On 31 October 2023, I took and passed the Implementing and Operating Cisco Service Provider Network Core Technologies (SPCOR) exam on my first attempt. Most of you know that I am recognized as an expert on Cisco Service Provider technologies given that I was one of the first to pass the new CCIE SPv4 exam in early 2016. Three months later, I released book of nearly 3,000 pages detailing all the technologies involved in that blueprint, going extremely deep into every topic. I later partnered with two other Service Provider experts to sell an ultimate study bundle that combined my textbook with their lab workbook. I think it’s fair to say that I should have crushed this exam, and although I did pass, it was far more difficult than I anticipated.
A few years ago, I also took the SCOR exam, but didn’t write a blog about it because I felt the exam was unremarkable. My friend Craig Stansbury has an excellent SCOR learning path at Pluralsight that I used to pass the exam on the first try, but on balance, it felt like a regular CCNP exam. SPCOR was a whole new class of difficulty. When I took the CCIE SP written exam in October of 2015 (8 years ago), I felt it was about what I expected. A good candidate can finish in about 90 minutes with about 30 minutes to spare, passing comfortably. With SPCOR, I finished with less than ten minutes remaining, feeling constant time pressure the entire time.
My overall opinion on SPCOR is mixed because the questions were generally well-designed and fair. The exam was not thrown together last minute; many questions had detailed network diagrams and reasonably challenging questions. If you have glasses or contact lens for reading that you don’t often wear, I suggest you wear them for this exam. Even with 20/20 vision, I found many of the network diagrams and device outputs physically difficult to read. The text is often tiny and its volume can be overwhelming. You’ll need to practice your speed-reading and skimming skills to look for key pieces of data and not be distracted by the expanse of unneeded information. SPCOR will seriously test your ability to quickly discern signal from noise, as it were.
As a side note, you probably know 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. The exam I took was the original v1.0 exam as the SPCOR blueprint does not have any scheduled changes. I suspect this will change in 2024 and topics like SRv6 and Cisco Crossworks may be added, but this is just speculation.
The good news is that I recently published a new SPCOR learning path at Pluralsight which contains more than 17 hours of advanced technical content covering the entire blueprint, and in some cases, going even deeper. In fact, I used my own content (and existing knowledge, of course) as the sole-source of my studying; it was enough! As it relates to Service Provider automation, I’ve included a few free DevNet resources below that may help improve your skills with YANG-based model-driven programmability and telemetry, Cisco IOS-XE/XR automation, along with Cisco NSO service modeling and management.
Cisco DevNet Learning Labs
In addition to these resources, you should invest a significant amount of personal time (probably 400 total hours) labbing up the various technologies and writing code as it relates to the various blueprint topics. The Cisco SPCOR 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!