CCIE Numbers Skyrocket – Red Alert?

Congratulations to Chris Martin, CCIE# 34310, according to IPExpert’s Successful Candidates page.  Thanks to Windows Calculator and my non-binary math skills, that means we’ve had 5,000 new numbers since my pass back in June.  That’s not counting the repeat passes that keep the same number.  The new numbers have been skyrocketing in the last 3 months, shooting up over 2,000 since Blake Krone passed his lab at the end of October.

I’ve heard a lot of interesting theories in the past couple of weeks about why the numbers are shooting up so quickly.  Some attribute it to the official Cisco 360 training program churning out candidates left and right.  There are also those that believe there is something hinkey is going on with the numbering scheme.  Is Cisco pre-allocating numbers to each lab seat every day and then discarding them if the lab isn’t passed?  Are they counting by even numbers now?  Is the numbering now logarithmic?  Add in the recent troubles that Marc La Porte has had with Cisco and his unofficial CCIE Hall of Fame Webpage and the conspiracy theories started spreading like wildfire.  Why is Cisco trying to take down the page?  Are they trying to hide something?

After listening to all the theories and rumors and some of the more outlandish theories that I didn’t even bother to put down, I keep thinking back to a conversation that I had with Terry Slattery back at Cisco Live 2011.  Being the fanboy that I am, I had a chance to ask Terry what he thought about the CCIE numbers climbing ever so higher.  Some of the thoughts he shared with me were rather intriguing and got me to thinking about things in a light that I hadn’t really considered before.  With the acceleration of the new numbers being spit out, I think now more than ever that Terry might have been on to something.

Let’s say for the sake of argument that there isn’t anything funny going on with the numbers.  Let’s also assume that there isn’t rampant cheating going on, as some have suggested to me.  That means that we have a large number of people taking and passing the lab.  But we aren’t hearing about them.  They don’t have blogs or spend time on Groupstudy or post success stories on LinkedIn.  There isn’t any information about them out there.  Almost as if they didn’t really have a big presence on the Internet.  As if they weren’t really looking to market their skills to others and instead were either already at jobs that required the CCIE or had one lined up and ready to go.  Where would such a thing be possible?


Stop and think about it for a minute.  According to Cisco, China is seeing explosive growth in networking, everything ranging from power systems to survellience.  They’re ramping up and infrastructure that’s going to need to support over a billion people all looking to get connected somehow.  China is leading the way in deploying IPv6 internally as a way to alleviate the exhaustion of IPv4 addresses.  Ask yourself then: Where are they getting all these engineers?  How many of your friends and colleagues are flying to China to work on these massive projects?  I’m guessing hardly any.  Why’s that?  Where is the supply coming from to meet this massive demand?

I believe that there are sponsored learning facilities inside China that are essentially functioning like advanced technology vocational technology centers in an effort to train a workforce to go out and assume the roles needed to build and maintain advanced networking and computing infrastructures.  That way, they don’t need to sort out all the details of arranging for a large number of visas to allow foreign engineers to come and work for months at a time.  They also don’t have to worry about bad press from said foreign engineers coming back home and discussing things like the Internet filtering policies.  Instead, they can focus on creating a highly-skilled group of workers to go out and tackle these huge projects.  Because these facilities are likely sponsored or run by the government, profit is of less concern than results.  And if you have a populace that is willing to clamor toward a job that doesn’t involve manual labor or other undesirable work, you would have a motivated pool of talent to pick from.  Taking into account the mind-bending numbers of people available for these jobs, passing even 1,000 extra CCIEs into the global pool is a blip on the radar for China.

One other thing that I’ve mentioned before lends credence to the Chinese CCIE theory in my mind.  Remember those dastardly Open Ended Questions that I hated so much?  Guess which testing facility instituted the in-person interview process that led to the OEQs before the new troubleshooting section?  That’s right, Beijing.  I’m not accusing anyone of wrongdoing.  But the fact that the OEQ program originated there means they must have had a very high pass rate they were suspect of in the first place.  What if the pass rate is still legitimately high even with the new safeguards against impropriety?  Since Cisco doesn’t release numbers on pass rate per lab, I guess we’ll never know.

