A couple of my colleges are gearing up to start working on their CCIE. A few have told me that success in passing the lab has emboldened to begin their pursuit of CCIE certification. In an attempt to help new candidates decide which direction to go I wanted to quickly review the training programs and vendors that I used to pass as well as some other programs I have been hearing a lot about.
Internetwork Experts: 9/10 (www.ine.com)
Simply put, the best in the business and the gold standard in CCIE training. The workbooks from INE are simply the best that you can get for learning the technologies themselves. Lab Book 1 stands alone in the industry, no other vendor has anything to compete. Lab Book 2 is the most accurate and complete collection of practice labs I have seen.
I used INE workbooks 1 & 2 extensively. I would go so far as to say INE workbooks 1 & 2 are the bible for CCIE candidates. I found that workbooks 3 & 4 were nice additions but not essential for me since they focused on speed and troubleshooting, neither of which I felt deficient at.
INE’s mocklabs are also by far the most difficult, almost too difficult. If you can score well on INE mocklabs, you will score well on the lab. Petr Lapukov is the brains behind much of the INE material and he is honestly the smartest person I have ever met. Petr is quad CCIE, CCDE (very rare) and has a PHD in Mathematics. If that were not enough he accomplished most of this BEFORE he turned 30!
Unfortunately I do not believe that Petr is running the mock lab workshop any more. If you get the chance to sit in one of his classes I would jump at it. It’s not every day you get to pick the brain of the smartest man in the business.
The only shortfall to INE is they are very focused on teaching you the technologies to the fullest but they do fall short of the Cisco 360 programs focus on test preparedness. From personal experience I feel that by using the full INE program one be stronger technically but may fail the lab due to misinterpretation or not fully understanding a requirement. On the other hand a student who instead uses the full Cisco 360 program may not be quite as technically adept but will have a higher chance of passing. This was my general experience any way. Both programs do a good job in both categories. To me it boils down to the fact that INE does most important aspects of CCIE training better.
Heinz Ulm: 6/10 (http://www.heinzulm.com/) *warning: turn down your speakers.
Once a renowned CCIE instructor, Heinz has fallen out of favor in most of the CCIE communities I am involved with. Heinz’s strength is that he is a solid instructor and his drill sergeant approach is very different than most vendors. He stresses perfection and paying attention to every detail. He also stressed that you should always use minimal configuration. I learned much later from the Cisco 360 program that this is not necessarily the case. You should focus on using the most straightforward configuration to complete the objectives stated in the lab. I found that I was missing points on other graded mock labs (INE and 360) trying to be too concise with my configurations. Towards the end of my study and for my passing attempt I erred on the side of caution and used configuration at will.
A quick aside; a key point to stress here is that the lab grading has gone from mostly human grading earlier in its inception to a very automated, machine driven configuration validation. Only if you get enough points from the automated grading script do you get human validation done to verify you passed. I found that it was actually better for me to ‘hedge my bet’ and include too much configuration as opposed to too little. I wanted to catch whatever the grading script may have considered the ‘right’ answer. Again, this is where the 360 program shines, in helping you to determine what the grading script will actually be looking for. This skill takes time to develop and you have to understand the protocols first, then you can learn the interpretation skills later.
Back to the review, Heinz workbooks were a little outdated at the time I attended his boot camp as well. CCIE R&S lab version 4 had been out for 11 months but Heinz workbooks were still covering version 3 core material for the most part. At that time he was in the process of updating his workbooks to include a large MPLS lab. He still had several RIPv1 scenarios in his labs that took up a significant portion but RIPv1 was a technology that had not been in the lab for a long while.
Heinz is certainly a great instructor and I wouldn’t discourage anyone from looking into his boot-camps. I would do some additional research to ensure that Heinz has modernized the workbooks however.
NOTE: This review is based on my experience with the Heinz Ulm’s boot camp in January 2010. As such it may not be the most accurate indication of the quality of the workbooks currently.
Netmaster / Cisco 360 program: 8/10 (http://www.netmasterclass.net/)
An excellent program lead by an excellent instructor. Bruce Caslow, a legend in CCIE training, was the most proficient instructor of them all. He brought the real issues to the forefront and makes you keenly aware of the pitfalls that befall most CCIE candidates. The 360 program in general seems to be very focused on helping candidates to understand how the tests are written and what exactly they are looking for and for good reason. This program was really meant to be designed from the inside out and as such I found many helpful ‘insider tips’ along the way in the 360 course ware that help you identify several potential pitfalls. Really the 360 program is more like a lesson in language, it helps you to translate exactly what the wording in the tests means.
The one weakness of the 360 program is that it’s focus on helping students prepare for the test itself they don’t always ensure that candidates fully understand all aspects of a technology. This is not to say that this is a downfall of Bruce or Netmaster, it is just my perception of the material provided by the 360 program. This is also not to say that the 360 program doesn’t teach a very solid understanding of the technologies either. In comparison to INE, in my opinion the gold standard, it does come up a little short.
NOTE: The Netmaster program led by Bruce Caslow is what specifically garners an 8/10. Their program brings significant value over what the standard 360 programs offer. I was not very impressed with the 360 workbooks themselves. In comparison to INE’s lab book 2 I would give the 360 mocklabs a 6/10. I found several errors along the way, three or four major technical errors per lab, that I reported to Bruce to pass on. You will not find such errors in the INE workbooks. I found one or two minor errors in INE lab book 2 per lab, mostly typos.
Narbik / Cisco 360
I did not attend Narbik’s class but I wanted to include him in this review. I keep hearing a lot of positive feedback from those who have attended Narbik’s class. If you are considering the 360 program I would advise sticking with either Netmaster or Narbik.
I chose Netmaster since they were the originators of much of the 360 program.
EDIT: Thanks to Michael Kiefer for the clarification. Narbik has his own workbooks synonymous to INE lab book 1 and will sell the 360 workbook as a side add-on but it is not his core material.
Internetwork Experts Blog, another area where INE outshines everyone else:
Packetlife.net cheat sheets are great and come in very handy:
Packet Pushers, very good podcasts and blogs:
Read everything on Internetwork Expert’s list:
Cisco has a great list but a little extensive, I would use it to identify the right book based on an area of weakness rather than try to read them all.
I hope this helps any CCIE hopefuls that venture to my blog.
Thanks for reading,
Brandon Mangold CCIE 31104
CCSP, CCNP: Security, CCDP, CCNP, MCSE 2003