Author Archives: ddib

Microsoft AZ-700 completed

I just passed the Microsoft AZ-700 exam, Designing and Implementing Microsoft Azure Networking Solutions, which means I am now certified in the two major clouds (AWS and Azure) when it comes to networking. As always after an exam, I write a summary of my experience with it and the resources I used. This is this post.

What is AZ-700?

This exam is for those that want to get certified on the networking component of Azure. Microsoft describes the exam in the following manner:

Candidates for this exam should have subject matter expertise in planning, implementing, and maintaining Azure networking solutions, including hybrid networking, connectivity, routing, security, and private access to Azure services

The breakdown of major topics and their percentage is the following:

  • Design, implement, and manage hybrid networking (10-15%)
  • Design and implement core networking infrastructure (20-25%)
  • Design and implement routing (25-30%)
  • Secure and monitor networks (15-20%)
  • Design and implement Private access to Azure Services (10-15%)

There is a more detailed breakdown available as well. Always go through the exam blueprint before studying for a certification.

How to study for AZ-700

My goal when studying for this exam was to build a proficiency working with networking in Azure. That Continue reading

Is VLAN 1 Special in Cisco Networks?

I got asked why we change from VLAN 1 to another VLAN in Cisco networks. What is bad with the default setup? Is VLAN 1 really magical in a Cisco network?

When Cisco ships a Catalyst switch to you, there is no configuration provided. This means that all the ports will be access ports and the only VLAN that exists is VLAN 1. Now, we’ve all seen networks that keep it like this. Everything is one big flat network and the only VLAN in use is VLAN 1. If this is a bad configuration depends on several factors, including the size of the network, but let’s take a look at some of the drawbacks to maintaining this configuration:

  • No segmentation – There is no segmentation. Every user can access every other user and anything else in the VLAN such as infrastructure, servers, IoT type devices, and so on
  • Default access – The user gets access simply by connecting their PC to the switch which may not be the desired outcome
  • Management access – Related to the first bullet point, if the switch has a management IP in VLAN 1, the user may be able to access and login to the Continue reading

Internet Edge IP SLA Deep Dive

It is a common design to have an internet Edge router connected to two different internet service providers to protect against the failure of an ISP bringing the office down. The topology may look something like this:

Internet Edge HA scenario

The two ISPs are used in an active/standby fashion using static routes. This is normally implemented by using two default routes where one of the routes is a floating static route. It will look something like this:

ip route name PRIMARY
ip route 200 name SECONDARY

With this configuration, if the interface to ISP1 goes down, the floating static route which has an administrative distance (AD) of 200 will be installed and traffic will flow via ISP2. The drawback to this configuration is that it only works if the physical interface goes down. What happens if ISP1’s CPE has the interface towards the customer up but the interface towards the ISP Core goes down? What happens if there is a failure in another part of the ISP’s network? What if all interfaces are up but Continue reading

Modifying Maximum Throughput of Catalyst8000v

The Catalyst8000v is Cisco’s virtual version of the Catalyst 8000 platform. It is the go to platform and a replacement of previous products such as CSR1000v, vEdge cloud, and ISRV. When installing a Catalyst8000v, it comes with a builtin shaper setting the maximum throughput to 10 Mbit/s as can be seen below:

R1#show platform hardware throughput level 
The current throughput level is 10000 kb/s

This is most likely enough to perform labbing but obviously not enough to run production workloads. You may be familiar with Smart Licensing on Cisco. Previously, licensing was enforced and it wasn’t possible to modify throughput without first applying a license to a device. In releases 17.3.2 and later, Cisco started implementing Smart Licensing Using Policy which essentially means that most of the licenses are trust-based and you only have to report your usage. There are exceptions, such as export-controlled licenses like HSEC which is for high speed crypto, anything above 250 Mbit/s of crypto. To modify the maximum throughput of Catalyst8000v, follow these steps:

