Just passed successfully the 300-175 exam (December 2017) and thought sharing my preparation experience may help someone. Sorry, didn’t have enough time to write it short. Should this post disappear for whatever reason - look it up on my LinkedIn profile.
Start with the blueprint. Naturally it was the 1st step which unfortunately didn’t give me enough specific information to prepare a plan, leaving a lot of grey areas. E.g. in Automation: “ Implement integration of centralized management” - does it include UCS Central, UCS DIrector , ACI ? If it does, to what extent (yes it did include all of them) ? Or “ Install Cisco Unified Computing platforms” - does it include full CIMC knowledge for server management ( 500+ pages guide) or just awareness of its capabilities (50-60 pages) ? My next stop to find the answers was the recommended study materials at https://learningnetwork.cisco.com/community/certifications/ccnp_data_center/dcuci/study-material
Recommended Study Material. As many of you I was trying to find, to no avail, the official certification guide later to find the answer by someone from Cisco here on the forums along the lines “due to the shear volume of the material there is (will be) no official guide for Data Center exams”, ok then (actually my sarcastic thought was “ great, you can prepare the exam but can’t prepare students to pass it, we are left alone here” ). Mostly the cisco.com equipment documentation is the recommended source for the studies. Turned out they are correct, but read on. Regarding the 2 storage books mentioned, while worth reading them to enrich the knowledge, I find them to be rather an overkill for this exam.
My next step in trying to get a more focused view of the topics for the exam was the official and recommended course “Implementing Cisco Data Center Unified Computing (DCUCI) 6.1”, which I took and successfully finished (more on this below) . As a result of doing the above I came with my study materials list which I did but not necessarily in the order listed:
1) CIsco.com UCS Manager Configuration Guides - this was the core of my studies. I printed ALL ( price: 200$ for 2 laser toners) of the following guides (sorry for the dead trees that had to be sacrificed):
Cisco UCS Manager Administration Management Guide 3.2
Cisco UCS Manager Network Management Guide, Release 3.2
Cisco UCS Manager Server Management Guide, Release 3.2
Cisco UCS Manager Storage Management Guide, Release 3.2
Cisco UCS Manager Infrastructure Management Guide, Release 3.2
Cisco UCS Manager Firmware Management Guide, Release 3.2
Cisco UCS Manager System Monitoring Guide, Release 3.2
(All are for GUI management, the paired CLI Guides have the same explanations just CLI commands instead of menu driven walkthrough)
The UCS Manager (UCSM) version in the official course and on the exam was actually version 2.x (2.2 I reckon) not 3.2 but once you practice it enough it doesn’t make much difference - the visuals differ, but the workflow is the same. My way of tackling this behemoth pile of reading was first to read through and understand the concepts highlighting factual/explanatory passages, next copy to notes all the highlighted text (OneNote/Google Docs) which condensed to 150+ pages of printed notes (from 1500+ pages of Guides), and finally do a lot of labbing with the UCS Platform Emulator from Cisco and rereading the notes.
Important note on practice: I tried to practice on the real equipment online but couldn’t find anything readily available (for money of course) - all the CCIE DC preparation labs/racks are either severely limited, or require you to buy their workbooks, or have a waiting list of months or all the above. Fortunately Cisco provides UCS Platform Emulator which is of real help with practice as you can do 80% of what the real hardware does and for free. I practiced both versions of UCSM: 2.2 and 3.2. While on the exam I had no Simulations/Labs (of course it may be different for you), the practice really helped me remember all the options and configs. On the exam (see the blueprint section “Implement Cisco Unified Computing” ) they expect you to know what feature can be set/configured on what section/menu of the UCSM by heart and following the UCSM Configuration Guides on UCSM Platform Emulator helps you remember it quite well.
Before I move on, let me emphasize it again - the Configuration Guides were the core of my success on the exam. It is logical - after all they (Cisco) can’t possibly ask us something which is not on the official documentation.
2) Implementing Cisco UCS Solutions - Second Edition https://www.safaribooksonline.com/library/view/implementing-cisco-ucs/9781786464408/
Nice prequel to the UCSM Guides. The problem with the UCSM Configuration Guides is the you can lose “the view of the forest behind the trees” - a lot of details cloud the big picture and this book keeps it to the core.
NOTE: I have a subscription to the Safari Books Online (price: 200$ a year) and therefore don’t have to buy any individual Cisco press books, which I wouldn’t be able to afford anyway.
3) Implementing Cisco Unified Computing System https://www.safaribooksonline.com/library/view/implementing-cisco-unified/9780134307619/
by Desiree Lindfield https://www.linkedin.com/in/desiree-lindfield-6687689
Very straightforward explanation in a very accessible way. It is not targeted specifically to the exam, but explains and shows how to do major tasks in UCSM quite good. It can be also nice prequel to the UCSM Configuration Guides.
4) I/O Consolidation in the Data Center: A Complete Guide to Data Center Ethernet and Fibre Channel over Ethernet by Claudio DeSanti, Silvano Gai https://www.safaribooksonline.com/library/view/io-consolidation-in/9781587141256/
Short but all encompassing introduction to the Data Center convergence technologies (Data Center bridging, ETS, etc) a must read in my view (also not that big 100+ pages).
