Dec
28

INE is happy to announce a new class dedicated to the recently introduced Cisco Certified Design Expert (CCDE) certification. The first CCDE Practical Bootcamp is to be run on May 1-5th in Chicago, right before the actual CCDE practical exam that is scheduled on May 6th. Our goal was designing a "last-week" refresher and booster class to finalize your CCDE exam preparation. Students are assumed to have solid theoretical knowledge of the exam's technology base prior to attending. This blog posts gives you a quick overview of the class structure and pre-requisites you should meet in order to benefit the most from this training offer.

Technologies You need to Know.

Firstly, here is a short list of the topics you need to master before enrolling into the bootcamp. In essence, this is a condensed version of the CCDE Written exam blueprint. It is highly recommended that you pass the CCDE Written test prior to attending the CCDE Practical bootcamp. We schedule classes right before the actual exam date and it gives you perfect chance to take the exam right after the bootcamp.

  • Routing
    • OSPF
    • EIGRP
    • ISIS
    • BGP
    • Traffic Engineering
    • Scalability Features for IGPs and BGP
    • Convergence Tuning
    • Redundancy and Resilience
    • Multicast Routing
    • L3 and L2 interaction
  • Tunneling
    • IP Tunneling: P2P and MP
    • MPLS TE
    • Control and Data Plane Separation
    • VPNs: L3 and L2, P2P and MP
  • Security
    • Security Policy Requirements
    • Policy Enforcement Points
    • Access Control: Firewalls and Authentication/Authorization
    • Confidentiality: Encryption and Compartmentization
    • Well-known attacks and countermeasures
  • QoS
    • Applications and their requirements
    • Diff-Serv QoS Model and Tools
    • Int-Serv QoS Model
    • Capacity Planning and Over-provisioning
  • Management
    • Network Monitoring Tools: SNMP, Netflow, RMON, Counters, ACLs etc
    • Monitoring Tools Placement and their impact
    • Information Aggregation
    • OOB and IB management

Recommended Reading

We already published a very detailed reading list for CCDE Practical preparation previously, in the publication titled CCDE Practical Exam Recommended Reading. Here is the list of the books you probably want to brush upon before the class:
Definitive MPLS Network Designs by Jim Guichard et al. Your primary handbook when preparing to the practical exam.
IS-IS: Deployment in IP Networks by Russ White and Alvaro Retana. Good reading on ISIS, provides some design ideas and covers advanced topics.
EIGRP for IP: Basic Operation and Configuration by Russ White and Alvaro Retana. Good reading on EIGRP network designs.
BGP Design and Implementation by Randy Zhang Excellent Reading on BGP, missing some “new” features such as BGP next-hop tracking, but perfect for advanced BGP understanding.
OSPF and ISIS: Choosing an IGP for Large Scale Network by Jeff Doyle. Optional. Excellent additional reading on OSPF and ISIS and routed network design.
Routing TCP/IP Volume II by Jeff Doyle (Multicast sections). This book provides excellent Multicast routing overview. Read over Chapters 5-7, and possibly Chapter 4 (NAT). Multicast is not a huge part of CCDE, but you definitely need to know it.
Optimum Routing Designs by Russ White and Alvaro Retana. You may mainly concentrate on IGP protocols designs and IGP-specific appendices (Part I, Part II and Appendix A-E). I recommend reading this book after you have completed the previous ones on the list.

Class Structure

The class is designed as a series of mock scenarios, mimicking the real exam structure as closely as possible, without using the actual exam software. Every class day is built around a practical case study, presented as series of initial documents and followed by additional information as the scenario evolves. The following are the main logical steps followed in every scenario. Notice that every scenario involved technologies from the main technology domains listed above.

  • Extract and Analyze Design Requirements
    • Identify key components of existing network design
    • Identify the set of requirements presented in the initial documents
    • Gather additional information as you deem necessary to clarify requirements
    • Classify type of design problem and apply solution templates
  • Translate Functional Specification into Network Design
    • Choose the correct technology to resolve a specific network design problem
    • List alternate options and describe how they fit the particular problem
    • Balance scalability, resilience and supportability with your solution
  • Create an Implementation plan
    • Evaluate the impact of implementation options.
    • Develop step-by-step plan for implementing your design
  • Explain and Justify your design choices
    • Explain how network design choices match functional specifications.
    • Justify technology choices based on technical requirements.

Students will participate into "interactive" exam solution process, discussing various technology options and reasoning for using one over another. As mentioned, there are going to be five different design scenarios: two centered around Enterprise networks, two dedicated to SP networks and one scenarios discussing generic protocol design issues. Every scenario is centered around a different type of design problem: e.g. new application, network growth, design problem etc. By the end of the class, students will receive the slide decks used for class presentation as well as scenarios and their condensed solution guides.

Summary

There are no official CCDE Practical training programs designed by Cisco Systems. The class we are offering is not intended to be all-in-one solution for preparing you to the practical exam, but rather a strong refresher of your design skills, a session that summarizes the body of knowledge you need to pass the exam and gives you some look and feel of the real thing. The class does not cover theoretical aspects of networking technologies, so you are assumed to posses knowledge equivalent to the one found in CCDE Written blueprint. A typical class candidate is someone who already holds CCIE title and have passed the CCDE Written test.

Oct
16

Quote from Cisco:

Practical Exam Release for New CCDE Certification

Cisco is now formally announcing the availability of the CCDE practical exam. The exam is currently scheduled to take place on February 11, 2009 in Chicago and London. CCDE, on par with the award winning CCIE certification, recognizes the growing number of networking experts who have in-depth infrastructure design knowledge, which enables them to assess network business requirements. Candidates can access CCDE blueprints and a list of recommended training materials on the CCDE web page.

Oct
02

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 :)

Jul
09

Cisco posted an announcement today on the CCDE page of the Cisco Learning Network.

REGISTER NOW for the BETA Practical Exam
Cisco is now registering beta candidates for the CCDE Practical Exam. Cisco has finished development of the second exam needed to attain the CCDE certification, the practical exam, and is now soliciting candidates for the beta delivery.

Cisco will be offering this beta delivery of the exam on October, 1 in Chicago, Illinois at a VUE professional testing center. Only candidates that have a passing score on the CCDE qualification exam may register and participate in this exam. Exam beta pricing is $980US. Register Now by email at: ccdebeta@cisco.com

Luckily for me I live in Chicago so it won't be too far of a trek. :) If the written exam is any indication of the content that will be tested on in the practical exam, it's sure to be an interesting one. The good news is that I have just under three months to finish reading the few hundred thousand pages of Solutions Reference Network Design guides.

Also as a side note the Chicago Cubs are still in first place in the National League! If you are going to be in town for the CCDE beta shoot me an email. Maybe we can arrange an Internetwork Expert sponsored field trip to playoff baseball at Wrigley Field! ;)

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