Update March 2019: The below blog is now fairly outdated. For my latest recommendation, please see this post https://salmannaqvi.com/2019/03/05/best-cisco-aci-course-2019-update/
Update Oct 31, 2016: Added Jason Lunde’s “Learning Cisco ACI” course at twistedIT
For those who’ve read previous blog posts, you can probably tell that constant learning and training is a recurring theme on my blog. I even have one blog posts dedicated to “learning to learn”. Continuing on with that tradition, this post will be dedicated to getting you up to speed with Cisco ACI.
First off, Cisco ACI has an underlay network that’s largely standards based, but, has an overlay network that’s very Cisco proprietary (so far), and turns all core Layer 2 and Layer 3 networking concepts upside down. Pretty much all overlay solutions are like that.
Learning Cisco ACI, like other SDN solutions, is like learning networking right from the beginning again – and for those of us who’ve been in the industry for a long time, it takes a LOT of time and practice to get used to the ACI way of doing things.
ACI is all about policy and automation. That, along with a fairly complex GUI, and large number of new concepts makes the ACI learning curve very steep – or at least that’s been my experience! I am hoping this blog post will make your Cisco ACI journey a little bit easier by pointing you to some of the best Cisco ACI resource that I’ve come across.
Having been through multiple paid training material and free training resources, in my opinion, contrary to typical experiences with other training I’ve mentioned in the past, the free resources turned out to be the best ones for learning Cisco ACI.
The resources are:
- Learning Cisco ACI with Jason Lunde – $289 USD (updated Oct 31, 2016).
- Cisco Learning Network (free)
- Cisco Live (free, recorded presentations, especially the ones from 2016)
- Cisco dCloud (free)
Where to start:
Update Oct 31, 2016 – Jason Lunde’s ACI course on twistedIT.com is by far one of the best resources for learning Cisco ACI in my opinion. Although he doesn’t mention any particular pre-requisites AFAIK, I’d recommend at least CCNA DC or equivalent knowledge/experience before you embark on his course. With that in mind, HE DOES AN AMAZING JOB of clarifying ACI concepts, and further DOES AN AMAZING JOB of showing you how to do everything properly, with a lot of great bonus tips regarding best practices for production ACI deployments. I had been through all the other resources mentioned below previously, but, some concepts remained unclear. Jason did an amazing job of clarifying everything, especially from a perspective of a typical network professional.
Cisco Live sessions will help you solidify ACI concepts. Doing so is UTTERLY important before diving into the GUI. Trying to “learn-by-doing”, in my opinion, simply doesn’t work with ACI, not until you’ve at least fully understood the concepts. I’d recommend going through the below Cisco Live sessions in the order mentioned below. (In case you want to download these videos, and play them back at faster speed, I made a quick two minute screencast showing how you can do that.)
- Introduction to Cisco ACI – https://www.ciscolive.com/online/connect/sessionDetail.ww?SESSION_ID=89996&backBtn=true
- Performing Common Tasks in ACI https://www.ciscolive.com/online/connect/sessionDetail.ww?SESSION_ID=89047&backBtn=true
- Migrating to ACI https://www.ciscolive.com/online/connect/sessionDetail.ww?SESSION_ID=89376&backBtn=true
- Integration of ACI with Hypervisors https://www.ciscolive.com/online/connect/sessionDetail.ww?SESSION_ID=89986&backBtn=true
- Intro to ACI for Security Admins https://www.ciscolive.com/online/connect/sessionDetail.ww?SESSION_ID=89997&backBtn=true
- Deep Dive on Cisco Security in ACI – https://www.ciscolive.com/online/connect/sessionDetail.ww?SESSION_ID=92603&backBtn=true
- ACI Troubleshooting https://www.ciscolive.com/online/connect/sessionDetail.ww?SESSION_ID=89049&backBtn=true
- ACI MultiPod and MultiSite Deployment Options https://www.ciscolive.com/online/connect/sessionDetail.ww?SESSION_ID=89048&backBtn=true
Cisco Learning Network (CLN):
These videos cover many of the same concepts as the above videos, but, are not as in-depth as the CiscoLive videos. However, unlike majority of CiscoLive videos, the CLN videos also go through the GUI, covering every step of what a typical enterprise would need to configure to get ACI up and running.
Cisco dCloud gives you the chance to play with Cisco ACI GUI on your own, and even interact with related devices and systems (firewalls, loadbalancers, hypervisors, etc.). This is essential to getting to know ACI “hands-on”.
Once you go through all of the above CiscoLive.com and Cisco Learning Network videos, and also play with a few different Cisco ACI labs on the Cisco dCloud portal, you’ll confidently be able to say you know Cisco ACI! Best of all, all of the above resources are completely free!