Improving Cisco certification study
By stretch | Saturday, September 6, 2008 at 11:27 a.m. UTC
I first obtained my CCNA through a vocational program in high school. Ever since, I've been studying Cisco networking, progressing from the CCNA to CCNP to CCIE material. The entire time, I've been absently compiling a mental checklist of a few things that I feel Cisco could do to improve certification study.
Dynamips by Christophe Fillot, along with its entourage of enhancements, has quickly become a staple of Cisco labs everywhere. Students and engineers no longer have to hack together make-shift labs from end-of-life and beat up equipment purchased (out of pocket) on eBay; even a novice can command a fleet of enterprise routers into the most complex configurations imaginable. The benefits of a virtual lab are obvious and many, but "official" Cisco training continues to limp along on simulators like Packet Tracer, which can never hope to provide the same experience as the real IOS.
Sadly, Cisco's official stance on Dynamips appears to be nonexistent. Yes, there is the issue of image piracy to consider; however, this has been a problem since long before Dynamips emerged. Currently the legal issues of running legitimately obtained IOS images on unsupported platforms are murky at best, with most people benevolently assuming they are in the right by running IOS images obtained through a valid support contract.
What if Cisco were to release study images? Perhaps packet-per-second-limited IOS images available freely to students and engineers alike. Images which, while unsuitable for production use, offer complete exposure to IOS functionality. Cisco has much to gain from such a product; the Dynamips support community is already well-established, and promoting the use of Dynamips will only encourage more people to pursue higher-level certifications (read: more money for Cisco). A similar case could be made for Olive and Juniper.
Nail the Braindump Companies
Cisco is a pretty big company. You'd think they could spare a lawyer or two to legally destroy the braindump providers which plague the certification scene. Doing so would most likely result in a significant drop of certification exams taking place, but I feel this is something Cisco owes its certification holders, if not its own staff. In fairness, I have zero knowledge of intellectual property law, and this may be more difficult than it seems.
Include Real-World Information in Study Guides
Miscellaneous components of maintaining a Cisco network currently (as far as I'm aware) left uncovered by any mainstream certification track can leave significant gaps in an engineer's ability. Things like IOS licensing and support contract details, the image feature hierarchy, and how to compare hardware performance limits can prove extremely useful to know in day-to-day operations, but haven't been included in any study materials I've come across. These wouldn't need to be covered in much detail, but would be beneficial to work into the existing curricula, perhaps at the CCNP level.
About the Author
Jeremy Stretch is a network engineer living in the Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina area. He is known for his blog and cheat sheets here at Packet Life. You can reach him by email or follow him on Twitter.
Posted in Opinion
September 6, 2008 at 1:31 p.m. UTC
No company that supports certifications will ever totally eliminate "braindumps" if you think about it their goal is to have as many folks certified on their products to assist in pushing these products on everyone else. Certifications = Marketing.
I think dynamips is an awesome idea, why would anyone in this day and age want to purchase several thousands $ worth of equipment try to power it up making all that noise when you can build a suitable NIX box to support more than you can ever afford. I know it's not the same as hands on...
Make CCNA/CCNP more like CCIE or RHCE more hands on real world. More like Red Hat though, don't care how you got there does it work like it's supposed to? Good, you pass.
September 6, 2008 at 1:49 p.m. UTC
Adding on to your last paragraph, they really should add something about network management. What to monitor, how to monitor, etc. At least make people study SNMP so they know it''s there.
September 7, 2008 at 6:48 a.m. UTC
Adding to the cert or study track wont help anything. Being certified means jack without actual time on the job. The general consensus is that if you havent done it for the past 5 years you cant do it cert or not.
September 7, 2008 at 9:45 a.m. UTC
I think "ios study images" would be a great step ahead for all the Cisco students community. Packet limited, speed-limited but not feature-limited, available for free for all the students, maybe Cisco supporting dynamips and GNS3, wow! Hope someone in Cisco will see the opportunity. It would be great.
September 7, 2008 at 6:25 p.m. UTC
I forgot to add to the end of my rant (because I was using my phone to post) that study images would be a great idea. Even Microsoft gives a limited version of Windows Server to study from.
September 7, 2008 at 8:39 p.m. UTC
I think you are right the Cisco tracks need a bit more information on how to do your day job. In my opinion the new CCNP track is a bit of a mess it introduces you to a lot of things but nothing in major detail. I would remove all the wireless out of the new CCNP and beef up in other areas. I would have more troubleshooting in there as well as more details on the various hardware platforms especially in the switching space. Some more detail on the 4500 and 6500 series switches would not go a miss. Also maybe a section on documenting the network would be good.
As for Dynamips I believe that Cisco already have their own emulator that they use in house and they are thinking of using it in their academies. It would be nice though if they did something for the general population who cannot afford to go on all the official courses.
September 8, 2008 at 4:14 p.m. UTC
To the point about braindumps, saying "throw some lawyers at it" doesn't really do much. Microsoft brought a suit against TestKing, but can only list them as "John Doe #1 through John Doe #10," as their actual identities and whereabouts are unknown. I'd imagine others are similarly structured.
At least they are making attempts to tighten up exam security.
September 9, 2008 at 11:39 a.m. UTC
As long as Cisco are making money from exam fees then i doubt anything will get done. However, i was reading on Jeremy Ciaoras blog that cisco are introducing forensic analysis for all test results, not sure how that will work to be honest.
September 10, 2008 at 3:28 p.m. UTC
I really like the idea of real world guides, been a few times where I have tried to find what seemed like a basic setup to me for a real world issue only to find examples from cisco that were exponentially more basic.
September 11, 2008 at 12:31 a.m. UTC
I 100% agree with the idea of study images. I understand that Cisco is now moving most, if not all, of its IOS images over to a key-based activation model. Which somewhat mirrors what they have done with the ASA's / Pixes in the 7.x releases.
This could both help and hurt Dynamips. It could hurt because most people who use Dynamips obtain images through work and other sources in order to run their test labs. Once key-codes are placed on the images I see this being more difficult. (I do not advocate people violating ELUA's)
However it could be good because the frame-work for making a PPS limited or some other non-production ready image would be there. They could simply give you a STUDY key and bam you are off to the races.
Cisco needs to support Dynamips officially.
December 2, 2009 at 4:49 a.m. UTC
What are the best simulations exams for the 640-802 ?
I took the ccna 640-802 exam and received a 785 and needed a 825 to pass (44 questions). I prepared for this exam by making a lab with two 2650 routers and two 2950 switches. I read several books and completed both the Boson and Transcender practice exams with almost 100% correct on all the prep tests the first time around.
The problem is that the actual exam questions are far more complex then what the Boson and Transcender offered even though these exams are geared for the new CCNA exam.
Is there a better exam prep option? Iam going to purchase certmagic.com 640-802 as i heared great reviews about them. Anyone tried them? Let me know plz
December 15, 2009 at 11:27 p.m. UTC
Cisco makes money on Certification training- and keeps it locked in to their technology, even though much of the basic certification info is really just generic networking. Why would they want to hurt their market?
May 29, 2012 at 6:06 a.m. UTC
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