Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Book Review: CCIE Routing and Switching Certification Guide 4th Edition

As part of studying for the CCIE R&S Written exam I got myself a copy of the CCIE Routing and Switching Certification Guide 4th edition by Wendell Odom, Rus Healy, and Denise Donahue.  This is the newly revised version for the CCIE R&S v4 written exam that came out very shortly after the new version of the exams did, and it's also the updated version of a book that's been around for a very long time.

I used this book extensively in my written exam preparation, and now that that piece is completed, I wanted to briefly reflect on this text and the role it played.  It was certainly a love/hate experience, and if you are considering this text in your own studies then you should definitely be aware of a few things prior to purchasing this book. 

I ordered this book from where the description said something about the book being 1000+ pages in size (I don't remember exactly and I'm not going to look up the exact number since it's irrelevant).  After reading through the v4 Written blueprint I was unsure how all that material could possibly be covered in that many pages, but also somewhat in awe since that was significantly larger than any other CiscoPress book I'd ever read in the past.   At over $100CAD I suppose that size is a good thing.

This book is full of A LOT of information.  Overall I think that it does cover the material it tries to cover very well.  It manages to touch each topic with enough depth to make it worthwhile, while managing to remain a single book.  Each item also usually includes links to the RFC's specs, drafts, and other assorted documentation that is relevant to allow the reader to take in as much information as they are willing to invest the time into reading.

Being that this is my first venture into CCIE-land this book was really the first time I'd been exposed to CCIE level material.  Having been through the CCNP (a few times, and a few iterations) it didn't take long to notice the difference in the depth of the material.  Everything that was just glossed over in the NP was now explained and elaborated on.

Well most things.

As an example, MPLS VPNs in the NP are not really explained.  RT's and RD's are mentioned, but how they are really used is never touched upon.  Well here in the IE you get to learn all that.  But some things, like MPLS TE are not really explained since those topics are for the SP track.

And at the end of the day, the fact remains that I did pass the 350-001 using this book quite heavily.  Could I have done better using more than this book?  Yes, without a doubt.  Will this book alone give you what you need to pass the R&S Written?  Yes, it can if you invest the time.

However, and this is a big however, there are HUGE AMOUNTS of errors in this book.  I will even go so far as to say that it is utterly ridiculous the number of spelling, grammatical, syntax,   and just plain stupid mistakes that are int his book.  It is as if the authors passed on a draft to their publisher, and the technical editors (of which there are 2) never even bothered to peruse the manuscripts they were sent.

I truly think everyone involved in this book should hang their head in shame with the sheer amount of errors that it contains.

Allow me to post a short list of what I found:

  1. Page 297, third paragraph, the first line reads: "Example 8-12 demonstrates a virtual link configuration between R33 and R1..." when quite clearly in Figure 8-12 at the top of the page indicates a virtual link between R3 and R1, not R33 and R1. Further, example 8-12 shows R3 being configured instead of R33.
  2. Page 303, second row in the table: "ospf log-neighbor-changes [detail] | EIGRP subcommand; displays log messages when neighbor status changes".
  3. Page 660 Figure 16-7 IGMPv2 Message Format is a picture of an IGMP v1 header.
  4. Page 560 Figure 13-9 Step 6 -- The destination address in the RESV message is incorrect.
  5. Page 746, Table 17-6 'ip msdp peer x.x.x.x' IS NOT an interface config mode command. It is a global config command.
  6. Page 498, first paragraph reads: "Bits 3 through 6 of the ToS byte included flag fields that were toggled on or off to imply a particular QoS service. The final bit (bit 7) was not defined in RFC791."  RFC 791 only defines bits 3 - 5 to imply a particular QoS service, leaving bits 6 AND 7 undefined. 
  7. Page 555 Figure 13-8 WTD Configuration in Graphical Form is a close up section of 13-9 RSVP Reservation Process.
And my personal favorite, there's also errors in the chapter quiz questions that are at the beginning of each chapter.  Or more specifically, there's incorrect answers listed in Appendix A.  Chapter 14 "Do I Know This Already" quiz, question #3.  Appendix A answers say B, C and D.  A few pages later on Page 578 the very first sentence of the very first paragraph says "You can also use GTS for adaptive shaping on a Frame Relay link".  I suppose B may not be a right answer then eh?