R1#conf t
Enter configuration commands, one per line.  End with CNTL/Z.
R1(config)#platform hardware throughput level MB ?
  100    Mbps
  1000   Mbps
  10000  Mbps
  15     Mbps
  25     Mbps
  250    Mbps
  2500    Continue reading

Modifying Administrative Distance of Specific BGP Route

In one of the Discords that I’m in there was a user with a complex network consisting of a mix of DMVPN, BGP over MPLS VPN circuits, and SD-WAN. For some prefixes, the path via the private MPLS is preferred, for others, the SD-WAN path. Now, if a prefix is available in two different protocols, BGP vs Overlay Management Protocol (OMP), there is nothing we can do in BGP or OMP to modify which one gets installed into the Routing Information Base (RIB). This is no different than if EIGRP and OSPF were competing to install a prefix into the RIB, the protocol with the lower Administrative Distance (AD) would have its route installed.

The default AD values used on a Cisco device for these protocols are:

  • eBGP – 20
  • iBGP – 200
  • OMP – 251

Based on the AD, OMP will always lose out. It is of course possible to change the AD of BGP, but that would have an effect of all prefixes and we lose the ability to have some prefixes preferred via BGP and others via OMP. I had never changed the AD of a specific BGP prefix before, so I turned to Twitter to see Continue reading

Using Python to Calculate Cisco SD-WAN Tunnel Numbers – Part 2

In the first post I shared with you my code to calculate tunnel numbers in Cisco SD-WAN. I’m a beginner in Python so I thought it would be a great learning experience to have someone experienced in Python, such as Rodrigo, take a look at the code and come up with improvements. As I like to share knowledge, I’m taking this journey with you all. Let’s get started!

You may recall that I had a function to calculate the tunnel number. It looked like this:

def calculate_tunnel_number(interface_name:str) -> int:
    return total_score

Rodrigo’s comment was that the function name is excellent as it is clear what the function does. However, my return statement returns total_score which is not clear what it does. It would be better to return tunnel_number which is what the function is calculating.

The next comment is that when splitting things and it is known how many pieces you have, it is better to unpack them, that is, assign the unwanted piece to a throwaway variable rather than using indexing. My code looked something like this:

interface_number = split_interface(interface_name)[1]

It would be better to do something like this:

_, interface_number = split_interface(interface_name)[1]

The first variable, a Continue reading

Using Python to Calculate Cisco SD-WAN Tunnel Numbers – Part 1

When using Cisco SD-WAN on IOS-XE, it uses tunnel interfaces to configure parameters of the implementation. There is a mapping between what interface the tunnel is sourcing from and the name of the tunnel interface. For example, if the tunnel source is GigabitEthernet0, the tunnel interface is Tunnel0, if the tunnel source is GigabitEthernet0.100, the tunnel interface is Tunnel100000. When provisioning a router and not using Zero Touch Provisioning (ZTP), you build a small bootstrap configuration that configures mandatory parameters such as Site ID, System IP, Organization Name, but also a tunnel interface to be able to connect to the controllers. It is possible to create this configuration in vManage, and hence find out the tunnel interface name, but I thought it would be interesting to do this with code and not be dependent on vManage.

In this post, I will describe the code I used and what my logic was when creating different parts of the code. In this first post I will use the code that I came up with. In the second part, my friend Rodrigo who runs an excellent Python blog ,analyzed my code and came up with improvements, which I will describe in that Continue reading

Viewing a Certificate Using OpenSSL

I have started taking Ed Harmoush’s Practical TLS course to learn more about TLS and certificates. When learning about TLS, you want to inspect different certificates to see the various fields and see how different organizations use certificates differently. As always, Linux comes with a great set of tools to work with certificates in the form of OpenSSL. In this post, I will show how to download a certificate and discuss some of the fields that are present in the certificate.

