In Pursuit of the CCIE

Just a short post to let you know this blog is not dead. I have not written anything in several months. While I have several posts that are partially complete, I have not been able to finish them…..yet.

For the past several months, I have been busy studying for the CCIE Wireless lab exam. Prior to that, I was sort of working towards the CCIE Route/Switch written and lab exam. I wasn’t fully committed, so my studying was sporadic at best. My heart just wasn’t in forcing myself to learn more about IPv6, multicast, MPLS, and some of the other blueprint items.

Somewhere along the line it changed. Maybe it was having another co-worker who was serious in his pursuit of the CCIE Wireless. Maybe it was that my job working for a reseller had me doing more and more Cisco wireless work. Maybe I just liked the fact that wireless was hard. I’m not really sure. I just know that at some point, a switch flipped inside my head and I just decided to go all in on my studies. Honestly, I should have done this years ago, but the timing just didn’t seem right.

I’ve been studying most nights every week for a few months. I don’t sleep a whole lot these days. A lot of times, I fall asleep in my chair up in my office and don’t wake up until my wife comes up to check on me. On those nights when I do make it to my bed, I think about the lab blueprint until my brain finally shuts down and I drift off to dream. I have dreams about odd things like wireless authentication. My thoughts are always on the lab. Whether I am in a meeting with a client, sitting in church, or just driving down the road, it consumes me.

I’m constantly fighting off the voices in the back of my mind telling me to stop and go back to life as it was before the study urges took over. I have a wife and two kids. I have a job that demands a decent level of performance mentally. I travel a fair amount for work. I work odd hours. I am fairly active in my local church. I also make a decent living, so passing the lab doesn’t mean a massive pay raise for me. There are so many reasons I shouldn’t do this, and they almost overshadow the reasons that I should.

On the positive side, I am convinced there are doors that will not open career-wise, without the CCIE. Will I make more money after passing the lab? Probably. Will I have more recruiters and HR folks pinging me on LinkedIn? Yes. Will I have interesting career choices cross my path? Probably. I’m not planning on doing anything different work-wise after I pass, but as any of you who have CCIE digits knows, you have more options.

Those are all well and good, but if there is one reason I want to pass the lab, it is related to a quote attributed to John F. Kennedy from a speech he gave in 1962 regarding the USA’s attempts to land on the moon:

“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

That’s it in a nutshell. I need to know if I can push myself to finish something that on the surface, seems impossible. When I was 15 years old, I ran a mile(1600 meters) in 4 minutes and 56 seconds on a dirt track in Hawaii. I had been trying to break 5 minutes for a while at that point. I remember that race vividly. I had a great running coach that trained me well. I put in a lot of miles on hills and roads leading up to that point, and I only mentioned the locale(Hawaii) to give you an idea of what kind of “hills” I was referring to. It was the end of our track season and I was in peak shape. Had it been a rubber track, I could have probably run it in 5 or 6 seconds faster. It doesn’t matter though. I broke 5 minutes. For some, that is not a big deal. For a kid who had asthma at a younger age, that was huge. It will always be one of my favorite moments in my life, taking a back seat to only the birth of my children and the marriage to my wife.

I am always telling my kids that they can be anything they want to be as long as they are willing to work hard for it. I can tell them all day long. It’s better if I show them through example. I’ll find out in 18 days when I sit the lab for the first time. I may go back several more times before I pass it, but I am prepared to do that.

Nobody ever talks to me about my sub-5 minute mile I ran. In fact, my father was the only one in my family who witnessed it. When, and it is a “when”, I pass the CCIE Wireless lab, most of the people in my day to day life, outside of work, will not even know what that is. I am perfectly fine with that. I’m not doing this for accolades or pats on the back. I’m doing this for me, and also to secure a potentially greater ability to provide for my family.

When it is over, I will take a break from studying. I’ll stop reading technical books for a few months, and not think about this stuff too much outside of my work hours. I have several hundred books I have put off reading for several years. I also have 60 years of National Geographic magazines that a friend gave me that are sitting in my office closet begging to be read. After a few months and a few dozen books and magazines, I will get back on the study “horse” and push towards the Aruba ACMX.

While I would have loved to create a bunch of blog posts documenting the technical aspects of my studies, I made the decision to devote that time to studying. Anyone who has written even one technical post knows how much time those things take. I am very grateful for people like Rasika who took the time to document all of their studies. If you are studying for the CCIE Wireless as well, you are probably already familiar with his excellent site. Much of that content applies to the version 3 lab blueprint.

