Amp's CCIE Quest On a quest for the digits…

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Guess Who’s Back…

OK, I know it has been a long time, 19 months if I'm correct. Right now as I type this, I'm thinking of Eric B. & Rakim "it's been a long time, I shouldn't have left you, without a strong to post to read through..." I know that's not exactly how the lyrics to "I Know You Got Soul" but so what.

Anyway, over the past 19 or so months what have I been up to? Well for starters, after my bootcamp my job (at that time) decided that it would be best for me to do about 80% travel. It's funny because when I was hired I was told that travel would be no more than 20%. With all of the travel combined with no rack equipment at home equalled a failed attempt on July 5, 2011. After that attempt you know what I did? I did what every blue or red blooded human being would do, study right? NO, stick my middle finger up at the test and started licking my wounds. The job continued its love affair of sending me all over the world, well the country, and leave me with no time or desire to study. So that is the long and short of the end of 2010 up through December of 2011. Now we're just about half way into 2012 what's new?

As of March 12, 2012 I became a Unified Communications Network Consulting Engineer for Cisco, Woo Hoo!!!! I had been trying to get on over there since first decided to leave Verizon Business. I get asked frequently, how is it, do I like it, etc? Well it is nothing short of AWESOME, and yes I am a kool-aid drinking, company loving, Cisco guy. So what!

Since joining the team I have been able to build my lab to completely mimic the IE Voice Lab and I have a company full of people that want to see me succeed.

So I am back on my grind, harder than ever. August 27, 2012 is fastly approaching.


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IPX CCIE Voice Advanced Boot Camp Wrap-Up

Ok so I have been away for quite some time from the blogging world. Between the new job and greater responsibility, I have been trying to increase my studying for the CCIE Voice exam.

I am on day 6 of my 10 day IPexpert CCIE Voice End-to-End Boot Camp. I will try and summarize the experience in as much detail as I can possible remember. These boot camps are NOT for the faint/weak/soft at heart.

During the 1st week it is expected that you have gone through, at a minimum, all of the VOD's, the walk-throughs, and all of the vol. 1 labs. If you have not done that, then make that a priority. Speaking of priority; learning the technologies and the intricacies of each and every blueprint technology is a must. Do not move on to a technology until you have mastered the one before it. If you have to study infrastructure until you think your name is CDP or LLDP, then do it. If you have to eat, sleep, and spit gateways and gatekeepers then do it. Make LEARNING the technologies your highest priority.

Anyway, back to the boot camp wrap up. Each student is given their own pod of equipment to work on that will only be used by that student for the entire duration of the boot camp. You are also given a lecture book and a lab book. The lectures are fast paced, hence my advice to watch the VODs and the walk-throughs multiple times before coming, with a lab requirement for each section. The instructor would review the section, answer any questions that we may have, but most importantly point out some "gotchas" that could quite possibly ruin your day. Take good notes on those gotchas, because once they bite you, trust me it hurts really bad.

There isn't too much else I can say about week one. Everything you need to know is already in the IPexpert Voice BLS. Take the time to effectively and efficiently study the BLS. I found myself having trouble with Gateways here at the boot camp, so I came in on Saturday, watched the Gateways VOD again, watched Vik go through the walk-through and I did vol. 1 lab 4 over and over and over again for 8 hours. And guess what? It helped! My point is do what you have to do to understand the material to the point where you will not be stopped by it.

If I can offer any advice it is to:
1. Make a decision to pursue this journey with all that you have.
2. Make a commitment to it. Create a study plan and schedule and hold yourself accountable to it.
3. Find someone to study with, no matter what you have to do, find someone to study with. This also helps with the accountability.
4. Every single day study something. Even if you can't get on a rack and configure stuff, read a document. Listen to an audio class. Watch a video. Use notepad and configure your gateways, translation-rules, etc.
5. Learn the debugs. Capture the debugs when the calls are working and when they aren't working. Save them in separate text files and use a document comparing tool and compare the difference.
6. Never take for granted the stuff that you believe you know. Meaning, don't get cocky.
7. Develop your exam day strategy early on and use it every time you lab. Why? So that it becomes 2nd nature and you don't waste time in the lab fumbling around with it.
8. Be honest with yourself about what your weak areas are and work on strengthening them. Ask for help. I have found that people genuinely want to see you pass this exam.
9. Keep it simple.
10. Remember that variety is the spice of life. Change up the labs to test your knowledge of the technologies. If a lab says to use MGCP, use H.323 instead. If it says to do this, then do that, etc.

