Thursday, March 21, 2013

CCDE Numbering and Requirements

This article is cross-posted from the CCIE Flyer March Issue

Upcoming CCDE Training

A quick note concerning upcoming training offerings. The next CCDE Practice Exam online offering is scheduled for April 27th. Details can be found at http://www.jeremyfilliben.com/p/ccde-practice-exams.html. The next CCDE Practical Bootcamps I am offering are in Cairo, Egypt in May, and Orlando, Florida in July. Details can be found at http://www.jeremyfilliben.com/p/ccde-practical-bootcamp.html.

Future of the CCDE Program

We’ve covered the history of the CCDE over the previous two articles... But what about the future? I expect the number of successful CCDE candidates in 2013 will easily beat 2011’s record of 28. Why? For several reasons:

  • Increased Interest in the CCDE Program - I am already seeing record demand for my training offerings. I am also noticing increased activity on the Cisco Learning Network CCDE discussion board. More interest = more candidates!
  • Immediate Test Results - This development (introduced in November 2012) will allow unsuccessful candidates to immediately begin preparing for their subsequent attempts. It was common in the early days of the program for candidates to skip every other test date, since they often would not get their results until a few weeks before the next exam offering.
  • More Test Dates and Locations - Cisco has already announced four test dates for the CCDE Practical exam, covering a whopping 16 locations. Details can be found at https://learningnetwork.cisco.com/community/certifications/ccde/practical_exam?tab=4.

We’ve already seen a record number of successful candidates during the February testing date -- at least 15, including four of my students! In summary, I am quite confident that the CCDE program is here to stay. This was somewhat in doubt among networkers in the earlier years. I suspect this was due in part to the small number of successful candidates in 2008 - 2010, plus the short life of the CCIE Design certification in the early 2000s. With nearly 100 CCDEs to date, plus the fact that the CCDE is a necessary step on the way to the Cisco Certified Architect program, it is highly unlikely that this certification will be retired. In fact, I suspect the CCDE will broaden into other topics, much like the CCIE. Might there be a CCDE Data Center or CCDE Security in our future?


Certification Requirements

Now that we’ve covered the history and my best guess at a future direction for the CCDE program, how does one actual earn this certification? Like the CCIE program, there is no certification prerequisite needed for the CCDE program. Although CCDE sits on the top of the Network Design pyramid above CCDA and CCDP, neither certification is necessary to attempt the CCDE written exam.

The CCDE written exam is a 120 minute, 90 - 110 question exam that is delivered worldwide at Pearson Vue testing centers. The exam blueprint is quite extensive! Candidates should have strong familiarity with routing protocols, tunneling, quality of service, network management and network security. In contrast to the Practical exam, each written exam question is self-contained. Like all current Cisco exams, it is not possible to go back to previous questions or skip questions during the exam. I really miss that feature of Cisco exams! Without going into any details (respect the NDA!) I am willing to say that there are fewer ‘trivia’ questions on the CCDE written, as compared to the various CCIE-track exams I have taken. Most questions assume a high level of technical knowledge. The questions are more about how to use or evaluate technologies, rather than defining technical terms.

Passing the CCDE written exam recertifies any lower-level Cisco certification (CCNx, CCDx, etc). It also recertifies any current CCIE or CCDE certification. Lastly, passing the exam qualifies you to schedule and take the CCDE Practical exam. Your first CCDE Practical attempt must take place within 18 months of passing the CCDE written exam. You must pass the CCDE Practical within three years of your written exam; if you fail to do so you will be required to retake the written exam prior to any subsequent Practical exam attempts. If you fail the CCDE written exam you must wait six calendar days before re-attempting, and if you pass the exam you must wait six months before retaking the exam.

The CCDE Practical exam is an eight-hour exam that is offered on specific dates and at specific Pearson Vue testing centers. Upcoming test dates can be found on the Cisco Learning Network. The exam currently consists of four distinct scenarios, each consisting of 25 - 35 questions relating to a single network. Each scenario is self-contained; once you complete a scenario there is no reason to remember it for the next test segment. According to the Cisco Learning Network, candidates are required to complete the first and second scenarios in the four hour exam session prior to lunch. After four hours, all participants are escorted to lunch for one hour. Upon returning to the test center, all candidates will begin the third scenario. The third and fourth scenarios must be completed in the four hour exam session that begins after lunch. So in a way you can consider the exam to be two separate four-hour exams, separated by a one hour lunch.

When you have completed the final question of scenario four, your test will end. As you collect your belongings and exit, the Pearson Vue proctor will hand you your score report, with either a “PASS” or “FAIL” result. If you are unsuccessful, the score report will give you a brief breakdown of your results based on the question types present on the exam. If you passed, congratulations! Within a week (and likely sooner) you will receive notification of your CCDE number!

Recertification Requirements

Successful CCDE candidates must maintain their certification credentials by completing one of the following exams every two years:

  • Any CCIE Track Written Exam
  • Any CCIE Track Lab Exam
  • The CCDE Written Exam
  • The CCDE Practical Exam - has anyone done this for recertification?
  • Successful Completion of the CCAr Program (Both Interview and Board Review) - This one is special, as it recertifies all lower-level certifications for five years... If my reading of the recertification policies correct.

CCDE Numbering System

As many know, the CCIE certification numbering policy began at #1025 and has increased sequentially from there. During the initial public unveiling of the CCDE program in 2007, the team requested thoughts on how CCDEs should be identified. There were several humorous responses, including binary and hexadecimal. The team settled on an eight-digit decimal string. The first four digits signify the year in which a candidate passed the Practical exam. The second four digits uniquely identify the candidate among those that passed in that year. My CCDE number is 20090003, which means I passed in 2009. From the “0003” portion you can infer that I passed early in the year, as compared to someone whose number is significantly higher. For example, four candidates passed during my February 2009 test date. We were given the numbers 20090001 - 20090004. The next test date had five successful candidates, who were given numbers 20090005 - 20090009. According to Cisco, there is no specific meaning about which number you receive during a test date. In fact, my original paperwork indicated my number would be 20090004, but the plaque I received had number 20090003.

It appears now that Cisco is also numbering CCDE candidates by theatre. All of the candidates that I know of that passed in Sydney in February 2013 received low 2013 numbers (20130001 - 20130003, at least). So a bit more information is conveyed by the numbering system. This was not the case in the earlier days of the CCDE program.

There are two other common representations of the CCDE number. The first is the use of a double-colon “::” to eliminate a string of zeros. Using this makes my number 2009::3. I certainly hope every recognizes the IPv6 aspect of this! It is also common to see the second half of the CCDE number represented in hex, especially if it makes it more interesting. For example, 2009::13 is more fun to write as 2009::D.

Next month's article will cover the preparation methods that successful candidates have used.

About Jeremy:

Jeremy Filliben is a 15 year CCIE (Routing/Switching #3851) and a CCDE-certified network architect. Jeremy was a member of the CCDE beta program and passed practical exam in 2009. Jeremy has trained 16 of the ~80 individuals who have passed the CCDE practical exam since 2010 (more than all other training organizations combined). His next CCDE Practical Bootcamp is scheduled for the week of July 29th in Orlando, Florida. More information on Jeremy's CCDE training offerings can be found at www.jeremyfilliben.com.

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