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Author Topic: Cisco LAN Switching  (Read 1315 times)
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« on: March 17, 2004, 08:03:47 PM »

I am reviewing Cisco LAN Switching (ISBN 1578700949), part of the CCIE Professional Development Series from Cisco Press.  The book weighs in at around 900 pages and is divided into 6 sections covering topics related to understanding and implementing advanced Cisco switched networks.  The authors are Kennedy Clark and Kevin Hamilton, who have worked as Cisco trainers in the past and now work as consultants.  I like it when authors have taught courses in addition to having dealt with the hands-on aspects of their subjects.  It lends balance to their writing, allowing them the technical acumen to relate to engineers while being able to put the concepts into understandable terms.  Clark and Hamilton are good writers and were able to make the book as enjoyable to read as a 900-page technical book can be.  The authors haven‘«÷t written any other Cisco books, but I‘«÷d like to see them do more in the future.  

I‘«÷m ready to get serious about my CCIE studies, and the first stop on that journey is Cisco LAN Switching.  This book is on every CCIE reading list I‘«÷ve seen and is generally regarded as a ‘«£must have‘«ō.  I was prepared for some pretty heavy reading and was pleasantly surprised and pleased with this book.  This isn‘«÷t a book that‘«÷s just for CCIE candidates, but rather it should be part of every Cisco professional‘«÷s library.

I‘«÷ll take you through each of the 6 sections.

Part I ‘«Ű Foundational Issues
The first 5 chapters of the book take the reader from the very basics of switched networking, providing a fair amount of the history and theory necessary to understand the rest of the book.  Even CCNA candidates should read this section, as it explains the basic elements of switching much better than any other book.  The thing that surprised me was the authors‘«÷ sense of humor, which is surprisingly refreshing in a book of this size.

Part II ‘«Ű Spanning Tree
Ah, spanning tree.  There‘«÷s nothing more exciting than reading about spanning tree.  This book gets it all in within 2 chapters, again providing expert explanations laced with a sense of humor.  The reader is taken from the very basics through very advanced spanning tree configurations.  I would have like to have seen coverage of rapid spanning tree, but hopefully it‘«÷s in the works for a future edition.

Part III ‘«Ű Trunking
These 3 chapters, covering Ethernet trunking, LANE, and ATM, are sure to leave you a little numb.  Since I‘«÷ve never used ATM or LANE and have no frame of reference, the material was skim-able at best.  Since LANE is no longer represented on the CCIE exam, you can get away with skimming some chapters for vocabulary words.

Part IV ‘«Ű Advanced Features
This section covers Layer 3 switching, VTP and multicast services.  A lot of this stuff is rehashed from BCMSN, but it‘«÷s well explained here.  There is a lot of good information on MLS and VTP, but I found that some of the gory multicast details were better explained in the BCMSN book.  Chances are good, however, that most CCIE candidate readers are CCNP‘«÷s and have read that book as well.  By this point in the book, the sense of humor has pretty well evaporated.

Part V ‘«Ű Real-World Campus Design and Implementation
This section looks at a variety of network designs and the pro‘«÷s and con‘«÷s of each.  These chapters bring together a lot of the ideas expressed throughout the book and put them into real-world situations.  A lot of this is boring, but there are some tidbits and tips you can pick up along the way.

Part VI ‘«Ű Catalyst 6000 Technology
I was greatly anticipating the coverage of Catalyst 6500‘«÷s, since there is so little published work available for this platform, which I use extensively.  They only gave me 34 pages (this was obviously an add-on to the original edition of the book), but I‘«÷ll take what I can get.  There was a lot of good information in this section, which I‘«÷d like to see expanded in a later edition.  

This book is widely regarded as part of the ‘«£Holy Trinity‘«ō of CCIE preparation books, standing alongside Routing TCP/IP Vols I & II by Jeff Doyle as the essential books to read when preparing for the CCIE written exam.  This is for good reason.  It provides an explanation of a majority of the pertinent switching technologies and also serves as an ample design and implementation guide.  My only real critique is that some switching technologies from the CCIE blueprint are conspicuously missing.  Hopefully, this will be corrected in an updated edition.  Still, I recommend this book, not only for CCIE candidates, but also as an essential book for anyone serious about a career in networking.  On my 5 ping rating scale, I give it a 5.

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