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How to Get Arista Networks ACE Certified: Tips and Resources To Pass

Article 2 How to Get Arista Networks ACE Certified Tips and Resources To Pass

What is Arista Networks?

Arista Networks is one of the market leaders in multiple technologies like data center networking, Campus network, automation, Network Detection and Response (NDR) and routing. It was launched in 2008 with HQ based in Santa Clara, California, USA.

From Arista’s website: “Arista Networks is an industry leader in data-driven, client-to-cloud networking for large data centre, campus, and routing environments. Arista’s award-winning platforms deliver availability, agility, automation, analytics and security through an advanced network operating stack.”  

Arista went public in June 2014 and is listed with NYSE (ANET). It currently has more than 8,000+ cloud customers worldwide.

What is Arista EoS?

EoS is the operating system that runs Arista switches and routers. It runs across all Arista physical and virtual network devices and on an unmodified Linux kernel under a Fedora-based userland. Direct access to the Linux shell is considered one of the main features of Arista EoS. EoS runs in “unlocked” mode, meaning administrators can get the root Linux shell on the switch and run standard Linux commands, tools and scripts directly from the switches.

Arista EOS is also available in two formats:

  • vEOS: virtual EoS
  • cEOS: container EOS
  • CloudEOS: for Amazon Web Service (AWS), Microsoft Azure and other public clouds

Is Arista vEOS/cEOS available for free?

The good news is that vEOS and cEOS are free from the Arista Networks website. You need to register and accept the license agreement to be able to download them for free from Arista’s website directly. Please follow the steps in this link to download the latest release for each one of them:

https://www.arista.com/en/support/software-download

The following snapshot shows the two directories for cEOS and vEOS, which are free. You may see more folders and options based on your business relationship with Arista.

Downloading cEOS/vEOS from the Arista website

Figure 1: Downloading cEOS/vEOS from the Arista website

If you click on any of these folders, you will see a list of available versions for download. You can also access TOI about each performance in a different tab on the same page. The 1st subfolder is for Aboot, the boot loader for Arista switches.

Aboot and different vEOS versions

What is Arista Cloud Vision Portal CVP?

Arista Cloud Vision Portal CVP is the server that provides provisioning, automation, telemetry and other management functions to Arista network devices.  It is an essential component in any medium to large Arista deployment. It provides features like Zero Touch Provisioning (ZTP), Change Control, Change Management, Automation and Telemetry. It also runs over Linux and supports automation using Python scripts, APIs and other tools built into the solution. It is also available as a cloud offering for Arista (SAAS).

Arista CVP is not available for free download; you may need to contact your Arista representative or local team to download the Arista CVP image. 

What is Arista Cloud Engineering (ACE)?

Arista’s certification program is called Arista Cloud Engineering (ACE) Certification. It consists of 7 levels, numbered L1 to L7, with the lowest level being ACE L1 and the most advanced level being ACE L7. Arista’s Certification Program is managed by its Elite Plus Training Partner, SDN-Pros, and details about the program are available on DSN-Pros’ website: https://www.sdn-pros.com. As per DSN-Pros’ website, “The Arista Cloud Engineering (ACE) Certification Program takes a fresh approach to network engineer training by making it relevant to the industry.”

The 7 levels of ACE are as follows:

  • ACE L1 Arista Cloud Engineer Level 1 – Cloud Novice (ACE: L1)      
  • ACE L2  Arista Cloud Engineer Level 2 – Cloud Associate (ACE: L2)
  • ACE L3  Arista Cloud Engineer Level 3 – Cloud Journeyman (ACE: L3)
  • ACE L4  Arista Cloud Engineer Level 4 – Cloud Professional (ACE: L4)
  • ACE L5  Arista Cloud Engineer Level 5 – Cloud Automation (ACE: L5)
  • ACE: L6 Arista Cloud Engineer Level 6 – Cloud Architect (ACE: L6)
  • ACE: L7 Arista Cloud Engineer Level 7 – Cloud Expert (ACE: L6)

All Arista exams are hands-on lab exams. They represent real-life scenarios with no multiple choices. They are open-book exams, which means you can access the internet, Arista documentation and course material. You still need to complete the scenario in the lab exam without getting support from anyone else.

