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BlueWolf's Howl

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December 23, 2005

The Road Ahead

Although I still need one more test for the CCNP, I've already started buying the books (yes, plural) I'll need for the CCIE (the next level higher after CCNP). I already have two CCIE Exam study guides. I've already read the first one (the Sybex 'old' study guide). And the second one (the Cisco Press 'newest' study guide) I'm saving for last. Sandwiched between these two guides will be quite a few other books. The first batch of those books arrived today.

The first two monsters that I plan on reading are Routing TCP/IP Volumes I and II. The first volume only covers "a detailed examination of interior routing protocols." The second volume covers "a detailed examination of exterior routing protocols and advanced IP routing issues." Once I digest those two, I get to read the two books on BGP that have been sitting on my shelf for months. Luckily, I love BGP. To me, it's like being able to touch the entire Internet - or at least peer into it's veins and watch the flow of its most vital part.

In addition to reading the BGP books, I still need to get corresponding books on the other routing protocols. A good, thorough book on OSPF would be nice. I think by the time I finish reading the Routing TCP/IP books, I'll know just which books I'll need to deepen my understanding to the point of mastery. Yes, that's what I'm seeing tonight as I look at this large pile of books. Mastery. Not just knowing your stuff. Not just knowing enough to get by. But pure and total mastery of every aspect of routing and switching. That's what it's going to take to get my CCIE.

The next two books that arrived today are Troubleshooting IP Routing Protocols and Troubleshooting Remote Access Networks. With the trouble I had with the BCRAN, I looked at that second book and said, "I really need that one." As I sit here and stare at the books, I'm faced with the glaring absence of SWITCHING books. I'll have to get those too. I'll have to know every type of switching and every type of switch. As I said earlier, this is just the first batch of books that I'll need.

The last two books of this batch are the CCIE Practical Studies Volumes I and II. I dared to crack those open and peek inside. I looked at some of the sample labs. OMG. I was awed at both the depth and breadth of the material that will be tested. Luckily that's the second 'hands-on' test that I won't have to take for some time. First, I have to pass the CCIE written test to be able to take that part. Then, once you've passed the written exam, you're allowed to schedule the hands-on lab exam. The cost of the lab exam is currently $1250. Most people (over 90%) don't pass it the first time. Oh...and it's only given in two locations in the US. One location is Research Triangle Park in North Carolina. The other location is San Jose, California. The cost of the lab exam does not include travel nor lodging.

To give the layman an idea of the size of the task: Take a large company such as Hewlett Packard, Olive Garden, or Lowes... You know they have multiple computers and servers all in multiple locations. In 8 1/2 hours, configure all the network equipment that makes all of them connect and talk to each other. Make sure that only the ones that are supposed to talk to each other do so and those that are not supposed to talk to each other won't... Make sure they connect locally to the devices on the LAN and globally to the devices on the WAN. Or...another scenario might be: you're in a state/country that doesn't have an ISP. Create your own ISP and connect with the rest of the world. You're setting up an entire network, not just a few devices. And from what I was looking at, they want you to set up every kind of possible connection within that scenario. This is definitely not something for the faint of heart.

It will be quite a challenge. From the Cisco web site:

Certified CCIEs are a highly-select group. Less than 3% of all Cisco certified individuals make it to the CCIE level, a tiny fraction of IT professionals worldwide.

As of the first of this month, there are only 12,792 CCIEs worldwide. Cisco has an entire page devoted to the number of CCIEs worldwide and their breakdown according to country and specialty.

Sure, it's going to take a lot to get there. It's going to take a lot of time and practice. It's going to take a lot of money for books, lab/rack time (practice remotely on real routers) and exams. It's going to take a lot of effort and study. But, it'll be worth it.

Because of their expert skills and experience, CCIEs are in demand among Cisco's channel partners. To limit the adverse impact of losing a key staff member, Cisco's Gold and Silver Channel Partner Program sets policy regarding hiring CCIEs away from other Cisco Channel Partners. In general, the program rules prevent a reseller who hires a CCIE away from another reseller, from using that CCIE to qualify for Gold or Silver status for a period of 12 months.

There must be a very high demand for CCIEs to create such a policy. I don't know of any other certification that has such a policy. I can't even think of any other profession that has a policy like that. Perhaps professional athletes? Can you imagine if hospitals treated neurosurgeons that way? Sure, you can hire a top neurosurgeon away from a competing hospital...and you can use him/her to work in that field, but you can't use them in your count of neurosurgeons to qualify for Certified Neurology Clinic status for one year. Oh, and by the way, your doctors have to retake their board exams every two years to remain certified...

You really gotta love this stuff to be here. Sure, you can make good money in this field - especially at the higher levels. But, it's no easy road to riches or get-rich-quick scheme. The up side is that you really do get out of it what you put into it. I don't know if it's a blessing or a sickness...but, I'm looking forward to cracking open each one of those books. I want to know this stuff inside and out, backwards and forwards, from nuts to bolts. And I will. Page by page. One book at a time.

Posted by BlueWolf on December 23, 2005 01:10 AM