Well that's all for now. I have to get back to strengthening my weak areas.

Filed under: General 1 Comment

“Scenarios From An Expert”

Well in today's episode of "Scenarios from an Expert" I am going to talk about what it's like to work around "Experts", CCIE Voice "Experts" to be exact.

As most of you know (well the 3 of you that actually read the blog), I have moved on from my former employer and I am now working for a different company. This company is a Cisco Gold Partner with a Master Unified Communications Partner designation as well from Cisco. Once again I am surrounded by those people; what people you ask? Those people! Yep you guessed it, CCIE's! 2 CCIE Voice guys and 1 CCIE R&S guy who is also studying for his CCIE Voice.

At my last gig, my cube was in "CCIE Alley". There were 4 cubes in my area and 3 of the 4 cubes were occupied by those people. Yep CCIE's.

Well I did something here on the new job that I am wondering if it was a bright idea. I asked one of the CCIE Voice guys to "HELP" me come up with scenarios to try and work through. Why am I rethinking that idea you ask? Well every day that I see these guys I am riddled with off the wall trick questions that are designed to make me believe that rookie hazing really does exist.

"Hey rook, u have two sites, SiteA and SiteB. They're region settings are configured for g.729. Which site needs the transcoder?"

Hmmm, what transcoder? There must be more to the question like, there's a conference bridge in the mix or something like that. So what does the rook say?

"Based upon the brevity of the question, you do not need a transcoder."

Yaayyy score one for the rookie.

Oops spoke too fast. After a "yep you're right" and a slick grin I get..."now during your lab session this weekend figure this out!"

This phone has this and that phone has that and they are registered to this but when this happens they need to keep doing this, oh and make sure that works too along with this, oh and before I forget, if this works with that this way, how does it work with this if that is not working?

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Study Strategy

Well seeing that two of my friends have gone on to CCIE glory (one of them for the 2nd time in less than a year) has motivated me like never before. So I did what any self-respecting CCIE candidate would do when he/she is constantly surrounded by those CCIE dudes and, lab, and study and lab some more.

One of the things that I believe is important for anyone to have when pursuing their CCIE is a plan. Daniel's plan was to lab until he couldn't lab anymore, where as Matthew's plan was to know voice so well you would think that he created Cisco Unified Communications. Both of their plans were not only viable and valid plans but they were effective plans. They both passed.

So what's my plan? Nothing different from what I've been doing. Well almost nothing. I am stealing this idea from Matthew, plan my study week ahead of time and review that topic or those topics before my rack session. Being that I am going to be doing this 99% via rented rack time I HAVE to make the most of my rental time.

So for example, if I know that I want to practice High Availability features this week, what I am going to do is watch the IPX VoD, listen to Amy Ryan's mesmerizing voice on the AoD, read the System, Admin, and the Feature and Services guides, and take notes PRIOR to my lab session. Once in my lab session focus soley on the topic that I was preparing for. Will this work, I certainly hope so. I have a lab date coming up :-D

Filed under: Lab Prep 3 Comments


I wanted to send an official congratulations shout out to two of my buddies, Matthew Berry (he passed his CCIE Voice on 8-16-10 on his 1st attempt) and Daniel White for passing his 2nd CCIE in less than a year; he passed his CCIE Service Provider on 8-13-10.

I have to admit, both of these guys have been instrumental in helping me to stay motivated to get my 5 digits.

Congrats fellas, you guys earned it.

