New Cisco CCDE certification

In January, Cisco launched a very important, new high-level certification: the Cisco Certified Design Specialist (CCDE) certification. Will it live up to the hype? Find out the specifics of the CCDE, see the way it fits in with other Cisco certifications, and learn why you ought to think about the CCDE.

Before even thinking about security- and VoIP-specific certifications, Cisco offered design certifications: The Cisco Certified Design Associate (CCDA) and the Cisco Certified Design Professional (CCDP). Both entail strictly computerized tests that focus on the proper design of networks.

Since I’ve earned my CCDA certification, I can tell you — and it’s no secret — that the check consists of plenty of long scenarios. The single check can be challenging primarily due to the complex scenarios that you must read, dissect, and understand before you can make the right design choice for that network. I suspect that the CCDP certification isn’t much different, more complex and challenging with plenty of more requirements for technical knowledge mixed in.

I’ve heard comments for plenty of years from networking designers that they wished Cisco offered an expert/top-level certification for network design. With last month’s announcement of the CCDE, Cisco answered their call.

What is the CCDE?

The CCDE is the expert-level certification that those network designers have been waiting for. Similar to the Cisco Certified Internetwork Specialist (CCIE) certification, the CCDE requires passing both a two-hour computerized check and a full-day, hands-on lab/practical examination, which you must complete at a Cisco testing facility.

You must first past the computerized check before you can schedule the lab examination. The examination name for the CCDE written check is ADVDESIGN, and that’s what you require to know: How to design advanced networks. Cisco recommends that you have at least four to five years of experience designing advanced networks before taking the check.

The examination lasts three hours, and the examination blueprint covers anything that someone could ever think of related to complex networks. In addition, passing the CCDE written examination recertifies any other Cisco certifications you have, including the CCDA, CCNA, and CCIE.

After passing the computerized examination, you can schedule your lab examination at a handful of Cisco offices. However, Cisco hasn’t currently announced specific locations and time slots for the practical examination.

Like the CCIE practical examination, the CCDE practical examination will be an eight-hour scenario-based examination that will “test your ability to identify, manage, and generate advanced infrastructure design solutions for large-scale networks.” Having taken over one CCIE hands-on practical examination, I have no doubt that the CCDE practical examination will be as grueling.

Why isn’t there a network design CCIE?

Like the CCIE, CCDE candidates will receive a unique number and other benefits. Why didn’t Cisco generate a network design version of its CCIE certification? Cisco was thinking about it, but the company decided to generate a separate expert-level examination for design in lieu because the topics were dissimilar.

The CCIE and the CCDE are now “peer” certifications and are equivalent to one another. Only time will tell if the CCDE becomes as well-known and revered as the CCIE.

Recruiters and managers like to throw around the CCNA and CCIE appellations; you’ll often listen to something like “we have four IEs and three NAs on staff.” So can the new “DE” become as popular?

Definitely, other Cisco certifications, such as the CCNET, CCVP, CCSP, CCIP, and even the CCDP, have struggled to become as well-known as the CCNA and CCIE. While not necessarily a popularity contest, network administrators justifiably flock to the most well-known certifications because they what might help them land that next gigantic job or pay raise.

Three reasons to think about the CCDE

I’m thinking about pursuing the new CCDE certification, and I think you ought to think about it as well. Here are three reasons to give it some thought:

Unlike a CCNP, CCDP, or MCSE certification, the CCDE doesn’t have a long list of tests you must take. You only must take one written and one hands-on examination.
For those of us who enjoy designing complex networks in lieu of tweaking and troubleshooting complex network routing or security, the CCDE may be something that interests you over other certifications.

Cisco has completed a great job representing, improving, and promotion the CCIE. Because of this, I think the CCDE will become highly recognizable, as the CCIE is today.

The CCDE proves that you can design a quantity of the most complex and advanced networks in the world today. The documentation of this skill can be invaluable to your career.

However, don’t jump the gun: Make sure you have the recommended design experience on gigantic networks, get prepared to prepare for some grueling tests, and make sure you’re willing to pay a much higher cost than other certifications — both in time and in dollars.