Just wanted to put something up here to let you know I have not abandoned this site. I’m still around. I’m just busy studying.

Posted in career, ccie, learning, wireless | 4 Comments

Aruba and HP – The Remaining Pieces

Aruba-HP-LogoI wrote previously about the Aruba and HP ecosystems. You can find that post here. I also wrote about Aruba’s culture here, and although I had planned on writing about HP’s culture as I understand it, I don’t know that I need to spend too much time on that. When you look at the difference in the two ecosystems from a wireless perspective(HP is a big company with a broad portfolio), HP is a completely different animal and that HAS to affect their company culture.

Well, what really remains to talk about? I think two things. Execution and product disposition.


Ask anyone who follows the industry about HP, and you will get a variety of thoughts. However, one of them that always seems to surface is in regards to their ability to execute. There is a history of missteps regarding HP in the executive arena over the past several years. Since Meg Whitman has taken over as CEO, I think we have seen a bit more stability in that regard. When thinking about Aruba and HP combining forces for wireless, I am reminded of a comment that Andrew vonNagy made during a Tech Field Day roundtable at the 2015 Las Vegas Atmosphere conference regarding Meg’s handling of the PayPal acquisition when she was heading up eBay. He mentions that she let PayPal run as a separate entity. Perhaps that will be the same with Aruba, and since the Aruba leadership will be running the campus networking section of HP. it is likely that would be true.

There is one other factor to consider. HP will be splitting into two companies on November 1st of this year. HP Enterprise will be headed up by Meg Whitman, and will handle servers, storage, networking, professional services, and software. HP Inc will handle the personal systems(desktops, laptops, tablets) and printing division. The conventional wisdom coming out of HP is that this will allow greater focus on products catering to specific customers. By having separate marketing, research, development, and sales teams, the two HP companies will be able to bring solutions to the marketplace in a much more focused manner. Time will tell if that is the case. The optimist in me sees this as a good thing. Maybe I am simply recalling Cisco’s attempts to play in the SMB/consumer spaces and mostly backing out of that space. I’ll admit that I don’t see the bigger picture as I am not a finance/business person, so there’s a chance that this could be a horrible disaster, and there are no shortage of articles and commentary with that viewpoint.

In short, HP’s ability to execute well with the future of Aruba’s products is yet to be determined. I suspect it will be mid-2016 before we really start to see if the new HP Enterprise company is a stronger and more nimble enterprise competitor than the legacy HP company. What I am certain of is that you cannot be good at everything. You have to pick and choose certain things and do the best you can. As my friend Devin Akin has pointed out to me, if you try and be good at everything, you will be good at nothing. Even though HP Enterprise will still be broad from a technology perspective, it will definitely have fewer things to worry about than the HP of today.

Product Disposition

When I was at HP Discover in Las Vegas last month, I was able to talk with the individual heading up the product disposition between Aruba and HP. I was told that August 18th is the official date within HP that a decision will be made around which products are staying and which products are going. It was still very early on in the evaluation process, so nothing definitive had been decided, and even if it had, that would not have been shared with me. I had some thoughts during the conference, and mostly, I think the same today as I did in early June. Here is what *I* think will happen:

HP Wireless AP’s and Controllers – These are gone. With the Aruba acquisition, there is no need to keep the HP wireless line. For wireless cloud based management, HP was already rebranding Aruba AP’s, so that should tell you something. I don’t see how the HP and Aruba product lines for AP’s and controllers could co-exist. Development was happening much faster on the Aruba side, so I don’t see why the HP product set would stay around.

Aruba Switches – I am still on the fence about these. I think they will stick around for a little bit longer, but only long enough for HP to incorporate some of their functionality into the ProCurve line that HP already sells. I don’t see why HP would keep them once AirWave and ClearPass are able to manage HP ProCurve switches in the same manner they manage Aruba switches today.

Aruba ClearPass – Although there is some overlap with HP’s IMC in terms of functionality, ClearPass is wholly focused on providing/restricting access. IMC is a much more modular system and has the ability to do a bunch of other things. I am not a user of IMC. I have never installed the product into a production environment, so my understanding of it is purely academic. However, I have used ClearPass and know that it is a very powerful product, especially when coupled with Aruba’s wireless solutions. I don’t see HP getting rid of it anytime soon.

Aruba AirWave – I am still uncertain about this product. As others pointed out to me, it was mentioned several times in keynotes during HP Discover 2015, and they would not have done that if they were going to kill it off in favor of HP’s IMC. I think there is pretty big overlap between it and HP’s IMC product, but I am sure there are things that Airwave does today that would take time to implement in IMC. It may end up being a management play for smaller customers, or it may simply co-exist with IMC.

