CCNA and Beyond: First draft completed!

CCNA and Beyond: First draft completed!

After months of work I have finished the first draft of CCNA and Beyond.

The book is designed to teach you all the topics for the Cisco Certified Network Associate exam, and more.

In it you will learn all the topics by building a full network.

The traditional approach has always been to demonstrate a topic using just a handful of routers or switches, all the topics are self-contained, and there is little relation to other topics.

This book is different, there are fifteen routers, four switches, a server and two hosts. As you go through all the topics the network will grow, and evolve, as networks do in real life.

This book is aimed at preparing you for life as a network engineer, taking you beyond the CCNA topics, with examples of real life scenarios, hints and tips.

It is all based around UNetLab, which offers a great platform to start your networking career, and will continue to support you as you learn and develop.

Stay tuned for more updates, but it should be released (via Amazon) in January.
Packet Tracer for CCNA, but not for your future

Packet Tracer for CCNA, but not for your future

It is a widely held belief that Packet Tracer is the best tool for CCNA students, however, it is not the best tool for good engineers.

Packet Tracer - Simulation does not equal success

Cisco's Packet Tracer falls under the heading of network simulation, it sits alongside the likes of Boson NetSim. Both are great products; both have had years of development and both are designed to help you learn. The cool thing is that you can even run Packet Tracer on your mobile device (iOS or Android). I started off with Packet Tracer and it is a very easy-to-use product, and I can only assume its become even more impressive since I last used it, many many years ago.
However, there is an inherent issue with any form of simulation.
Network simulation software can only replicate a limited set of commands, being reliant on whatever the developer can write in relation to the demands of the exam they are written for. In this sense they are like a dictionary. They contain a wealth of information, but are limited.
The alternative is network virtualization.

What is Network Virtualization?

Virtualization platforms, such as Dynamips, GNS3 and UNetLab, offer a more flexible approach. To keep with the dictionary analogy, these platforms would be an entire library. Instead of just a dictionary there are books on pretty much everything. Moreover because we are using virtualization, rather than simulation, we increase our scope for learning. Instead of being limited to a subset of commands, we can use proper images (a self-contained environment which is usually Linux based) that support the entire feature set of the device we want to run, such as a Cisco router. These then usually run on a hypervisor such as VMWare, or QEMU.
We can then easily expand our knowledge base. If we start out by using network virtualization, rather than simulation, we can easily add an image for other devices, such as Cisco Nexus, Juniper and Alcatel-Lucent. This exposure to a wider range of devices will make you a better engineer and serve you for longer in your career in networking.
There is a trade-off. Packet Tracer is easy to learn, just download, install and off you go. Virtualization platforms are harder to learn initially. They require time and effort, maybe learning a little Linux, they require time to find, download and install the right images. Far more effort than just running Packet Tracer. The upshot is that there will be a bigger payoff. The wider range of devices you can try out, play with, configure, break and build again will make you a better engineer and quicker.
The networking market is tough, by embracing network virtualization early on you can put yourself ahead of the curve and put yourself in a better position to gain a good job.
I will post an introduction to UNetLab next week explaining how to install it, find and download images and create your first lab.
Why you should get your CCNA Certification

Why you should get your CCNA Certification

So, you are looking at starting a career in networking, but where to start?

There is a wide range of vendors, each with their own certification.

There is CompTIA's Network+, which is a vendor neutral certification, meaning that it is not tied to any one manufacturer, you can learn the basics of the majority of networking, covering many topics, but how can you get hands-on experience if it is truly vendor neutral?

Then we have the vendor-specific ones from Cisco and Juniper (there are others, but these are the main ones). Both Cisco and Juniper have the lions-share of the network, but for the beginner, Cisco's CCNA certification is a great place to start.

This is for a number of reasons.

Why start networking with the Cisco CCNA?

#1 Cisco is easy to get

Cisco equipment is easy to pick up on the second-hand market. Routers and switches can be picked up very cheaply on eBay. Cisco equipment is easy to run in a virtualized environment. Platforms such as UNetLab and GNS3 make for a great way of learning how to network. We'll post about how to get started with UNetLab in the coming weeks.

#2 Cisco's CCNA is in demand

Cisco is hugely popular and demand for CCNA engineers remains high. About two years ago I posted on my other blog about the demand for CCNA, CCNP and CCIE engineers. This has not changed much in the last two years. The average CCNA job pays around £42,500 in the UK, in the USA the CCNA salary can vary anywhere between $53,000 to $89,000. By comparison my first IT job salary started at £12,500!

#3 The CCNA is just the start

Once you have your CCNA you can then go forward and gain your CCNP (Cisco Certified Network Professional), or look to specialize in network design (CCDA/CCDP, for Design Associate and Design Professional respectively).

#4 Networking is fun 

Networking can be really good fun, and very rewarding. It can also be extremely frustrating at times, but then so can any career.

This site is designed to help you find your career in networking a fun one.