Archive for the ‘LAB EXPERIENCE’ Category

Here are the strategies what I have used and eventually I got the success in following them up. I developed these strategies that I learnt in the ‘hard day’. I have also tried to explain my ‘the famous lab day’ experience.


! These are my personal notes and may not work for you. I don’t think there is any Cisco NDA violence . Use these information on your own risk. Happy studying.

When I step into the lab, I was ready for any scenarios they can through at me. So this time I went to the lab with 200% confidence thinking of I will bloody nail it. This attitude is a must even you think that you are not expert in answering all the sections.  It really helps to build the confidence level and gives some energy to  face any hard question in the lab exam.

Once I step into the lab, after proctor’s briefing when  hopped on my POD I followed the following;


! STEP 1

Write down the sections in the paper without reading the exam.
Expected time; 2-5 mintues.

I have

First of all, I grabbed 2 color pencils [green and red], didn’t read the lab and noted all sections of the labs in 2 column; e.g…with the green pencil,  written down all the sections from the lab papers into a blank sheet provided in the lab.
1.1
1.2
1.3
<<<<<then space of few lines between sections
2.1
2.2
2.3
2.4
………
………
……….
9.1
9.2
<<<<<then space of few lines between sections
10.1
10.2
blahblah …….
When to use this sheet?

The TRICK is take the RED pencil and cross the sections you’ve fully tested from each and every angle. I have learn this from a TRIPPLE CCIE guy [thanks Mike]. Call me a nut, because I didn’t even read whats in the exam and started listing them in a empty paper! but yeah, this was what I have been lacking with in my previous attempts.

Why is it necessary ???
Well we all know how to do SRST, Call routing…. everone does the same task but in different ways.

Lets take an example of AAR,
Task- configure AAR between HQ and SITEB.

You’ve probably done everything e.g. putting EPNM on the phones at each location, assigning them AARCSS and AAR groups. makeing sure that GW at both site has AAR CSS and aar-group defined. Making sure that your route patterns at both sites are well defined. Even you’ve tested that AAR functionality by reducing the bw in ccm.

When u do the above practice, I bet u  will start to believe that you’ve nailed this topics and tested it many time and every time it worked with 100% success.  But hey , you are wrong here, you haven’t really nailed this section yet.

So.. what?, well in this  in the sheet above, do not CROSS this section yet. Hang in a sec, this is because this bullet point has not yet been fully tested. So now you’d be thinking that what the fuck actually I am missing here in AAR [tested and works but I still got ‘0’ in HA section]. Ask yourself honestly and think about this;

1. Have you also tested during AAR if Active CCM fails, SITE B phones still be able to register on secondary CCM? – may be in a havoc you think that u created the CCM group but u actually missed click on that and configured the next item in the ccm-menu-list. So when sub [primary] is failed, your AAR won’t work.

That is one of the classic example of what Cisco expect for this Expert level exam.

2. Lets say, in the above example, you’ve taken care of point#1. U also have  ensured that a correct CCM-group is defined and pub/sub are listed in the group. But if you test the HA function during AAR and shut the primary CCM to test if phones registers to the secondary CCM – you found out that still phones are not registering… what’s wrong here now!?

Think about that situation….
doesn’t it get complex? why the phones are not registering to the secondary call processing engine?

Above is another classic example of we need to think outside the box as well. This is an expert level exam. When we people complain that my AAR was working, I have tested it 3 times but I still got “ZER0” in AAR section and start winzing and  blaming Cisco/Proctor that they are not playing fair game. Well I had the same concept diffted in my head and even I opened a case on cert support, yes call me a nerd……………. 🙂

Here is another example,  you think u have configured and tested the SRST as per questions requirement but other sections in the exam had a requrement saying allow maximum 3 conferences during SRST. Here is what your config looks like;

call-manager-fallback
secondarydialtone 9
max-conferences 2 gain -6
transfer-system full-consult
timeouts interdigit 6
timeouts busy 6
ip source-address 2.2.2.2 port 2000 strict-match
maxephones 10
maxdn 10
system message primary Your current options
dialplan-pattern 1 5152… extension-length 4
transfer-pattern .T
transfer-pattern .T
voicemail 4444
call-forward busy 4444
call-forward noan 4444 timeout 6
moh music-on-hold.au
multicast moh 239.1.1.1 port 16384
time-format 12

Now do you see there is something missing in the above configuration ? The answer is u are not satisfying the question which was asked in the earlier conferencing section. Obviously you can not do the conferencing with a phone with single line. Now you know why after pulling your hair, you’ve probably noticed that the below line should be in the configuration.

maxdn 10 dual-line

Also another point, such as a command ‘time-format 12’.  Which u think is okay but you didn’t think wide enough that what are the other question’s requirements in other sections. May be during SRST the time format is requirement is 24hours and in normal operation its 12 hours format 🙂

Duh……… all these head aches!. they go on and on seems never stopping and may cost famous $1500 USD lunch!!