Aruba Meridian – I don’t see this product going away. I don’t believe HP has anything similar to this in production.

Closing Thoughts

There are still many more months to go before we get to see what the results of the Aruba-HP deal will bring. August 18th will be here soon, and that will help Aruba partners and customers figure out what their future purchases should consist of. The bigger question will be answered in 2016, after HP has split into two separate companies.

Everything I have written is pure speculation. I don’t know all the things that HP and Aruba know. I don’t run companies for a living. I only see things from the field engineering level. I could be right, and I could be wrong. Unfortunately, I think we have another 6 months or so before we get a good feel for where this ship is headed. I am hoping it all works out for the best. Those of you that use or support Aruba products are probably watching this merger just as closely as I am. I hope it works out for the best for all parties. If it doesn’t, the industry will go on, but it will be worse off if a solid competitor in the wireless space fades off into obscurity.

Posted in aruba, hp, wireless | 1 Comment

Aruba and HP – The Ecosystem Is King

Aruba-HP-LogoNote: This is part of a multi-post series I am writing that compares Aruba to HP and how the integration of Aruba Networks into HP might play out. You can read my intro post here.

I am a HUGE fan of vendor ecosystems. A HUGE fan. I have written about them before. The last post I wrote on them can be found here. I really do think they are the key to driving a vendor’s success. One could argue that the large vendors have it easy. They have the resources to build those ecosystems. They can spend money that the smaller vendors cannot and can essentially buy loyalty from customers and partners. Of course, at some point, those large vendors were small ones. They did something different to propel them to the large vendor status. Their competition fell by the wayside and either drifted off into obsolescence, or just outright died.

Sorry. There is no TL/DR for this post. Buckle up. It’s a long one.

So let’s get a lay of the land when it comes to ecosystems between HP and Aruba. Let me clear about one thing. This is specific to wireless. This has nothing to do with the many things HP is doing around SDN and other areas of networking.

Let’s focus on the following topics:

Certification Programs
Design Guides
External Technical Websites
Social Media

The end goal of all of these things is to produce large numbers of networking professionals who are knowledgable and comfortable with the HP wireless portfolio. It carries over into other areas of networking as well. Get people fired up about one section of your product portfolio and it should translate into an uptick in sales for the other products. If they trust you in one area, there is a good chance they will trust you in another area.

HP’s Wireless Ecosystem


The one area that HP has an advantage over Aruba is that of books. Although their books tend to be certification focused, they have at least begun efforts in the past few years to get technical content out there. I suspect that over time they will be able to produce more books that are technically focused outside of the certification process.

Certification Programs

The certification program with regards to HP’s wireless solutions has been up and running for some time now. If you look at the list of available certifications here, you won’t find much in the way of wireless. They do offer the Accredited Systems Engineer(ASE) certification for wireless. They also offer the Master ASE certification for wireless. Neither of these are certifications that I am very familiar with. I have no idea what the numbers are of certified professionals regarding these programs. I could not find any published numbers around either of these programs. If someone can provide those numbers, I would love to see them. Suffice to say, there is not any sort of lab-based exam regarding HP wireless that I am aware of.


HP Discover has been going on for several years now, and occurs in multiple parts of the globe. When I attended the Las Vegas conference in 2011, I tried to attend as many networking sessions as I could. Several of them were wireless focused. However, these sessions tended to be very high level and didn’t have a whole lot of technical content. I do recall one session in 2011 that covered their wireless security solutions that had some technical content.

As for the 2015 conference in Las Vegas that I attended last week, I recall just one session that seemed to be HP wireless specific. I skipped it after learning it would not be Aruba-focused, so I am not entirely sure how much technical depth was in that session. The other sessions I attended that were wireless focused were Aruba-centric. Those sessions were relatively high level and seemed to be more of an introduction to the Aruba wireless line. I attribute that to the very short time Aruba had to prepare for the conference.

I should also point out that except for the keynotes, I didn’t see any video recording of the sessions in either the 2011 show or the 2015 show. When I went to look for past sessions, I found nothing of any significant value. As for videos, the lack of recordings of breakout sessions meant that there was nothing to watch, other than an occasional interview with HP Networking executives. A search for HP Wireless videos on YouTube, simply gave me a bunch of videos with people fixing printer problems.

