A Look At Cisco’s New CCNA And CCNP Data Center Certifications
The Data Center is getting a lot of attention from Cisco lately. With the CCIE (Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert) Data Center exam going live just recently, a focus on working with unified fabric, FCoE, multicast, Nexus OS (nx_os), and other advanced topics is taking the spotlight.
This post will look into the requirements for each, along with some of my thoughts on what this entails.
CCNA Data Center
The CCNA is meant to be a starter certification to get one’s foot in the door with Cisco as a professional in IT. I went through the CCNA Route & Switch (R&S), usually just referred to a CCNA, back in January. The two exams were very robust in nature, with multiple choice, simulated equipment, hot spots, and drag and drop. With the CCNA Data Center, one must complete:
Introducing Cisco Data Center Networking (DCICN)
The 640-911 (DCICN) Introducing Cisco Data Center Networking exam validates a candidate’s knowledge of networking concepts for the data center environment, based on Cisco NX-OS, including fundamental information on data center network function, virtualization configuration in the network, addressing schemes, and configuration skills.
Introducing Cisco Data Center Technologies (DCICT)
The 640-916 (DCICT) Introducing Cisco Data Center Technologies exam validates a candidate’s knowledge of fundamental data center technologies such as network and server virtualization, storage, convergent I/O, and network services such as load balancing.
Most of the verbiage on the exam (requires a CCO account to view the topics) seems to focus on “describe” this or “explain” that, which fits with an entry level certification. Both are 90 minutes with 65 ~ 75 questions.
CCNP Data Center
This is where it really gets interesting to me – for those not aware, Cisco has a lot of “specialist” level exams to certify in technologies or practices that are above CCNP but below CCIE. It looks like they have snatched many of those up and put them into the CCNP Data Center track. This may be great news to many, as the specialist exams required that either retake all of them before they expire to recertify, or pass the CCIE written. The CCNP just requires that you pass any current 642-XXX exam to recertify.
There are quite a few choices for data center certifications already
I’ll list the v4.0 exams, but note that there are also v5.0 exams available. The v4.0 exams will no longer be available after Feb 28 / May 31 (depending on exam). Note that CCNP Data Center also requires CCNA Data Center or a CCIE.
Core Requirement – Implementing Cisco Data Center Unified Computing (DCUCI) v4.0
The 642-994 DCUCI Cisco Data Center Unified Computing Systems Implementation exam is associated with the DCUCI and CCNP Data Center certifications. This exam tests a candidate’s knowledge of implementing Cisco Data Center Unified Computing systems.
Core Requirement – Implementing Cisco Data Center Unified Fabric (DCUFI) v4.0
The 642-992 DCUFI Cisco Data Center Unified Fabric Solutions Implementation exam is associated with the DCNIS certification and the CCNP Data Center certification. This exam tests a candidate’s knowledge of implementing Cisco Data Center Unified Fabric solutions.
Option 1 - Designing Cisco Data Center Unified Computing (DCUCD) v4.0
The 642-993 DCUCD Cisco Data Center Unified Computing Systems Design exam is associated with the DCUCD and CCNP Data Center certifications. This exam tests a candidate’s knowledge of designing Cisco Data Center Unified Computing systems.
Option 1 - Designing Cisco Data Center Unified Fabric (DCUFD) v4.0
The 642-991 DCUFD Cisco Data Center Unified Fabric Solutions Design exam is the exam associated with the DCNID certification and the CCNP Data Center certification. This exam tests a candidate’s knowledge of designing Cisco Data Center Unified Fabric solutions.
Option 2 - Troubleshooting Cisco Data Center Unified Computing (DCUCT) v5.0
The 642-035 (DCUCT v5.0) Troubleshooting Cisco Data Center Unified Computing exam tests a candidate’s skills in troubleshooting a virtualized computing environment based on the Cisco Unified Computing System platform, focusing on storage and network connectivity, installation, memory issues, booting issues, drivers, BIOS, and adapter connectivity issues.
Option 2 - Troubleshooting Cisco Data Center Unified Fabric (DCUFT) v5.0
The 642-980 (DCUFT v5.0) Troubleshooting Cisco Data Center Unified Fabric exam validates a candidate’s troubleshooting skills in the unified fabric domain, including troubleshooting connectivity issues, convergent I/O, storage issues, and issues related to specific features like Overlay Transport Virtualization (OTV).
I find it interesting that you can choose to work on design or troubleshooting. In the CCNP track that I took, the exams were focused on core requirements (ROUTE and SWITCH) and then required TSHOOT. There was no design option.
Cisco has a lot of certifications. If you look at the long list of disciplines, tracks, specialties, and partner exams, you’ll end up looking for a map and compass in order to navigate through it all. Especially when you’re trying to figure out how to achieve a particular certification that has nested levels of pre-requisites – even the navigation tool demands a bit of focus and experience to understand just exactly what it’s trying to say. I’d advise making a cheat sheet to ensure that you have exactly the right exams needed for the certification you desire.
Smug Cisco Guy already passed all of the exams with perfect scores. Beat that.
I’m glad that a few of the data center specialist exams have made their way into a main stream certification. I may end up going this route just to make recertification easier, assuming I don’t end up getting to do CCIE Data Center.
What do you think about this move? Do you already hold some of these specialist exams and want to go for CCNP Data Center? If you wanted a way to prove your chops on Nexus and UCS, do you feel this is a good way forward?