Before applying for any ACE exam (or CORE, as I will explain later), one thing to remember is that Arista requires Verification from an official Arista training partner to register and take an exam.

If you are new to Arista or networking in general, it is advisable to start with L1 and then follow the numbers from L1 to L7.

L1 covers the basics of switching, routing, Arista EOS, Arista CVP, Campus Switching and Data Center Architecture.

L2 builds on the knowledge of L1 by providing more depth into campus and data center networking. It discusses CVP and security, data center architecture, campus networking, and wired and WLAN.

If you are an expert in Arista or networking, you may consider starting with Arista L3. Arista is well known for its Data Center networking, mainly EVPN. ACE L3 covers central data center networking and automation concepts like MB-PGP, EVPN, CVP, MLAG and routing.

L4 is mainly about large enterprise and service Provider (SP) networking. It discusses EVPN from an SP perspective in addition to MPLS and similar SP architectures and protocols.

L5 is about automation. It teaches you the basics of Python and APIs, focusing on automation libraries to integrate with Arista equipment. This course also includes an extensive section about Ansible, the automation tool widely used by large enterprises and service providers in Data Centers, WAN and large campuses.

There is no training for L6 and L7. These certificates are exceptional, and the evaluation follows a customized procedure. L6 is for cloud architects, and L7 is for cloud experts.

What is Arista Cloud Operational Readiness Evaluations (CORE)?

Arista considers the exam an operational readiness evaluation, not a test of your knowledge of the subject. Their methodology evaluates your ability to build, configure, manage and troubleshoot real-life scenarios and not your ability to answer multiple-choice questions. That is why all Arista exams are hands-on lab exams on actual equipment running EOS/vEOS/cEOS and not simulation or emulation software.

Like any real-life customer deployment, you can access the internet and all documentation during this proctored lab exam. That is why all Arista exams (or readiness evaluations) are open books, but you cannot get assistance from others.

The grading of the exam is pass/fail, with no detailed scoring provided. The results are designed to evaluate your ability to deploy Arista products, so some details do not matter in some instances. You can use your preferred method and protocol to accomplish the required tasks if the exam scenario doesn’t specify a protocol, method or command.

How to prepare for Arista Networks CORE-evaluations/ACE Certification?

Arista requires you to attend a course with an Arista training partner to qualify for CORE exams. This can be instructor-led or on-demand videos, and both typically come with three weeks of lab access. In many cases, this might be enough practice, but building your home lab gives you extra time and tools to practice for the exam. In your home lab, you can easily packet capture traffic on the wire or apply your scripts, APIs and tools available.  

Upon completing any of the authorized courses and obtaining access to the corresponding lab, creating your lab will become a straightforward task. All you need to do is spin up the required vEOS/cEOS images (assuming you have enough resources in your virtual environment). You will have lifetime access to the lab guide to use the same IP addresses and port numbers as the training lab.

It is advisable to practice on the training lab that comes with the official courses and build your home lab in a way that mirrors the same topology, interfaces, and IP addresses as those in the official lab. The exam uses the same setup as the training lab. You must familiarize yourself with this setup to prepare for the exam.

The exam is an open book, and you can access any templates or sample configurations you built during the course or in your home lab. Make sure to add clear descriptions to your templates and sample configuration so you can modify IP addresses easily during the exam to reflect the ranges provided in the exam scenario. The same applies to AS numbers, VLAN names and numbers, VNI, VRF names and any other variables in the template. You have limited time in the exam, so practice modifying the template to reflect the required scenario beforehand. Any mistake in simple parameters like IP address, VLAN name or AS number may take a long time to troubleshoot, and exam time is valuable. You should spend time during the exam understanding the requirements and building the correct configuration that works 1st try when you apply it to the exam equipment rather than wasting time troubleshooting while in panic mode.

