CCIE Service Provider – Myths and Facts – Part 1Hi everyone. I'm excited to post a guest blog from Liz Cacic with some excellent CCIE SP information. Liz is a Technical Leader at Cisco and the CCIE SP Exam Program Manager. Also, she's presenting a live webinar on MPLS L3VPN and CSC with Cisco IOS and Cisco IOS XR, Oct 26th and registration is free. Please register here: CCIE SP Training Videos.  That's plenty from me... over to you Liz.


From time to time, we hear information about the CCIE Service Provider version 4.0 lab, which is not entirely correct. Having incorrect information does not help you or other candidates succeed in obtaining your CCIE SP certification. We are here to help! We want to ensure that all candidates pursuing their certification are on the right path and, more importantly, better understand the technologies and become a true expert in the service provider segment.


Today we want to demystify some of the myths and facts circulating; if at the end of this blog series we missed something, please feel free to ask for any clarification. We are here to help.


1. Lab Virtualization and Layer 2 features

In the CCIE SP version 4.0, the lab environment is based on the VIRL platform.  Some of the Layer 2 features may not work on the data plane; however this is not a showstopper. If a particular feature is listed in the CCIE SP version 4.0 lab Exam Topics (Blue Print) you should not exclude it from your study list.  Remember the eight-hour lab is split into three parts:


  • i. Troubleshooting section: This section is based on the VIRL platform.  You will have console access to all devices displayed in a given topology.  Your goal is to identify and fix the issues presented. Issues are independent of one another, which means in this version of the lab, if you cannot fix one issue, it will not affect the scoring of other issues if those issues were resolved. In each issue, it should be clear what result should be achieved. In some cases, only the control plane status is verified; if this particular state is achieved, that will be enough to gain the points even though the ping might not be successful.

  • ii. Diagnostic section: This section is one hour in length and contains ten different “Trouble Tickets” issues.  There is no console access in this portion. Instead, you will be provided with various documentations that require you to analyze them, diagnose the problem, and be able to answer the question. Two different topologies are provided as well as a complete device configuration. For each trouble ticket, there is a description of the issue that can include any or all of the following: e-mail exchange, device outputs, logs, and/or packet captures. Some of the topologies are based on the real hardware, which implies that if a particular Layer 2 feature cannot be assessed in the troubleshooting or configuration sections, it will be in the diagnostic section. That is, of course, as long as it is listed in the Lab Exam Topics.

  • iii. Configuration section: This section is also based on the VIRL platform. You will have console access to all devices displayed in a given topology. Each device is already set up to have a working configuration. However, you must understand the requirements of each question and reach a desired status as described in each lab question. There are dependencies between questions, which means that if a BGP question does not achieve a desired status, for example, it may affect the scoring in a Layer 3 question. As described in the troubleshooting section, some lab questions may only require that the control plane status is verified. If this particular state is achieved, that will be enough to gain the points even though the ping or trace command might not be successful. The goal of the lab is to assess the candidate’s understanding of the technology.


2. When to move on to the diagnostic section

In each section of the lab, you will be able to check how much time has lapsed at the top corner of the screen. The troubleshooting section is designed for two hours; however, you have the choice to stay for an extra 30 minutes. The system will not show a pop-up window asking for an extension; instead, the clock will change the colour from black to red. Our advice is to keep the troubleshooting section for two hours or less so that you have more time for the configuration section. Remember, you have a total of eight hours to do all the three lab sections. In the diagnostic section, you must use one hour, which implies that you would then have seven hours altogether for troubleshooting and configuration. The less time you spend on the troubleshooting section the more time you have on the configuration section. If you use two hours and 30 minutes for the troubleshooting section, you will have only four hours and 30 minutes for the configuration section. There are three times or more things to be done in the configuration section as compared to the troubleshooting section.  Use your time wisely!


3. How to use the weights in the Exam Topics

QUESTION 1.1:  Each section of the lab follows the weights displayed in the Lab Exam Version 4.0 Exam Topics. Our recommendation is that when you start each section of the lab, read all of the questions and identify what task-ids you know the least and leave them until later so that you can spend more time on the task-ids you are less familiar with. Do not get stuck at the beginning! You might be able to answer some questions presented at the end of the lab section very quickly. This way, you can know better how many extra minutes you can spend on a particular lab question. This is also valid for the diagnostic section. Read the description and the question of the trouble ticket first, and if you do not know the answer, go to the next ticket. Once you have read all ten of the troubleshooting tickets, then you can manage your time more effectively by knowing how much time and how many questions you have left and then calculate how much time you can spend on each remaining trouble ticket that you have not answered yet. During this time, look for clues in the trouble ticket description and e-mail exchanges. Based on that, you should only need to verify part of the configuration and part of the given output to double-check which answers you should select. Always keep your eye on the clock displayed at the top corner of the screen. Do not spend the entire time on one single trouble ticket. At the end, only the points you gained will define your pass or fail status.


There is a lot of information that can be beneficial to you and assist you on your journey to become CCIE SP certified.  Always try to ensure that you are leveraging the most current authorized study materials, videos, authorized learning partners, and our group discussions and study groups.  Remember, the first step to ensure you are on the right path is by visiting your CCIE SP exam topics.  In doing so, you will be able to see off hand your strengths, weaknesses, and necessary areas of focus in order to be successful.  Stay tuned to Cisco Learning Network to see the upcoming blogs from me regarding CCIE SP, such as “Is SDN, Virtualization, and Network Programmability on CCIE SP Version 4.0,”  “Myths and Facts CCIE SP – Part 2,” and more.  Please leave a comment on what additional items you would like me to address in any upcoming blogs.