The Rack

rackI’ve been meaning to post this for awhile now. I have an extremely wonderful wife, who let me purchase and install the 45U rack pictured here a few weeks ago. What’s more, she let me set it up in an easily-accessible location in the bedroom (we currently live in a very small house). She also purchased for me the 48-port terminal server sitting atop the rack (more on that with the next entry).

The rack has made my life a lot easier with regards to space and organization. On top is a cheap 8-port gigabit switch piping in the Internet from a different room. Next is the terminal server, my CCNP Switch lab (four 3550s and four 2950s), a place for a monitor (that I am currently using elsewhere until my laptop is returned from RMA), a 3725 router, another 2950 switch, wireless printer, and finally, the storage/lab server, which contains the household media in a RAID-5-like Windows 8 Storage Spaces setup, a VM running FreeNAS with a dedicated hard drive for network-wide Apple Time Machine backups, and my other VMs and GNS3 labs which connect to the switches via two USB Ethernet adapters.

I’ve decided to pause studying specifically for the ROUTE exam for a short period of time. Once you get past the initial EIGRP and OSPF topics, which really just feel like an extension of the material covered in the CCNA, the subject material becomes quite a bit more difficult to grasp. The concepts really are no problem for me, its the memorization of the commands. I believe the reason behind that is due to the fact that I have not been exposed to a large corporate network where these types of technologies (multi-homed BGP connections and policy-based routing, etc) are being used. This means I need to spend some more time creating and running GNS3 labs.

I began studying for the SWITCH exam (and posted my notes), and found most of the material much easier. I had every intention of continuing direct study to take the exam, but an opportunity presented itself for a possible career move involving network design, but requiring CCNA Voice-level knowledge. It then occurred to me that it really wouldn’t hurt to possess that knowledge anyway, since more and more businesses are moving to VoIP. So far, I’ve found the first quarter of the course to be very interesting, and the rest very boring.

Network Design and Implementation Plan for ALOHA POS System

A couple of months ago, I began work on a network redesign project that initially resulted in a failure due to me not realizing the capabilities of the equipment I was trying to use. After I got that sorted out, I finished the design document and presented it to the owner of the company. The owner was excited about the promise of increased uptime and network resiliency, so I implemented a pilot test at one of the company locations for a month to see how things went. I am happy to report that the network went from needing multiple reboots weekly to not having a single second of downtime during the entire month.

I realize that my network design is considered extremely small, but I thought that I would post it on this site to keep a personal record of my progress as I begin to work with larger networks. I think that perhaps it will be fun to revisit this design in a few years to come.

Of course, I have removed all company-specific information: Aloha Network Design

CCNP Route Comprehensive GNS3 Topology

NOTE: This has topic been updated. Click here to see the updates.

At this point in time, I feel like I have a good understanding of nearly all the topics covered on the CCNP Route exam. I understand the concepts very well, though I am weak in a few areas such as Layer 3 path control, IPv6 implementation and VPN/branch services. Part of this is due to lack of hands-on practice. I followed along with the CCNP Route official Cisco lab manual, but I think there is something to be said for creating labs on your own. It allows me to think of everything from start to finish, which includes implementation as well as design. Pre-made labs are all about implementation, whereas when you design your own labs, I believe you achieve a greater understanding of the concepts.

To that end, I went through the notes I had taken on CCNP Route and pulled out what I felt were the major topics and have attempted to convert the majority of them into an internetwork topology:


The topology attempts to cover the majority of topics under EIGRP, OSPF, eBGP, iBGP, route redistribution, Layer 3 path control, IPv6, and VPN & branch office. In the preliminary phase, after deciding on the CCNP Route topics to cover, I drew the topology on a piece of paper starting from the ISP core extended outward. Then I set up the GNS3 topology displayed above, based on the paper drawing.

Continue reading “CCNP Route Comprehensive GNS3 Topology”

O’Reilly BGP

I finished reading BGP, which was written in 2002 and published by O’Reilly. It offers a much more thorough understanding of the BGP protocol than what is required for the CCNP Route exam, which is what I was after. I think most people that get into computer networking are exposed to interior routing protocols early on, and are therefore more comfortable with them. Likewise for me, before studying for the CCNP, I was aware of BGP and the overall picture of it, but I hadn’t really had the exposure to it that I needed. This is one of those technologies that’s hard to get exposure to if its not part of your job (which, for me currently, it is not). I think the CCNA curriculum doesn’t even mention BGP, though it is covered lightly in the CCDA.

After reading the official cert guide for Route, I had a general overview of BGP, but I felt like I still wasn’t really getting all the concepts. I viewed the excellent CBTnuggets video series on BGP and it gave me a little bit deeper understanding of the fundamental concepts, but for some reason, I don’t retain information very well just from videos. Video training serves as a reinforcement of the information I learn from textbooks. Reading this book deepened my understanding of BGP and I know it will serve me well on the Route exam — I just need to get a little hands-on practice now in GNS3.

This book complements the last book I read, ISP Essentials, extremely well. Both were published in 2002 and contain some information that’s a little out of date now, but the fundamentals are still there. I highly recommend this book to anyone studying for the CCNP.

ISP Essentials: 2002

A couple days ago, I finished reading Cisco ISP Essentials and took some notes on it. This book was published in 2002, and a lot of the information in the book is now out of date, though several fundamentals are still relevant, which was my motivation for reading it.

Although the book makes some mention of things typically done in larger ISP environments, I think the book catered mostly to small and medium-size ISPs. This book is written from the perspective of the tail-end of the dial-up period, where cable and DSL were just starting to take hold. Everything is a lot more complicated today, and a lot more traffic engineering occurs even at smaller ISPs.

However, at this point in time, this book serves mostly as a “know your roots” kind of text. The fundamentals explained in it are wonderful and serve as a good foundation for moving forward with my network engineering studies.