Tom’s Take

At this rate, we’re looking at seeing CCIE 40,000 before the end of the year.  That’s really going to hit home for people if it took almost 3 years to go from 20,000 to 30,000 and then only takes a year to climb up to 40,000.  I don’t like to think about the idea that lab cheating is so rampant that Cisco has given up trying to protect the value of the CCIE.  Quite the contrary, I’ve heard rumors that the difficulty of the lab is as strong as ever and people are working as hard as they can to get their digits.  To me, that says there is a large contingent of people passing the lab and not talking about it, either by their own choice or the choice of someone above them.  And since we in the U.S. aren’t seeing the workforce flooded with new CCIEs daily, that must mean those passing are someone other than the U.S. (or Europe).  Add in the fact that there aren’t many network rock stars studying Mandarin or watching Ni How Kai-Lan and I am guessing that means that many of our new unknown CCIE brethren are from the Orient.  No crazy conspiracies or funny math.  Just a group of dedicated people doing their best to make it in the world.

27 thoughts on “CCIE Numbers Skyrocket – Red Alert?

  1. Tom, I am sure you know from twitter there are HUGE numbers of CCIE hopefuls (here and abroad). I have a Marine friend that took a bootcamp and her lab in China. Smart individual and still took several attempts. Seems to point towards your theory. I”m hoping to get my number here soon.

  2. Great article Tom, I really hope that Cisco hasn’t given up on safeguarding the CCIE now that I finally achieved mine after a very long road to get here, much like yours! I can certainly see and understand the greater need for them now, but at the same rate if you are going through a “school” of sorts to achieve the knowledge to pass you miss two of the key parts of the exam: methodology and experience. Sure they might be able to configure a router and make it work, but do they truly know why they are doing the configuration they are and how to properly deploy it?

    Thankfully there are still only 50 or so of us (known that is) in the world with the Wireless!

  3. I’ve noticed now ta lack of CCIE blogs as well. When i made my first attempt two years ago, there were tons of people talking about thee ccie in forums,blogs,etc. It seems this has all dried up.

  4. I don’t know that it’s really anything to be honest. There are a LOT more people who could care less about Twitter and blogs and cr4p then there are people who do care. I know plenty of CCIE’s who never attend or care about Cisco Live, Twitter, blogging or whatever. They work, plain and simple. It’s a job. They don’t care about other CCIE’s. They aren’t fanboys. They don’t know who Terry Slattery is or who Scott Morris is. It’s just a job and their focus is on work, family and/or hobbies. Also, with the economy down, with job prospects appearing dimmer and dimmer these days many turn to certifications to try and just keep an edge in the job market.

  5. Tom, I agree with you on China, and I tend to agree with lft411’s point that some people just work. They don’t care about social networking. For example, for every person I’ve run into who’s heard of Packet Pushers, there’s probably 50 who haven’t. I think the vast majority of folks just aren’t into it in the same way.

    Now, if you couple China with folks who just don’t care about social networking, and yeah…you’ve got a bunch of people passing the lab we’ve never heard of, and probably never will. That’s too bad, because I know there’s a ton of smart people out there that would be nice if we could tap into.

  6. What a great explanation as to what is going on. I for one do not want to see the lab lose it’s appeal – I am not busting my butt trying to get my digits for nothing. It would be a relief if this theory is true.

    @Ethan, I would agree that some people are just trying to do there jobs, but I also think that the workforce is changing and it is important to build relationships online. Like you said, there is a ton of smart people and they all don’t live in my neighborhood. I, we, benefit so greatly from hearing experiences and having a massive amount of smart people to go to in an instant. Think of the amazing force you bring to your employer when you have developed those relationships online that you can tap into when needed.