To get the certificate, we will use openssl with s_client and connect to a web site. I’m using twitter.com in this example:

openssl s_client -connect twitter.com:443
depth=2 C = US, O = DigiCert Inc, OU = www.digicert.com, CN = DigiCert Global Root CA
verify return:1
depth=1 C = US, O = DigiCert Inc, CN = DigiCert TLS Hybrid ECC SHA384 2020 CA1
verify return:1
depth=0 C = US, ST = California, L = San Francisco, O = "Twitter, Inc.", CN = twitter.com
verify return:1
Certificate chain
 0 s:C = US, ST = California, L = San Francisco, O = "Twitter, Inc.", CN = twitter.com
   i:C = US, O =  Continue reading

My Journey to Getting AWS Certified Advanced Networking – Specialty Certified

Last week I took and passed the AWS Certified Advanced Networking – Specialty exam on my first attempt. In this post I will describe the study materials that I used and talk about my experience of taking this test.

What type of skills does this exam test? This is a quote from AWS:

Earning AWS Certified Advanced Networking – Specialty validates expertise in designing and maintaining network architecture for the breadth of AWS services.

The key here I think is “for breadth of AWS services”. It’s not enough to only understand general networking in AWS, you need to understand how to do networking for different AWS services such as S3, WorkSpaces, Lambda, storage gateway, and so on. There is no actual prerequisite to take the exam but it definitely doesn’t hurt if you already have the Solutions Architect Associate (this was previously a prereq) as it will help you in understanding what services are available.

The following is also listed as recommendations for who should take this exam:

  • Professional experience using AWS technology, AWS security best practices, AWS storage options and their underlying consistency models, and AWS networking nuances and how they relate to the integration of AWS services.
  • Knowledge Continue reading

Getting Experience with Public Cloud

Someone reached out to me and asked how you get experience with public cloud. That’s an excellent question so I thought I would give some perspective on it. There are three ways that immediately come to mind:

  • Studying for a certification
  • Playing around with different services in public cloud
  • Getting involved in projects at work

Public cloud is a little like walking into a gigantic supermarket. You are looking for something very specific, maybe just a carton of milk, but if you have never been to this supermarket it could take you hours to find the milk. Maybe the milk is named something else in this store. To understand a specific cloud such as AWS, Azure, or GCP, you must first build up a basic understanding of what services they offer and how to use them. I normally prefer to do this by studying for a certification, such as the AWS Solutions Architect Associate, but there are also more introductory certifications such as the Cloud Practitioner or Azure Fundamentals. You can be super experienced and highly trained in a domain, such as servers or networking, but you must first learn to speak their language and understand their services. It definitely Continue reading

8 Tips for a Successful Network Migration

I have done many network migrations over the years. Now a days it’s a more rare event but this weekend we migrated some Core switches with very little down time. What are some of the things that you should do to maximize the odds of a successful migration?


If your migration went successful without planning, that doesn’t mean you are smart, just lucky. Every migration requires planning. What steps are involved in the migration? How do you validate each step? Who needs to be involved in the migration? Who needs to validate services when the migration is done? What are the criteria for a successful migration? How much time do you need to perform the migration? At what point do roll back? What are the steps involved in rolling back?

A migration plan can have varying levels of detail. I’ve worked with some very critical networks where we have had to describe each and every step in detail including every command that is involved in the migration. This takes a lot of time but you can’t cut corners when you are working with networks that can affect people’s health and lives.


Prepare as much as you can. This Continue reading

Python Script Pulling AWS IP Prefixes – Part 3

The two previous posts described what the script does and modules used as well as how the script leverages YAML.

This time, we will go through the function that generates the access-list name. The code for this is below:

def generate_acl_name(interface_name: str) -> str:
    """Generate unique ACL name to avoid conflicts with any existing ACLs
    by appending a random number to the outside interface name"""
    # Create a random number between 1 and 999
    random_number = random.randint(1, 999)
    acl_name = f"{interface_name}_{random_number}"
    return acl_name

The goal with this code is to generate a new access-list with a unique name. Note that the script doesn’t do any check if this access-list already exists which is something I will look into in an improved version of the script. I wanted to first start with something that works and take you through the process together with myself as I learn and improve on the existing code.

