On 17 October 2023, I took and passed the Automating and Programming Cisco Data Center Solutions (DCAUTO) exam on my first attempt. This is the seventh DevNet exam I’ve passed. After the retirement of the Webex and IoT specialty exams, the Collaboration specialty and Expert exams remain the only two I haven’t attempted. Much like my experience with enterprise, service provider, and security automation, I have years of real-life experience automating various data center solutions, primarily by working with Nexus and NDO (formerly MSO). I’ve spoken about the topic on various podcasts and professional training courses many times. Believe it or not, I don’t have as much real-life automation experience with ACI or UCS, which are key data center products for Cisco, so I studied those areas intensely.
It’s worth mentioning that Cisco’s new certification road map introduces small changes at regular intervals to all of their certification exams. This is smart as it leads to less “blueprint shock” every few years, plus gives learners an opportunity to master the newest technologies in an incremental way. Because Cisco updated DCAUTO earlier this year, I took the v1.1 exam. I’m not kidding when I say the exam was very good. Out of the five DevNet specialty exams I’ve taken, I think it was the highest quality. Most of the questions were difficult and required me to fill-in-the-banks with Python code, troubleshoot Ansible playbooks, and interpret various other API related topics. Only a handful of questions were product memorization related, and I only recall two questions that I felt were unreasonable/unfair. For a professional certification exam, two bad questions means that the test was great overall.
Unlike DEVASC, DEVCOR, ENAUTO, and SAUTO, I did not create a comprehensive study plan for DCAUTO. I’ve linked each of those training plans in the previous sentence, and I’d suggest DEVASC at a minimum if you are new to DC-specific automation technique. The good news is that many DCAUTO topics overlap with my DEVCOR and ENAUTO training plans, such as interacting with Cisco Nexus switches using NETCONF/RESTCONF/NXAPI, automating Cisco ACI via REST API, deploying gRPC-based model-driven telemetry, and zero-touch provisioning (ZTP) techniques. These existing paths also include fundamental topics like Python programming, Ansible playbooks, git version control, and software design concepts.
Here are some additional (and free) learning resources that I think you’ll find particularly helpful for this exam.
Cisco DevNet Learning Labs
Evolving Technologies Book In addition to these resources, you should invest a fair amount of personal time (probably 200-300 total hours) writing code as it relates to the various blueprint topics. The Cisco DCAUI course does a good job of covering these technologies at a basic/introductory level, but there are some gaps. I’d recommend starting there if these technologies are new to you. As always, feel free to ping me on twitter @nickrusso42518. I’m happy to help!