Yesterday i had my first CCIE Assessor Lab, Cisco's online CCIE preparation tool.
According to Cisco's page:
- Practice scenarios simulate difficulty and format of lab exam
- Live, dedicated equipment pods
- Detailed command-line feedback
- Suggested study resources for lower-scoring sections
- Full assessment report automatically emailed for post-session use
- Designed and updated by Cisco CCIE program managers
- Currently available only for CCIE Routing and Switching track. Watch CCIE website for announcements on future tracks.
As it seems, in every online lab i'm having a problem with the equipment. This time one router didn't have the default enable password (as it was written in the instructions) so i couldn't configure it. I was thinking of trying to do password recovery, but i wasn't sure if i was supposed to mess with things like that. So i decided to call their 24h support and after 25 mins the router was fixed. Actually the config was erased by the support engineer and then the default one was uploaded again.
The actual problem that was caused by this, was there were many 0.0.0.0 entries created in the frame-relay mappings of this router, something that i didn't notice until some time later, when i tried to configure OSPF on the frame-relay hub-n-spoke network. I spent 15 mins trying to find out why OSPF was reseting as soon as one router's OSPF was coming up. The router with the zero frame-relay mappings was working fine (!), but the other spoke router was continuously reseting its OSPF adjacency. After doing some debugs i found out that the reset was happening as soon as the 1st router (which was working fine although it had all these zero mappings) was sending its LSA's to this router! (all routers were in area 0).
So i remembered that this router had been reconfigured from the beginning by the support engineer and i'd better re-check its frame-relay mappings. Then i saw all these 0.0.0.0 entries. I tried "clear frame inarp" and "shut/no shut" of the interface, but neither the first action, nor the second one worked. I reloaded the router and after ~5 mins, everything worked fine. The whole issue costed me totally ~45 mins.
Assessor Lab V2.0 is CCIE R&S Assessor Lab, Version B. Generally the exam had questions that lead you only to one solution, which was mostly good (as long as you know all the possible solutions). There were many "don't do this", "do this", etc. One thing that was confusing, was that the initial configurations had quite a lot of commands in them, so i had to check thoroughly them before beginning the lab. I actually started configuring the routers after 30 mins, because i had to write down some notes on the diagrams. Btw, there are many diagrams provided, which is good because you don't have to draw them yourself, but on the other hand it can become confusing when looking at all of them, trying to find out which one to use in each task.
There were around half of the questions you would expect in the real lab, covering >60% of the CCIE blueprint. I met only 3 tasks that i didn't have any practical experience with, although i knew the theory behind them. So i had to look them at the DocCD, which took me some time.
The lab lasts for 4 hours, which seems enough to go through all the questions and then start answering them one by one. In my case, i lost those 45 mins on the enable/ospf issues, so i finished just in time (1 min before the end!), without actually having enough time to check my whole config once more. That costed me 5 points because of 2 very silly mistakes, which would have been avoided if i had checked them again.
During the exam you have the option to run an assessment report which shows what you've done right or wrong until that time. Quite a nice feature! I used it once after i had finished my IGP configuration and i found out that i had made 2 mistakes. Of course i didn't correct them, because i wanted to see my actual score at the end. Keep in mind that you have to be careful while running the report, because it's changing some of your config (especially some logging commands).
At the end of the exam you're given another 2 hours if you want to "play" with the routers. The bad part is that you have to re-upload your config there, because it has been erased. The good part is that there is a button to make it automatically (hopefully).
The whole lab was a nice experience, because i was stressed in terms of time and i had to follow specific directions. The most annoying parts were the fact that only Internet Explorer is supported and that you have to access the routers through a java application, which makes the responsiveness a little sluggish. Also, it's more expensive than all other online -evaluation- labs, something that makes you prefer it only once or twice (if you want to try both versions).
I have another CCIE Assessor Lab on next Friday, so i'm hoping that one will be even better.