May 14 2012
Only two days after we moved to our beautiful new place, I had to go on a business trip to attend a Cisco CI-ROUTE training.
The CI-ROUTE course is a five-days class that is heavily loaded with A LOT of theory and background knowledge of Cisco’s proprietary EIGRP routing protocol and its open sibling OSPF. On the last day, you get to learn some basics of BGP as well. While I was mostly interested in BGP, this could have been disappointing. I’m still looking forward to a attend a pure Cisco BGP training, but in order to do so, Cisco expects that you have completed the CI-ROUTE course. Also, it’s difficult to even find a date for a BGP course in Germany. Not many people use or need BGP, and apparently even fewer want to go on a training for BGP.
I can strongly recommend the CI-ROUTE course. We were a small group of only four students and we had a great trainer with Frank Mertens with Fast Lane in Eschborn/Frankfurt, Germany. The guy is funny and he really knows his stuff. And what’s even more important, he also knows how to transfer his own knowledge into your head.
On the downside, the CI-ROUTE class is so packed with material, that in the afternoon (at the latest!) your brain will most likely shut down due to the input overload and reduce everything that you hear to white noise. That happened to me quite frequently, and I hope that the three thick printed course books will help me to recall the acquired (or filtered) information in the future. But since this is official Cisco training material which by definition is NOT meant to be useful without a trainer, I wouldn’t really want to rely on it.
The labs of this course are not really interesting; they mostly consist of basic routing implementations and using “show” commands to verify that the routing works. The labs are basically there so that you have used those commands instead of just reading about them. I think Cisco should do this differently: Make it four days of pure theory and on the last day throw a complex problem a the class that they have to solve AS A TEAM within eight hours and WITHOUT having a “hints” section at hand. Somehow, that would be more fun and the students would probably learn much more this way. Then again, maybe that’s just me and my way of thinking.
Of course, the more you learn about something, the more new questions arise and the more you understand how little you actually know. This can be a bit frustrating, because in our daily job life, people simply expect networks to “just work” and they are completely oblivious to the immense complexity of the subject matter and how easily things can completely fall apart after the tiniest mistake. But that’s a general problem with IT professions: Our customers only see us when there is a problem. Nobody calls their IT people to clap on their shoulders when everything is fine. Basically, nobody wants to see us because we have PROBLEM written all over us – I doubt that anybody identifies us as part of the solution. But be that as it may.
In summary, it was a well invested week and it helped me to obtain a much better understanding our own network design and configuration. As Socrates said, “I know one thing, that I know nothing”. In my case, I now have a brand new set of question marks in my mind in areas that before the course were completely blank and uncharted. I guess that means progress.