Twenty-four hours after Cisco ‘tweaked’ the CCIE lab troubleshooing section a little, we finally get a little bit of feedback about what they have wrought on the weary CCIE candidates. This thread over on the Cisco Learning Network serves as the official announcement. Further down the list is a response to some questions from concerned folks about what this could mean from Bruno van de Werve, who appears to be part of the CCIE program inside Cisco. Bruno was also responsible for the excellent CCIE lab web interface video. So, what did Bruno share with us?
1. This is a virtual switch based on a router image, so the ports will be shutdown and not configured as switchports up front. This about having a switch module in a router in Dynamips/GNS3 and I’m sure this is what the L2IOU is like.
2. The image appears to be based more toward the 3550 rather than the 3560. This comes from comments about the port being in dynamic desirable instead of the 3560 method.
3. All interfaces are Ethernet, not FastEthernet or GigabitEthernet. They are also arranged in groups of 4, e.g. e 0/0, e 0/1 and so on. Due to the software limitations, you can only do interface range commands across the 4 ports of the module, so for instance setting up more than 4 trunks at once would require multiple interface range commands. As an aside here, Bruno says that they are most likely not going to have more than 4 trunks per switch right now.
4. These switches are based off of 12.2 mainline IOS with some L2 switching features added in. They also lack any of the hardware ASICs necessary to do advanced features. So, no Cat-QoS for instance (His words, not mine. Cat-QoS, really???)
5. There are only two switches at present in the TS section, and they are in the same IGP domain. Bruno elaborates that they might add more switches later as features are added to the L2IOU image.
6. There will still only be 10 questions in the TS section (his words). So, at best you can probably expect 1-2 L2 questions for now. He did say that there is a possibility that the questions could influence other tickets, so be on guard if you have a L2 question up front that it might affect an OSPF question later.
7. There are no planned changes to the configuration section of the lab at this time. No, they aren’t going to remove MPLS. They aren’t screwing your config section totally. Also, in a reply to one of the first commenters, Bruno said,
“At the moment, there won’t be any changes to the configuration section of the lab, so the two L2 troubleshooting questions will still be there.”
Ahem. As my old econ professor in college used to say during test reviews…”Hint, hint, hint, oh hint. You might see this on the exam.” Guess what folks? Bruno just gave you a big hint. You are still going to see L2 troubleshooting on the config section. And if the historical trend is true, it’s going to be the first part of your lab. “There are XXX faults in your initial lab configuration. Correct these faults for 1 point each. Be aware that these faults could impact configuration in other sections of the lab, and if they are not resolved and impact another working solution, you will not receive points for the non-working solution.” So put your thinking caps on.
L2IOU was introduced to the troubleshooting section to crack down on the braindumpers. Cisco knew they needed to add it to keep the cheaters off-balance, but the feature set of the IOU emulator wasn’t ready when the TS section went live. I’m sure a team has been working on it night and day trying to get enough features built into it to make it a usable tool for the TS section. It would be virtually impossible to have a physical setup for troubleshooting. 30+ routers would be a large rack, and now that you start adding physical switches in on top of it, it become unmanageable. IOU made the most sense for the L3 section, but L2 is just as important for testing a candidate’s knowledge. However, there wasn’t an emulator capable of perfectly virtualizing a switch. And there still isn’t. The fact that L2IOU got pushed out the door in the state that Bruno describes it in means that someone had to be done to stop the braindump hemmorage. That’s the only reason I can think of to introduce a totally foreign software-emulated L2 device that by all accounts doesen’t resemble the feature set of the devices in the lab that you are already forced to troubleshoot a mere two hours after the beginning of the lab. So why not put the additional troubleshooting questions in the config section where they can be done on real hardware? Especially since there are only two L2IOU devices currently?
Because Cisco has never nailed down the exact nature of the TS section, it gives them more latitude in changing it quickly. Adding ten new TS questions takes a lot less time than re-engineering a whole lab set. Just like the OEQs before, the TS section is designed to weed out the weak candidates relying on someone else’s leaked materials rather than the tried-and-true studying methods that should be employed.
I still don’t like the change. Not enough lead time. A ham-handed attempt to fend off what appears to me to be a growing portion of lab candidates. Seeing as how they appear to be phasing things in slowly and not increasing the impact of L2 until more features get baked in, I guess I can live with being a guinea pig for now. But I sincerely hope that I pass my lab on this attempt so I don’t have to beta test new TS section features again.