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The Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert, or CCIE, is a technical certification offered by Cisco Systems. The CCIE certifies the skills required of network engineers to plan, operate and troubleshoot complex, converged network infrastructures on a wide variety of Cisco equipment.
The CCIE is described by Cisco as "the most prestigious networking certification in the industry." The CCIE certifies a very specific set of skills in the field of networking. According to Cisco, less than 3% of Cisco Certified engineers obtain CCIE certification and less than 1% of the networking professionals worldwide, and the average candidate will spend thousands of their own dollars and spend at least 18 months studying while pursuing it. Passing all the requirements of the program earns the individual a unique CCIE number assigned by Cisco.
The program is currently divided into seven different areas of expertise or “tracks”. The CCIE track in which one becomes certified determines the different aspects of networking technology that individual is recognized as being an expert in. One may also choose to pursue multiple CCIE tracks to be recognized as an expert in several different categories of Cisco technology: Routing & Switching, Service Provider, Security, Service Provider Operations, Voice/Collaboration, Data Center, and Wireless.
CCIE program planners chose to start its numbering system with 1024 (2 to the power of 10), according to Stuart Biggs, who in 1993 led a team that created the Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert program. The number 1024 was given to the Cisco testing lab, and afterward on July 19, 1993, Biggs received the second number, 1025. Terrance Slattery, the first CCIE in history to earn the certification, received the number 1026.
Cisco announced the CCIE program publicly on Sept. 27, 1993, in a press release in which John Chambers, now CEO but then a senior vice president, was quoted saying "Prospective CCIE candidates must be highly qualified just to enter the program, and then, after taking an intensive troubleshooting course, must pass a rigorous hands-on lab test conducted by senior support engineers. This very stringent set of requirements ensures that only the best professionals are selected."
The first CCIE training program was created by www.ccbootcamp.com in 1998 utilizing virtual racks and practice labs.
There are no formal prerequisites for CCIE certification. Other professional certifications or training courses are not required. Instead, candidates must first pass a written qualification exam and then the corresponding hands-on lab exam. You are expected to have an in-depth understanding of the topics on the exams and strongly encouraged to have three to five years of job experience before attempting certification.
The first requirement to achieve CCIE certification is to pass a written examination specific for the CCIE track the candidate is pursuing. The CCIE written examination is a two hour qualification exam consisting of 90-110 questions, and can be taken at any Cisco authorized Pearson VUE testing center. Questions may be a combination of multiple choice and more complex, interactive items that assess technical knowledge. The results of the written exam are pass/fail and are available immediately. The passing score is set by statistical analysis and is subject to change. The scoring is reported on a scale of 300-1000 points, and the current cost of the exam is $400 per attempt. Passing the CCIE written exam is a pre-requisite to sit the CCIE lab exam.
The second and far more difficult requirement needed to achieve CCIE certification is to pass a hands-on lab examination administered by Cisco. The specific format of the lab is currently not the same across all tracks, but in general the entire time of the lab exam is 8 hours. The CCIE lab requires a candidate to configure and troubleshoot a series of complex networks to given specifications in this limited amount of time. Point values are given for each task, and a candidate must achieve a given number of points (About 80%) to pass the lab exam. The current cost of the exam is $1600 per attempt not including travel and lodging expenses. Some CCIE lab exams are graded by trained proctors who ensure the entire criterion are met and points are awarded accordingly, while other tracks are graded by an automated grading engine, ensuring that grading is the same across the board. Typically results of the lab exam are available within 48 hours.
The CCIE lab has traditionally only been available to take at a handful of Cisco lab locations worldwide including Bangalore, Beijing, Brussels, Dubai, Hong Kong, São Paulo, Sydney and Tokyo. Not all tracks are available at all locations. Recently, there have been efforts made by Cisco to expand the availability of the lab in some tracks by introducing both a mobile lab which moves periodically to different cities around the world, and through introducing the ability to take the lab exam at a Pearson VUE testing center.
There are a number of different methods for preparing for the CCIE Lab Exam. If you are fortunate enough to have access to a bunch of lab equipment for the CCIE track you are studying, obviously that is the best option. If you are not as fortunate, you can rent time on racks of equipment or use a emulation software like gns3.