5) CCNA Cloud CLDADM 210-455 Official Cert Guide https://www.safaribooksonline.com/library/view/ccna-cloud-cldadm/9780134305554/
by Steve Wasko, Hank Preston, Chris Jackson . The sections on automation were helpful (ACI, UCS DIrector)
6) CCNA Data Center DCICT 200-155 https://www.safaribooksonline.com/library/view/ccna-data-center/9780134598444/ by Frank Dagenhardt . Unfortunately this course did more to my confusion than to my understanding. It seems like (very knowledgeable) author tried to cram 20-hour worth material into a mere 8-hour course and it did not go well.
7) CBT Nuggets - Cisco CCNP Data Center 642-999 DCUCI https://www.cbtnuggets.com/it-training/cisco-ccnp-data-center-642-999-dcuci . This one also was of little help - if you look at the topics that were removed in 300-175 as opposed to 642-999, you see that the bulk of the old course about the hardware specifics of the C/B-series servers management/installation was completely removed in the 300-175, so my guess is that about just 20-30% of the old course is relevant to the new exam.
8) Introduction to Storage Area Networks, An IBM Redbooks publication http://www.redbooks.ibm.com/abstracts/sg245470.html (price: free). This is the main and the only book on the Storage technologies I read (except UCSM Storage Config Guide) and it explains all the concepts foreign to us (network folks) in vendor agnostic way just enough to proceed to the Cisco configuration guides. As I said 2 Cisco Press books on Storage are great resources (1000 pages combined) but are more suited to CCIE Data Center studies (learning FLOGI/FIP headers is an overkill IMO). Make sure you understand how FCoE, NPV, and NPIV work, what is N-port, NP-port etc.
This book plus Configuration Guide were enough to get me 75% score on Storage section in the exam.
The hard question was whether to learn MDS CLI command reference, and actually both in the course and on the exam there were tasks/questions about this, but looking at 2000+ pages MDS Command Reference I decided not to learn it and take the risk. In addition MDS are way too expensive to get any lab practice on them, so memorizing 2000 pages just for an exam is a bit problematic. But your mileage may vary, if you have access to some MDS go ahead and practice at least basic tasks (creating/deleting/reassigning VSANs, zoning, etc)
The official and recommended course “Implementing Cisco Data Center Unified Computing (DCUCI) 6.1” . The course was fully paid by my work. It was a 5-day course, presented over the Internet as a Virtual Classroom. The course was presented by Dennis Hartmann https://www.linkedin.com/in/dhartmann8 , several times Cisco Press author, and very knowledgeable lector. The price was 4k+ US$. The set up was - the lecturer presents using Adobe Connect the material from the Official Course and then you do remote labs on the real equipment. As a student I got access to 2 e-books:
DCUCI - Implementing Cisco Data Center Unified Computing - Student Guide 6.1.2
DCUCI - Implementing Cisco Data Center Unified Computing - Lab Guide 6.1.2
The Lab Guide contained 23 labs on topics described in the Student Guide.
The new course is much more hands-on as opposed to the previous one (so lecturer said) which would be great except that the labs didn’t work most of the time. The labs are being provided by the Cisco Learning Labs not by the lecturer/his company (in this case GlobalKnowledge). You are provided with a username to the web GUI where you log on then have a web based management portal to load configurations for each lab, connect to the equipment and so on. The idea is awesome because they have there MDS 9k/Nexus 5k/FIs cluster 62xx/C and B servers, yummy . Unfortunately first 2 days the labs were stuck in “Initializing … ” state, Dennis tried to reduce the damage by lecturing ahead of the schedule while in parallel talking back and forth with Cisco support folks and opening the tickets to fix the problems with the labs. 2 days later Cisco folks solved the “stuck” issue but then there were new “challenges” - we couldn’t save the state/load any configuration by the 1st lab. In short, out of 23 labs I managed to do just 11. But why would I tell you all that - after all this is just one case of labs bad luck, not necessary a norm? For the only reason - if you are thinking of buying yourself the course, think twice - as so many things can go wrong (as I just showed) and losing your own hard earned 4k$ would really hurt, I guess.
All other students in the course also had their companies paid for the course.
Now to the contents of the course and its relevance to the exam (and why this course wasn’t a total waste exam-wise). The course and Student Guide was indeed in-tune with the actual exam regarding the topics listed (e.g. from this course I did know that “Automating “ didn’t require me to actually program in Python - just be aware how it is being done in both Python and Power Shell) The extent of the material was not enough though, again I had to resort back to the UCSM Configuration Guides (not because I knew what was on the exam, but it was pretty clear to me that 124 pages of the Student Guide can’t possibly cover the actual exam, some topics were covered ridiculously cursory).
So if you do take this course specifically for the exam sake, think of it more of prelude to the actual preparation, giving you more expanded and focused blueprint.
So it was it for the preparation, to sum up - a lot of reading/note taking UCS Manager Configuration Guides, complementing them with aforementioned books to understand the technologies behind and labbing on the UCSM Emulator to be able to configure Service profile with QoS and SAN boot in my sleep .
Time-wise it took me about 2 months of studying really, really hard (all weekends, day off a week at work, every free minute at work, evenings), which I do not advise.
Good luck to all of the exam takers.