Recently I found myself in the labyrinth of Cisco certifications, specifically the CCNA and CCNP on the Data Center track. I’ll be honest, I haven’t even looked into a Cisco exam in at least ten years, so I was sort of lost at first. I’m also sort of spoiled by the way VMware certifications work since I’ve spent so much time with them lately. I was hoping to figure out what I needed for a CCNP Data Center, but I wrongly assumed it was similar to what the VCP required.
While the CCNP does NOT require a course like the VCP does, it does require the CCNA certification. I was hoping just to blow out the CCNP test (hah, I thought it was one test!), but it looks like I need to start with CCNA, tests, plural, before I can take any of the CCNP tests, plural. Apparently there have been quite a few changes to Cisco’s certification since I last looked at it.
Both CCNA and CCNP Data Center have recently had new versions released which means your time is running out to take the previous version of exams if that’s what you’re aiming for. I know this is always a point of contention for test takers, and I myself have rushed to take exams before they’ve been retired. Let’s talk a little bit about the tests required for both the CCNA and CCNP Data Center.
As you can see, the CCNA requires two exams. Thanks for everyone on Twitter for pointing out that you do, indeed need both. The older exams are active until April 17, 2017. The new exams, which are version 6.0 will be the only exams available after that date.
(Image from Cisco’s CCNA Certification Page)
The CCNA is pretty much self explanatory, even with the new exam updates coming out. While I was surprised there are now multiple tests to this certification, it doesn’t seem overly complicated. CCNP is where the fun really starts.
The CCNP is a whole different beast, with five exams. The good news is you only need four to get the CCNP certification. While DCUCI, DCII, and DCVAI are required (I is for implementing), you may choose DCID (design) or DCIT (troubleshooting) to finish the set. Previously, the design or troubleshooting portion of the track consisted of two separate exams for each, and two implementation exams to make up the four required for certification. You can see the Version 5.0 and Version 6.0 exams below. The older Version 5.0 exams will be available until July 3, 2017.
(Image from Cisco’s CCNP Certification Page)
The nice thing with these updates, is now both of these Data Center exams are at least on the same version with the version alignment of CCNA along with the test updates. This will make things much less confusing for prospective test takers, since you now have the option of just going all in on Data Center Version 6.0.
So What’s the Big Change?
Cisco is kind enough to outline what the changes to the CCNP tests are for their updates. While the gist of the content is the same, Cisco has removed some areas, added new ones and changed weighting accordingly, as you can see in the CCNP image above.
One of the biggest differences you can see in the exam updates are the introduction of Cisco’s Application Centric Infrastructure or ACI. If you aren’t familiar with ACI, there’s no better time than the present to get up to date with this technology. If you’re looking for a good read on what ACI is and how it can interact with a virtualized environment, be sure to check out the FlexPod Datacenter with Cisco ACI and VMware vSphere 6.0 U1 Design Guide Cisco Validated Design.
New or Old?
Why not both? Cisco also allows you to map out how to put the puzzle together if you’ve already started on the pervious generation of CCNP testing. One of the benefits of exam updates is always the introduction of newer technologies onto the test, while older technologies are removed. This can be a double edge sword based on what your experience is, but it’s always refreshing to be tested on the current product set if that is what you are used to working with
The Bottom Line
Any Cisco certification track is not to be entered by the faint of heart. The CCNA certification will get you acquainted with the products and features, but you’ll really begin to dive in with your CCNP journey. If you’re looking to go down this path, I hope you found this to be a good starting point. Happy studying and enjoy the journey!
Melissa is an Independent Technology Analyst & Content Creator, focused on IT infrastructure and information security. She is a VMware Certified Design Expert (VCDX-236) and has spent her career focused on the full IT infrastructure stack.