The Routing and Switching track is the most popular of all CCIE tracks by a wide margin. Individuals certified in the CCIE Routing and Switching track comprise about 85% of the total number of CCIEs. The CCIE Routing and Switching track certifies expert level knowledge in Cisco networking across LAN and WAN interfaces and a variety of routers and switches. A CCIE in routing and switching specializes in a variety of LAN/WAN networking technologies and protocols related to global network operations such as spanning-tree, advanced switching concepts, IGPs, BGP, IP multicast, IPv6, network security, QoS, MPLS, IOS services and more...
The CCIE Security track focuses specifically on network security, and certifies individuals with expert level knowledge of specific security protocols and components such as VPN solutions, ASA, IPS and IOS security features. Individuals certified as CCIE Security are certified in configuring complex, end-to-end secure networks, troubleshooting integrated environments, and understanding common attacks and mitigation techniques.
The CCIE Service Provider track focuses on the skills needed for expertise in the arena of service provider networking. The CCIE Service Provider certification certifies individuals as experts in IP fundamentals and technologies as well as building an extensible service provider network infrastructure to deliver rich managed services. Individuals certified as CCIE Service Provider will possess advanced skills related to packet architecture and technologies important to service providers such as service provisioning, MPLS, VPNs, service level agreements and basic security.
The CCIE Service Provider Operations track focuses on expert level knowledge of troubleshooting and maintaining complex service provider networks. The CCIE Service Provider Operations certified individual will have a strong knowledge of PE-PE and PE-CE network infrastructures in both Cisco IOS and Cisco IOS XR operating environments and will possess broad theoretical knowledge of operations management processes, frameworks, and network management systems.
The CCIE Voice track focuses on expert level knowledge of and experience with Cisco Voice over IP products and solutions in an enterprise network environment. A CCIE certified in the CCIE Voice track will be capable of building and configuring complex end-to-end telephony networks, as well as troubleshooting and resolving VoIP related problems. A CCIE Voice certified engineer will not need core IP routing knowledge but must be able to ensure quality of service using in-depth understanding of layer 2 and layer 3 network infrastructures. Any aspirant performing CCIE Voice is responsible to developing the telephony networks and resolving the VOIP issue related with them.
The CCIE Voice certification will retire in February 2014, and will be succeeded by the new CCIE Collaboration track. The new track will include new topics such as video, instant messaging and virtualized UC environments. The new written exam will be available in November 2013, the new lab exam in February 2014. Both exams will replace their Voice counterparts. Existing CCIE Voice holders will receive CCIE Collaboration status by passing the new written exam, and don't need to pass the lab exam again. Candidates who already passed the CCIE Voice written exam are allowed to attempt the lab exam, without passing the CCIE Collaboration written exam.
The CCIE Wireless focuses on and validates expertise in major aspects of WLAN technology and provides the next step for individuals interested in a career in managing or working with Cisco wireless technologies. A CCIE Wireless will possess a broad theoretical knowledge of wireless technologies and a solid understanding of WLAN technologies and products offered by Cisco.
The CCIE Data Center certifies the expert-level skills required to plan, prepare, operate, monitor, and troubleshoot complex data center networks. Professionals who achieve CCIE Data Center certification have demonstrated their technical skills at the highest level.
The CCIE ISP/Dial certification has been retired.
The CCIE SNA/IP Integration has been retired. It was sometimes informally called CCIE-Blue in reference to the emphasis on technologies commonly used by IBM mainframes.
The CCIE Storage Networking track specializes in expert level knowledge in the implementation and troubleshooting of storage area network (SAN). An individual certified in CCIE Storage will be highly skilled with LANs, MANs and WANs over Fibre Channel, iSCSI, FCIP and FICON, and must demonstrate in-depth understanding of layer 2 and layer 3 network infrastructures.
Cisco suddenly retired the CCIE Storage Networking track in February 2013. The last date to test for the written exam is April 30, 2013. The last date to test for the lab exam is June 30, 2013. As of July 1, 2013, no lab exams will be offered for the CCIE Storage Networking certification.
CCIE Storage candidates used to have up to 18 months to pass the lab exam after they passed the written exam. The 2013 cut off permits only two months. Candidates report difficulty securing lab times.
The CCIE WAN Switching has been retired. It focused on the formerly StrataCom product line of IGX & BPX WAN switches.