Cisco Live Wednesday Lessons Learned

My first session today was BRKARC-3472, NX-OS Routing Architecture and Best Practices presented by Arkady Shapiro, Technical Marketing Engineer (TME) for NX-OS and Nexus 7000. I thought Arkady was very entertaining and engaging as he delved into the depths of L3 on the N7K. Some of my key takeaways (may or may not be important in your line of work):
  1. Routes can be leaked between VRFs by enabling “feature pbr” and setting up route-maps with “match ip” statements and linking them with “set vrf” commands. (ref: slide 50)
  2. Routes can be leaked with VRF-lite without an MPLS license by redistributing IGP into BGP and using “route-target export” and “route-target import” commands under the BGP routing configuration of each VRF. (ref: slide 52)
  3. Auto-cost reference bandwidth by default is 100Mbps in IOS but 40Gbps in NX-OS.
  4. BGP best-practice is to use “aggregate-address a.b.0.0/16” under BGP routing configuration. Do NOT use “network a.b.0.0/16” under BGP routing configuration. Do NOT use “ip route a.b.0.0/16 Null0” under VRF. The reason is that if “network” statement matches a static route to null0, MPLS traffic to that route may be dropped. (ref: slide 92)
For lunch I had the opportunity to spend time with some of Solarwinds Head Geeks (@headgeeks) for two lunch-n-learn styled presentations. The first session, called “Don’t Forget The Superglue,” was introduced by Carlos Carvajal (Market Strategy) and presented mainly by Patrick Hubbard (The Head Geek). The reference to “superglue” alluded to the tools that Solarwinds offers to help in day-to-day running of the network and IT in general. Tools mentioned included:
  1. Web Help Desk – automated ticketing, asset management, knowledge base, communication
  2. Network Configuration Manager (NCM) – automatic config backup, realtime change alerts, compliance reporting
  3. Firewall Security Manager (FSM) – Java-based, runs on workstation, automated security and compliance audits, firewall change impact modeling, rule/object cleanup and optimization, can download configs from firewalls directly or from NCM
  4. Network Topology Mapper (NTM) – successor to LanSurveyor – network discovery, mapping, reporting, can export maps to Orion and open them in Orion Atlas
The second session covered some recent updates to Orion Network Performance Monitor (NPM) v10.5. Again introduced by Carlos Carvajal, this was presented by Michal Hrncirik, Product Manager for several of Solarwinds’ applications. A couple key items that interested me:
  1. Interface discovery can be filtered for import – for instance, you can tell it to only select trunk ports and not access ports on switches, then it will show you a list of all ports and the devices they belong to so you can manually uncheck ones you don’t want to import.
  2. Route monitoring – NPM will poll routes from the routing table. Although Michal said EIGRP isn’t yet supported, I have actually seen EIGRP routes pulled from my IOS and NX-OS routers. The IOS routers showed them labeled as EIGRP (I think) and NX-OS showed them as “Cisco IGRP” in Orion. I’m pretty excited about the possible alerts we can set up with this type of monitoring.
Many thanks to Kellen Christensen (@ChrisTekIT) for taking the time to talk with me about his experience with Palo Alto firewalls. 

Cisco Live Tuesday Lessons Learned

My first session today was BRKRST-2336, EIGRP Deployment in Modern Networks. This was a new session presented by Don Slice and Donnie Savage (@diivious), who have been managing EIGRP since 1995. I’ve attended Don’s “Care and Feeding of EIGRP” in past years at Cisco Live, and it’s always a pleasure to attend his presentations. My key takeaways:
  1. EIGRP is no longer proprietary. Cisco has published an IETF Open-EIGRP Informational Draft. This means other companies can now implement EIGRP into their products if/when customers demand it.
  2. Neighbor authentication done with MD5 is no longer secure enough, so they’ve implemented SHA2-256 Hash-based Message Authentication Code (HMAC) to protect EIGRP messages exchanged between routers.
  3. The advent of 10Gbps links made it necessary to change the formula used to compute EIGRP metrics, now referred to as Wide Metric Support. They mentioned this was supported as of EIGRP release 8 and that the “show eigrp plugin” command would show version, but I tried on an NXOS and IOS router in my network and those commands didn’t seem valid.
  4. How many of us enterprise customers use EIGRP in the LAN and have to redistribute with BGP for MPLS circuits? The problems inherent in this redistribution (which I have personally experienced, sometimes painfully) led them to create a new feature called Over the ToP (OTP) which uses LISP to bridge two EIGRP-speaking “CE” routers across a provider’s MPLS cloud. One of the CE routers acts as a “route reflector” (term stolen from BGP) to consolidate route sharing amongst multiple CE routers connected to the MPLS cloud. OTP is shipping this month or next for IOS XE, then IOS in November.
The Opening Keynote this morning was hosted by Cisco Chief Marketing Officer Blair Christie (@blairchristie) and feature the perennial presenter John Chambers as well as Cisco CTO Padmasree Warrior (@padmasree) and Cisco’s “Chief Futurist” Dave Evans (@davethefuturist). The presentation focused on the evolution of the “Internet of Everything” or IoE. As sensors shrink and become wearable, we will continue to be surrounded more and more by connected devices that will, according to Dave, eventually become self-aware. The obvious comparison to Skynet ( was shared amongst the folks I was sitting next to. I for one WELCOME our new robot overlords. 😉
I also attended BRKVIR-2019 Hypervisor Networking: Best Practices for Interconnecting with Cisco Switches. This was an excellent overview of basic networking terms and what they mean from the perspective of VMware vSphere, Microsoft HyperV, and Citrix XenServer Hypervisors. This session helps translate the terminology used by the hypervisor vendors to the terminology that Cisco uses for switch connections.
I was able to spend a bit more time on the expo floor, a.k.a. the “World of Solutions” (WoS). Some awesome TAC engineers in the Technical Solutions Clinic were able to help me figure out something with a Nexus 7000 that had been puzzling to me for quite some time. I popped my laptop open, connected to my company’s network, and got on the N7K while the TAC folks watched over my shoulder. (By the way, I’m very impressed with the CiscoLive2013 conference wireless which, in past years, hasn’t worked at all on the show floor.) I can’t overemphasize how AWESOME it is to have these TAC folks here. Just being near them makes me feel smarter through osmosis.
As I have been researching IPAM vendors, I also visited BlueCat Networks and Infoblox and got to geek out with an engineer at each of their booths while they showed me their respective products.  Both seem solid, intuitive, and easy to use, and even though BlueCat has a plugin for VMware automation I’ve heard a lot more about how well integrated Infoblox is with VMware’s vCenter Orchestrator and vCloud Director. In addition, Infoblox seems to have a unique way to visualize the IP networks as well as subnets and IP ranges within them that are available, assigned via static or DHCP lease, etc. I would need to see significant savings or other benefits compared to Infoblox to be convinced that Bluecat is the way to go, at least for my company.
It almost goes without saying at this point that I met more fantastic folks today, both in sessions and through Twitter, that continue to make this an amazing and rewarding experience.