Layer 2 – Electric Boogaloo


In alignment with CCIE level requirements, Cisco is adding L2 switching features to the CCIE R&S Troubleshooting exam through L2 IOS software on Unix (L2IOU) virtual environment. The new feature will be available starting January 17, 2011. The CCIE R&S exam consists of 2 sections b the troubleshooting (TS) section which runs two hours, and the Configuration (Config) section which is six hours. The Config lab utilizes actual physical devices in racks, whereas, the TS lab uses a virtual environment under IOU. IOU offers a very realistic simulation of router (L3+) features in the TS lab but until now had no L2 switch capability. With the addition of the new L2IOU, the TS lab will now include both L2 and L3 capabilities in the virtual environment.

Official Cisco Announcemnt (Thanks to Rob Routt for the text)

So, it appears that Cisco has finally added layer 2 (L2) troubleshooting to the first troubleshooting section of the lab.  Hmmm…

Ladies and gentlemen, a rant…

What?!?! Really?  Why did this have to happen four days before my exam!  Okay, it’s not fair to think that you’re singling anyone out with these changes, but when you added the open-ended questions (OEQ) in 2009, you did it the week before my second lab.  And that little change with the OEQs cost me one lab.  With luck like this, anyone going to Cisco Live Las Vegas 2011 should head down to the casino with me and bet the exact opposite of what I say. You’ll make millions.

I know the standard response.  Anything is fair game for troubleshooting on the TS section.  If I’m a prepared CCIE candidate, I should have no fear about this addition.  Everything will be fine, I’ll nail it.  All of these things are true, but it still doesn’t make me feel any better.  This is like going in to take a driver’s test only to find that the steering wheel is on the wrong side of the car!  Does it affect the test?  Not really, but it is a head scratcher.

If all I have to worry about is layer 3 faults, I don’t have to consider spanning tree or trunk ports or Q-in-Q tunneling or QoS mismatches or backup interfaces or Etherchannel misconfigurations or any one of a number of things.  No, adding L2 to the TS lab doesn’t make it necessarily harder, but it does broaden the range of things I have to think about when I start looking at a problem.  Irritating, this is.

Why the need to cram so much stuff into the beginning?  You know, you always did well with the first TS question of the config section – Hey, we broke three or four things in your lab that you need to fix before you get started.  You don’t get any points if they aren’t fixed, and since they probably are going to break other things, you won’t get points for other questions either.  Guess breaking things on five routers and four switches isn’t nearly as fun as doing it to 30 routers and who-knows-how-many switches.  I’m sure that the setup of the TS lab allows them to break lots and lots of interesting things in ways they can’t simulate in the config section.  But if that’s how things are going to be going forward, they need to remove any TS from the config section too, if it still exists.  After all, there are no sim questions on the CCIE written because they are covered in other sections.  Why should there be troubleshooting on the lab config section when you’ve so eloquently covered it in the TS section?  I figure that once the L2 TS stuff gets baked in, we might actually see this happen.

And another thing…one business day notice?  Really?  Come on now.  That’s just unfair.  Used to be, changes to the lab required six months of notification before going live to allow students the opportunity to study up on them and be prepared.  How do you think the folks taking the lab bright and early Monday morning are going to feel?  I guess that adding a whole new topic to the TS section doesn’t constitute a ‘major’ change anymore.  Or perhaps because you intentionally left the description of the TS section vague, it allows you the opportunity to ‘clarify’ it with little to no warning.

I’ve got a question, Cisco.  Are the braindumpers really hurting you that bad?  You can tell me all you want that the OEQs and the TS section were designed to better assess a candidate’s knowledge of every facet of networking.  With respect: bullshit.  The OEQs were a direct outgrowth of the interview process implemented at a specific testing site to catch people memorizing leaked lab questions and getting through with no difficulties.  The TS section replaced the OEQs once the process was refined to the point where they were no longer needed.  Have people started memorizing the TS section too?  Is it bad enough that we’re going to have a new exam every week in an effort to catch the unworthy candidates?  Perhaps we should just move to a totally interview-based exam with no access to CCO or documentation of any kind?  After all, the perfect CCIE candidate should be able to configure and troubleshoot a lab without access to a keyboard or a mouse or even a monitor!

Okay, I think that’s enough ranting for one morning.  I’m at T-minus 141 hours and counting.  That should be just enough time to brush up on my L2 TS skills in addition to all the other stuff I’m cramming for.  You know, I’m just about to the point where I’m not going to pass this lab because it’s a great career move or because it’s something I feel I need to do or even because it would show me as being at the pinnacle of my networking career.  I’m going to pass this lab just to spite Cisco and some of the dumb last-minute decisions their program mangers make.  Because I don’t know if I can handle CCIE Lab 3: CCIE With A Vengeance.

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2 thoughts on “Layer 2 – Electric Boogaloo

  1. I feel for you man, if they had done the same to me I would be fuming!

    As you say, if you are prepared then there is no problem but having 100 things that could be causing a problem compared to 50 is bound to take some extra time to defeat.

    Good luck with it all the same though! 🙂

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