My Experience: 350-080 CCIE Data Center Written Exam

Today I sat down for a few grueling hours in hopes of passing the 350-080 CCIE (Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert) Data Center written exam. After a long game of cat and mouse, the last of 90 questions was answered and I had to click that “finish exam” button that always makes my stomach sink. Low and behold, and to my partial amazement, I passed – huzzah!

First off, kudos to Cisco on such a well rounded exam covering equipment that make up the guts of a modern data center. The written exam tests your knowledge on the following: Nexus (NX-OS on 7K, 5K, and 2K), Storage Networking (SAN), the Nexus 1000v (1Kv), Unified Computing (UCS), and Application Networking Services (ANS / ACE). It’s really a daunting list of equipment and solutions to try and achieve expert level knowledge on, which makes the certification all the more alluring for me personally. 🙂

Passing the written exam is only the first step in the process of achieving official CCIE certified status, and arguably the easier step, as the 8 hour, hands on lab exam still remains to be conquered before I am actually certified. The lab exam is also only available in San Jose, CA from within the US at the time of this post (in addition to 3 other locations abroad).


This post will outline some of my study resources in hopes of giving a helping hand to others looking to also tackle the CCIE DC beast.

Please note that it’s incredibly hard to even search for information on the 350-080 directly from Google without hitting a giant wall of brain dump links. I do not support the brain dumps and will delete any comments related to them.

Hands on Experience

My primary resource will be disappointing to some – hands on experience! I’ve been working with a majority of the Cisco products for over a year now in the field. This accounts for a large quantity of my SAN, UCS, and 1000v / NX-OS knowledge. I’ll also give a shout out to VCE’s Vblock, which includes many of the CCIE DC components inside – I’ve done a lot of Vblock logical configurations along with delivery and implementation (D&I) in 2012, which is awesome prep work. 🙂

If you don’t have a steady source of live equipment to work with, go with my secondary resources:

Smug Cisco Guy Docs


You may laugh, but the Smug Cisco Guy knows his stuff. I’ve read a few thousand pages of white papers and configuration guides based on the exam blueprint. I’d recommend identifying at least one white paper and config guide for each product and solution and taking extensive notes.

Example links from technologies mentioned in the exam blueprint:

INE Videos

INE is a great resource for learning materials and video content. I watched the Written Video Course, featuring about 23 hours of content from Brian McGahan and Mark Snow whom are both top notch CCIE resources. The course provided some good level-set knowledge for this exam and showed off the CLI in their lab for many of the concepts. There’s also a CCIE DC Bundle available if you want to go neck deep into the content.

I also like to whiteboard the video content as we go along to help reinforce the concepts. I’m a bit of a whiteboard fanatic.

nx-os-switching-bookNX-OS and Cisco Nexus Switching by Cisco Press

The final item for studying was a tome of knowledge provided by Ron Fuller, David Jansen, and Matthew McPherson in their book “NX-OS and Cisco Nexus Switching: Next-Generation Data Center Architectures (2nd Edition)“. As a matter of disclosure, the book was provided to me for free by Cisco Press to review and comment on the content. While I have not yet had the chance to go through it cover-to-cover, I will say that the level of detail and example configurations are spot on. It’s an absolutely awesome resource to have, especially with the little amount of NX-OS I do on the Nexus 7000 series switch.


The 350-080 written exam was 90 questions, 2 hours long, and required a score of around 843 of 1000 to pass (for me). This means you have about 80 seconds to answer each question without running out of time. I’ve been studying for a good chunk of free time over the past several months, but I don’t plan to take the lab exam until late this year or possibly early next year – the San Jose location is heavily booked for long periods.

Have a question? Leave a comment and I’ll do my best to help, but keep in mind that I can’t discuss anything that was specifically tested on the exam.

Good luck!