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Cisco Adds Another Exam to CCNA Voice

CUCM Admin in the new ICOMM Exam

One branch of Cisco's certification announcements today is an interesting change to the CCNA Voice certification. The old CCNA Voice had two exam options: the original IIUC 640-460 exam, and the CVOICE 642-436 exam, which was added later as an alternative - pass either and get your CCNA Voice cert. Cisco now adds another option: the new Introducing Cisco Voice and Unified Communications Administration (ICOMM) 8.0 640-461 exam. But CVOICE will go away, and after that, who knows.

As with my two other posts today (whew!), I'll give an overview of the changes, list some links, and open it up for some gut reaction. I'll dig into the specifics in the individual exams over the next few weeks/months.

Quick Links

Main CCNA Voice page at Cisco.com

Main CCNA Voice page at the Cisco Learning Network

Announcement info at the Cisco Learning Network

Historical Review: CCNA Voice

A quick history of CCNA Voice seems useful given the changes Cisco announced at Interop today. Cisco announced the first of the CCNA Concentrations - CCNA certs other than the traditional CCNA (route/switch) - back in 2008. Quoting a blog post I made back then, CCNA Voice had one exam (IIUC, 640-460), with these topics:

Voice using Call Manager Express, Cisco Unity Express, and UC500. Includes: Traditional voice standards/protocols (e.g. T1 CCS), VoIP protocols (e.g., MGCP), Voice Gateway concepts/config, Call Manager Express concepts/config, UC500 product details and GUI config, and Basic Unity Express concepts/config

In June 2009, Cisco changed the CCNA Voice requirements, adding the CVOICE 642-436 exam, changing CCNA Voice into a cert that required one exam, but you get to choose between two exams.

Using CVOICE instead of IIUC had some nice benefits for candidates. First, CVOICE also counted towards CCVP, so it cut down on the number of exams you take in total to get CCNA Voice and CCVP. Second, by not taking IIUC, you could get all the way to CCVP without having access to the UC500 system, which might pose a small financial hurdle if you didn't have access to one at work.

The New CCNA Voice (October, 2010)

Cisco's revised CCNA Voice adds one exam to the mix. As the longer name "Introducing Cisco Voice and Unified Communications Administration (ICOMM) 8.0 640-461 exam" implies, the new exam focuses on administration. Specifically, this new exam includes administrative topics for:

Cisco Unified Communications Manager (CUCM)

CUCM Express

Cisco Unity Connection

Cisco Unified Presence

When talking to the folks from Learning@Cisco (Fred Weiller, Director of Marketing for Learning@Cisco, and Tejas Vashi, Senior Manager Responsible for Product Management for Learning@Cisco) before the announcements, they said that their research showed a variety of job roles focused on administering voice systems and their components. Cisco intends this new exam for those in a junior voice admin role.

Transition Plan

Because you only have to pass one exam, the transition plan should be simple. However, there's a twist, and a definite maybe added. First, take a look at the visual view of the history of CCNA Voice, and the two events announced here today (October 19, 2010) and the expiration date of the old CVOICE 642-436 exam.

Today's announcement adds the new ICOMM exam. So from today (or at least when the exam is available - see this link for Cisco's CCNA Voice page), until the old CVOICE 6.0 642-436 exam is no longer available (last exam date is currently slated for 2/28/2011), you have 3 exam options. Then, once the old CVOICE 6.0 642-436 exam goes away, the new CVOICE 8.0 642-437 does NOT replace it for CCNA Voice.

However, you probably noticed the big "maybe" in the figure. Short version is that from the early info I got, versus what was posted early on Oct 19th (announcement day), there's some disagreement. The info on Cisco's web sites says that IIUC also has a last exam date of 2/28/2011, and at that time, only ICOMM can be used to get your CCNA Voice. What I heard just before the announcement was that the future requirements for CCNA Voice as of 3/1/2011 was uncertain. When I get some clarification, I'll post a comment that starts with the word "CLARIFICATION" in the heading.

Go to this link to see the details of Cisco's transition plan for those in process of passing CCVP.

1-Exam-Less Path to CCVP Still Open via CVOICE, for Now

If you look at Cisco's info about the CCNP Voice transition plan, Cisco will accept the old CVOICE 6.0 642-436 exam for the new CCNP Voice certification, up to a certain date (currently listed as 2/28/2011). So, if you're interested in CCNP Voice, and you think you can pass the old CVOICE 6.0 642-436 before it expires as a valid exam for CCNA Voice, you still get to save one exam on your path to CCNP Voice. Passing that one CVOICE 6.0 exam gets you the CCNA Voice cert, meeting the CCNP Voice pre-requisite, and gets you 1 exam closer to getting your CCNP Voice (within those date limits posted by Cisco.) Hoorah!

Cisco Press Publication Plan

Cisco Press plans to publish several tools for the new ICOMM exam: an Official Certification Guide, a Quick Reference, and Flash Cards. They had formerly published to the IIUC exam, as well as CVOICE 6.0. (They will also update the CVOICE products for the new CVOICE 8.0 exam, because CVOICE is still part of the CCNP Voice certification.)

It may be useful to consider some background on the style of products. The Quick Refs, a downloaded PDF, summarize reference info for each exam, about 100 pages (+-50%). The Official Certification Guides (OCG) is the new naming convention for what Cisco Press used to call Exam Certification Guides - print books with around 500 pages on average (don't know how big this book will be).  Finally, Cisco Press makes an electronic version of these OCGs available early, for those who don't want to wait for the printed book, in a format called Rough Cuts. It's a download of the book, but before some of the final editing is done. So, it's rough... but you get it early.

So, here are the currently planned date ranges (varies slightly from product to product):

OCG Rough Cut date (planned): January 2011

OCG Print dates (planned): June 2011

Quick Ref dates (planned): March 2011

Click here to see a list of the Self Study Guide and Quick Reference products. Note that the links may not be available immediately on announcement day, so I've linked to a page on my web site. I'll update those links in one place as they become available. Finally, on the full disclosure front: while I haven't written any of these CCNA Voice books, I do have an indirect interest in seeing Cisco Press succeed.

Quick Opinions and Questions

What do you think? Hoorah, ho hum, oh no?

For those going for CCNA Voice as an end to itself, I like the admin focus of ICOMM

For those getting CCNA Voice as a stepping-stone to CCNP Voice, I'm not so sure I like the change. I'm still up in the air on it.

The self-study lab requirements in general just increased, or at least when CVOICE leaves the list of CCNA Voice options. For the new ICOMM exam may well need CM, Unity Connection, and Presence servers, and the IIUC exam temps you to get a UC500 system. The big question is whether you can/should get the skills by reading, or whether you need to click around the user interface.

More in the coming weeks!

Cisco's October Certification Announcements:

Cisco Announces Changes to CCNP Voice

Cisco Adds Another Exam to CCNA Voice

Cisco Announces Changes to CCNP Security

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