I recently read an interesting article by Terry Jenkins (from NC-Expert) on why the Evolving Technologies section of the CCIE written is failing everyone. While it should be kept in mind that Terry has a goal, which is to bring more people to their training courses, what he says in the article is very true.
The Evolving Technologies (ET) section was brought into the CCIE written exams recently and will be added to all tracks, eventually.
The question is, should it?
I will highlight some of the salient points from Terry’s article here, but please do read the full article.
Is it just a marketing ploy?
Is the ET section a marketing ploy, as Terry suggests? Not many people studying for the CCIE have a need to study anything to do with the Internet of Things. However, more services are becoming cloud-based. SaaS is extremely popular and will continue to be so. Software Defined Networking is becoming more prevalent as Cisco upgrades their product lines to support REST and Python APIs.
But this is not a one-size fits all scenario. Whilst the chances of a CCIE in Routing and Switching may never touch anything IoT, there are business drivers that may embrace the cloud, as well as tools to make their life easier, which would be SDN.
But what of the other areas?
Breaking down the Evolving Technologies sections
Let’s break down the ET sections.
The cloud is big, cost effective and offloads many worries, such as business continuity, to third parties.
But, how much is relevant to the CCIE? Let’s look through the topics:
6.1.a Compare and contrast cloud deployment models
6.1.a.1 Infrastructure, platform, and software services (XaaS)
6.1.a.2 Performance and reliability
6.1.a.3 Security and privacy
6.1.a.4 Scalability and interoperability
6.1.b Describe cloud implementations and operations
6.1.b.1 Automation and orchestration
6.1.b.2 Workload mobility
6.1.b.3 Troubleshooting and management
6.1.b.4 OpenStack components
These are only relevant if you are running your own cloud. If you outsource you email to Office 365 then this bears no relevance to the role of the network engineer. If you are running your own cloud, then this will be relevant.
6.2 Network Programmability (SDN)
6.2.a Describe functional elements of network programmability (SDN) and how they interact
6.2.a.5 Northbound vs. Southbound protocols
6.2.b Describe aspects of virtualization and automation in network environments
6.2.b.1 DevOps methodologies, tools, and workflows
6.2.b.2 Network/application function virtualization (NFV, AFV)
6.2.b.3 Service function chaining
6.2.b.4 Performance, availability, and scaling considerations
DevOps is quite fun, and learning Python will be a great help to the network engineer over the next few years. Cisco ASAs come with a REST API, the Nexus line can be programmed through Python. So having SDN within the CCIE does make a little sense.
6.3 Internet of Things (IoT)
6.3.a Describe architectural framework and deployment considerations for Internet of Things
6.3.a.1 Performance, reliability, and scalability
6.3.a.3 Security and privacy
6.3.a.4 Standards and compliance
6.3.a.6 Environmental impacts on the network
Does the CCIE need to know how to get their refrigerator to talk to the toaster through OSPF? No. Do we need to know how to program Arduino boards? No. This is where the CCIE written exams become messy.
Meat and Jam
IoT does not belong on any of the existing CCIE exams, neither does knowing how to run your own cloud. SDN is more of a gray area. I can see why this could be relevant and this is where the written exams fall apart. It’s like ordering a great dinner and having it delivered with your desert. On the same plate.
The thing is, the Evolving Technologies section is here now. Until Cisco remove it from the existing CCIE written exams, we have to put up with it. Even if it does not belong. The CCIE student now has this added worry. Returning to Terry’s article he puts it very succinctly:
“At this point his confidence is all but gone and it’s replaced with frustration and anger. He is telling himself I am going to fail this exam, not because I do not know collaboration but because I do not know technologies that have nothing to do with collaboration!”
How can you prepare for Evolving Technologies?
You need to prepare for the new section. Even though it only accounts for 10% of the exam, this is 10% that you cannot afford to lose.
NC-Expert run a course, and at $399 is a good price for a one-day course. I am not affiliated with NC-expert in any way, nor do I have any experience of their courses, but they are a Cisco Learning partner. If courses are not your thing, then there are books that can help.
Virtual Routing in the Cloud
Cloud Computing: Automating the Virtualized Data Center
The Policy Driven Data Center with ACI: Architecture, Concepts, and Methodology
Network Programmability (SDN)
As well as the Policy Driven Data Center book above, there are other books on SDN.
Programming and Automating Cisco Networks: A Guide to Network Programmability and Automation in the Data Center, Campus, and WAN
Internet of Things (IoT)
IoT Fundamentals: Networking Technologies, Protocols, and Use Cases for the Internet of Things
Internet of Things / Internet of Everything: A Practical Architectural Approach
This book (again a Fundamentals book and not yet released) seems closer aligned to the topics on the CCIE Written, covering architecture, scalability, security, and standards. I would probably buy this book instead of the one above.
There are a few books that can help us get through the new Evolving Technologies section. Like it or not, this is something we will have to put up with until Cisco decide otherwise. We may not agree with the change in the CCIE, but with a little reading, it is a section that can be passed.
Thanks once again for sharing your impressions about what’s going on the curricula from a certified side of story.
I also read this article, and on my way to CCNP, thinking to archive CCIE in the future of my path.
My point here is how close we can get from what we learn and what to expect to find in real world, I’ve been follow, not so hard, what I would call transformation effects of network into SDN and NFV, when Cisco brings products that involve those technologies, I feel that they are reflecting those changes on they published books and learning plans.
I have no clue if this would be fair reserving 10% of score and blue print on IE, since I’ve never faced the preparations for the exam before, but this already is an effect over solutions implemented that are already in the market and with real world applications.
Once again, what a great informative post with materials that everyone here can take a good source of information allied with your experience.
Best wishes of success on you next steps, I’ve become a fan and a reader of your publications, planning to get your books in a near future.
Learning versus real-world? Well, that’s a difficult one. It totally depends on where the company you work for is headed. The company I work for is a CCaaS company (Customer Communication as a Service), so we are heavily into the cloud. So learning vs. Real World for me is pretty close, especially the Cloud Stack angle. In time we will look deeper into SDN as we re-architect the platform.
Where it comes to IoT, well, that’s not something I am likely to ever get into in my current role. But then it maybe something others are more likely to embrace as part of their learning/job requirements.
I think 10% is probably more than needed for the written exams, especially as the topics don’t really fit with the courses. Does every Routing and Switching engineer need to know how to rollout a Cloud Stack environment? Absolutely not. Does 10% of R&S engineers need to do this? Maybe. But should the remaining 90% be forced to study for this? Absolutely not!
But, as you say, the network is transforming, as it always will. Then something else will come along and it will transform again, along with the CCIE.
I do agree with the original article that there is a large degree of marketing with the ET section. It clearly is not applicable for a large percentage of people, but it does reflect the changes we see with networking as a whole.
I think in a few years time there will be new certifications (like the CCNA Industrial) that cater for the people whose role it is to implement these new things and hopefully this section will be dropped, or reduced, where it is not needed.
I would say that learning something like Python, or having a decent understanding or REST, will take you from a good engineer to a kick-ass engineer and these are transferrable skills. Will you need to use your R&S knowledge with IoT? Probably not.
Hope this answers your question! Hope you enjoy the books when you get them!