The function takes an interface_name which is a string. This is provided by the YAML data that we stored in the yaml_dict earlier. The function is then called like this:

acl_name = generate_acl_name(yaml_dict["outside_interface"])

The name is stored in the yaml_dict under the outside_interface mapping:

In [6]: yaml_dict  Continue reading

Python Script Pulling AWS IP Prefixes – Part 2

In the previous post I described some of the design considerations for this script and what modules I use. In this post, we will look at using YAML to collect data and use it in Python in the form of a dictionary. Why YAML? YAML is commonly used as a readable way of storing configuration data and there are modules for Python to read that data.

The YAML file is a very basic one containing these mappings:

outside_interface: outside
aws_service: s3
aws_region: eu-north-1

The three dashes indicate the start of the file and the three dots indicate the end of the file. We have configured what service we are interested in (S3) and in what region (eu-north-1). The outside interface in our Cisco ASA is named outside.

The natural fit to work with mappings in Python is a dictionary. We need to get the data from the file named aws_prefix.yml into a dictionary. To do that, we will use the following code:

def get_yaml_data() -> dict:
    """Gets the interface name, ASA IP address AWS service, and region 
    from the YAML file and returns a dictionary"""
        with open("aws_prefix.yml")  Continue reading

Python Script Pulling AWS IP Prefixes – Part 1

I have been playing around with Python lately with the goal of building basic skills in it. I have found that to make good progress what works best for me is:

  • Have a project that I find interesting to work on
  • Spend a little time every day on the project

The project I decided on was to get the IP addresses that AWS uses for their services, build an access-list based on these prefixes, and then configure a Cisco ASA with that access-list. The final result looks like this:

Python AWS prefix getter

In a series of blog posts, I will cover how I built this script. Keep in mind that my focus was to get a script that works and then improve on it. I have some plans for getting an experienced Python coder to go through the code with me and to work on improvements. Stay tuned for that!

As with any coding project, you need to come up with some general guidelines on how to get data and what is good enough. These are some of the considerations I had:

  • I will get the configuration needed from a YAML file rather than a CLI (good enough for Continue reading

Route Replication the Easy Way

Easy Virtual Network (EVN) was a technology Cisco came up with back in the days to make it easier to implement VRFs without the pain of running VRF lite or the complexity of running a full MPLS + BGP network. It was actually a pretty cool technology but never became mainstream. However, as part of this technology, Cisco also made it easier to replicate, or in other words leak, routes between VRFs. You don’t need the rest of EVN to do this and this simplified way of replicating routes have kind of been forgotten by the industry. I thought I would share with you the ease of replicating routes with this feature even without BGP.

We have a straight forward topology like the one below:

The USERS switch is a L2 switch and all the L3 configuration is in the CORE router. We have implemented segmentation in the network so we have a USERS VRF and then we have a SERVICES VRF for shared services such as DNS and DHCP. Because these services are in a separate VRF, we will not have reachability to them from the USERS VRF. This lab will use the following IP addresses:

User – 10. Continue reading

11 Tips on Gaining Experience in Network Design

For people that want to pursue a career in network design, it can be tough getting the experience needed for such a role. How do you get design experience if your current role does not involve design? There are still many things you can do and I will give you tips on gaining that experience.

Network fundamentals – I always bring this up because it’s easy to overlook the need for network fundamentals. Being an Architect you still need to have technical chops and hopefully some operational experience as well. How can you design for something you are not familiar with? You can’t! You need to know OSPF, ISIS, BGP, etc. to understand when you should use each protocol. Spend a lot of time building these fundamentals before you move into design. How do you do that? Ivan Pepelnjak has training in this area. There is also the Computer Networking Problems and Solutions book by Russ White and Ethan Banks.

