A reader of my blog (yup it surprises me to but it turns out there is quite a lot of them, must be a lot of very bored people in the world :-) ) asked me my opinion on whether if you had the IPExpert BLS it was worth getting the Internetwork Expert Volume 1 workbook. So rather than reply in the comments field I thought I would do a long winded post on the topic :-)
Before I start and I hate the fact that the world has come to this, let me add my disclaimer. What will follows is my opinion and my opinion has been formed by using both the Internetwork Expert and the IPExpert Volume 1 workbooks as well as reading about and sampling some of the other workbooks. I am happy for you to disagree with my conclusion if you are nice and polite but if you cannot do me that courtesy then well you can *&%$ off in the nicest possible way of course :-) Also I have no interest in joining the CCIE vendor wars so please do not drag me into them.
First I will go through the history of my product purchases to try and give you some insight into how I have formed my opinions. I bought the Internetwork Expert Volume 1 workbook while doing my CCNP to help give some structure to my labbing for the CCNP.
Then later in the year I bought the original IPExpert Volume 9 material because they were having a sale where they included their original CoD as well as the audio bootcamp and the printed workbooks (in my opinion unless you have access to a big printer or are happy to read off a computer screen all day the electronic workbooks are a false economy) for round about $600. Although I was not ready at the time I had just finished my CCNP and had not even looked at the CCIE written material, the dollar was nice and weak and so it seemed to good a deal to pass up. I was away on holiday when the material was delivered and then I was working quite extensively on QoS (I must not be normal because QoS is my favourite topic :-) ) when I got back, so I did not look at the material for quite a while. When I did decide to look into the material I found the going a bit tough.
IPExpert took the approach of offering 18 mini labs on the various technologies at this time and this is still the approach they take although the mini labs are up to 22 and they have been changed quite significantly. Now the IPExpert approach seems to be to throw you in at the deep end, with wording and restrictions similar to what you would expect on a full scale lab, except that these are technology focused mini labs. For me this was a bit overwhelming at first and along with the fact that I did not have a home lab to run all this stuff on I decided to go back to the Internetwork Expert volume 1 lab.
Internetwork Expert approach their Volume 1 labs (I am talking about version 4.1 here) in a different way. They give you a bit more hand holding to get you up to speed and this is what I needed. The other bonus was that you can run their Volume 1 labs (except switching) on Dynamips and they give you the Dynamips topology to do this. The downside to the Internetwork Expert stuff was that some of the labs were to simple and the explanations seemed to disappear the further you got through the various labs. In fact the explanations are not up to the standard of the other workbook vendors. However the good news is that Internetwork Expert seemed to have realised this and are working on version 5 of the Volume 1 workbook. A lot of the version 5 sections are now available in a beta form and if you purchased the version 4.1 volume 1 workbook you get immediate access to them without having to pay any more money.
My situation at the moment is that I am working on both the Internetwork Expert labs in Dynamips and using some of my Proctor labs sessions to do the IPExpert stuff. I still get stumped on a lot of the IPExpert stuff and refer to the solutions guide more than I would like. However it is teaching me the thinking involved in the CCIE lab and how to use the documentation to look things up. As for the Internetwork Expert stuff I am mainly working on the version 4.1 stuff till I can get near a printer to print out the new version 5 labs that have been released. I have also been having some problems getting the initial configurations to work in Dynamips which is slowing things down.
So now we have been around the houses a bit back to the original question. If you have the IPExpert BLS would you recommend purchasing the Internetwork Expert Volume 1 workbook?
The answer is it depends how comfortable are you doing the IPExpert Volume 1 labs and what are your timescales for completing the CCIE lab?
If you are struggling like I was with the IPExpert stuff and are in no rush to get your CCIE, then I would recommend Internetwork Expert as your second vendor. The version 5 labs are a huge improvement on the version 4.1 labs. They have detailed explanations and notes in the solutions sections which is what I have been looking for all along. When version 5 is finished and providing the standard of all the other sections matches what I have seen so far, then I am sure Internetwork Expert's Volume 1 workbooks will be right at the top of the introductory lab workbooks pile. However the problem is that they are still in development and that's why I say if you are in no rush to get your CCIE because I am not sure what the timescales for completion are.
However if you do not want to wait around and you own either IPExpert or Internetwork Expert Volume 1 workbooks then I do not recommend you buy the other vendor's products. Based on the samples I have seen and what I have read on the other blogs the best Volume 1 level workbook to teach you the technologies out there at the moment is the Advanced CCIE Routing and Switching - Technology Focused Workbook by Narbik Kocharians. It is a workbook that I am seriously considering buying even though I really cannot afford it and have shelled out on enough CCIE training material already. You only have to look at the sample pages on the Micronics website to see the level of detail Narbik goes into in his explanations (in my opinions when you are trying to master a technology explanations and show commands that show you how to verify things are the most important component of any level 1 workbook). Then there is the best recommendation of all the fact that three newly minted CCIE's (Ethan, Baroq and Matt Hill) recommend it.
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