! Note: The above information are taken from Networker presentation (Now Cisco Live).The Networkers presentation is a must read document. There are some more example of why anyone looses points in the lab.  Also it gives more info and examples on each section and an overview of each technology. If someone just starting for their first attempt Networker presentation is the way to go to warm up

Now,  the above are  a few examples of how you should be thinking any topics  broadly. In other word if the question say “drive a car from San jose to Sydney”, u don’t have to just think about driving the CAR. Think all other obstacles which may stop your driving e.g. rain, hurricane etc. Most of us put our efforts for 20-30 minutes in configure AAR/SRST requirement but a tiny little mistake which we didn’t take care of may cause that we get ‘0’ in that section. Hence waste of our 30 minutes in the lab. In my case, once I made sure that from each angle AAR/SRST is working, then I crossed that perticular section in my table with a RED pencil.

The Second thing, marking and crossing the sections also helps to bring down the mental stress/tension and fear of missing lab quesitons. Take it this way, if u saw your 8 sections are crossed with RED pen before lunch, you’ll be thinking during the lunch that you’ve really nailed it. Therefore your mind will work stressless.

This is also very important to test each and every section twice when your brain is stress free.


! STEP 2

read the exam and make a mind map of the whole exam.
expected time; 10-15 minutes max

Once I listed all the questions in the paper, then I started reading the questions. I read all sections but skipped call routing requirement and QoS. I think those are the sections which takes heaps lot of time to read so I skipped them but just had a quick look not reading every words but the lines to know if they’ve any other requirement which may be needed in other tasks. The tip here is – in background at the same time, I started activating CCM services.


! STEP 3

Divide the whole lab CLI task into rounds.
Approx time; 1 hour – 1.5 hours

I divided the configuration tasks into rounds typically each round takes 5-10 minuts max. e.g. round1, round2, round3 etc…

round#1;
configure vlans in hq, siteb, sitec and assign them to  the relivent ports.

trick# Use ‘show cdp neighbor’ command [no need to see the table in the question sheet that is wastage of time] u know voice lab topology is fixed

[source 1="Ben" 2="NG's" 3="comments" 4="on" 5="the" 6="ASK" 7="Expert's" 8="forum" language="quoting"][/source]

, u can see which port of switch has phone / ata connected.

note; vg248 doesn’t support cdp so u may not see it on the switch. so u shud consider that in stratedgy#2

round#2
——-

enable multicast, ntp, layer3 inteface, ip helper addresss on all 3 routers. when configuring ntp on ccm-pub/sub/unity also configure dhcp on them. On sitec configure exclude range and run the

round#3
——–

configure E1/T1 controller interface, Router’s dialplan, SRST-fallback, MGCP, h323 dialpeers, sitec, and all left over in each router.

round#4….
round#5….
…..
….. and so on….

note1; Very important point here again, use your critical thinking skills to categorize the round. Which works for you, u can divide them into rounds. Once you practice those logical rounds, u can’t miss the tasks. Therefore u will reduce overall lab bind up time.

note2; for bacd script, use the sample config from DoCCD. there are examples with AA-dialpeer +
hunt-groups. So copy and paste in notepad, ammend the required parameters and paste on the router. The round means in one go what and where u shud configure the tasks. BACD is 5 minutes game [if it works straight].


! STEP 4

CCM gui config;(not the phones yet)
time – 10-15 minutes;
first define all partions, then CSS.  I used top to bottom, left to right approach to configure all ccm options. enable auto registration on ccm.

trick#1, when I defined DP for hq and siteb, i also assigned the EPNM and CSS. I knew by now what CSS and and AAR/DP group needs to be assigned to each phones. Automated pushing most of the parameter to the phones when they registers to the ccm. in that way i have to configure less parameter when i configure the phone.

trick#2, on siteb, before you run CME setup e..g

telephony-service setup, make sure your phone#2 port on switch is shut. In that way, phone1 will get the first number and u don’t hve to do much work. Once phone1 at cme is registered then enable switch port of phone2. then in that way phone2 will get next number. otherwise sometime it takes heaps time to move them back and fourth.