As for their show floor at HP Discover, they always had their wireless gear on display, except for the 2015 show. If you wanted any sort of technical depth on HP wireless, you had to talk to the people on the show floor.

Having attended the Las Vegas Interop show a few times, I have seen HP with a large booth each year I visited. The wireless group from HP tended to be at all of those shows as well. They had all of their products on display, and if you wanted to chat with someone from the wireless unit, they were available, much like at the HP Discover show I attended in 2011.

Design Guides

I found one. It is from 2010 and can be seen here. I could not find anymore. That isn’t to say that they don’t exist. I even checked the partner site, since I work for an HP partner. If you deal with servers and storage, there is a decent amount of content on the partner site. However, for networking, I found nothing of substance.

External Technical Websites

This would be the place where I tell you about non-HP websites/blogs that write about HP wireless topics. I couldn’t find any. Of course, I don’t speak and read every language across the globe, so if a site didn’t show up in an English Google search, I missed it.


As for the forums, there are some posts on HP’s support site, but they tend to be relatively sparse. It doesn’t appear to be a very active segment of the HP support forums site.


HP has a decent marketing machine. It appears to be directed at management though. I assume they have a pretty decent sized budget, but I am guessing a lot of that effort gets focused on the personal systems, or the server and storage side of the house. I don’t see much in the way of HP wireless, if any. It isn’t for lack of looking on my part. I get tons of e-mails from various vendors. I even allow LinkedIn to send me e-mails when people post to groups. I see an occasional e-mail about HP Networking, but never really about the wireless line.


I don’t know how big the partner network is for HP in the realm of networking. I suspect it is the same deal as a lot of other vendor partners. Partners tend to sell big for one or two brands in the networking space and maintain a partner relationship for other vendors they don’t sell as much for. They are essentially partners in name only. Think of it as an insurance policy. If you don’t want my primary vendor(usually Cisco), I can offer you this other vendor(e.g. Juniper, Brocade, HP, etc).

Within the US, there are some big national resellers who will sell HP wireless gear, and probably some more regionally focused partners who do the same. I am familiar with all of the big players in my home market of Nashville, and I am unaware of any of them who move any HP wireless gear in substantial numbers. It may also be regionally focused. I know of one particular reseller with a presence in Nashville who does very little HP business in Tennessee, but sells a LOT of it in Florida. I fully admit I may have a limited view into the HP partner ecosystem, so I may be way off in my assessment of HP wireless sales.

Social Media

HP has a pretty large social media presence, just not in the HP wireless realm. Let me give you a quick test. Go to Twitter’s website. Search for “HP wireless”. Look at the results. Now, search for “Cisco wireless”. Look at the results. See the difference?

I realize there is more to social media than Twitter. I checked Facebook. Nothing to note. I am sure you can find something on LinkedIn, but I am guessing it is more along the lines of finding HP employees to connect with.

Aruba’s Wireless Ecosystem


Sorry Aruba. You have no books to speak of. Considering you do have design guides and a fair amount of training courses, it isn’t all bad I suppose.

Certification Programs

Although not as popular as Cisco wireless certifications, Aruba does have a very healthy certification program. From the basic high-level certification like the Aruba Certified Solutions Professional(ACSP) to the Aruba Certified Mobility Expert(ACMX) and Aruba Certified Design Expert(ACDX) certifications, there is something for everyone. People with the ACMX or ACDX certifications are required to pass a lab exam and are given a number unique to them when they pass. This is not something that is trivial to setup. It takes a lot more work to setup a proctored lab exam than it does to put together 100 or so questions for a written exam.

I am sitting in an Aruba Mobility Bootcamp course this week. It is the third Aruba course I have taken in the past year or so. The courses have materials that are all branded the same, which indicates a unity in course planning and management. It is a well oiled machine. Instructor knowledge varies, but is pretty good in my limited experience. When I took the ClearPass Advanced Labs course last year, it was taught by an ACMX. You can see the full certification layout here.


Aruba has its Atmosphere conference every year in multiple cities around the globe. The Las Vegas show is probably the biggest one. The conference is fairly heavy on the technical side. There are multiple tracks, but the Airheads track is for the technical end user.

A large number of these sessions are video recorded, and you can watch the videos on YouTube. Click here for a playlist of the 2015 Las Vegas show session videos. Additionally, as an Aruba Partner, I have access to the presentations that were restricted to Aruba partners. A lot of them were video recorded. The ones that were not recorded have the slide deck available for download.