Passing the exam is not difficult if you are well-prepared. Experience is not enough to pass the exam, so preparation in the lab is required. The more you prepare beforehand and the more templates and sample configurations you have ready for different scenarios, the easier it will be for you to pass the exam without troubleshooting on the 1st try. 

How to build my own Arista Networks lab?

The best option is to use vEOS to run Arisa switches in virtual environments like VMware. This way, you run the full image directly on the hypervisor, the same idea that can be used in production. You can run as many images as supported by the resources in your virtual environment and integrate the setup into your home lab directly. vEOS can run Linux commands and tools, so there is no need for end-user devices as one of the switches can function as an end device or server. This setup (but with cEOS) is used in Arista training, exams and lab environments, so using the same vEOS/cEOS images in your lab prepares you better for Arista certification.

You can still run Arista vEOS in GNS3 or EVE-NG environments. The following two links provide you with more details and instructions:

How devices to include in my Arista Networks lab?

To build any scenario for ACE L1 – L4, you need 11 vEOS devices. The devices are divided into:

  • 3 x Spines: although two are enough to test most protocols, 3 provides better availability and flexibility in testing different protocols and failure scenarios.
  • 4 leaf switches: 2 in each rack. The two leaf switches can be configured for MC-LAG or EVPN multi-homing.
  • 2 x hosts: vEOS runs on Linux, and you can access the Linux shell when needed. You can use the EOS switch as a host, and this way, there is no need for a dedicated Windows or Linux machine to function as a host device.
  • 2 Border Leaf switches: these special leaf switches are needed to represent WAN connectivity to other datacenter or internet access.

The diagram below shows a typical lab setup. This is the same setup as most ACE exams.

Typical Lab Setup. Source

Figure 3Typical Lab Setup. Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-gOxRNib0js

You can configure the links as L2 or L3, MLAG or multi-home to reflect different scenarios.

Getting CVP may require communicating with Arista’s local team, as it is not available for free without special access to the Arista portal.

For ACE L5, more devices are needed as it is mainly about automation for this certificate, and automation works better when you have many devices. You may need to build a network for two data centres with a DCI switch between them and ISPs for WAN connectivity. Lab setup for the course includes about 30 switches to test different automation scenarios. You can still apply the same concept in the same lab as L1-L4, but you won’t be able to test automation for DCI connectivity.

 

How devices to register for Arista Networks CORE exams?

Registering for Arista exams (called CORE) is from the SDN-Pros website. DSN-Pros is the elite training partner for Arista, and all exam registration takes place from their website. Arista requires that you attend a course with an Arista training partner to qualify for CORE exams, and you need to create an account on the SDN-Pros website to register for any training or exam.

Once you are ready to schedule your exam, please go to the SDN-Pros website, log in with your accounts, and click “WHAR IS CORE?” (https://www.sdn-pros.com/exams/ ). From there, complete the form and scroll down to the “Register for Your CORE Certification Now” section and complete the form. You must select the ACE level to see available times and dates for this specific level.

Registering for Arista CORE exams

Figure 4 Registering for Arista CORE exams.

Exam Day

Before the exam, ensure all your study material, templates, sample configuration, Arista documentation, and supporting resources are handy and ready for use. This saves you much time during the exam, as you can modify sample configurations rather than build them from scratch.

On Exam day, ensure your desk area and all online and physical resources are ready to complete the tasks quickly. Exam environments and scenarios are similar to labs for official courses. The video below provides insight into the exam environment and equipment.

You will receive the link and credentials to access the exam environment by email. Please start the lab immediately once you access it, as it needs time to fully operational. Verify that it is beginning and re-initiate the starting process if required.

Listen to the instructions carefully, and make sure you know how to contact the proctor if needed. If you face any issues in the lab environment, talk to your proctor immediately; they support you when needed.

Conclusion

Compared to most other networking vendors in the market, Arista focuses on the quality of products and engineers, reflected in how they build their courses, labs, and exams/evaluations. They want to ensure you can create virtual customer networks based on standards and best recommendations, giving Arista certification respect and value in the market. Regardless of your previous data centres and network experience and how many other certificates you earned, Arista certification certainly add much to your knowledge, expertise and value in the market.

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