(I'm purposely being vague about what the quiz question says.  If you have the book you can check.  otherwise I'm not going to post the actual contents of the quiz)

Over on we have an errata thread going, and there's also the CiscoPress Errata that used to be 2 pages, but is currently at 5.

If you are studying from this book the only advice I will give is double check anything that seems suspicious with another source.

So after all this what do I think about this book?  Well, I certainly learned a lot from it, and overall I did enjoy reading it.  I'm disgusted with the amount of errors in it, but at least most of them are obvious and not terribly harmful.  I do wonder how many more sinister errors I missed, and that I currently hold as being true in my view of a given technology.

But, at the end of the day, if you're looking for a "one-stop-shopping" approach to the R&S Written, and you accept that there are errors in his book, then this is your book.  If you're looking from a little more, this is still your book, but take to heart the "Further Reading" recommendations at the end of each chapter.  If you cannot stand inaccuracies and piss poor editing/reviewing of anything you purchase, this is not your book.

To wrap this up I'm going to give this book a rating of AF21

Yup, that's right.  I've adopted the Assured Forwarding PHB's as my system to rate stuff.  AF13 - EF gives me a nice scale that roughly equates to 1 - 10.  Look for further book ratings as I continue my CCIE studies!


  1. Hi - nice review, i'm currently reading this book but only at a glance. I'm only skimming over it for now to give me an idea of what's ahead. I'm intending on doing the written this year (spare time is at a minimum).

    On your post above, you make the point about learning incorrect info from the book. I think we have every right to put our complete trust in Certification books that are published or endorsed by Cisco Press but I suppose the reality is we can't. Who knows how much incorrect or inaccurate info I've learned from Cisco Press (and other certification books) in the past and taken it forward with me assuming it's right.

    I had a bit of a rant over at about it, Stretch over at also goes there.

    Congrats on the 350-001, see you over at


  2. Hi Neil,

    I agree 100% that we SHOULD be able to trust what is in these books. However, the reality is that the authors and human, and humans make mistakes. Now proper editing and reviewing should certainly alleviate the amount of errors or inaccuracies, but in this case the amount makes me seriously question that process in this case.

    I don't think this is the majority of cases though. Unless I'm getting better at spotting errors, I think this book is the exception and not the norm. At least most of the mistakes are cosmetic in nature. I've read a lot of CiscoPress books now and this was by far the worst offender in this area.

    I read over the blog posts on yours and Stretch's sites too. That's another facet of this same problem, but one that's far more contentious I believe.

    The inaccuracies withing (some) blogs is a direct result of the "amateur" nature they represent. By far most blogs are just some person who has Internet access and the urge to spout bullshit. There is no editing process, no attempt at proper writing, and no real care for the content. Most of all, there is little to no accountability.

    I think this lack of accountability is one of the primary differences between a "blogger" and a "journalist". At least the "casual" or "amateur" blogger. There are some very good, professional bloggers out there who go to great lengths to ensure that their content is of the highest standards prior to publishing.

    Indirectly this same principal applies to Wikipedia. The largest encyclopedia in the history of Humankind and most universities will not let you cite it as a source due to its unreliability. I think that for the most part the Wikipedia community is very good at policing themselves, but nonetheless this stigma remains.

    I think at the end of the day this is just a reality of our digital world and just like you need to think twice before you open that attachment in that email you got today from your best friend (that's oddly impersonal in its wording...), and just like you shouldn't believe everything you see on TV, the Internet and its myriad of information sources should be treated with the same skepticism.

  3. And thanks for the kind comments. I appreciate it. Good luck on your own 350-001!

  4. I'm 90% of the way through this book. Thankfully I did my CCIP so all the MPLS stuff is old news to me.

    However I have learnt quite a few new things.

    As for the errors, yes it's pretty crap. I also only bought the book fairly recently and yet I have a first printing of it (thanks Amazon)

    Hopefully I'll knock out the written within the next 6 weeks

  5. I don't remember what printing I have... And it's not nearby right this second. It might be a second or third printing I have.

  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.