Short version: Configuring Cisco Nexus 9000 Series Switches in ACI Mode (DCAC9K) is an awesome ACI course, which I highly recommend for anyone interested in ACI, but you need to supplement it with CiscoLive On-Demand Video Library to get the most out of it.
I can’t believe it’s been four years since my first post about learning resources for Cisco ACI and other related technologies. In 2015, 2016 and 2018, I provided recommendations for additional resources for learning ACI. Now in 2019, I would like to share two resources which I think are CURRENTLY the best options for learning Cisco ACI. If you know of better options, please let me know in the comments below! 🙂
The Cisco Learning Network (CLN), which I have posted about before, has an AMAZING course on Cisco ACI, Configuring Cisco Nexus 9000 Series Switches in ACI Mode (DCAC9K) v3.0. This course costs $1500 USD (~$2000 CAD). Every couple of months it goes on sale for $1100-1200 USD (like many other CLN courses). For $1500 USD, you get access to a real live Cisco ACI lab for a year! Here are the highlights:
- The course has numerous labs, covering all key areas of ACI, and the labs are EXCELLENT. They are really well done!
- You get to work on REAL ACI throughout the course!
- The lab topology consist of one spine, two leaves, a few physical servers, and several virtual machines which include vCenter, vASA, three-tier application VMs, a simulated WAN connection, and other supporting VMs.
- Basically the labs simulate a realistic (while manageably small) data centre environment
- All major ACI components typically deployed in data centres are covered in the labs: VMM domains, Layer 2, Layer 3, External connectivity, Service Graphs, Tenants, profiles and much more.
- ACI doesn’t exist in a vacuum in a production environment – and this course’s labs really pay attention to that fact. Hence, although the focus is 90%+ on ACI, you also end up touching vCentre, VMs, appliances, applications and systems/services outside of ACI, just as you would in real-world deployments.
Here is what the course interface and one of the lab looks like (two or more screens recommended!):
What’s the catch?
The course has two flaws, but I would HIGHLY recommend this course despite those flaws.
- The video and written content of the course, i.e. the parts that actually teach you ACI concepts, are seriously lacking in both content and clarity. I definitely consider this a big flaw. I have completely five other CLN courses, and the video content was much more comprehensive and useful in those courses.
- The labs take 30-60 minutes to load. Honestly, this is not really a major flaw. Cisco spins up live labs with REAL hardware for you in this course when you initiate one of numerous labs in this course – and real hardware takes time to load, so this 30-60 minute load time is totally reasonable.
But wait, there’s more!
Since the course itself is lacking both content and clarity, you really have no choice but to supplement it the CiscoLive videos other other content to get clarity on ACI concepts. For example, this is a particularly good ACI Troubleshooting presentation, and this video does a great job of explaining ACI Multi-Site, etc. This particular one, covering ACI installation from scratch, is also awesome. You can find many other similar videos covering various different aspects of ACI. As you are going through the course, you’ll realize yourself which concepts are unclear for you, and find videos on CiscoLive to clarify those concepts. Be sure to filter for recent CiscoLive events to view the latest videos – as ACI has been evolving rapidly!
Cisco has some highly talented speakers at Cisco Live events and if they, e.g. Massimiliano (Max) Ardica, Ramses Smeyers, Azeem Suleman and others, were to help create some of the videos for this course, it would take the course to the next level. There are endless ACI specific presentations/videos that you can watch. A especially good time to watch the ACI videos on CiscoLive is when you are waiting for you lab to load for 30-60 minutes 😉 – Also, pro-tip – view the video in Firefox, which allows you to change playback speed, so that you can view the video faster if you want.
Again, despite the major content flaw, I would still highly recommend this course as the labs alone are worth it.