Although I have never been to an Aruba conference, I expect all of their technology was on display at each event. I have no doubt there were plenty of Aruba experts on hand to talk about any facet of the technology. If you watch some of the breakout session videos, you will see a good amount of technical depth around their solutions.

I fully expect to see the full line of Aruba products on display at upcoming HP Discover conferences. What I will be curious about is if they have the same in depth technical breakout sessions that Atmosphere is known for.

Design Guides

I like what Aruba is doing in the way of design guides. Although just HAVING them is a good thing, they go a step further and make them publicly available to anyone without having to register on their website(You use a fake e-mail address for those sites, right?). You can see the design guides here( There are about 25 of them available as of this post.

External Technical Websites

There are several Wi-Fi professionals out there that write technical articles about Aruba Networks. I’ll mention three of them, but I can assure you there are more. I specifically mention these three because they have real-world implementation experience with Aruba. Many of us who blog about all sorts of stuff may only have lab experience or an academic understanding when it comes to certain vendors.

Chris Lyttle maintains the Wi-Fi Kiwi site, where he writes about all things wireless. He has done a fair amount of Aruba implementations, and he writes frequently about them.

Eddie Forero maintains the Wi-Fi Republic site, where he also writes about all things wireless. He has a fair amount of Aruba work under his belt as well.

Charlie Clemmer works for Aruba….errrr HP, but maintains his own personal site where he writes about……you guessed it…..Aruba Networks.


The Airheads community is a vibrant one. You can take a peek by clicking here. Lots of engineers participate in asking and answering questions. In addition to the forum posts that are primarily Q&A based, there are frequent blog posts by Aruba employees as well as by outside wireless folks. You can see the latest blog posts here. I read a lot of these posts and I can tell you that they range from high-level to very deep from a technical perspective.

In addition to just having the Airheads community, Aruba Networks saw fit to appoint Sean Rynearson as chief Airhead, to ride herd over that unruly mob of Wi-Fi geeks. When he isn’t posting his scheduled tweet about joining Airheads(I kid. I kid.), Sean posts some pretty interesting links to technical content. It is nice to be able to reach out to a known human whenever issues or general questions arise!


Aruba does a pretty good job of marketing. They understand who they are marketing to and have a good mix of technical and high-level information. Although I am not a fan of webinars in general, Aruba has a fair amount of them available for partners and customers. As far as other marketing content, I seem to get a pretty steady stream of it via e-mail and via their YouTube page. I don’t necessarily like all of the videos, but there is a decent mix of things that would apply to managers and those that apply to more technical people.

One thing I do like in the way of marketing is their website. It is pretty straightforward and easy to navigate. On the parter side of the website, I have access to a fair amount of information. I would especially like to note the Arubapedia site that partners have access to. It is a tremendous amount of information related to all things Aruba from a technical perspective.


There are plenty of Aruba partners out there. When it comes to supporting partners, Aruba gets it. I have access to almost anything I need from a hardware and software perspective. The Aruba account teams I work with in Tennessee are always willing to help out in order to make us more effective as a partner. Whether it is training classes, or just help when we run into issues with implementations, they have always been willing to assist. I know that as the organization grows and more partners are onboarded, it will be more difficult for Aruba to give all of them the same service that my company receives today. However, I have access to a local Aruba partner rep, so if we are overloading the account teams, that person is able to step in and help out in any way they can.

Social Media

When compared with the presence of HP Wireless in social media, Aruba has them vastly outnumbered. Consider that Aruba has representation on Twitter from the CTO down to the engineers. Marketing is on it as well. If you need to reach out to someone within Aruba, there is a good chance that you can find them via social media. Go to Twitter and search for Aruba Networks. You’ll find an active corporate Twitter account along with a large number of Aruba employees. You’ll also find them on LinkedIn.

Closing Thoughts

When it comes to ecosystem, Aruba has HP Wireless beat hands down. When I think about what Aruba is to become, being part of HP, it looks promising. I say that knowing that Dominic Orr and Keerti Melkote will lead the HP Networking campus division. They fully understand the value of the Aruba ecosystem. I can only imagine that they will keep it intact. I have to take Dominic Orr at his word when he mentioned during the Atmosphere 2015 keynote in Las Vegas, that nothing will change.

HP certainly has the resources to build a great ecosystem. With the boost to their networking division that Aruba Networks gives them, I expect that ecosystem to grow much larger than it is today. Once HP splits into two companies, more focus can be directed towards winning the business of corporate customers, and adding more resources to their existing and future partners.

Posted in aruba, hp, vendors | 1 Comment