Books – There are several excellent books on network design. Some of them are geared towards network design certifications but they are great reads even if you are not pursuing any certification. One of my favourite books is The Art Continue reading

Networking Interviews – How to Ask Good Questions

I’m not sure if it’s just us in networking/IT, or people leading interviews in general (probably the latter), but we have a tendency to ask really bad questions in interviews. Often the questions revolve around factoids or things that need to be memorized. Some interviewers will even intentionally try to “trick” you. This is a really bad way of conducting an interview and will guaranteed lead to poor results. Instead of asking someone to quote an RFC, you should focus on asking open-ended questions and even guide the candidate if they are getting stuck on something. Why?

Reasoning – You want to see how people reason their way to answering a question. What is their thought process? Asking the administrative distance of BGP will just give you back a one-sentence answer or no answer at all. You can learn much more about someone’s skill level if you give them some clues and see if they can take the discussion forward. Are they comfortable asking you for input? Are they comfortable saying that they don’t know something?

Remove tension – Most, if not all, people are somewhat nervous when being interviewed. You want get an accurate representation of their skill so Continue reading

My Journey Towards the Cisco Certified DevNet Specialist – DevOps – By Nick Russo

On 19 January 2021, I took and passed the Implementing DevOps Solutions and Practices (DEVOPS) exam on my first attempt. This is the sixth DevNet exam I’ve passed … and probably the last! Much like my experience with enterprise and service provider automation, I have years of real-life experience solving a diverse set of business problems using DevOps skills. I’ve spoken about the topic on various podcasts and professional training courses many times. Even given that experience, the exam blueprint introduced me to new technologies such as Cisco AppDynamics and Prometheus, to name a few.

I found DEVOPS to be more difficult than the product-specific concentration exams like ENAUTO, SPAUTO, and SAUTO. Because the exam has very little Cisco-specific content (AppDynamics is about the extent of it), you’ll need extensive hands-on, detail-oriented experience with many third-party products. To name a few: Ansible, Terraform, Docker, Kubernetes, Prometheus, ELK, git/GitHub, Travis CI, Jenkins, and Drone. Like most Cisco specialties, it isn’t enough just to watch video training to learn the details of these technologies; labbing and self-learning are both essential to pass this challenging exam.

Unlike DEVASC, DEVCOR, ENAUTO, and SAUTO, I did not Continue reading

AAA Deep Dive on Cisco Devices

I’ve been working on some AAA configuration lately and I went through some of my older templates and realized that I didn’t want to simply use them without verifying first if I still believed that this was the best way of configuring AAA. I started by reading some of the official docs but quickly realized they were a bit shallow and lacked any real detail of some different scenarios such as what happens when the AAA server is not available. I then realized that there also is a lack of blogs that dive into this into any detail. Being curious, I thought I would lab it out as I have recently built an ISE lab.

The goal of this post is to start with a very simple AAA configuration, expand on it, verify each step what happens when the AAA server is available and when it is not. I will give you relevant debug outputs as well as my thoughts on different parameters in the configuration. Buckle up! because this is going to be a super deep dive!

We start out by applying a simple AAA configuration, where I have specified my ISE server, which is at 192.168.128. Continue reading

Finding Ways of Teaching

Some days ago I tweeted about that when you are trying to master a topic, you should both find different sources to learn from, as well as different mediums, such as reading, listening, watching videos, but also not to forget labbing. I also wrote that teaching someone else is a great way of learning and retaining information yourself. You might be familiar with the saying that “You remember 10% of what we read, 20% of what we hear, 30% of what we see, 80% of what we personally experience, and 95% of what we teach others”. How truthful this statement is, is up for debate, but I think we can all agree that you will recall more of what you have learned if you are teaching the topic to someone, as opposed to just reading about something.

How do you find a place to teach, though?

Thankfully, there are a lot of options today to teach, even some that may not seem obvious at first. Let’s go through a few of them.

Blogging – As you’re reading this blog, hopefully you are learning something. It may not seem like teaching, considering that it’s not a realtime event, but it is Continue reading

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