Recently, one of our very own, Chris Jaecker, embarked on a journey towards becoming a bona fide Arista Certified Engineer with the ACE:L3 Arista Certification.
Chris is one of our brilliant BDMs, professional trainer in sales and technology, tasked with expanding Arista’s training program within Asia Pacific, and is a true erudite of the industry. He has an inquiring mind and prides himself in being a devoted student, constantly challenging and educating himself, well beyond the confines of network engineering.
What it takes to become an ACE:L3 CORE Cloud Journeyman
It’s best for you to learn about Chris’ experience directly from the man himself (read it here), but here are some important takeaways and advice he gives.
Training is non-negotiable!
- Whether that be a live instructor-led class or Arista Academy self-study option, it’s unlikely you can obtain that CORE certification without it. So do yourself a favor and get your start studying. Chris preferred the video materials above all (start, stop, repeat…), but choose what works best for you!
Use the labs
- Arista provides an unprecedented amount of access to the lab environment, so use it! You have access to your environment whenever you want – no real restrictions, so why not play around in it, figure things out, build, rebuild, etc.!
- Treat this as a practice exam environment.
Create a study guide
- Use the ACE:L3 course blueprint, available online, as a study guide. It thoroughly outlines topics within the course which ultimately is essential for taking the CORE exam.
Enjoy diving deeper into Chris’ psyche and read on for his first hand experience getting ACE certified with the ACE:L3 Arista Certification!
Getting Ace! (Arista Certified)
Okay, so first things first, I’m now a proud ACE:L3 CORE Cloud Journeyman. Let me break that down for you.
ACE (apart from sounding cool) means Arista Cloud Engineer. Level three is, by my reckoning, about CCNP in implied knowledge, but a whole lot deeper in terms of practical networking skills. CORE is an acronym for Cloud Operational Readiness Evaluation. Journeyman is ‘a trained worker who is employed by someone else.’ I’m just going to leave that alone.
I do like the Cloud part – I just rewatched Stardust with Claire Danes, and I figure most of Robert de Niro’s crew were Cloud Journeymen, so I’m in good company.
Yes, it’s a certification and I’ve been around long enough to accumulate a lot of these, mostly from Cisco, but along the way, Banyan Vines, Netapp, VMWare, Burroughs, NCC, 3COM, and other word soups. This one is from Arista, a rising star in networking, and I’m paid to promote Arista Training (which explains the Journeyman title, I suppose) but this is not meant to be a marketing fluff piece.
Arista have made their name providing the high speed, low latency infrastructure for today’s cloud titans. There are bigger networking companies, but when it comes to performance and ease of use, they are second to none. They’ve expanded into campus and security, bringing the same qualities to wireless and edge computing.
In summary, Arista represents a fresh, high performance alternative, to the muddled portfolios of traditional networking vendors, and a smart young engineer could do a lot worse than hitch their career to the Arista wagon.
I’m not that smart, and certainly not that young, but I have taken a lot of exams in this industry, so I’m going to walk you through the process.
You cannot take the exam unless you have attended an ACE:L3 course. Full Stop. (or Period for the rest of the world).
There are two likely reactions to this. The old farts will say people might already have the experience, this is just a money grab. I call bullsh*t on that. The exam tests the knowledge that is taught in the class. If you are more experienced than the ACE:L3 syllabus, go for a tougher class and exam. Find what you don’t know, and study that. If you get ACE:L7, well done you! You have demonstrated that you have the cumulative skills of ACE:L1 through ACE:L7, and you don’t need to take ACE:L3. Ahem.
When you can take the exam without the class, it creates a grey industry dedicated to hothousing candidates through the exam itself. And a bunch of paper tigers that would lose their lattes if you told them to manage a difficult change window at 3am in Macclesfield or Boise. Because the ACE:L3 Arista Certification exam is the equivalent of a change window, with live equipment and a grumpy facility manager (Hi, Rich Parkin!)
The training is incredibly useful for the exam. You can choose either a live class in your time zone of choice, or self-paced training with video lectures around topics like EVPN or VXLAN and other videos that walk you through the labs. It’s a tough choice and probably comes down to your learning style, self-discipline, and budget. In the end I probably got more value from the videos, because I was able to pause and repeat them. Which I did. A lot.
Either way the quality of the material is excellent. The instructors go through a rigorous certification process and it shows. They truly understand what they are talking about, and can clearly articulate their material. They’ve been there, done that, and are really good to listen to and ask questions of.
Personally I like to understand the context and history of various technologies, and having been through both learning formats, I think the live classes give better context, and the videos deeper understanding (in my case, through repetition), but your mileage may vary. There’s a version of the live class that includes six months of Academy, and an attempt at the exam, which is probably the best combination if you see merit in both formats.
The course labs are the best part of both the class and Arista Academy (the self-paced version of the course). If you attend a live class, you get the lab both for the week of the class itself, and the two following weeks. This means you can pay attention to the instructor, have a solid stab at the lab, but not get bogged down trying to complete the last lab before starting the next if you get behind. I took a class that was not in my time zone specifically so I could get my other work done and do my labs outside of class time, and honestly,I found it a little hard to keep up at times.
Once the class is over, you can do the labs again. And again. Not just nine to five either, but evenings, weekends. You know, those times where your social life would go if you had one.
Arista Academy comes with 120 hours of lab, which you can parcel out over a three month period. If you need more, you can buy blocks of time, but it was about right for me. I went through the class labs twice, first with the CLI, then with CloudVision.
I’m not going to get drawn into the debate over CLI versus GUI, but I gotta say, if I was managing a complicated network, I’d want a platform that monitored for inconsistencies 24/7, let me see any and all changes and gave me a time machine to go back to when it was working…
Okay, you’ve probably been reading this to see if I give away the keys to the exam, so here they are:
Study hard and learn to manage your time. Treat the lab as what it is: a four hour change window for a medium sized data center. (That’s for the ACE:L3 Arista Certification, other exams give more or less time). You will not have enough time, and, unless you are an obsessive student, there will be things in it you didn’t study that you have to look up on the fly. Have a look at the blueprint for the ACE:L3 Class . Work out what they can examine, and what they could examine, and write down those topics. This will be your study guide. If you can’t do that, don’t schedule the exam. Once you have a good grasp, start preparing.
Break down technology topics into methods: how to configure that technology, how to test your configurations along the way, and how to troubleshoot them. I can’t tell you how long this will take you, I don’t know what else is on your plate and how fast you can eat. But until you can set yourself the challenge of building out, say, an L2LS topology without having to spend 15 minutes googling to find a crib config starter, you are not ready.
And you know what? This method will build you into not only someone ready to take the ACE:L3 Arista Certification CORE exam, but somebody that could handle a 3am change window on a wet Macclesfield night. And that’s what network exams should be all about. You’re not going to get a tricky corner-case scenario to scratch your head through, but an opportunity to demonstrate you have the chops to work in a standards base, 21st century Data Center.
And that’s why every smart young engineer should be hitching their career to the Arista wagon…
If you are interested in following Chris’ path, BEGIN here!