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Cisco Catalyst Swtiches…

A colleague and close friend of mine has asked me to assist him in setting up a basic yet functional CCIE Voice Lab to begin studying with. So as I started to think about it, I remember that Josh over at had a really great post about running a virtual voice lab using minimal hardware and GNS3. This setup will allow you to do plenty but not all. I sent my buddy over to Josh's post and told him to read it thoroughly and to watch the video. Well he raised a pretty good question about what kind of POE switch he should get; should it be the 3550, 3560, or should he try and save up for the 3750.

Let the fun begin...

What are the differences between the 3550, 3560, and 3750? Well from a CCIE Voice Lab and QoS on the voice lab perspective, not much. Why do I say that? Well let's take a look at the End-to-End QoS Network Design: Quality of Service in LANs, WANs, and VPNs book from Cisco Press.

"The Catalyst 2970/3560/3750 share many common QoS features and syntax with the Catalyst 3550...Trust states and MQC/ACL classification and marking on the Catalyst 2970/3560/3750 are identical to those for the 3550, as are mapping functions and syntax (including DSCP mutation)." direct quote from pg. 243

Now don't get me wrong, does that mean you do not need to practice on a 3750 for the lab? NO!!! Yes you still need to practice on a 3750 for the lab. Why? Because there are some differences between the 3550 and 3750 such as "queuing". The 2970/3560/3750 family supports ingress queuing whereas the 3550 does not. Will this be on the lab? Who knows, there is always a possibility. The 2970/3560/3750 family supports 4 egress queues like the 3550 does, however queue 1 is used as an expedite/priority queue and not queue 4 like on the 3550.

So when it comes to the question of, can't I just buy a 3550 POE and be done with it? The answer is a resounding Yes...and No. There are a lot of features that can be tested and learned with the 3550 but you will definitely need to get some practice in on the 3750. After all that is the device that will be on the lab.


Auto-Registration vs Manual

Here's one of the debates that never gets old; to use or not to use auto-registration on the lab is the question? Well in a"real world" enterprise situation with hundreds or even thousands of phones, Auto-Registration and the BAT tool may be the way to go. However, being that we will have anywhere from 6 - 9 phones (give or take a phone or two) on the lab, I can't just jump out the window and say "Auto Reg" is the way to go. Why not? I'm glad you asked.

One very simple reason: It depends on what the lab is asking me to do!

If I am tasked with using SCCP and SIP phones then I will MANUALLY add the phones to the database. I have had nothing but trouble letting auto-registration do it for me in a mixed environment. The process of changing a phone from SCCP to SIP and vice versa is not difficult at all; however waiting on the phones to actually do it is a whole nother beast and I do not care to waist any of my time in the lab waiting on a phone to get it's head together. I have been able to manually add the phones to the database with relative ease and quickness, plus copy and paste is a great tool to have.

Conversely, if I am tasked with using one protocol or the other and not a combination of the two then I will use auto-registration. All I will need to do is go to System ==> Enterprise Parameters ==> Auto Registration (cluster wide parameters) and make sure the protocol is whichever one the lab guide says to use, save, and restart the CUCM and everything will be honky-dory in happy land.

Well that's my take on it; I will holla at y'all later!!!



Resetting Cisco 7961 IP Phones…

I don't have a lab at home so I rely on rack rentals from the great gang over at IPExpert and Proctor Labs. I knew coming into this that financially I didn't have the capital that is needed to build a complete voice rack so I did what I thought was the smart thing to do and use remote racks with some hardware here at the cave. So I have a 2611XM router, 3550 POE Switch, 3 x 7960 IP phones, and 2 x 7961 IP phones. The 7961 phones are new to the equation (bought used off of eBay). Well during my lab session today I decided to break out the fancy smancy 7961 phones so I could practice some SIP crap when I found that the phones needed to be reset to factory default. ARGH!!! X-(

Being that I have never had to do this I did what any self respecting engineer would do; hit and searched for the procedure to do it. I would be lying if I said that finding the information on was painless, as with most things you search for on their awesome website, it was downright a pain in my john-brown hind parts. Well anyway, I found the procedure and tried it out. Seems like it worked so well I decided that I would let all of you know what to do if you ever need to reset one of these phones back to factory default. It's a pretty painless process with the exception of having to upgrade the firmware on the stupid phone. Anyway here you go.

