Wednesday, May 30, 2012

CCIE Data Center Written Exam

I took the CCIE Data Center written exam yesterday. It’s still in the Beta period, so I have no results, but I felt good about the content. The Written Exam Topics on Cisco Learning Network is accurate (Login required).

Speaking of ‘login required’ on Cisco.com… Is anyone else annoyed with the number of times you have to log into the various Cisco websites? It seems like over the last few years I’ve had to log in multiple times per day. Perhaps this is a security ‘improvement’, but I'd rather stay logged in for weeks at a time.

I came at this exam with a fair amount of routing and switching knowledge, and a solid background in Nexus 7k/5k/2k/1kv. Where I occasionally ran into trouble was with the storage and UCS portions of the exam. I have a basic understanding of Fibre Channel and FCoE, but I’ve never been a storage admin. And while I’ve configured the UCS fabric networking portions, I have not been responsible for the activating server blades, nor have I been responsible for the UCS chassis itself. My biggest weakness on the exam was certainly DCNM; I haven’t used it and my organization does not intend to install it.

I was slightly disappointed in the number of ‘trivia’ questions, such as ‘what is the format of the command to see XYZ’, with four different combinations of ‘show [x] [y] [z]’. Another trivia-style question is the ‘What is the default username and password for [hardware_x]?’ (Neither of these is a direct question from the exam… I believe in NDAs!) Knowing the answer to either of these questions doesn’t make me a better network engineer. They only save me a few moments of search engine time during an activation or troubleshooting.

I hope these types of questions get weeded out during the beta process. I have been spoiled by the vendor-agnostic format of the CCDE program... I recall many of these sorts of questions from the now-retired CCIE WAN Switching program.

Next Steps

If I passed the beta, will I take the lab? I don’t yet know. If my current role takes me in a direction where I get more hands-on work with our UCS and MDS gear I may feel comfortable enough in my skillset to attempt the lab. I enjoy the challenge of learning and testing my knowledge, so I’m somewhat inclined to move in that direction. And if I didn’t pass the written, I’ll probably attempt it again, since I hate giving up on something. There is no shame in failing a Cisco exam, but once I pursue something it is tough to quit.

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