Posts Tagged ‘vue’

May
24

As my 4-year recertification timeline was about to lapse, I had to go and pay $350 to recertify :) There was no other challenge, as I picked CCDE written for recertification, keeping in mind to take the practical test again this year. To my greatest surprise, the exam was almost the same it was in September 2007, when I took the beta version. Just this time the number of questions was 100 not 170 and they give you chance to review and navigate among the questions (just like it was in old CCIE Written). Apparently, the CCDE written test engine has never been updated the way that CCIE R&S Written was, with the new scoring model based on 1000 points. Since 2007 I spent considerable amount of time studying (back then I went unprepared, but still passed with 70 point) so the exam went disappointedly easy, as I haven’t seen anything new that I didnt see in 2007. As usual, the main focus is on IP Routing with the addition of Tunneling techniques (MPLS, GRE, IPSec) along with QoS, Network Management and Network Security. You may find the very detailed blueprint here (though formatting is broken in a number of places):

http://www.cisco.com/web/learning/le3/ccde/ccde_exam_information.html

The books I found most helpful to prepare were:

- Definitive MPLS Network Designs
- BGP Design and Implementation
- IS-IS: Deployment in IP Networks
- OSPF: Anatomy of an Internet Routing Protocol
- Optimum Routing Designs (you may mainly concentrate on IGP protocols and refer to the book above for BGP)
- EIGRP for IP: Basic Operation and Configuration
- Cisco IP Routing by Alex Zinin (for you hardcore routing fans)
- OSPF and ISIS: Choosing and IGP for Large Scale Network
- Layer 2 VPN Architectures
- Interconnections, 2nd edition: Bridges, Routers, Switches and Internetworking Protocols. (Just for fun reading and a lot of background information)
- IP Quality of Service by Srinivas Vegesna

The below one might be a good candidate for review the week before your exam. However, be aware of its condensed format and some technical inconsistencies:

- CCDE Quick Reference by Russ White and Mosaddaq Turabi.

Lastly, anyone preparing for the CCDE certification – even though the written test is easy, do not take it lightly as you’ll need all the knowledge during the practical test. There are other challenges in the practical exam, but hopefully the plan I developed to deal with that will work for me – we’ll see ;)

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Oct
01

If you took Cisco written exams before, prepare to see something unusual. First of all, don’t look down at the “written” test just because it’s a “written” test. Consider the following reasons to advocate CCDE:

1) They are going to run the CCDE test just four times a year.
2) Cisco is going to utilize just a few (2-4) selected VUE centers worldwide.
3) It’s really hard to braindump *that* much of material, even if someone tries :) .

Combined together with new tightened VUE security measures this should provide enough program integrity and thwart brain-dumpers (if they only could be defeated ;) . Besides, there are no obvious solutions to each section – and I think that many alternatives are viable.

The exam itself it broken down in a few large “modules” or sections. Each section focuses on a certain network topology. They provide you with a *lot* of background information on each task: functional specification, SLA documents, business goals, justifications and constrains, engineering team emails, etc. You would probably spend a lot of time reading through the documents before actually going into each section. This is kind of unusual for folks that got used to the CCIE exam :)

During the test you answer well-known multiple-choice questions, justifying your design etc. Most notably, you can draw network diagrams using the Adobe flash engine that allows creating different topologies based on task functional specifications. To me, it was one of the hardest parts – coming with an unique topology, matching the business goals and restrictions. I doubt anyone (besides maybe Russ White) could end up with the same topology that the exam designers had on mind :)

The biggest problem of the test: after about 4-5 hours, it’s really hard to comprehend what’s your next scenario or task is about. Unlike the CCIE lab, where you know what you are actually doing, with the CCDE you may easily get lost in the labyrinths of your imagination. You start losing your concentration after reading so many documents and thinking of different designs. Releasing the exam in 8-hours format may be too much stress for most “normal” people. Hope they would make some adjustment for the production release.

From technical standpoint, the exam is mostly about generic Layer 3/Layer 2 networking technologies. It covers a lot of topics from IGP (ISIS, OSPF, EIGRP), BGP, MPLS, QoS and Security areas. It perfectly correlates with the written CCDE test, but this time you have to put all the things working together. The level of the understanding required to answer each question may vary from moderate to pretty deep (sometimes).

The last thing to mention, is that you can get a decent feeling of the real test by running the demo exam at : CCDE Flash-Based Demo.

After all, even though I’m not sure I’m going to pass, it feels like the exam was fun enough to justify a long trip :) Compared to CCDP, it’s more about generic routing network design than Cisco “approved” template solutions.

Cisco is definitely on the right track, doing a great job by increasing their exam integrity. It could be doubted, whether CCDE actually tests design skills, but it sure is a great test on Layer 3 technologies implementation :)

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Jun
27

Everyone has heard things about the CCDE Practical. And how it’s a flash-based, computer-based examination regarding design scenarios. Different people have different views about this. And we’ve seen a few opinions offered on different message boards already! Well, there was a demo of it in the Certifications Booth at Cisco Live (Networkers) this year!  Hopefully you got a chance to wander back and see it!

So a couple different things to look at and think about here. Things were discussed during a breakout session about the CCDE. It is a computer-based exam. It will be offered at Vue testing centers. Well, sort of. Don’t freak out or anything yet, because it’s not going to fall victim to any of your typical “shortcut methods” to certification!

It’s going to be given at Vue’s Super Testing Centers. There’s a lot of extra comforts (since you’ll be stuck for 8 hours) and extra security measures. There are very few of these locations to begin with (but more than Cisco has CCIE Lab test locations!), and more so, right now they are looking at one location per quarter (4 times per year then!) in a different location.

There will be changes/updates from one time to the next as well, so even if you heard something (which still isn’t cool to break NDA) it won’t necessarily help anyway!

With this program, Cisco is taking some interesting steps to assure the integrity of the program along with giving the opportunity to reach different geographic areas that may not e conveniently handled by current CCIE Lab locations. Watch for further announcements there!

On a completely different line of thinking was the demo itself. It was pretty slick. There was lots of reading to do (see Michael Morris’ blog on NetworkWorld’s site for some screenshots as well) and tasks associated with it. There was also a LOT of background noise while doing the demo, so hopefully that will not be part of the torture in the real practical! :)

Another interesting thing (being that it’s a beta), not everything was perfect. Note to self… When you ask a proctor a question, and they smile when they are answering, it may not be entirely honest! :) It’s all good though! Needless to say, I did not perform in any spectacular fashion on this 8-9 question beta scenario here.

However, the one important thing I did come away with was an idea of what they were grading and HOW they were grading, and the types of things they were looking for. I also had some conversations with people inside the program to further that and I have to say that even though many people downplay the idea of the computer-based testing for design, I think the way they are going about it in detail is really very strong.

It’s definitely unlike any computer-based testing you’ve ever done before!

But that’s half the fun, isn’t it? I’m sure more announcements with this will be coming down the road, but I’m looking forward to being thoroughly abused by eight hours of it in October!

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