I spend my time on the right topics…

Points that popped and I feel worth repeating:
I get the feeling that SDM take a big role on the exam. Watching the videos and reading the Cisco press books I see SDM all over the place (is it the gray pictures in my book?) and expect many questions that are SDM based. Personally it is a good thing as SDM is both familiar and intuitive.

Configuring PPPoE and PPPoA there are few key points to remember (beyond the lab practice):

  • PPPoE uses pppoe-client dial-pool-number 1 command
    PPPoA uses dialer pool-member 1 command
    Right, if you’ll get a configuration task the router will not accept the wrong command but if you get few preconfigured answers you might get it wrong.
  • The study materials did not emphasis setting default gateway as much as they should but do not forget – if the traffic from the internal router is expected to get through the dialer interface you should let the router know about it.
    use the ip route dialer 1 command and never assume that it is preconfigured on the router as Cisco expects you to configure the default gateway and point it to the correct interface.

AAA configuration is also important both for real life and the exam. This is one of those topics that do not get enough attention. It is also a topic that in my opinion will be missing with the new track taking over (TSHOOT exam has a minor troubleshooting radius connection topic).

  • Order matters. aaa new-model command should be configured before any of the other AAA options become available (none of the other aaa options will be available on a real router prior to enabling it). When working on a real router make sure there are no previously configured commands as running aaa new-model will overwrite, delete the existing configuration.
  • I never used TACACS and I assume most of you used Microsoft RADIUS as it is the most common and already in place solution. ISCW does not require any of the advanced parameters that distinguish the two servers and you should not have a problem not having TACACS around
  • When configuring the aaa authentication command make sure you are using the group attribute for the authentication servers:
    aaa authentication login default group tacacs+
    aaa authentication login default group radius
    aaa authentication login default local
    à group is not being used here
    This is intuitive but can be confusing when you see configuration output so do not miss it.

Another parameter that might cause some confusion is MTU.
While the PPPoE dialer interface should be configured with ip mtu 1492, dealing with MPLS we use the mpls mtu 1512 command.

Exam day is around the weekend, I’ll use my time to go over some questions, basic scenarios and definitions using my study notes. I’ll look again at the cable modem topic as I didn’t pay too much attention to it and do not want to be totally lost there.

Only 182 more days left to complete my CCNP

New CCNP track – Countdown started

January 15, 2010 20 comments

The following is an answer to a question on the Cisco Certification & Communities Online Support

The table below lists all the valid ways to become certified. Note the expiration date of the options using ISCW and ONT. Candidates in the process of obtaining their CCNP, who wish to certify before the new TSHOOT exam becomes required, must pass all the required exams on or before July 31 2010. After July 31, 2010, all CCNP candidates will be required to pass the TSHOOT exam.

CCNP  = BCSI + BCMSN + ISCW + ONT       (Last day July 31, 2010)
CCNP  = COMP + ISCW + ONT                     (Last day July 31, 2010)
CCNP  = BCSI + SWITCH + ISCW + ONT     (Last day July 31, 2010)
CCNP  = ROUTE + BCMSN + ISCW + ONT    (Last day July 31, 2010)
CCNP  = ROUTE + SWITCH + ISCW + ONT   (Last day July 31, 2010)

There is an official announcement here though it doesn’t show yet on the main CCNP page. More information on the announced changes can be found here.
You can now mark July 31 as the focal point, the end of the road for the current track.
The one thing that does come out from this new information is that even if you fail to complete all 4 exams by July 31 you will not lose everything. The only catch is ISCW & ONT being bundled for the TSHOOT exam but BCMSN and BSCI will count for a new track exam. not a bad deal.

Only 197 days left to complete my CCNP

Update: on Jan 21st I noticed that Cisco removed the answers from their site. You can still see the original post that I recovered with Google Cached

Update: on Jan 25th Cisco released the official announcement. check all the details here

First week summary

January 8, 2010 2 comments

7 days since my project started and I feel good 🙂

The first task was getting my self to sit down with the books and videos. I think I found the zone.

The next task was developing a system that will maximize my limited study time. What I’ve done so far is watching a series of videos on a specific topic while typing my notes. Once the video is done the book get opened and I read through the same chapter editing my notes (it can be add or expand but never delete).

I was able to crack the one topic I feared, MPLS and as I already mentioned, it wasn’t as bad as I expected.
Now I’m working on the biggest exam topic – IPSec VPN and again, as I predicted my knowledge and experience help me go through the material easily.

I plan on completing the IPSec section by the end of the weekend, though wild card weekend is not the best time to study (come on geeks, I’m talking Football).

When I complete this chapter I have some interesting insights on the difference between Jeremy Cioara’s CBT Nuggets video (which is my main video and part of my study materials for the ISCW) and Chris Bryant’s Train Signal video (recommended by a friend who was kind enough to lend me his training kit for few days).