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Cisco Data Center: changes in the partner specializations

Thursday, February 4th, 2016

Cisco Data CenterCisco has made some changes in the Advanced Data Center specializations in the partner program recently. What will change exactly and what is the impact of those changes on the current status of your organization and the plans in the pipeline?

Cisco partner program in a nutshell

The partner program aims to clarify the knowledge that is necessary for being successful as a Cisco partner. The program ties in with the 5 most important solutions within an organization:

  • Routing & Switching
  • Collaboration
  • Security
  • Data Center
  • Service Provider

Every solution has its own specializations and every specialization has different roles:

  • Account Manager
  • Systems Engineer
  • Field Engineer

There are individual certifications, exams and courses attached to a role.

Obtaining specializations leads to obtaining Cisco partner certifications, like Premier or Gold. It also leads to a discount on the acquisition of Cisco products, both on the purchase as in the form of back-end rebates. Thus developing knowledge that is necessary for passing exams often pays itself off within half a year.

Specializations for Cisco Data Center

For those partners that focus on Data Center there are 3 different specializations:

The Unified Fabric Specialization is aimed on the deployment of Nexus switching in the data center. The Unified Computing Specialization focuses on the UCS solution. The Data Center Architecture combines both technology specializations.

An organization that meets the conditions of a specialization shows that it has the in-house know-how to sell, design, implement and manage Cisco Date Center solutions.

Specializations for Cisco Data Center: what has changed?

Account Manager
The follow-up exams 650-987 and 646-985 that were obligated earlier are not part of the program anymore. The exam Cisco Selling Business Outcomes (810-403) is now sufficient for all three the Data Center specializations.

Systems Engineer
Similar to the account manager the exam 650-987 will also be abolished for the systems engineer. Obtaining the exams 642-996 (Designing Cisco Unified Fabric) and 642-998 (Designing Cisco UCS) suffices.

Field Engineer
There are no changes for the field engineer. However, it became clear recently that the required specialization for this role cannot be renewed by obtaining a CCIE Written exam. So this means that field engineers need to make sure that the exams 642-999 (UCS implementation), 642-035 (UCS-troubleshooting), 642-997 (Unified Fabric implementation) and 642-980 (Unified Fabric-troubleshooting) stay valid.

What is the impact of these changes?

Is your organization compliant of this moment? In other words: does your organization possess the required Cisco Data Center specializations? In that case these changes will not have any impact.

If your organization is on its way to obtaining one of the Cisco Data Center specializations it is recommended to make sure whether the account managers or system engineers have planned one of the above mentioned abolished exams. In that case those exams no longer need to be taken of course.

More information on the Advanced Data Center Architecture Specialization, the Unified Computing Technology Specialization and the Unified Fabric Technology Specialization can be found on the Fast Lane website. Of course it is also possible to turn to your account manager or myself if you have any questions. We will be happy to advise you.

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CCNP Data Center: how does it work with those 2 options?

Monday, September 7th, 2015

In 2012 Cisco introduced the CCNP Data Center Certification. At this time, 3 years later, there is still confusion about the 2 options for obtaining the Data Center Certification. The result? IT professionals take the wrong exams and attend courses that aren’t necessary for them. With this blog I hope to end all that confusion.

CCNP Data Center and CCNA Data Center

CCNP Data Center is a so called ‘professional certification’ from Cisco’s Career Certifications program[.pdf]. Like all other CCNP certifications the CCNP Data Center certification is based upon a CCNA certification. You can already guess: it is based on CCNA Data Center.

CCNA Data Center is rather straight and narrow: to obtain the certification you have to complete 2 exams successfully. The certification stands on its own: you don’t need a CCNA Routing & Switching certification. That is actually rather logical if you look at the content of the preparatory course.

The DCICN course addresses the base of routing and switching, therefore it has a lot of overlap with CCNA Routing & Switching. The DCICT course addresses Cisco UCS (Unified Computing System) and the switch products within the data center, also known as the Nexus products. You can compare the set-up of the DCICT course with the set-up of the CCNA Routing & Switching course: it addresses the basic skills, but more advanced knowledge and applications require the step towards CCNP.

CCNP Data Center: the 2 options

So far so good. You are CCNA Data Center certified and now you are able to concentrate on CCNP Data Center. This is the moment of choice. For CCNP Data Center has 2 options. I always call option 1 the implementation & design option and option 2 the implementation & troubleshooting option. What do I mean with that?

Cisco indicates: a good designer of Cisco data center solutions needs to know the products well and has to have practical experience. You can compare it to a driving instructor who first has to obtain his own driver license.

So everyone starts with 2 implementation exams and courses:

642-997 DCUFIImplementing Cisco Data Center Unified Fabric (DCUFI)Implementation Unified Fabric and Nexus, especially Nexus 5000, Nexus 2000 and Nexus 7000.
642-999 DCUCIImplementing Cisco Data Center Unified Computing (DCUCI)Implementation Cisco UCS, including amongst others Fabric Interconnect and Nexus 1000V, and both the Blades and the standalone C series.

After the implementation courses and exams the moment of choice arrives: do you choose the implementation & design option or the implementation & troubleshooting option? Whatever you select, there are still 2 exams left to take. For as a whole the CCNP Data Center certification contains 4 exams, no matter which option you choose. However, the selection of an option is very important.

In the image below I have visualized the 2 options:

CCNP Data Center

As you can see it is your choice either to specialize in the design in both UCS and Nexus Unified Fabric ór in the troubleshooting of both UCS and Nexus Unified Fabric. So you don’t specialize in a technology or solution, as many people think. You base your choice on the role you have or are about to take on.

Which option do you choose?

I wish you good luck with obtaining your CCNP Data Center certification. Making the wrong choice should no longer be a problem. Do you still have questions? Feel free to contact me.

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