The Cisco Certified Network Associate Routing and Switching certification exam (200-125 CCNA) covers many areas, including network fundamentals, LAN switching, IPv4 and IPv6 routing, WAN technologies, infrastructure services, security and infrastructure management. Infrastructure management makes up 10 percent of the exam topics published by Cisco.

In this article, we discuss what you need to study for the infrastructure management part of the CCNA R&S. The CCNA R&S has adjusted its course of study over the years, and it now includes topics that are more practical than ever. Beyond CCNA, the infrastructure management concepts and tools you learn here will be directly useful for administering production networks.

Overview

The infrastructure in “infrastructure management” refers to network infrastructure, which is a combination of routers, switches and the LAN/WAN links that bind those devices together. The management in infrastructure management refers to the use of concepts, protocols and tools for day-to-day maintenance and troubleshooting of networks.

CCNA R&S puts various technologies together under the banner of infrastructure management. These technologies do share a common theme, but are otherwise different. You can generally study each of these technologies independently without following a specific order. For example, you can focus on ping and traceroute commands at one time without concerning yourself with monitoring protocols like SNMP and Syslog.

Please note that the term “network management” is commonly used in the industry to refer to the same grouping of tools called “infrastructure management” in CCNA R&S.

Infrastructure Management

For ease of comprehensibility, we will list our infrastructure management items and then discuss each category in depth. The basic tool list is:

  1. Monitoring Protocols
  2. IP SLA
  3. Device Management
  4. Device Maintenance
  5. Troubleshooting Tools
  6. Network Programmability

Monitoring Protocols

CCNA R&S covers two monitoring protocols:

  1. SNMP
  2. Syslog

SNMP

SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol) is a core topic in infrastructure management. You will need to know SNMP concepts well, and be able to configure both SNMP v2 and SNMP v3. The two versions have significant differences, especially in their security features, and you will need to understand those differences.

Syslog

Syslog is a standard for message logging. The terms “Syslog” and “logging” essentially refer to the same thing. There’s more information on this topic in the device management section of this article.

IP SLA

IP SLA (IP Service Level Agreement) is a tool available on Cisco routers that lets you set up automated operations for sending synthetic probe traffic into the network. By sending packets and receiving responses, the router can measure and report network availability and performance. CCNA R&S covers ICMP echo-based IP SLA operations.

Device Management

CCNA R&S device management includes several topics, listed below:

  1. Configuration Files
  2. CCDP and LLDP
  3. Licensing
  4. Logging
  5. Loopback

Configuration Files

Cisco routers and switches use two different configuration files: running-config and startup-config. You will need to be certain what each file does. You must be able to copy configuration files to and from the router and find your way around the device file system where those configuration files are stored. You should also know IOS features for archiving and restoring device configuration.

CDP and LLDP

CDP (Cisco Discovery Protocol) and LLDP (Link Layer Discovery Protocol) are similar protocols that discover basic information about neighboring routers and switches without needing to know the usernames and passwords for those devices. CDP is available only on Cisco devices, while LLDP is supported by Cisco and other vendors. For CCNA R&S, you should be able to configure and verify CDP and LLDP. You should also be able to interpret the information learned by those protocols about neighboring devices.

Licensing

Cisco has used different methods for managing router and switch licenses over time. CCNA R&S focuses on the most common method called PAK (product authorization key) licensing. You should be able to verify current licenses, install/uninstall a new license, activate a license code, and backup licenses from a device.

Logging

Cisco devices generate log messages to notify the administrator of any issue. You need to understand how a Cisco device handles those messages and how you can configure devices to send the messages to different locations.

Log messages carry timestamps that must be accurate for the log messages to be truly useful. You can use the clock set command in combination with NTP to keep correct time. The clock timezone command lets you set the correct time zone.

Loopback

Loopback interfaces are virtual interfaces on Cisco IOS devices. To create loopback interfaces, use the interface loopback number command in global configuration mode. You will need to understand the unique features and uses of loopback interfaces.

Device Maintenance

Cisco sells many different products that may run different operating systems. The Cisco IOS Software is the most prevalent Cisco operating system, found on routers and Catalyst LAN switches. CCNA R&S covers a few IOS features that work nearly identically on routers and switches.

IOS Image Management

The Cisco IOS software comes as monolithic files stored in the device file system. For CCNA R&S, you should be able to upgrade and recover IOS image files using several alternate methods.

Password Recovery

CCNA R&S has a brief discussion about how to recover a lost router or switch password. It’s an important life skill for network professionals.

File System Management

Routers and switches can be thought of as specialized computers. They have a file system of their own where they keep configuration and IOS image files, among other things. For CCNA R&S, you need a basic familiarity with the device file system.

Troubleshooting Tools

Network troubleshooting is a complex and sometimes-underestimated skill. CCNA R&S covers a few basic troubleshooting tools available in the Cisco IOS Software:

  1. Ping and Traceroute
  2. Terminal Monitor
  3. Log Events
  4. Local SPAN

Ping and Traceroute

Ping and traceroute are useful troubleshooting tools. Both tools test the data plane: that is, the ability of the network to send packets between two points. The ping and traceroute commands are available on both Cisco routers and switches. Extended versions of both commands are available that make very capable tools for network troubleshooting. You should take your time understanding the idiosyncrasies of those extended options.

Terminal Monitor

By default, Cisco routers and switches do not send log messages to telnet and SSH users. The user must enter the terminal monitor command in privileged EXEC mode during the session to tell the device that it would like to receive log messages.

Log Events

Cisco routers and switches generate extensive log messages that look something like:

Jun 12 2018 14:26:15: %LINK-3-UPDOWN: Interface GigabitEthernet0/0, changed state to down

These log messages provide information about past events. You should be able to interpret log messages, as it is an important troubleshooting skill. You will also need to know the configuration commands for sending log messages to different destinations.

Local SPAN

SPAN (Switch Port Analyzer) is a tool available on Cisco switches that allows you to make the switch send a duplicate copy of all frames to a specific switch port. Local SPAN refers to the scenario where the SPAN destination port resides on the same switch as source port(s) or VLAN(s). For CCNA R&S, you should know SPAN concepts and local SPAN configuration on a Cisco switch.

Network Programmability

For decades, people have used the CLI or web interface to configure and maintain network devices manually. You spend time understanding protocols that devices use, learn the commands needed to configure those protocols, and manually add configuration commands, device by device. That’s how we’ve managed networks so far.

Network programmability, also known as SDN (Software-Defined Networking), represents a new way to build networks. The term “network programmability” indicates that there is great focus on programming or automating networking through software.

Network programmability is very broad topic. CCNA R&S introduces the bare fundamentals only; you will also need to understand concepts of data and control planes along with northbound and southbound APIs (Application Programming Interface). You will need to be familiar with the controller-based network architecture. Three separate examples of network programmability products are also covered, each using a different method to implement network features:

  1. Open SDN Controller and OpenFlow
  2. Cisco ACI (Application Centric Infrastructure) and OpFlex
  3. Cisco APIC Enterprise Module (APIC-EM)

Conclusion

This brings our review of infrastructure management for CCNA R&S to an end. So far, the discussion has remained in the boundaries set by the official CCNA R&S syllabus. We hope that you now understand what’s required to do well on the infrastructure management component of your CCNA R&S exam, and feel that much more ready for the exam itself. Good luck!

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Section Guide

Muhammad
Furqan

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Section Guide

Muhammad
Furqan

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