With everything going on in the industry, what is happening to the CCIE program?
I recently watched a webinar on coming updates to the CCIE program. I have also been talking to the CCIE and CCDE program managers which I am proud to call my friends. The certifications are a big part of Cisco’s business, people are afraid that certifications will lose value as Software Defined Networking (SDN) gains more traction in the industry. What is Cisco’s response to the ever changing landscape of networking?
We have already seen Cisco announce the CCNA cloud and CCNA industrial which shows that Cisco follows the market. Will we see a CCIE cloud or CCIE SDN? Doubtful… Why? Because SDN is not a track in itself, it will be part of all tracks… The CCIE DC will be refreshed to include topics like Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) in the blueprint. When? It’s not official yet which means you have at least 6 months. My guess is that we will see an announcement before this year ends which would mean that the update is around a year away.
CCIE DC is the natural fit for SDN. What about the other tracks? Expect other tracks to get updated as well. The CCIE RS will add the Application Policy Infrastructure Controller Enterprise Module (APIC-EM) for sure and maybe some other topics as well. We will definitely see more of Intelligent WAN (IWAN) in the next update. The CCIE RS was recently bumped to version 5 so I would expect it to take a bit longer than the DC to refresh but it should not be that far out either. I think we can expect more refreshes since the networking is moving at a much faster pace now.
The CCIE SP will include topics such as Segment Routing (SR), Network Function Virtualizaiton (NFV), service chaining, Netconf and YANG and so on. At least that is what I expect. The CCIE SP recently moved to version 4 so I don’t expect it to change just yet but I’m sure Cisco is working on the next refresh already.
A change we have all been waiting to see is that Cisco is going to implement dual monitors in the CCIE lab. This has been discussed for a long time. According to Cisco only 6% of candidates have requested the dual monitors though which shows how important it is to give Cisco feedback. I’m sure more than 6% were bothered by the single screen in the lab. The delay in implementing it has been due to make sure that all lab centers get the same conditions at the same time to not create any debate about the testing environment.
Cisco is also working a lot with exam integrity, they have made changes to the lab delivery system in the backend to prevent people from leaking the material. There is also a much bigger pool of questions and topologies, a lot thanks to the virtualized environment. The Diagnostic (DIAG) section has also been successful in getting the passing rates down to the expected levels. Cisco does a lot of work with statistics to see how their material is received and what makes sense to ask about and if they need to rephrase something or remove it from the topology. They can also do statistical analysis to look for strange behavior from the candidates at the lab. Exam integrity is the #1 focus from my discussions with Cisco.
You have the chance to leave comments when you are taking an exam. I have been lazy in supplying comments in my tests which I will change from now on. From my discussions with the CCIE program managers this is very important feedback for them and their main source of information for how the test is being received.
If you are truly interested in improving the certifications of Cisco and you are already certified, you can apply to become a Subject Matter Expert (SME), SME’s help Cisco in exam development and in picking out the path of the certifications to include new topics and remove old ones.
I still believe in the CCIE program, it’s not going away. I think it would be a huge mistake for people to start diving into SDN without first getting the basic concepts straight. Everything can’t magically go into a fabric and never fail. Read some of Ivan Pepelnjak’s posts to get some perspective on large layer 2 domains. History always repeats itself.