    Of course it goes both way, we should give back to the community, as much as possible. And gosh darnnit it is just fun having friends online who love talking about nerd stuff as much as me!!

  7. Amazing write up! I would blame the institutions that are coming up with these offers of passing CCNA/CCxP/CCIE in one year time. Students with no experience, who have no knowledge, who were never interested in networking or never knew anything about this subject are passing the lab just because they know they will be paid a heavy amount with the CCIE tag. You pay so-and-so amount to the institution and the institution will make sure you pass the lab. They make the students cram all the knowledge that is only required to ‘pass the lab’. The mock labs are so similar to what the students see on the actual lab. Even though the CCIE is not losing it’s flavor but this kind of rise in the numbers is definitely making it seem as if its just another exam. 😦

    Obviously, techy people like us who know what it is to be a CCIE will value it. But what about the management/recruiting people? Do you think the increasing number will make an impact on the people in management/recruiting about what it means to be a CCIE?

  8. Hi Tom,

    I was fortunate enough to speak to David Mallory (CTO Cisco Learning) this week at Cisco Live London and questioned him on a number of things, one being how Cisco protect the CCIE from becoming a cheater’s paradise. His answer went some way to explaining the attempt to take Marc La Porte’s website down.

    As you probably know, Cisco used to publish the numbers of people passing the lab but they found that people were using the trending information to decide when to sit their lab, usually just before the pass rate took a dive again. I guess that any statistical data that gives people an idea when the lab is at an apparently less difficult level is something that Cisco would be right to hide.

    Another point David made was an increased effort in physical security. It seems crazy but they’ve found people with cameras built in to spectacles etc.

    I would certainly say the 360 programme has helped the increase in numbers. I mean, for $400, I get a chance to not only go through the same experience for a fraction of the cost, but get feedback on exactly where I went wrong so I can go away and build on my weaknesses. Now, if Cisco didnt update their lab scenarios frequently, you could argue that the 360 programme is nothing more than a glorified exam dump, but David insisted that they have a huge number of scenarios that they keep updating and moving between, all within the current blueprint.

  9. Hi Tom,
    Had a chat with a Chinese friend of mine last night after reading this blog he’s #22110 & originally from Shanghi. He passed his lab in Belgium while living here in Dublin. He didnt think there were secret schools churning out ccie’s, bit more cynical thinking its cisco bumpin up the numbers… one things certain though it id worrying

  10. Cisco publicly stated that the OEQs were introduced to stem cheating in China and (from memory) India.. experience has shown that this comes as little surprise. I have little doubt their removal has played a major part in the increased number of people cheating or passing with very little actual clue. A CCIE # is certainly worth far less in the major areas (R&S, Security, etc) than it used to be.

    I come from the perspective of wireless and I value the CWNE (CWNP wireless expert cert) far more than the CCIE-Wireless because you actually require real world knowledge / experience to gain the cert. The CCIE needs to move to this model for it to retain any credibility. There are numerous stories of people with practically no actual experience passing the lab and I’d certainly hire a certification-less experienced individual over them any day.

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  12. I would say alot are using utilities to teh point of not using hardware models exams and passing with tech papers..

    and not actually studying for the ccie and so forth they are using it as a stepping stone as it looks great on their cv 90% of employers don’t checking the creds..

    i wis I had the cash to study with cisco i’d love to see wifi/hdmi/network pass through though financially i can’t afford all the gear I need…

  13. Interesting Blog. I recently sat the lab and the Proctor felt compelled to tell me that the Lab was curved a few months ago for scores that were close to passing. Seems like even the Procor’s feel like the CCIE is going to crap to reveal such information. I think he only mentioned this because he felt bad that I barely failed multiple times. Anyways, this explains the abnormal surge in CCIE #’s.

  14. I had a chance to b.s. with the proctor during a recent attempt. He told me that a few months ago a curve was applied to lab scores that were close to passing. This would explain the surge. Also the only reason I came across this blog was because I did a search on “ccie rapidly rising” because I too noticed that the number of CCIE’s has been abnormal and wanted to see if anyone else noticed this. I think everything about this blog is on point.

  15. Hi guy, I come from sunny island Singapore in south asia east. Read your blog post is very good and I thinking many thing.

    Yes, I telling you that over here in orient, not many peoples with the certify to do networking job, so if having it, definite can find job. Maybe pay not so high like United State America, but having job in here is good thing.

    Last time cisco certify is not very famous here, but recently more people taking the exam. That why now we not so much time study the algebra and dirac function, but we spend more time study the VOIP and routing / switching. Also, we have many people, so some people do cloud technology, some people do networking, some people do software coding, still have many people.

    But you no worry the value of CCIE in United State America, we no speak good english to go there stealing job from you, also many race people we scare go there get beat on head. We together strive to making world more connected.

  16. I come from Africa and much as I understand and appreciate the blog’s point of view, I agree with Koh Francis. If you look at the CCIE figures in the past, a majority of them came from USA and Europe because back then thats where technology was. I remember when I was in College in early 2000s, the internet was a precious commodity for only 1% or less of our population. Today more than 50% of the population use internet especially with the advent of IP capable mobile phones. 5yrs ago in our country we had a few CCNAs, thats all. Today we have probably more than a hundred of them and the number is growing. When I got my CCNP in 2010, I thought I was the only one but nope, I was surprised to learn we are a number of us and the number is increasing as more demand for these kind of folks is also getting bigger. IPv4 is vanishing which is clear sign than there is also an increase in the number of users to be supported, so having an increase in CCIEs should be a good thing guys. Much as Africa still registers the lowest number of CCIEs but trust me in a couple of years to come more and more fellas will be close to attaining similar level of knowledge. Today it is easy to get books online, GNS is making lab practices possible. So even if these numbers are booming from China or wherever, I dont think there is a problem. After all in the US if one has a CCNP they will live a more decent life than in Asia or Africa(in general terms that is), so craving for higher and higher certs is more motivating outside of the US or Europe. Now that many people can appreciate technology they will definetely work their ass off to achieve technology certs to have a chance of finding a well paying job.

    Finally, your analysis could be true, I have never been in China myself, and I am only looking at the trend in my country. Nice blog story though 🙂

  17. If that were the case wouldn’t we see around 4-5 chinese names for every non chinese name? Look at the CCIE Hall of Fame for say the last 5000 qualified CCIE’s, 4000 of them dont look chinese.

    Unfortuantely I am in the camp of too many individuals cheating. Why? Because I was a senior engineer at Dimension Data and almost all the guys who were prepping were cheating. FACT! 2 of them passed on their 3rd attempt just before I left.

    Yes even with cheating these guys were failing. Like getting EPO before the Tour de France and winning it, 7 times!

    My point here is people are cheating for better salaries and in my view is churning out the higher numbers. Which is ironic since it’s the salries that will directly be affected.

  18. I complete my CCIE the hard way , now its really disheartening to see people passing at an astonishing rate.
    My advise is get a JNCIE (if your work in a mixed environment) , I bet there wont be many with both , It will add more value to your CCIE.

  19. I re-certfied yesterday having got my ccie back in 2001. Back then there was also people worried about escalating numbers and that soon ccie#10000 would be reached. Reason “so many” did it back in 2001 was that after the ‘Internet bubble’ burst in 2000 engineers had more time to study because there was less/no real project work to do; and were motivated because it is good to have ccie number should they ever be out of job. Could be that these conditions very much apply now as well and encourage people to go for the lab?

  20. Im not a ccie but I don’t wanna think, believe that ccie is now worthless, I saw some guys leave a comment that some p level degree is worth more than ccie nowadays; I don’t wanna hear that stuffs
    I checked the hall of fame the numbers are currently are between 1,025 to 39,948 it means 38,923 ccie certified around the globe, huh?! (lets forget about those 1 till 1,025 which I don’t know why there name aint mentioned in there) but at above cisco say’s
    Total on the list: 12,679 (includes active, inactive, and suspended)
    Al statistics are based upon actual verification with the cisco CCIECCDE verification tool
    Last update: 25-jul-2013

    So I don’t know that are you guys are worry about if that doesn’t mean the taken seat in the exam counted not passed ones I don’t know that does it mean

  21. Nice blog , here i need your advice , from my research … iv been in the computer business for 15 years but without any certification lean from time to time on my own … then 4 years ago decide to try cisco ccna then i realise i just love it … so went after ccna voice then security to see where should i go after … now i am currently doing ccnp route and in a lab gns3 enviroment it isnt real world .

    So yes iv learn by myself and i understand that i need real experience because i need to practice every day so i dont forget about voice or security .

    From your comment i feel like all the hard work am doing by myself isnt enought right now am i right ?

    Iv try to find class but the only training iv found so far its boot camps and as far as i am concerne i dont beleive i can learn all this in 5 days …. so i understand that they give you a a paper and all the answer etc… without understanding the fundamentals

    the only place i have found so far is in India who they offer a 3-4 months training full time for a good price and even the hotel rate for a month is good with food and everything .

    i want to go for sure for CCIE why cuz i love it , so what are your suggestion for me ?
    try to find a job ? but will they hired me without experience ?

  22. CCIE numbers are increasing. No need to worry. It’s good for Cisco. More engineers, more comfortable clients will be. They know they can hire engineers if needed anytime because there are Cisco engineers available in market.
    Problem in career?
    No problem at all.
    Industry is growing. China, India is growing.
    Why India is growing? because of new boom in trend of IT industry. Jobs are increased. There is huge increment in jobs from last 3-4 years in India, China, Dubai.
    Thousands of new IT companies are joining hands and becoming Cisco partners and of’course they need CCIE’s for that. If they will not hire CCIE’s, they will not be able to become higher level partners. If they will not become higher level Cisco partners like Silver and gold. They won’t get 70-80% discount on devices. If they will not get good discounts, how will they compete in this highly competitive market?
    Suppose X company is Premier level Cisco partner and Y is Gold Partner.
    X will get Cisco 2811 series router in 2000 bucks and will sell it to companies in 2100 bucks atleast?
    Y company is gold partner and will get same Router in 1200 bucks and will offer it to same company in 1500 bucks. They will get the deal and that too with 3 times more profit. This is how it works in industry. If you are gold partner and have more CCIE’s, you will get more discounts.
    And because number of companies are increasing day by day, they need more and more CCIE’s.
    And it’s good that nuber of CCIE’s are increasing.

    Even if you are looking for a Cisco project, you need to show that you are going to allocate this tam for your company project and these are number of CCIE’s in this team. Your client company will trust you.
    Like Aricent in Gurgaon city in India. They have over 100 CCIE’s working in 1 building. Strange but true. And they have Cisco TAC and the major projects. And even the projects are increasing day by day. What is the reason? Because they have team of experts.

    • Yes you are right buddy.
      If any company in any country want to do business with IT giant Cisco, they need to hire CCIE’s to become Cisco partners. If they will not hire CCIE engineers, they won’t be able to get any projects and even they won’t be able to become Cisco partner.
      Hiring CCIE’s is need of every IT company.

  23. Why in the world would Chinese buy from Cisco. They have Huawei and lot of other Chinese companies.

  24. Achieving this goal was a dream of mine for the past 2 years; I think anyone can become a CCIE with correct motivation, discipline and hard work. Studying at (Internetwork-path) gave me the training that would be their rest of my life. I deeply thank Internetwork-path for their help and support and highly recommend for anyone who wants to become a CCIE.
    Training at (Internetwork-path) has given me the confidence to set assured myself that I would be answer to any future employees. I would like to continue my success and go for CCIE Security After some months as my second CCIE. I would like to thank staff and employees as they are the key to my success.”
    Wish me All the Best for My Second CCIE Security,,,,,

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