How I Prepared for CCIE Storage

Many people have asked me for some details on how I prepared for CCIE Storage.  If you read my blog from the beginning, you will get a pretty good idea, as I documented most of my journey.  However, here is some more information.

Books I read:

Storage Networking Fundamentals

Designing Storage Area Networks

The Fibre Channel Bench Reference

Storage Networking Protocol Fundamentals

In addition to reading these actual printed books, I did extensive reading on

Cisco SAN-OS 3.x Cookbook

Cisco MDS 3.x Configuration Guides

Many Links on my Wiki

I regularly read and posted to two major community / blog sites:

Cisco NetPro Discussion Forums – Storage Networking

CCIE Storage Networking Study Group – The Cisco Learning Network

I also did numerous trainings which were available to me as an employee of a Cisco partner, available on Cisco’s Partner e-learning Connection (PEC).  These are accessed by those eligible at

These e-learnings included many hours of study including:

  • Deploying the Cisco MDS 9000 Generation 2
  • MDS 9506 and MDS 9216I New Product Introduction
  • Cisco MDS 9124 Fabric Switch – QLM
  • MDS 9000 SAN OS 3.2 QLM
  • MDS 9000 SAN OS 3.2 QLM (Downloadable)
  • Evolution of Storage Solutions – SAN – Course 01 – Accelerate (SE)
  • Practical Applications of Storage Networking – SAN – Course 02 – Accelerate (SE)
  • Network Attached (NAS) Concepts – SAN – Course 03 – Accelerate (SE)
  • Storage Area Network (SAN) Concepts – SAN – Course 04 – Accelerate (SE)
  • Fibre Concepts and Session Management – SAN – Course 05 – Accelerate (SE)
  • Fibre Channel SAN Architecture – SAN – Course 06 – Accelerate (SE)
  • Storage Network Solutions – SAN – Course 07 – Accelerate (SE)
  • Storage Network Management – SAN – Course 08 – Accelerate (SE)
  • Tuning and Troubleshooting Storage Network Solutions – SAN – Course 10 – Accelerate (SE)

There were also three very good classes on PEC, which also helped me to gain the Cisco Data Center Storage Networking Design Specialist and Cisco Data Center Storage Networking Support Specialist certifications.  These were the following:

  • Designing Cisco Storage Networking Solutions (DCSNS) v4.0
  • Implementing Cisco Storage Networking Solutions (ICSNS) v4.0
  • Implementing Advanced Cisco Storage Networking Solutions (IASNS) v4.0

For those of you who are not members of Cisco or a Cisco partner, these courses are available for purchase from many Cisco Learning Partners, such as FireFly Communications.  I also did a small 2 day class from FireFly which was provided for free as a cooperation between FireFly, Cisco and HP.  It was basically a very basic crash course in MDS configuration, but it included actual labs and was pretty good when I was starting out.

PEC also had (and I believe they are getting these all back online), many online labs, using actual Cisco MDS equipment.  I spent a lot of time doing these, especially before I had equipment of my own, the labs were as follows:

  • SAN-OS 3.0.2 LAB 01 – Initial Switch Configuration
  • SAN-OS 3.0.2 LAB 02 – Accessing Fibre Channel-Attached Disks
  • SAN-OS 3.0.2 LAB 03 – Configuring High-Availability SAN Extension
  • SAN-OS 3.0.2 LAB 04 – Configuring IVR for SAN Extension
  • SAN-OS 3.0.2 LAB 05 – Quick Start Switch Configuration
  • SAN-OS 3.0.2 LAB 06 – Configuring Call Home
  • SAN-OS 3.0.2 LAB 07 – Creating VSANs
  • SAN-OS 3.0.2 LAB 08 – Configuring Interfaces
  • SAN-OS 3.0.2 LAB 09 – Configuring Zones
  • SAN-OS 3.0.2 LAB 10 – Configuring PortChannels
  • SAN-OS 3.0.2 LAB 11 – Implementing an FCIP Tunnel
  • SAN-OS 3.0.2 LAB 12 – Configuring FCIP High Availability
  • SAN-OS 3.0.2 LAB 13 – Implementing IVR for SAN Extension
  • SAN-OS 3.0.2 LAB 14 – Tuning FCIP Performance
  • SAN-OS 3.0.2 LAB 15 – Using SPAN and the Cisco Port Analyzer Adapter
  • SAN-OS 3.0.2 LAB 16 – Upgrading Switch Software
  • SAN-OS 3.0.2 LAB 17 – Challenge Lab
  • SAN-OS 3.0.2 LAB 18 – Using Advanced Fabric Services
  • SAN-OS 3.0.2 LAB 19 – Implementing IVR
  • SAN-OS 3.0.2 LAB 20 – Implementing Management VSANs
  • SAN-OS 3.0.2 LAB 21 – Monitoring Health and Performance

This was all mostly in preparation for the CCIE Storage written exam, which I failed on my first attempt.  I read the CLI Configuration Guide a few times, and took 50 pages of notes, studied them hard, and then was successful in passing.  The written exam is no joke.

