So you want to study for your CCIE (or insert other cert), but you don’t have the time, inclination, money, or idea where to start. Well I have some good news, and some bad news for you!
I’ll start with the “bad.” You totally need to spend the time and effort to build yourself a lab. It kind of sucks, but its also an awesome learning experience, and I think helps to solidify the desire to get your digits.
So thats the bad, its a money sink, but its not too terrible. For routing/switching (at least for now for the v4) its just a few switches to get you off the ground. Service Provider as I’m discovering is a bit more costly, but totally doable if you REALLY want it.
So whats the good? Well, as I mentioned, I think that putting in that effort and money surely works as a motivating factor (for me at least). The next, and probably most obvious reason having your own gear is awesome is the flexibility. You can pick up and lab at whatever time you want, stop when you want, and you never have to reserve any time slots. Furthermore you can stop and pick up exactly where you left off the day before. For me, I wake up at 5am and start poking around in the lab — I’ll do this until I have to do “real” work. Sometimes I can lab for four or five hours, other times only one or two, but I have the flexibility to be able to do that!
The next and possibly more important reason why having your own gear is important is that you can lab other things. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve reconfigured/re-cabled my personal hardware for lab’ing up things for work. Even if you can’t get things 100% the same as a customers network you can at least get close. This can make you look like a total hero when things go off without a hitch, and really, thats what its all about right?!
Bottom line, for me at least, is that building and poking around in your lab is a learning experience in and of itself, and I am pretty confident somebody smarter than me (or at least more whimsical) once said something about how the journey is more important than the destination…. or something catchy like that at least.
Yes, CCIE R/S v5 blueprint was released today… yes, it changes things, but I’m sticking to my guns on this one. I’d have to do a bit of digging, but I’m not sure there is much (anything?) that a “normal” 3560 can’t do that a 3560X can (1/10g mod and universal IOS I guess… but that won’t matter a bunch for a lab).
Yes, virtualize your ass off, and then do it some more. If you can virtualize and save money in your lab, please do. I am currently running 10(ish) routers in GNS3 in addition to a 12008, 3560, and ME3400. If i had to pay for those 10(ish) routers, I may have had a heart attack. Hopefully Cisco will be a bit more giving (its that time of year after all) and give us some NFR/partner/goodwill version of IOU/VIRL (or CML, whatever its going by) for personal/lab use.
Last note… a friend of mine told me to think of it as an investment (buying my 12008). If you spend, say 2k$, but you achieve your CCIE or other cert, you are investing in your self. Perhaps you won’t get a raise right NOW, but (regardless of the cert) you’ve put in the work and learned all of this extra knowledge and gained some skills; eventually that will pay off in some form. It may be that you get to do cooler projects, or you do get a raise or a bonus, but worst case you’ve made yourself more marketable, and hopefully learned a lot of cool stuff along the way.