My CCIE DCv2 Lab experience #realityCheck

It’s been a while since I put anything on my blog. The closer I’ve got to my lab exam the less time I had to write. Not mentioning work/life balance.

I wanted to share my first lab experience with anybody that is planning on taking it thus I would like to start with a life lesson learned during my journey.

If you think you know everything – think again. I’ve learned it the hard way. You go through the entire blueprint, your OneNote is full of details, you have hours spent on the lab so you think you are ready – wrong. Reality is different because honestly, I don’t think you can be fully prepared for what is waiting for you there (especially if you are taking it for the first time). Everybody’s experience is different and the only way you’ll know how it is, is by pulling the trigger and take it.

Eight hours of brutal truth – the cold sweat, fight against the time and by every minute the increase of frustration – how can you fight that? The 200% that you give into the lab is shuttered in pieces once you realize the number of modules still to be completed vs the time left on the clock. There is a climax point where you know that whatever you do you won’t make it – it’s just not possible. At this point you can just walk away as some folks did during my LAB exam or you can just suck it up and push through as much as you can. You already paid for it, might as well gain as much knowledge as you can.

I think that at this point you probably know what my outcome was. Frankly, I simply ran out of time – topic is vast. You may know the famous quote by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche – “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger“. I wanted to believe this is what would happen to me if I were to fail but no. The experience was so negative on me to the point of questioning myself. Now I understand why so many people just give up after the first try.

That aside, I wanted to share my approach on how I prepped for the LAB with feedback:

  • Experience – if you don’t work around Data Center technologies there is no way you’ll have enough time to pass. I’ve made a mistake by not taking the v1 LAB and was forced to take v2 which was an overhaul with strong focus on ACI. Not having ACI infrastructure this became my weakest link.
  • vLAB gear – unless you have access to Nexus, VxLAN and ACI fabric either at your workplace or other means I would strongly advise looking into EVE-ng emulator as well as Cisco dCloud. They are not perfect but you needs some serious practice otherwise forget it.
  • Bootcamp – Honestly, I have a mixed feeling about this one. Yes, I’ve learned new things during the 7 days bootcamp but imho it was overrated to pay a moon for it and not having ACI topics ready (limited). I would not do this again and will never recommend it. If money is not a factor for you – whatever do it.
  • Cisco Press – I’ve tried them but to be honest I can’t read Cisco Press – they are just boring. Alternative to physical books would be going with Safari which gives you unlimited access to many titles with “search” feature – powerful. I’ve only use them as reference – although the second book was VERY good resource around VxLAN. Two books I’ve bought and recommend are:
  • Practice (heavy) – I know this sounds redundant but if these technologies don’t become your second nature you’ll struggle and trust me every minute counts. 4 hours minimum which becomes a struggle if you work long hours and have a family. Sacrifice they say…

Well there you go. I have finally finish writing this piece. Even though it took me more than a year I felt like I had to put it on paper to move forward. Bottom line, I thought I was ready but, there is always room for improvement – reality check is good. Not working around technologies that you are tested on makes it even harder.

That being said, I truly wish everyone luck and whoever nails it the the first attempt I have one word to say – respect!

Comments are always welcomed!

Thanks – Bart