The most important thing I did in studying for the lab, was building my own lab, which I talk about in detail in my blog, and purchasing ieMentor CCIE Storage Training.  I purchased the Walkthrough book and Workbook Bundle in Color.  This was fantastic.  I built my lab to mimic their lab setup and I just went to town, doing at least 800 hours of lab study on the equipment.  Master Lab 2 is particularly challenging, and if you can pass that lab, then your definitely at the “expert” level.

I also read a few of the Redbooks over at IBM such as:

Implementing the Cisco MDS 9000 in an Intermix FCP, FCIP, and FICON Environment

Cisco FICON Basic Implementation

FICON Native Implementation and Reference Guide

I also read all the Cisco Networkers presentations.  They are pretty similar from year to year, but if you have the ones from any of the last few years they should be pretty good.  Many are sessions on Design, Troubleshooting, SAN Extension, etc.  In order to get these you would have had to been a member at Cisco Networkers, or purchased their Online access, or know someone that has these PDF’s.

This is basically the bulk of what I studied.  A lot of it is the same information just presented differently.  Pretty much all you need to know is in the Configuration Guides and Command Reference (as far as Lab preparation).  For written, obviously you need more theory, and for that there are many books such as those I listed above.  If you are using similar trainings for study, please post them here in this thread so others can know about them and benefit.

Best of luck to you with your journey to CCIE Storage Networking!

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19 Responses to How I Prepared for CCIE Storage

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  2. Caio Oliveira says:

    Thank you very mych Feeny! Excelent post!
    I´m studying from ieMentor and also Firefly vRACKs.
    I did also bought the Walk and Workbook from ieMentor.
    About the OEQ (Open Ended Questions), in your opinion, the theory on ieMentor books are enough for those questions?
    Regards and thank you again,

    • brian says:

      The ieMentor books are not intended for written or OEQ study. They could be helpful, but honestly your best bet will be understanding the Cisco documentation and hardware. If you are ready for the lab you should not have an issue with the OEQ’s don’t stress over them.

  3. Caio Oliveira says:

    Thanks Brian!

  4. Darby Weaver says:

    Nice post Brian! Excellent guidance and recommendations.



  5. Bassem says:

    Hi Brian,
    Excellent post, please can you tell me how to get the Firelfy vRacks??

    • brian says:

      I actually am not aware of how to get the Firefly vracks. I am sure if you pay them for training, they offer it in one of their bundles. You can contact them and see if they have any co-op training coming up with any of your partners, such as Cisco/HP (if your a services partner).

  6. Caio Oliveira says:

    I passed the CCIE too. thank for your help.
    Your blog is excellent!

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  8. Shaneo says:

    I’m currently using the ieMentor workbooks to prepare for the CCIE Storage Networking lab exam. Are you able to say whether or not the CCIE Lab questions specify that you should use a particular tool (CLI, DM, FM) to perform a task or is it always up to the student to choose the appropriate tool to perform the task?

    • brian says:

      I can’t go into detail about the questions. They could tell you to use a tool, or they could leave the choice to you, it could go either way. I would say that I personally only studied using the CLI for the most part. I only used the FM when I had to, for example tasks like Performance Manager where that is the only way to access that tool.

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  11. progma says:

    Do you recommend going for CCIE-SAN first or is it better to do R&S first then SAN?

    • brian says:

      Neither requires the other. They are very different technologies and many people don’t find themselves doing both. But if you are going to learn both I would say start with the one you know the most about. Both require learning a lot of fundamentals if you’re starting from zero.

      Storage is around one product line, the MDS. Although you have to do a lot of training about fibre channel and technologies outside of the Cisco documentation. The equipment can be expensive to acquire, but you should be able to put a very nice lab together for $8000 or less, or rent gear.

      R&S requires much more books than a single product. The equipment is very easy to come by, in fact in many cases you can use a simulator such as IOS on UNIX or Dynamips and do most of your learning that way. There is a lot more information out there on R&S as far as books, forums, resources, lab material, etc. Its a very mature CCIE with many people who have passed (and of course many that failed).

      Storage doesn’t have nearly as many materials, but it doesn’t matter. ieMentor has everything you need, it really is solid material that will get you through the lab. So if you have the gear (or access to gear), you can be confident, that if you go through the ieMentor workbooks, you WILL have all the information necessary to pass the lab. If you fail, its not because you saw something you likely didn’t know how to do, its just that you screwed up. Actually this is the case with many who fail the CCIE, rarely will you hear them say there were things they did not prepare for, many actually come out of the lab pretty confident, but small mistakes will cost you points, as there is no partial credit given.

      Preparation is very important. Whichever you go for, you must study, study, study. Know everything up, down, left and right. You really must be an expert and nothing short. Its an amazing feeling when you finally accomplish it and its very rewarding (although stressful) to make the journey, as you will grow much in your domain knowledge.

  12. Peter Ooms says:

    Hi Brian, during those days back in 2011; I loved your blog. Since then I passed also the CCIE+28567. I fully concur with your remarks and followed also the IeMentor Path. Great Post !!!

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