Insight on the New Cisco Certified Design Expert (CCDE) - Part III

This is my third and final (for now) blog about the upcoming CCDE and Architect certifications. Here is Part I and Part II. As I mentioned in Part II, Cisco hosted a Q&A last week at Networkers with about 50 CCIEs. The Q&A session itself was a lively event with a lot of questions raised and opinions offered. While the Cisco team had planned a short introduction of the new certification concepts, and then Q&A, the debate started pretty much right away. Most ideas were well received and there were a lot of questions about format and topics. Points I noted:

  • Some of the engineers felt strongly that a current CCIE should be a prerequisite for the CCDE. However, an equal number disagreed, including myself. Cisco really sees the CCIE as a technology certification - how to make the actual equipment work. The CCDE, and the subsequent Architecture certification, is focused on network design, not necessarily making equipment work. The analogy given by one of the CCIEs summed it up well - "an architect of a home isn’t the general contractor; he doesn’t actually build the home. He just needs to know how the pieces interact (fit).”

  • Many people offered ideas for the format of the "performance oriented scenario test". The goal is to make it just as hard as a CCIE lab is, but it's not a lab. Thoughts about responding to an RFP were tossed about.

  • The tentative timeline is to have the "scenario test" ready by March or April of next year for beta testing. The Architecture certification would come much later, perhaps a year or more. The written exam is available in two weeks for the beta testers to attempt. Most people agreed this is a good timeline.

  • While the format and rules of the new certification were strongly debated, everyone in the room agreed there is a need for this type of certification and were very excited. I'm sure people will be eager to take the beta written exam in a few weeks. The consensus was this is a good thing for the certification program, a benefit to the industry, and good for professional development.

  • Some other quick notes of comments made: - People seemed to want to talk about the Architect certification more than CCDE. - Need to create CCDE numbers. Initial group also wanted recognition as the pioneers of this credential. - Make is multi-vendor (or vendor co-existent). - Keep it standards based, perhaps even partner with a standards board. - Allow people to take the CCDE "scenario" and attend Architect board via Telepresence and/or WebEx. - Possibly use a team format for the CCDE scenario, like used in MBA programs. - PLEASE be selective. Screen applicants, particularly beta candidates. - Must create industry awareness. This is key to employer support and showing candidates the benefits of achieving the certifications.

The written beta exam begins in 3 weeks and is available to only select invitees. Cisco's goal is to get 200 people through the beta exam to have sufficient results to base decisions on. An exhaustive, 6-page blue-print was provided in the meeting. General topics range from "IP Routing" to "Tunneling" to "Security". It should prove to be very tough. Passing does meet recertification requirements for existing CCIEs. I'll be signing up soon. Over the next couple months I'll provide updates on the beta program. This looks to be an exciting new addition to Cisco's certification program for senior engineers and network architects.

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