Cisco Career Certifications Professional Track 2020: Meet the NEW CCNP Program
On June 10 2019 at #CiscoLive2019 San Diego, Cisco announced one of the most sweeping changes (if not THE MOST) to Cisco Career Certifications portfolio in decades. Cisco flipped upside down, just about everything, that you know about CCNA, CCNP and CCIE written and Lab exams.
If you have not caught up on overall the details, I’d strongly suggest you to start with our Cisco Career Certifications CCNA, CCNP, CCIE 2020 Major Update – Everything You Need to Know post first. For details on CCIE exams, check out Cisco CCNP Core Technologies Track: Meet The New CCIE Written and Lab Exams.
In this article, I want to focus on the new CCNP or Professional track exams and cover the various aspects that we all care about starting with the scope of changes.
Top Reasons for CCIE Written and Lab Exam Changes
Better alignment with evolving job market and extra flexibility so you can tailor your professional career
Acknowledging the fact that R&S, i.e. Routing and Switching technologies are now a total commodity. Cisco is attempting to re-align CCNP Professional track and exam topics around end-to-end Enterprise solution theme (more on that later).
Tightly align the CCNP and CCIE tracks, where your CCIE prep now starts with the CCNP core track exams (New 300 series, coming into effect on February 24, 2020) as opposed to separate CCIE written exams (old 400 series, retiring on February 23 2020). Again, if you want to know more about Changes to CCIE Written and Lab Exams, I’d suggest you to hop over to Cisco CCNP Core Technologies Track: Meet The New CCIE Written and Lab Exams.
When Do the New Exams Go Live
New CCNP Professional exams go live on February 24, 2020. Given the magnitude of changes, Cisco has provided eight months lead time for everyone to get up to speed on the scope of changes as well as decide what it means for each of us. Cisco also has provided extensive guidance on migration options and how all the work that you may have put into the existing CCNP or CCNA programs will not be wasted.
What Did Not Change In The New Update
With the exception of CCNP and Professional track branding, most everything is changing.
With the exception of the R&S, which is now known as “Enterprise Infrastructure”, all other specialization tracks and their existing branding such as Service Provider, Data Center, Security, Wireless and Collaboration will remain intact.
The Scope of the Changes to Professional Track and CCNP Exams
Unlike today, where CCNA is a pre-requisite for CCNP, i.e. you must take and pass CCNA exam(s) before you are allowed to attempt CCNP level exams (or be a CCIE regardless of the track), starting February 24 2020 you can simply skip CCNA and directly jump into CCNP track with both feet. Well, if you are a fast learner, you can now put all the money that you were going to put into CCNA, directly into learning CCNP study material and exam fees.
Less Number of Specializations, and RIP (CCDP, CCNP Wireless, and CCNP Cloud)
Cisco has also cut down the number of Professional exams that exist today from 8 to a total of 6. Let me unpack this a bit for you. In the newer program, CCDP (or even CCDA) exams no longer be around. Cisco has added a brand new Professional track known as DevNet Professional. Cisco is also discontinuing CCNP wireless and CCNP Cloud exams come February 24 2020. I will be covering the new DevNet track as a whole in a separate blog post.
While it is besides the point for this discussion, CCNP core exams now double up as the New CCIE written exams. What does that mean? CCIE and CCNP are now tightly aligned, more than ever before. But wait, what is a core exam, you ask?
CCNP = One Core Exam + One Concentration Exam
As I pointed out earlier, Technology core exams are also the new CCIE written exams, i.e. they cross over Professional and Expert level boundaries. Today, CCNP level exams are not a perquisite for CCIE lab exams since it has its own 400 series exams (e.g. 400-101 for R&S) however that changes in the future where you must take a CCNP level core exam to qualify for a CCIE lab exam. Now, keep in mind that in order to qualify for CCIE Security lab, you will need to take the corresponding CCNP Security Core exam (SCOR or 300-701), likewise for SP, DC, and Collaboration core exams.
Concentration exams take a deeper dive into a relevant and related technology to the core, allowing the candidate to choose a topic that is either of interest or related to his or her chosen technology area of focus. For CCNP, there are concentration exams for all five technology tracks, Enterprise, Security, Service Provider, Collaboration and Data Center. There are also multiple concentration exams available for Cisco Certified DevNet Professional.
