Teneo !!!

Aaron’s blog on Networking, and Enterprise Technology

Review: Cisco Firewall Video Mentor

I have just finished reviewing the Cisco Firewall Video Mentor training from the well-known publisher, Cisco Press. I was quite pleased with it overall. David Hucaby (CCIE# 4594) does a great job walking you through each of the labs and content.

This video covers both the ASA firewall concepts, as well as the FWSM concepts on a Cisco 6500.

If you are still intrigued, I invite you to review Lab 7 for free at InformIT, where Mr. Hucaby actually shows you, in real-time, the fail-over process in action for the firewalls. You can review it here: http://www.informit.com/content/downloads/digital/firewall_007.mov

This training video shows how to start, configure, troubleshoot, and maintain beginning and advanced concepts to the Cisco ASA and Cisco FWSM devices.

My first impressions were excellent. I was pleasantly surprised how well they merged video, audio, and concepts into a 2D training session. I felt as though I was really in a classroom, just without the ability to ask questions, though, there really wasn’t much need, as he was very thorough. He uses diagrams and Powerpoint to teach concepts, and then moves to screen mode, to demonstrate actions in real-time (such as watching two firewalls failover to the other or building new routes)

Another fantastic advantage, is it’s multiplatform requirements. The last training CD’s I reviewed required Windows. Sure, it was done in Flash, but either required Windows to execute it, or the flash files were buried under so many folders, it was too cumbersome to use. The Video Mentor for Cisco Firewall works with Windows, Mac, and Linux. You just need a browser with Flash 7, a DVD drive, and an open mind!

The first Lab goes through the initial configuration. Don’t let this lab be daunting for the beginners. Mr. Hucaby does a fantastic job walking you through it. He even goes through “basic cisco command-line” concepts, so even the most basic beginner to Cisco concepts can learn. Outside of learning how to physically connect your machine to the console port, David talks you through everything else.

David walks you through all the different options with configuring interfaces, including security-level concepts, redundancy, and vlans. He also replicates a “down” condition, showing how the firewall processes a redundant connection in real-time.

The training goes over basic routing techniques, including understanding the standard Cisco routing table. The video also goes into detail and step-by-step instructions on how to setup SLA Monitoring in order to “watch” a route. If that route fails, a new failover route is created. Mr. Hucaby also shows how to receive routes via OSPF, and shows it in real-time. Debugging is also covered for the routing and tracking topics.

One of the most impressive pieces of this video, in my opinion, is the monitoring, in real-time, of a failover in process between two firewalls. Using debugging mode, you can actually watch what each firewall does during the process. David also discusses why and how the firewalls do it, during the process.

Do not let this video fool you. It’s not just for beginners. Mr. Hucaby does a great job transitioning from basic use, to advanced concepts, including using MPF (Modular Policy Framework), and firewall contexts. Another topic for the seasoned administrator, is the capturing of data traffic across the firewall, as well as testing your policies using the packet tracer.

Now, for the scoring. Keep in mind, that this meaningless scoring mechanism really offers no value whatsoever, since I’m just now coming up with the categories as I write. While it won’t give you a good comparison to other products like it, it should give you an idea of how I rate certain aspects.

Content: 9 out of 10. Really, the content of the video was excellent. Each topic flowed easily into the next, while still standing on its own, if you are skipping chapters. When the author “seems” to make a mistake, he explains why. You are, in effect, learning from someone else’s mistakes. Another form of learning.

Presentation: 9 out of 10. Each chapter has a 30-second introduction of the author as he explains what’s coming up. This gives you a real sense of “human” contact, rather than some narrating voice for 5 hours. Plus, having powerpoint animations DURING the video as the author types was very productive. It gives you eye-stimulation as well as content during the video. Great job.

Entertainment: 4 out of 10. I felt really bad giving this great video such a low score, but no training software is ever perfect. The author, while incredibly bright and knowledgeable, seemed nervous and fairly monotone during the introductions. I felt that the training could use a little light humor or off-the-cuff tangents at times. I feel entertainment is very important in training, and thought I should include this category.

Usability: 10 out of 10. This video was able to be used, out-of-the-box on my Windows XP, Windows Vista, Mac OS Tiger, and Linux Fedora Core 9, without doing anything. You double-click on the icon or program that comes up, and you are rockin. Can’t get any easier than that. You also have a main-menu system that you choose all the different chapters, and can view the current Lab’s PDF. Very easy to navigate. I couldn’t think of any way you can get any better.

Understanding: 8 out of 10. The content that David goes over is easy to understand for novices, yet, he does not seem like he’s talking down to the seasoned administrators. Unlike other training courses I’ve heard, he concentrates more on the topics, than on his level of knowledge. There were, however, times where I wished he would go into more detail when discussing common-practices.

Overall, the meaningless Teneo score is 80 out of 100, and that is only because of the low Entertainment score. This video is definitely on my high-list of recommendations. I was very pleased with the overall “production” and “content”. If you are a beginning firewall administrator, or a seasoned administrator that would like to “fill-in-the-gaps” as it were, this video is definitely for you!

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