! STEP 5

Do the Media section now first in ccm;
time; 10-20 minutes max

This is because, once u done stratedgy#4, you will be lacking out of MRGL in any further task u want to do e.g. adding gk/gw, configuring phones adding ipcc ports. u can’t progress without MRGL. I read the moh section, made sure what i am going to do is correctly then created the moh groups, then followed by adding cfb, xcoder etc. then finally made the mrgls for both sites. once i created mrgls, I immidiately assigned them to the DP. see another trick, otherwise sometime u may forget it and hence we later wonder why moh is not working or why xcoder is not hooking up in the other xcoder/mtp devices.


! STEP 6

Add gk/gw;
approx time; 10 – 15 minutes

Then I added GK trunks, GW’s also made an appropriate RG, RL for example;

3 route groups:
rg-hq6608
rg-siteb-h323/mgcp
rg-gatekeeper-trunks

3 route-lists, 15 route-list-template***
hq6608 only
sitebgw only
gk only
template1 -add hq6608 only + sitebgw only + gk only to it

Copy template1 to 14 more template…  :0 lol damn what i am doing with these template..

template2
template3
template4
template5
….
template14

Yup I was a nut when I configured the template but that is a real time saver. U’d know why…soon..

note; you will never need more than 18 route-list so standardize your most task like above for example.
standardise your pt/css as well as mentioned in the previous stratedgy.


! STEP 7

Unity and CUE in parallel (30 minutes-40 minutes);
Start from CCM, run unity-port-wizard, vm pilot, etc..
In the same time telnet to the CME router and take CLI session to CUE. Put this screen behind the Unity screen so that u can flip through them. set unity SNTP if required.. using dos command.

note, when u create a  siteb phone , don’t forget to put alternate extension, later u don’t need to come back on unity. I finished these section preety quickly… If CUE is not completed yet, start CRS and do it in a background of CRS.


! STEP 8

CRS + ip phonees in hq/siteb

expected time; 30 minutes max.
I ran all ports, e.g. jtapi provider, rm, cisco media, added application with default icd.aef appliction in one shot. Read the CRS script section what is required and do that now. Then just point the added application to the script after u uploaded and created a new script.

Restarted CCM/CTImanager and crs engine itself once eveyrthign is done.

Tested  call from HQ and other site.

TIPS: you can save 3-4 minutes in the lab, if you can remember, the service url ip agent.
e.g.   http://ipaddress:6293/ipphones/jsp/sciphonexml/IPAgentInitial.jsp
just think about ‘ipphones’ , jsp, xml, sciphone , write it down 20 times and I believe you can’t forget it.
I never had a need to look for IP agent url in the docCD.

Now time to do the hq and siteb phones. modify template if required and assign pt/css whatever is required.

Up to this section I nailed it by lunch time and after lunch I only had QoS and Call routing… When I was out at lunch I was very confident and thinking about that I will nail this lab as most of the sections in my list were crossed.

Trick# Before you to go lunch, read the question which has been bugging you and give it a go during lunch time. May be something will click in your brain and you’d be able to do that. Just don’t go out for a shake of lunch [remember it could cost $1500 ]. In other words, just utilise your lunch time, thinking about question and trying to get the workable solution.


! STEP 9

Call routing on CCM,

approx time; 20-30 minutes

As u know we already created the templates for Route-lists. now we only need to put the pattern and customize them. Now time to read the question , remember I told ya that not to read the call routing requirement to save the time. Do call routing section by section. When you fully tested its requirement in each section then only make a move and dont’ forget to TICK/cross the configured /tested task in the task list.

trick for call routings
1. Use RL-6608 only , siteb only, for  calls like 911, 9911 or the patterns which doesn’t need gw reduncandy. Do digit manupulation at Route pattern level. Use single rl-hq6608 for instance for all this type of calls. In that way you can conserve the total required route lists. When i used to do call routing in my homelab  i used to do the full call routing so that practice is always good and helped me to speed up things quicker.

