CCIE Exam: Enterprise Infrastructure

Period: 1st August to 31st August

Hours Studied: 190 hours (!)

Total Hours Studied To Date: 405 hours

Study Resources:

  • Cisco Learning Network: Implementing Cisco SD-WAN Solutions (SDWAN300) v1.0 [link]
  • Cisco Press: Cisco Software-Defined Wide Area Networks: Designing, Deploying and Securing Your Next Generation WAN with Cisco SD-WAN [link]
  • Lab Minutes: Cisco SD-WAN (Basic) Video Bundle, Cisco SD-WAN (Advanced) Video Bundle [basic link] [adv. link]
  • Micronics Training: Advanced SDWAN-ADV 5-day online course [link]
  • Micronics Training: SDWAN-ADV Workbooks
  • Your CCIE Lab Success Strategy: The Non-Technical Guide Book [link]

Study Sprint: None

Previous Period Goals Status:

Not Applicable as the last update post was shared late around mid-August

Topics Studied: SD-WAN

I completed all SD-WAN topics, and then some more, on the CCIE Enterprise lab exam blueprint!

  • 2.2.a Design a Cisco SD-WAN solution
    • 2.2.a i Orchestration plane (vBond, NAT)
    • 2.2.a ii Management plane (vManage)
    • 2.2.a iii Control plane (vSmart, OMP)
    • 2.2.a iv Data plane (vEdge/cEdge)
  • 2.2.b WAN edge deployment
    • 2.2.b i Onboarding new edge routers
    • 2.2.b ii Orchestration with zero-touch provisioning/Plug-And-Play
    • 2.2.b iii OMP
    • 2.2.b iv TLOC
  • 2.2.c Configuration templates
  • 2.2.d Localized policies (only QoS)
  • 2.2.e Centralized policies
    • 2.2.e i Application Aware Routing
    • 2.2.e ii Topologies

Top 5 Weaknesses

  1. Route filtering with any routing protocol: No changes. Knowledge Rating: 3.5/5
  2. Redistribution between any pair of routing protocols: I did a stack of redistribution between OSPF/BGP and OMP. Knowledge Rating: 3.5/5 [+0.5]
  3. Multicast: No changes – scoped for September. Knowledge Rating: 0/5
  4. MPLS: No changes, however I have enrolled in Micronics MPLS Zero-to-Hero class in September to finish off this topic. Knowledge Rating: 4.5/5
  5. QoS: No changes. Knowledge Rating: 2/5

Top 3 Goals for Next Period:

  1. Pass the Implementing Cisco SD-WAN Solutions (300-415) specialist certification exam
  2. Commence studying Multicast and reading more about QoS
  3. Finish off the last remaining topics under exam domain “Transport Technologies and Solutions”


The original plan for this month was to attend the Micronics Training Cisco SD-WAN bootcamp in the first week of August, get some labbing in on SD-WAN technologies, and then double back over route redistribution and filtering. I figured that as Cisco SD-WAN occupied a small space on the blueprint that there would not be too much to it.

Oh boy. I was so very, very, VERY wrong…!

Cisco SD-WAN is what I would describe as a “sleeper topic” on the blueprint. There are not a lot of aspects of the technology that you need to work with in the lab, particularly if you are familiar with the product. We just need to onboard some devices, configure templates, and deploy some policies. Sounds easy right? Well yes, but actually no. The brilliance of Cisco SD-WAN is that the vManage GUI abstracts away a lot of the technical wizardry which powers the solution. The problem with this abstraction is that things get incredibly complex very quickly once you start to remove it. A good example of this is understanding how a new node goes about joining the SD-WAN fabric and how its routes are advertised to other routers within that fabric. My gut feeling is that Cisco SD-WAN configuration tasks won’t be too difficult, but that there is potential for A LOT of shenanigans in any “optimize” tasks where troubleshooting is required. For example, it is very easy to make a candidate believe that there is an issue with Cisco SD-WAN devices when in fact a fault exists in the underlay transport networks.

While I have an entire post dedicated to discussing Cisco SD-WAN topics on the lab exam blueprint coming out in the next couple of weeks, I do want to throw some advice out there to any CCIE candidates. Do not even think of tackling the Cisco SD-WAN topics until you feel very comfortable with BGP, OSPF, MPLS, NAT, and route redistribution / filtering. I also strongly recommend becoming familiar with the concepts of public key infrastructure (PKI) and playing around with X509 certificates. I guarantee that you will feel nothing but frustration if you try to work with the product without these skills under your belt.

The final thing which I did in August was I thought about my CCIE lab exam strategy. Funnily enough, a conversation popped up at the exact right time in the RouterGods CCIE-IE Ryver chat channel. A lot of people were discussing and recommending, “Your CCIE Lab Success Strategy: The Non-Technical Guide Book”, by Dean Bahizad & Vivek Tiwari. I decided to purchase a copy and read through it within a couple of hours. I think that a lot of my strategy aligns to what the authors recommended, but where I truly found value was in the section that discusses what you should be doing in the lead up to the exam, particularly in the 12 weeks leading up to exam day. Reading through this book has made me realise that it would not be wise to attempt the CCIE lab exam in 2020. I would like at least 8 weeks of solid labbing and revision before I attempt the exam, which would mean “finishing” the blueprint’s topics by the end of September. This is simply not possible under my current circumstances. To that end, I have decided to post-pone my first CCIE lab attempt until February or March 2021, depending on testing center availability and how Australia is coping with COVID-19. It’s a small but important set back that will keep my journey sustainable and ensure that I give my first attempt a proper shot – it would be awesome (if unrealistic) to one shot this beast. After all, “it does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.” (Confucius).

Key Takeaways

  1. The software defined infrastructure topics are just networking but from a different perspective
  2. The enterprise automation topics are important because with software defined infrastructure we swap out the CLI for scripting languages. This allows us to achieve the same objectives but on a larger scale without too much effort.

From the Whiteboard: CML2 SD-WAN lab design – some of these designs were scrapped and others improved.


A “Non Technical” Technical Read: