About six months ago, I wrote out my predictions about the rumored CCIE Data Center certification. I figured it would be a while before we saw anything about it. In the interim, there are a lot of people out there that are talking about the desire to have a CCIE focused on things like Cisco UCS and Nexus. People like Tony Bourke are excited and ready to dive head first into the mountain of material that is likely needed to learn all about being an internetworking expert for DC equipment. Sadly though, I think Tony’s going to have to wait just a bit longer.
I don’t think we’ll see the CCIE Data Center before December of 2012.
DISCLAIMER: These suppositions are all based on my own research and information. They do not reflect the opinion of any Cisco employee, or the employees of training partners. This work is mine and mine alone.
Why do I think that? Several reasons actually. The first is that there are new tests due for the professional level specialization for Cisco Data Center learning. The DC Networking Infrastructure Support and Design Specialist certifications are getting new tests in February. This is probably a refresh of the existing learning core around Nexus switches, as the new tests reference Unified Fabric in the title. With these new tests imminent, I think Cisco is going to want a little more stability in their mid-tier coursework before they introduce their expert level certification. By having a stable platform to reference and teach from, it becomes infinitely easier to build a lab. The CCIE Voice lab has done this for a while now, only supporting versions 4.2 and 7.x, skipping over 5.x and 6.x. It makes sense that Cisco isn’t going to want to change the lab every time a new Nexus line card comes out, so having a stable reference platform is critical. And that can only come if you have a stable learning path from beginning to end. It will take at least 6 months to work out the kinks in the new material.
Speaking of 6 months, that’s a bit of the magic number when it comes to CCIE programs. All current programs require a 6 month window for notification of major changes, such as blueprints or technology refreshes. Since we haven’t heard any rumblings of an imminent blueprint change for the CCIE SAN, I doubt we’ll see the CCIE DC any sooner than the end of the year. From what I’ve been able to gather, the CCIE DC will be an add-on augmentation to the existing CCIE SAN program rather than being a brand new track. The amount of overlap between DC and SAN would be very large, and the DC core network would likely include SAN switching in the form of MDS, so keeping both tracks alive doesn’t make a lot of sense. If you start seeing rumors about a blueprint change coming for the CCIE SAN, that’s when you can bet that you are 6-9 months out from the CCIE DC.
One other reason for the delay is that the CCIE Security lab changes still have not gone live yet (as of this writing). There are a lot of people in limbo right now waiting to see what is changing in the security internetworking expert realm, many more than those currently taking the CCIE SAN track. CCIE Security is easily the third most popular track behind R&S and SP. Keeping all those candidates focused and on task is critical to the overall health of the CCIE program. Cisco tends to focus on one major track at a time when it comes to CCIE revamps, so with all their efforts focused on the security track presently, I doubt they will begin to look at the DC track until the security lab changes are live and working as intended. Once the final changes to the security lab are implemented, expect a 6-9 month window before the DC lab goes live.
The final reason that I think the DC will wait until the last part of the year is timing. If you figure that Cisco is aiming for the latter part of the calendar year to implement something, it won’t happen until after August. Cisco’s fiscal year begins on August 1, so they tend to freeze things for the month of August while they work out things like reassigning personnel and forecasting projections. September is the first realistic timeframe to look at changes being implemented, but that’s still a bit of a rush given all the other factors that go into creating a new CCIE track. Especially one with all the moving parts that would be involved in a full data center network implementation.
Creating a program that is as sought after as the CCIE Data Center involves a lot of planning. Implementing this plan is an involved process that will require lots of trial and error to ensure that it lives up to the standards of the CCIE program. This isn’t something that should be taken lightly. I expect that we will hear about the changes to the program around the time frame of Cisco Live 2012. I think that will be the announcement of the beta program and the recruitment of people to try the written test beta. With a short window between the release of the cut scores and beta testing the lab, I think that it will be a stretch to get the CCIE DC finalized by the end of the year. Also, given that the labs tend to shut down around Christmas and not open back up until the new year, I doubt that 2012 will be the year of the CCIE DC. I’ve been known to be wrong before, though. So long as we don’t suffer from the Mayan Y2K bug, we might be able to get out butts kicked by a DC lab sometime in 2013. Here’s hoping.