Core and Concentration Exams Summary
|Old CCNP Exam Name||New CCNP Exam Name||New CCNP Core Exam |
Name and Number
|New CCNP Concentration Exam Name and Number|
|CCNP R&S||CCNP Enterprise||Implementing and Operating Cisco Enterprise Network Core Technologies (ENCOR) 350-401 V1.0||6 Exams (only one required)|
Implementing Cisco Enterprise Advanced Routing and Services (ENARSI) 300-410
|CCNP Service Provider||CCNP Service Provider||Implementing and Operating Cisco Service Provider Network Core Technologies (SPCOR) 300-501 V1.0||3 Exams (only one required)|
Implementing Cisco Service Provider Advanced Routing Solutions (SPRI) 300-510
|CCNP Security||CCNP Security||Implementing and Operating Cisco Security Core Technologies (SCOR) 300-701 V1.0||6 Exams (only one required)|
Securing Networks with Cisco Firepower (SNCF) 300-710
|CCNP Data Center||CCNP Data Center||Implementing and Operating Cisco Data Center Core Technologies (DCCOR) 300-601 V1.0||5 Exams (only one required)|
Designing Cisco Data Center Infrastructure (DCID) 300-610
|CCNP Collaboration||CCNP Collaboration||Implementing and Operating Cisco Collaboration Core Technologies (CLCOR) 300-801 V1.0||4 Exams (only one required)|
Implementing Cisco Collaboration Applications (CLICA) 300-810
Old Versus New Written Exam Formats and Topics
In the older CCNP format, you have to pass , depending on the track, 3-4 exams to become CCNP certified. However, in the newer format and regardless of the track you choose, you will always need to pas two exams for your track, i.e. one core and one concentration exam.
For this discussion and comparison, I am going to use the outgoing CCNP R&S 300-101, 300-115 and 300-135 exams versus the incoming CCNP Enterprise ENCOR 350-401 V1.0 and ENARSI 300-410 V1.0 exams.
In the current format, if you combine the exam topics within the Route, Switch and Tshoot exams, you essentially end up with CCIE R&S 400-101 V5.1 written exam topics (plus a few advanced topics). From this perspective, the old versus new difference isn’t so much except that in the newer CCNP format there are no separate CCNP (300) and CCIE Written (400) level exams, Cisco simply collapsed them into one exam that they have now dubbed as ENCOR 350-401.
The meta point here is that Cisco has re-aligned the new CCNP Enterprise core exam around three major themes:
- Design or Architecture
- Infrastructure (and L2-L7 Services)
The new ENCOR 350-401 V1.0 exam has 6 sections where Infrastructure and L2/L3 Networking, and Architecture (or Design) make up for the 55% and rest is divided up into L2/L3 and L4-L7 Network Services (30%) and Automation (15%). Another way to look at it is that now overall exam is divided into architecture (15)%, infrastructure (70%), and automation (15%).
The new ENARSI 300-410 V1.0 exam has 4 sections and is modeled after older CCNP ROUTE, SWITCH and TSHOOT exams.
CCNP Exam Durations and Fees
Today, all CCNP exams are 120-minute long. However, newer format is more nuanced where core and concentration exams would last 120 and 90 minutes respectively. There is a change in exam fee, CCNP core and concentration exams will cost $400 and $300 USD respectively. Now, you only need to sit for two exams and then continue to pay your exam fees every three years which brings me to our next topic.
CCNP Recertification Cycle
Today, you have to recertify every two years whereas in the newer format, all Cisco Career Certifications would remain valid for a duration of three years. I think that is a welcome change.
- The new focus on end-to-end Enterprise solutions within the themes of design/architecture, infrastructure and automation is a welcome change as far as I am concerned. This has been long needed to keep CCNP relevant in the era of SDN, NFV and overall commoditization and disaggregation of networking.
- More focused and consolidated CCNP tracks make sense, I also agree with applying design and architecture knowledge horizontally across the board.
- Less number of exams, longer recertification cycle and NOT requiring CCNA as a pre-requisite for CCNP means lower exam fees and more time that we can now dedicate to learning on the job as opposed to just reading CiscoPress stuff.
Last but not least, Cisco also published a detailed FAQ to cover the most common questions as well as a migration tool to help learners figure out a path who may have half way to their next level certification. If you prefer listening over reading, you can head over to Cisco Learning Network podcast.
Please note that Cisco seems to have revised the ENCOR exam number from 300-401 to 350-401 since the publishing date of this article. While images in this article still show 300-401, it is now rebadged as 350-401 (perhaps 350 is cooler than 300, who knows ;).
Finally, I’d like to hear from you, what do you think about the Cisco CCIE Certification 2020 update? Is that a step in the right direction, or is that a mix bag? Leave your comments below.