CCIE Data Center 400-151 V2.1 Written Exam – Learn How to Pass It in 2019!Paul Adam
Today, I wanna talk about the CCIE Data Center Written Exam, what it is, recent changes, and what it takes to pass the exam. If you are planning to sit for it in the near future, my guess is that you can’t afford to miss this discussion.
First, let me share some context. CCIE DC Exam is known as 400-151 and the current version is 2.1. It was last updated in August of 2018 when revised the previous exam V4.0 blueprint by making some minor changes to DC subject matter and adding Evolving Technologies V1.1. Evolving Technologies V1.1 contains more focused content around cloud, SDN and IOT technologies and that applies across the board to all of the Written Exams NOT just DC. Anyhow, what didn’t change is the passing score on the test, which still stands at 825. Let me share some observation based on the changes in the official V2.1 Cisco blueprint.
Now, before we move on from this, I want to remind you that Cisco has now committed to making minor exam changes every year and major changes every 3 to 5 years. Cisco defines minor and major changes as content update of 20% or less and 50% or more respectively. How do you know if an update is a minor or a major change? Easy! For example, going from V2.0 to V2.1 is a minor change as per Cisco, whereas going from V2.0 to V3.0 would be considered a major change – I bet you can expect that to happen in 20-20. Looking forward, in V3.0 blueprint, I am expecting to see Cisco add technologies and solutions from more recent acquisitions such as Compute.io, Springpath, and ContainerX. I think Cisco should also reduce DC Networking weight which is about half of the exam today to give way for more cloud and automation and orchestration technologies. Anyhow, CCIE program team has committed to announcing upcoming exam changes 4 to 6 months in advance so all of us have a chance to parse them.
Now, let me breakdown the Security V5.0 Exam blueprint for you. It comprises of 6 sections, i.e. DC Layer 2/Layer 3 Connectivity (technologies such as VXLAN, EVPN, routing protocols, multicast and ACI fabric connectivity), DC Network Services (PBR, PTP, NetFlow and various Security features and protocols), Storage Networking and Compute (FCoE, UCSM, Intersight, Fabric and Appliance ports etc.), Automation and Orchestration (Python-based RESTful APIs, configuration management, Cisco UCSD and CloudCenter), DC Fabric Infrastructure (Cisco ACI fabric discovery, controllers, fabric and tenant policies, fabric elements and virtual networking i.e. Cisco AVE, vSphere VDS and Hyper-V switch etc.) and the evolving technologies. These sections carry weights ranging all the way from a meager 10% to a whopping 25%. Speaking about section weights, let me simplify them for you. DC Networking, IE L2/L3 and L4-L7 network services combined sum up to about 40% of the exam. Storage, Compute, and DC Fabric combined also sum up to another 40% and finally Automation and Orchestration along with Evolving Technologies V1.1 add the remaining 20%. Cisco also added newer topics such as Interfabric connectivity multimode, multisite, RDMA over Converged Ethernet or RoCE, Cisco Intersight and Cloud Center. Cisco also took liberty to remove of outdated technologies such as FabricPath, vPath, RISE, DCB, CPO and One Enterprise Cloud Suite now that Cisco is no longer pursuing any public cloud ambitions.
Now, let me share with you some specific guidance on how you can best prepare for the DC Written Exam. If DC networking related topics make you nervous, IE topics such as VXLAN, EVPN, multicast, L2/L3 Out, QoS, then you are NOT ready to take the exam just yet. You can’t screw up these and still pass the exam. Why? As we discussed earlier, about half of the questions on the exam are going to be from those two sections alone.
Now, let’s say you are feeling pretty good about DC L2/L3 connectivity and services. Next up is the combination of Storage, Compute, and DC Fabric – what am I talking about? These sections are about topics such as Cisco UCS, FCoE, SAN (remember your zoning?) and UCSM. Again, if you find yourself clueless about most of those topics, then bad news is that you are not ready to face the exam just yet. On the other hand, if you feel pretty good about them, you are still NOT ready to take the exam. Why! Because, even if you get every question right that still makes up for the 80% of the exams. Which brings to me to the final sections, Automation and Orchestration and Evolving Technologies. With Automation and Orchestration, you gotta be able to understand NX-OS and ACI Restful APIs, Cisco UCSD and CloudCenter. As we speak, Evolving Technologies is not part of any of the CCIE Lab exams. In order to comfortably tackle the exam, you gotta be able to feel somewhat confident about cloud, SDN, SD-WAN, network programmability and IOT topics.
Now, what I have not discussed thus far, is HOW to do you prepare for those sections and save yourself a costly Exam retake. Well, you need to tap into as many resources you can.
Well, there is a big difference if you are preparing for the first time versus if you are sitting for the Recert or Retake. If this is your first time, I’d strongly suggest going with a structured learning approach which can come from a reputed exam prep provider, IE someone who can provide you with a good balance of learning and passing the test. Beyond that, I’d refer you to spend as much time as you can on Cisco.com. Why? Well, it is their exam and quote and quote correct answers are what they consider correct as documented on Cisco.com. Be sure to read in between the lines, what am I talking about? Say you are reading about Cisco ACI, UCSM or UCSD or OTV, then you need to pay attention to all of the caveats involved in implementation of those protocols and technologies, so read the usage guidelines, limitations, and notes when you are going through a CVD, SRND, TAC docs, Best Practices white papers and what have you. Last bit that I just mentioned, also applies to you if you are sitting for Recert because you don’t pay attention to some of that odd ball stuff while doing your day job.
Finally, there is yet another set of topics that most of you don’t get to work on in your day to day work, and that is Evolving Technologies. What makes this section challenging? Well, unlike other sections where your single source of truth is Cisco.com, Evolving Technologies topics are a wild mix of non-Cisco related topics thrown together. IMO, your best source for those topics, besides structured learning i.e. a study guide and what have you, is the INTERNET itself. You should spend some time reading about Evolving Technologies exam topics on websites such as Wikipedia, cloud vendor websites such as AWS, Azure and Google Compute Engine, and SDXCentral just to name a few to get you started.
I hope you found this article helpful and I look forward to hearing from you as to what your learning goals are for the 2019 and what steps are you taking to achieve them.