Sunday, 26 October 2008

Technologies Workbook Advice

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.


Starbuk said...

Nice advise.
I'm currently working through IPexpert Vol1 & it is certainly no walk in the park so far. But this is a good thing. I'd rather have content that is too hard than too easy.
I was waiting for the internetwork expert finished product to come out for many months, but after hearing..."just a few more weeks", and that not coming to fruition (still) I decided to plump for ipxpert.
Although when IE come out with Version 5 dynamips workbooks, I will probably plump for them. I am also interested in the advanced ccie r&s by Narbik as I would love to attend one of his bootcamps sometime in the future...shame he has no london classes in the nr future. Amsterdam and hash it is then ? :)

The Ferret said...

The thing with the IPExpert stuff is it does make you think and if you have your own lab then I think that is a good thing. You really only learn when you are struggling but struggling when you are paying for rack time is not the best idea. The Internetwork Expert vol 5 stuff looks really good but as you say the time being taken to finish seems longer than we were initially informed. As for Nabrik it is a shame there are no London classes I did see a Poland class as well as Amsterdam class. Amsterdam might be to much of a distraction for me to do any serious learning though :-)

Matt Brooks said...

Hey guys, I hope you'll find this "plug" to be relevant. Narbik and IPexpert are partnered to deliver a Power Pack that includes our entire Blended Learning Solution and Narbik's Advanced R&S Technology-Focused Workbook, plus 80 hours of Proctor Labs time to get you started...

It's a great value for someone that is interested in getting the perspective of a couple vendors.

Anonymous said...

I did the IPexpert Volume I labs after I had done a number of IPexpert Volume II and II labs and also IE labs.

I really only did the QoS, Multicast and L2 Tunneling ones from IPexpert - but they were quite challenging and very useful as a refresher.

I do like the look of the new IE v5 workbooks - Ive had a little look at them since passing as I can do them on my Dynamips setup.

The Ferret said...


Thanks for this but I take it if you have already bought the BLS from IPExpert and you want Narbiks stuff it is best to go to him direct?

The Ferret said...


How do you rate Narbik compared to the new Internetwork Expert stuff? Also did you pretty much jump into the Volume 2 labs straight away and battle your way through them or were you pretty good and configuring everything before starting the Volume 2 labs?

Anonymous said...

I checked out Narbik's Soup to Nuts workbook - I got this when I registered to his London bootcamp, but had to cancel it - but still had to pay for the StN book from him.

I liked the stuff in there, small simple labs just focused around a few routers. Very good explanations and to the point. I guess his advanced tech workbooks are more of the same but with more of them, I havent seen them though. - so cant compare.

Anonymous said...

To start with I jumped into Volume II labs - which I wouldnt recommend really. I did try to step back to some Volume I labs for a while, but then went back to the full labs. I knew a bit before doing it, but found I was quite good at learning by doing on the V2 labs.