CCIE water cooler gossip: Tolly's review of IPexpert vs. Internetwork Expert CCIE labs

IPexpert vs. Internetworking Expert Tolly Test Results
More than fireworks were exploding last July 4th, as that was the day CCIE trainer - Internetwork Expert announced they were the leaders in the CCIE training industry. According to Internetwork Expert, a review of information publicly available on competing CCIE training vendor websites proved that Internetwork Expert certifies more CCIEs than the competition.
Competitor IPexpert acknowledged and commended Internetwork Expert for providing great CCIE R&S training materials. However simultaneously, IPexpert commissioned The Tolly Group to perform a comparative analysis between IPexpert and Internetwork Expert that evaluated which CCIE R&S training provider delivered the best overall value. The Tolly Group evaluated IPexpert and Internetwork Expert based on 5 criteria that IPexpert believed to be important to CCIE students (as explained in the report's abstract):
1. Classroom training: What types of classes are offered and their frequency?
2. Self-study programs: What programs/materials are available and at what cost?
3. Rack rental options: What equipment resources are available to students for lab purposes? At what cost?
4. Success stories: How many students have earned certifications through the vendor training programs? In what technical areas have they been certified? Have students returned to a training provider vendor for additional certifications?
5. Service guarantees: What programs do the training provider put in place to guarantee to the student that his or her training investment is protected and that the student will receive the proper training and preparation to pass CCIE testing?
Abstract from the Tolly report: IPexpert, Inc. commissioned The Tolly Group to evaluate IPexpert/Proctor Labs CCIE Routing & Switching Lab Preparation tools versus Internetwork Expert/Graded Labs offerings. Selection criteria used for this paper was mapped to the criteria that IPexpert believes is important to the buyer. While this is a head-to-head review, The Tolly Group did not contact Internetwork Experts about its product, because information utilized came directly from the company Web site. The goal of the comparative review was to assess which training services provider delivers a better overall value, backed by a competent professional staff and a stable of certified graduates that demonstrates the effectiveness of the company’s training. Note: All data was collected by Tolly from each vendor's website on October 15th, 2008. 1. Classroom training:
5-Day Boot Camp Comparison
5-Day Boot Camp Comparison
5-Day Boot Camp Comparison
Tolly report key finding: According to Figure 1 above, IPexpert's bootcamp cost $1,504 more, however, it provides a $1,000 credit towards its self-study products and provides 6 publicly-offered classes over a six-month period, while Internetwork Expert provides just 3 publicly-offered classes over a six-month period.
IPexpert End-to-End Program vs. Internetworking Expert 12-Day Boot Camp
IPexpert End-to-End Program vs. Internetworking Expert 12-Day Boot Camp
IPexpert End-to-End Program vs. Internetworking Expert 12-Day Boot Camp
Tolly report key finding: According to Figure 2 above, IPexpert's End-to-End Program cost $1,004 more, however, it also provides its students with the entire self-study product line of IPexpert along with 200 hours of access to IPexpert's racks of hardware, allowing students to prepare for its live course.
Official Internetworking Expert Response: "After examining the Tolly Group report that was paid for by IPexpert in detail, anyone can see that it is obviously a biased comparison of two websites, and not an in-depth evaluation of any class or product. Not only is the information presented in the report egregiously inaccurate, there is no real information in regards to what matters most to customers that invest in training at the CCIE level. "When speaking in terms of value in the CCIE training market, the key factor that customers are looking for is a combination of the reputation of the authors & instructors of the material, the reputation of the company, and most importantly, the feedback from their peers. This report is based on none of these factors. In fact very few, if any, purchases are based exclusively upon information listed on a webpage, which is solely what was used to generate this report." Brian McGahan - CCIE #8593 (R&S/SP/Security)

2. Self-study programs:

Self-Study CCIE R&S Product Line
Tolly report key finding: According to Figure 3 above, IPexpert's $2,186 package discount makes the total cost of its Self-study program (with video tutorials and graded mock labs included) $996 less than Internetwork Expert. 3. Rack rental options:
CCIE R&S Rack Equipment Furnished by Vendors
CCIE R&S Rack Equipment Furnished by Vendors

Tolly report key finding: IPexpert's rack rental session runs 7 hours, 45 minutes at a cost of $35. The same rack rental session at Internetwork Expert would cost $18.60 IPexpert allows rack rental cancelation or rescheduling up to 24 hours prior to a scheduled session, however, Internetworking Expert requires notice of cancelation or rescheduling 3 days prior to a scheduled session.

