Software I use in my CCIE Storage Lab

Some of you may be wondering what software would be useful when studying for CCIE storage. Assuming you have built a lab of various MDS switches and storage arrays, here are some of the programs that I use frequently:

Cisco Device Manager
Cisco Fabric Manager
Microsoft Internet Authentication Service (IAS)
Microsoft Certificate Authority
Cisco ACS
Microsoft iSCSI Initiator
Cisco iSCSI Initiator
QLogic SANsurfer
Cisco Traffic Analyzer

Pretty much all of the above programs get a lot of use, most on a daily basis. I don’t use Cisco iSCSI Initiator that much, as I prefer to use the Microsoft iSCSI Initiator. It does have some features however that the Microsoft Initiator does not. For example, with DH-CHAP authentication, the Microsoft Initiator can only have a single password for any device that authenticates to it (as in mutual authentication), yet the Cisco Initiator lets you set a password per portal. Both allow you to set per portal passwords for sending authentication, but only the Cisco lets you set a per portal for receive.

The SANsurfer software works pretty good. My HBA’s are nothing fancy, just dual-port QLA2200’s. I wish I could have sprung and got some nicer ones like the QLA2342’s, those support DH-CHAP (FC-SP) as well as allow for setting buffer receive size, BBcredits, and a few other nice things.

IOMeter can be a confusing program to use, but it works great. If anyone has something else that does a better job of generating traffic please let me know!

Wireshark is indispensable, it really helps you learn the FC protocol’s down pat, which is something you must know at the expert level for CCIE Storage. The filter expressions you can generate in the GUI are the same ones used in the CLI for the MDS’s FCanalyzer (which is basically tethereal). You can also put Wireshark in RPCAP mode and use it to receive a packet capture stream from the MDS which is really nice, especially if you don’t have a PAA.

3CDaemon is my goto quick and dirty TFTP program, works great. It also has a Syslog server which is handy for study as well.

SecureCRT just released a version for OSX. I use it and love it! OSX was really lacking something like it and I was always a big user of SecureCRT on Windows. You can use it to console, SSH and telnet into your MDS’s.

Microsoft IAS is a pretty good RADIUS server. You can use it to do anything you would need to do with MDS AAA RADIUS. I just use it with local accounts. I much prefer Cisco ACS (TACACS+) as it has alot more features and tighter integration with the Cisco MDS. Anyone using a decent amount of Cisco devices should own and deploy Cisco ACS.

Microsoft Certificate Authority is a must have. You have to do quite a bit of stuff with certificates if you want to be experienced with all of the features of the MDS. Also make sure your running an NTP server (I prefer to use routers for NTP service), as Certificate Services requires clocks that are fairly in sync.

Cisco Traffic Analyzer is basically NTOP. This is a great program and can produce some fairly nice looking graphical data. I am not sure if its on the CCIE lab blueprint but if you have a PAA its worth learning this software as its quite useful.

Cisco Fabric Manager and Cisco Device Manager are very important! Personally I like doing almost everything via the CLI. However, there are certain things its great to have this software for. For example, you can use Cisco Device Manager to help you figure out what SNMP OID’s to use in your RMON configuration. Otherwise you would have to resort to reading the MIB or a document that explains all the MDS OID’s! There are also other things that just seem alot easier to do via the GUI, for example some of the Intelligent Storage Services (SSM module, etc).

If you use software in your lab studies, tell me about it! I am always looking to learn about new tools.

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