2. For redundant calls , use the route-list template we have created in the previous sections. Do digit manupulation at route group level. remove unwanted RG from the template and arrange the priority according to the question. Also stick to one method of sending /chopping digits from route patterns – e.g. XXXXXXX method or predot method. U know what I mean, in that way u will never get confused. It only took 20-25 minutes to do all call routing including testing.

Note; Many poeople prefere to make a table in the paper and put route pattern and gk/gw inthat. I personally don’t think that that practice is required. It will waste your 10-15/20 minutes easily.

You know what 911 or intl or ld/local pattern will look like? so why to write them down? I just made my habit of just read the section and do it straight away. The time you spent in writing them on paper u can use that time to test the configured task.


! STEP 10

QoS; everyone’s Enemy! ha….. I will try to make it simpler for everyone those just want an easy way!

Time; 5 minutes reading and max 10 minutes configuration – total 15 minutes

I diveded QoS in 2 rounds. Well its critical thing in the lab exam. I think to pass the lab we must have our QoS and Call routing upto 100%. You may have different view but that what I think. So I took extra precaustion in qos.

First round marking only – do it on all routers, if its asked in the switches do it on switches in one round.

Then in that way I was sure that i will not make mistake by doing one task at  at time in QoS

Second round, after marking then I did left over of QoS by reading each sections twice. I used auto-qos for this, it only takes 5 minutes to activate them and customization takes only 5 minutes. verify qos once i configured all 3 sections.

I finished all lab tasks by 2:30pm. The only thing now was remaining to verify troubleshoot and recheck again and again.


! STEP 11 – the last one but Very important one

I started testing first AAR, then SRST then CFB, FXS stuffs. Then tested all call routing one by one , section by sectoin. Took a second color pencil (yellow) this time and started crossing them.

first verification – crossed by red pencil
second verification- crossed by yellow pencil
third verification -rounded them with black

When I left the lab I was sure that I have nailed it.


! Once failed, when to re-book your lab exam

If you fail the lab make sure that you rebook your exam ASAP. The reason, you’d know what you’ve done where you’ve done something wrong. Try to figure out what you did wrong. Get back to horse again. My re-take strategy after fail attempt was quite aggressive.

1. First attempt      : Feb, 2008   – First timer, new to CCIE lab. It was a good experience though failed….
2. Second attempt  : April, 2008 – Run out of time, didn’t have a good time management. failed….
3. Third attempt     : June, 2008 – Timing was good but didn’t use the check-list method. failed….
4. Fourth attempt   : July, 2008  – Used the check-list method , super duper improved speed. Passed….

Now you see in the above table, I was ridding on a aggressive CCIE horse that kept me riding. I hope it may help someone who  is trying to speedup the speed. Please feel free to leave your comments/questions on this blog. I would be happy to answer them. Obviously, respect Cisco NDA when asking a question.

Cheers, Push

Happy Study and Good luck to you all
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If you fail the lab make sure that you re-book your exam ASAP. The reason behind this is you’d know what you’ve done wrong and where you need to pay attention. I believe most of us are busy with various projects and sometimes it’s hard to get time for the study/exam. But hey,  these projects can take you to go to the lab many times. So retook the exam and try to figure out what you did wrong. Get back to horse again.

If you postponed the lab for the next 2-3 months, it’s highly possible that you won’t remember half of the key points. I have a disease of if I have to do something get done, I won’t take a rest until I finish it.

The trick of getting time from your busy office hours and project work is to improve your productivity.  Get all office work done during working hours so that when you leave office you’d be free mind. Try to reply the customers’ email/cases asap they hit your mailbox. Don’t put them off and think that you’ll do it tomorrow. You will know tomorrow never appears!

I tried replying emails immediately when they hit my mailbox, in this way I had no tension of thinking about work. Just worked during the working hours.  If I had to test something at work, I did that first thing in the morning before I get busy in replying emails and helping customers on the phone.

My re-take strategy after failed attempt was quite aggressive.

  • First attempt      : Feb, 2008   – First timer, new to CCIE lab. It was a good experience, though failed….
  • Second attempt  : April, 2008 – Run out of time, didn’t have a good time management. Failed….
  • Third attempt     : June, 2008 – Timeing was good but didn’t use the checklist method. Failed….
  • Fourth attempt   : July, 2008  – Used the checklist method , super duper improved speed. Passed….

BTW, from 3rd to 4th attempt I was traveling and lost 1 weeks worth lab study time. You see, I was riding on that CCIE horse aggressively.

Cheers, Push