“Why should I take the CCDE?”
This is one of the two questions I’m invariably asked at Cisco Live, so —why, indeed? Let me count the reasons…
Because it’s not a Cisco specific certification. There are no IOS commands, there’s very little Cisco proprietary technology, and there are no hardware specifics at all. While the CCIE is, theoretically, not a Cisco specific certification, the reality is testing build and troubleshoot skills always requires some sort of equipment to operate on, so the context of deploy/troubleshoot is always going to be a specific set of command lines. Design, on the other hand, is about technology choices and analysis —and while these can be pushed into vendor specific molds, the intent of the CCDE Team has been, from the beginning, to craft a test that doesn’t assume specific Cisco products or product lines.
Because it stretch your technology skill set. The goal of the CCDE Team, from the beginning, has been to cast the technology net as widely as possible. Every widely used and deployed technology is fair game on this test, from RFCs to those pieces of common knowledge you just pick up over the years. To take the CCDE, you have to know all seven layers in the seven layer cake, not just one or two. You have to know the crucial questions to ask about physical links, transport technologies, control planes, and applications —what about each of these things will impact the way I design a network, and why?
Because it will stretch your thinking skills. The practical test is specifically designed to ask “why,” rather than just “what.” This isn’t a performance test in the sense that if you can design the network, you get the certification. You have to be able to explain why in terms of business and technical requirements. Why did you choose that specific technology to solve this problem? Why did you choose to deploy it that way? Does your understanding stretch beyond the latest line card, does your understanding stretch into the realm of theory and application?
Because the skills you’ll learn when studying for this certification are timeless. That’s one of the reasons the CCDE doesn’t include Cisco specific technologies or equipment —designers should be able to work with any underlying hardware and overlaying applications. Designers should know what questions need to be asked, and answered, about any conceivable technology, not just the ones that exist right now. The CCDE includes equipment and applications that don’t exist specifically to test the designers ability to work with the unforeseeable and the new, the unexpected and the unknown.
Because networks aren’t getting any simpler, and the competition isn’t getting any easier. Design skills are going to be what sets you apart as a network engineer in five years. As networks become a bigger focus of business, the intersection between business and networks need to become a bigger focus of network engineers.
And, finally, because you know you want the challenge.
Before you ask, yes, I’ll be talking about how to study for the CCDE in future posts.