  1. Unplug the power cable from the phone, and then plug in the cable again.

    The phone begins its power up cycle.

  2. Immediately press and hold # and while the Headset, Mute, and Speaker buttons begin to flash in sequence, release #.

    The line buttons flash in sequence in order to indicate that the phone waits for you to enter the key sequence for the reset.

  3. Press 123456789*0# within 60 seconds after the Headset, Mute, and Speaker buttons begin to flash.

    If you repeat a key within the sequence, for example, if you press 1223456789*0#, the sequence is still accepted and the phone resets.

    If you do not complete this key sequence or do not press any keys, after 60 seconds the Headset, Mute, and Speaker buttons no longer flash, and the phone continues with its normal startup process. The phone does not reset.

    If you enter an invalid key sequence, the buttons no longer flash, and the phone continues with its normal startup process. The phone does not reset.

    If you enter this key sequence correctly, the phone displays this prompt:


Hope that helps...

Filed under: Lab Prep, SCCP_SIP 1 Comment

162 Days and counting…

Ok I know I know I know, I keep saying that I am going to do better about updating my blog and I promise you I mean well. I am certainly going to start doing better; I promise (again).

Anyway, what's new with you guys? Nothing much has changed with me, except I have rescheduled my lab (again). I am now locked in and scheduled for September 24, 2010 at Cisco's campus in San Jose, CA. That's why this post is titled 162 days and counting.

I have made a new friend on the CCIE Voice Prep scene, Matthew Berry over at CiscoVoiceGuru. Check his blog out when you get a chance. If there's anyone that has a legitimate shot at passing the v3 Voice lab on their 1st attempt it's Matthew.

Also while it's on my mind check out my buddy Dave's blog over at CCIE Voice Guide. He is another one that I believe who has a legitimate shot at passing on their 1st attempt.

Oh yeah, the big announcement that I had in store a while ago. Well it's no longer a big announcement. If any of you were wondering what it was, trust me it was huge, just follow me on Twitter and DM me and I will tell you.

That's about it for now. I am still labbing it up and studying all I can. I think I may take a minute or two and post what my study schedule is. Let me know what yours is and let's see if we may be able to help each other get over the hump.


Filed under: Lab Prep 1 Comment

Latest Update

Ok so it's been a little over a month since my last update. I've been grinding as usual. Finally things at work have slowed down as far as doing Juniper stuff but the downside is I have been working an astronomical amount of trouble tickets at work. I had a conversation with the boss today and expressed my desire to only be engaged on an as-needed basis so I can concentrate over the next few months on being as prepared as I possibly can for my lab.

I moved my boot camp date from March to June and my lab date from April 16 to June 25. I will take it the last day of my IPX boot camp.

I purchased the IPX Volume 1 Video-Walkthroughs by Vik Mahli (Thanks Mike D.) and let me tell you, it is quite impressive. I have also been taking very copious notes during my study sessions from the VOD, the Video-Walkthroughs, and my actual lab prep. Someone onĀ  OSL said that they turned their notes into a book and that it helped them during their studies; I decided to try it and I have to admit that it in deed does help. That's the primary reason I haven't been blogging like I want to. At some point I will take what's in the book/notes and post them here on the blog.

Speaking of blog check out Matthew Berry's blog. He is also on the quest to becoming a voice CCIE.

I'm not sure if I sent a shout out to a buddy of mine that recently passed his R&S CCIE (1st attempt...friggin bastard) so I will do it now, Congrats to my pal Brian Luers. We both started at our current company about a month apart and have been pretty good friends since.

Filed under: General, Lab Prep 1 Comment

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