Well, finally had a chance to take a Cisco CCIE Service Provider class last week – and I am very glad I did.  I know I was not ready for the lab when I took it the other month, and it was my hope that this class would help me fill in the pieces.  I have to say, I feel much better about what I know and what I need to brush up on.
Many of the more complex topics are now much easier to understand and configure. The way that Marko explained and diagramed the concepts was wonderful.  He knows his stuff, and what really helped is that he has some real-world experience in deploying these technologies.  He is able to articulate them into a real-world deployment, so understanding the concept (Multicast for example) makes much more sense when you can relate it to something you understand.  It was a loooooong week of class with few breaks.
Each day was about 12 hours long – some lecture some labbing.  The lecture was not “power-point waterboarding” but more of interactive communication and understanding.  He would take a topic, explain it in lecture, and then actually configure it on the screen.  We broke configs, tweaked configs, and even reinterpreted things in order to see if we could get them work in alternate ways (when the possibility existed).  After he would show us the topic and configs, it was then up to us to do our labs for a few hours.
At first these labs looked easy, but you quikly realized that they where not.  You had to really read and understand what they where asking.  What is nice about that is that is how the real test is rumored to be.  At first it might look easy, but you need to understand it to realize what they are asking.  What was also nice about this was that it really helped you learn and understand a topic and topology.  You needed to understand the interactions between the technologies as to not break something you have already done.
The final two labs you get to do are 8-hours (yeah right) labs. These labs are close to what you can expect on the real lab  in the ways of complexity and such, so they are a good guage at your understanding of the topics.  I did not finish my first lab during class and, unfortunately, had to skip out on the second one (Friday).  I would have loved to spend the day there doing the lab but instead chose to get home to family.  Since I have the lab workbook from class, I will so do the second lab one this week and see what happens.
All in all I am very glad I was able to attend the class, I learned alot, but best of all – met some great people who also have the same goal to pass the SP lab.