Upgrade Your Cisco Cert to an HP Cert

77% of Your HP Study Already Done

HP Announced several noticeable changes to their certification programs last month. To be honest, I hadn't paid a lot of attention to HP's certs before, focusing on Cisco - hence this blog named Cisco Cert Zone, and not just Cert Zone. But HP offered some time on the phone to learn about their new cert changes, and parts of the message have relevance to those who care about Cisco certs. One of those relevant changes is a way to use some of your Cisco certifications to wipe out up to 77% of your work needed to get a similar HP cert. Today I'll take a closer look at some of what's there, and ask you opinions.

Briefly: HP's ExpertOne

One of the big new parts of the certification track at HP looks a little like a cross between CCDE and Cisco Certified Architect. Cisco's CCDE is design oriented cert, similar in challenge level to CCIE lab exams. Cisco Certified Architect requires a board exam, and takes it up a couple of notches in terms or breadth and depth for anything Cisco. Think PhD oral exams.

HP's new ExpertOne certification program - the umbrella if you will - introduces a new cert called Master Accredited Systems Engineer (Master ASE). It works like a cross between CCDE - serious and deep design - with testing more like the Cisco Architect, with a human board review. According to HP, this cert has much more focus on the business plan and financials, along with the technology. Of course the technology mix is different, and there's more emphasis on multivendor interoperability than say in the Cisco certs, even at the high end.

Upgrade from Cisco (Certs) to HP - Overview

Another aspect of HP's announced changes matters more to the masses. I'll tart by describing what I heard from HP on the phone, and then what we can all read at HP.com.

First, I am poking a little fun here, but some of the press release info said that you were 77% of the way to certain HP certs because of your certs from other vendors. 77%? Yep, they measured it. (not sure how.) But I very much like the idea.

In a pre-release briefing, HP described what I think is a very reasonable, useful, and customer focused approach to some certifications. There's no point in testing your knowledge of concepts, protocols, and other theory that all products must follow. If you'e already proven your knowledge of ARP, DHCP, RIP, STP, etc, by passing CCNA, what's the point in asking you questions about the exact same thing for an HP cert? So, HP avoids that silliness, and asks that instead you take a "delta" exam - the exam that covers the difference between the other vendors' certs and what HP wants to assess for a given cert.

However, when I heard that, I thought it was a great theory, but we need to see the execution. And since I already had weeks of blog topics backed up already - the Cisco Voice and Security announcements that same week - I decided to give it a month, and see what the HP web site said once the dust had hopefully settled. So...

First off, you need a login at the HP certification site to see most of the info, and in my recent experience, it's not an instant process. It took roughly 2 weeks to get the login credentials. It could have been something that I misclicked - they thought I was not from the US, and somewhere along the way I had to say yes to some questions that were I'm sure required by US law. But I had the login in plenty of time to look around for this week's post. The message here is that if your interested, go apply for the login now, in case it takes you weeks as well.

Getting through the acronym soup of HP certs was a bit of a challenge. (Makes me wonder what newbies to Cisco certs think of what's on Cisco's cert web pages.) I think the site has lots of info, and is useful if you know where you want to go. However, there was not as much big picture info as I would have liked to see.

From the call, I was told that the more technically focused and networking related certs were AIS, ASE, and master ASE, in that order. Similar to CCNA and CCNP, there are varying topic areas at each level. Rather than try an interpret all of the HP certification world, I decided to pick a few, and get specific with the AIS - Network Infrastructure and ASE Network Infrastructure certifications. (Here's a list of the newer certs, available once you login.)

(Note: My apologies for the links that require login, but I couldn't find detailed pages that didn't require login. Sorry...)

HP AIS - Network Infrastructure

Let's use the "HP AIS - Network Infrastructure" certification as an example. Per what I read on the HP site, you can use either the CCDA or CCNA Security certs as part of the upgrade path to AIS Infrastrucutre. (The site does use the word "upgrade", but it wasn't harping on AIS being "better"  just an interesting choice of words.)  AIS infrastructure includes all the usual CCNA topics, plus some others, but unfortunately for us, it's not simply using plain old CCNA as the prerequisite - gotta have CCDA or CCNA Security.

From there, all you have to do is register for the delta exam, which appears to be delivered on-line, with a fee of $75. (Some HP exams require a trip to Prometric, but this one, apparently not.)

So, taken at face value, for those already headed towards CCDA or CCNA Security, just take one exam sitting at your office or at home, for free, and get your AIS Infrastrucutre cert from HP. Sounds easy, right? Well, it depends on what's on the exam...

The exam, listed as HP2-Z18. As a gross generalization, if you took all the CLI-based topics in Cisco's CCNA, translated them to use HP products instead, then you'd have the list of topics for this Delta exam. At face value, the exam perfectly matches to what I heard directly from HP: don't test what you already know, but do test the HP specifics. It does specifically mention both E-series and A-series switches from HP. As for topics, it includes VLANs, link aggregation, STP, RIP (no EIGRP of course), wireless, and basic admin. As expected, it is very much focused on HP specifics.

The exam itself looks like a typical length and style for ICND1, ICND2, and CCNA. 90 minutes, 55 multichoice questions. No mention of Sim, Simlet, testlet, etc like you see on Cisco exams. Passing score 73%. The data sheet also breaks down topics by percentage, much like Network+, for instance.

HP ASE - Network Infrastructure

Briefly, on the ASE - Network Infrastructure certification, it most closely matches CCNP (R/S), and uses CCNP as one of the upgrade path options. As of the time of writing this blog, the details of the delta exam weren't posted, but they were listed as available Nov 15th, so I'm assuming the info will be imminently available.

Reaction:

I want to hear from you folks on this one, even if you don't know much about HP, and just have a gut reaction. Seems like there are a couple of reasons to go down this path. First, if you already expect to get CCNA Security and/or CCDA, then it appears to be a short and cheap step to add AIS Infrastructure. It does require, however, that you be able to do the tasks on HP gear.

On the other hand, if you already know HP's user interface, how to navigate, and a little about how to configure CCNA level topics, but don't have CCNA Security or CCDA - would you consider getting the Cisco certs first, and then take the short path to AIS Infrastructure? That one seems a little more far-fetched at first, but remember, in Cisco Cert Land, the initial choice is easy: CCNA, because it's prerequisite for everything. The harder choice is what to do after CCNA, and both CCNA Security and CCDA are one more exam away from CCNA. So, there are a lot of newly-minted CCNAs every week, who then ask the question - where next? And does the detail mentioned here about AIS Network Infrastructure make it more likely someone would choose CCNA Security or CCDA (versus other options) as a result? Or is it a complete NOOP?

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