Official Internetworking Expert Response: "In reviewing previous reports published by the Tolly Group, it seems unprecedented that a report could be generated based solely on marketing information, or even be relevant to a market such as training. Per the Tolly Group's website their 'expertise [is] in assessing leading-edge technologies,' and as a 'premier independent test lab, it has worked with virtually every major vendor and evaluated the most important products and technologies to appear over the past decade.' How can it be possible that a test lab bases their scientific results based on marketing information? "For example, a recent report written by the Tolly Group evaluated the performance and power consumption of the BLADE Network Technologies RackSwitch G8100 versus a Cisco Catalyst 4900M. What value would this report have if the Tolly Group reviewed BLADE Network’s website marketing information and compared it against marketing information on Cisco’s website? "Furthermore, as stated in the Tolly Group’s Fair Testing Charter, 'competing vendors are treated fairly by involving them in key aspects of tests concerning their product,' the 'vendors involved in a competitive test are able to review the test plans,' that 'when testing is complete, we provide their results. If they believe that they are incorrect, we work with them to reconcile their results with ours.' and that 'we provide them with the opportunity to give us an official commentary on their results, the essence of which is included in any documents we might publish.' These points are completely contrary to the IPexpert commissioned Tolly Group report which clearly states that 'the Tolly Group did not contact Internetwork Experts about its product.' Based on this it appears that the Tolly Group goes against everything it stands for in the IPexpert report." Brian McGahan - CCIE #8593 (R&S/SP/Security)

Lab Grading Cost & Report Cards

Tolly report key finding: IPexpert graded labs are free of charge. Internetwork Expert charges $129 for a graded lab.

Grading Report Samples
Grading Report Samples

4. Success stories: Tolly report key finding: As noted earlier, on the day Tolly collected data from each vendor's website - October 15th, 2008, IPexpert listed 1,129 individuals as having earned CCIE certifications, however, Internetwork Expert only listed 939 CCIEs, 190 CCIEs less than IPexpert. 5. Service guarantees: Tolly report key finding: Both CCIE training vendors offer great training investment guarantees, however, only IPexpert has no charge for rack time during the exam retake.

Official Internetworking Expert Response: "The real question that people should be asking in regards to this report is why would IPexpert, a self-professed 'industry leading' company, need to resort to these questionable tactics? If your peers are not recommending a bootcamp to you, if the CCIE community isn’t recommending a bootcamp to you, why would you trust a supposedly 'unbiased' report from a completely unqualified source on why you should attend a bootcamp?" Brian McGahan - CCIE #8593 (R&S/SP/Security)

Official response from IPexpert to Brian McGahan: "We will let the merit of Tolly Group's review stand for itself. They have a long-established history of comparing two vendor offerings against each other, based on specific criteria, then reporting their findings. In this case, they have screen shots taken from our site and theirs, giving proof of their findings. "Unfortunately, Brian seems blind to the very spirit of the Tolly Group project, so I'll briefly reiterate that the QUALITY of both vendors' training products and courses are NOT in question. Again, we believe that fair-minded people readily acknowledge that IPexpert and Internetwork Expert have solid reputations for quality. "Therefore, since 'quality' is accepted as a given among the two camps, CCIE candidates are left to decide which offers the greatest VALUE. Call it 'bang for the buck' or what have you, but people need to understand where they can get the most for the money. THAT was the spirit of the comparison! "With that understanding, it is easy to understand why Tolly needed only visit the vendors' web sites to assess what is publicly marketed as the available offerings and at what costs. Unless Brian's argument is that Internetwork Expert does not advertise their offering fully and completely, we cannot see what his problem is. "In response to the 'real question' posed by Mr. McGahan about why IPexpert would 'resort to questionable tactics,' one must also wonder why reputable firms like Cisco, Nortel, 3COM, Riverbed, Symantec, Foundry Networks, Siemens and many more also commission a third-party to verify and substantiate facts regarding their offering. The fact is, within an hour of the release of the Tolly Group's report, Internetwork Expert was already making changes to their website, adding and removing points to adjust for the facts made clear in the report. If they did not find themselves vulnerable by the facts, why would they have made changes to their offering?" Matt Brooks - Vice President - IPexpert, Inc. View more CCIE water cooler gossip.

What is your take on this Tolly report evaluating which CCIE R&S training vendor offers the best overall value?

Brad Reese
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