Cisco Data Center Core Technologies (DCCOR 350-601) Exam: 88-Hour Learning and Study Plan
- July 7, 2020
- Posted by: Muhammad Afaq Khan, CCIE #9070
- Category: Implementing Cisco Data Center Core Technologies (DCCOR 350-601)
In this article, I want to do a deep dive into the Data Center Core or DCCOR 350-601 exam. IE the exam topics for the DC core and the concentration exams, job task analysis, and how to prepare and pass the exam.
So, if you recall, in the older format IE before February 24th, 2020, you could become a CCNA, CCNP, or CCIE DC certified after passing the corresponding exams. Now, in the newer format, there is only one generic CCNA exam with no specializations. However, you can still specialize in the DC track for the CCNP and CCIE programs. The new CCNP DC requires passing one core exam, IE DCCOR exam, and one concentration exams from these 5 choices. Each attempt at the DCCOR exam would cost you $400 and $300 for any of the concentration exams.
My personal favorite is the DCAUTO exam as automation is way more important in DC, simply due to the scale involved. Like you can have thousands of switches in a medium-sized DC whereas it is highly unlikely to have thousands of routers in a corporate WAN or a corporate Campus. Anyhow, the DCCOR exam also allows you to qualify for the DC Lab exam, so it doubles up as the CCNP core as well as the new CCIE DC written exam.
Now, I want to compare the new DCCOR exam with the now obsolete CCIE DC written exam. For the most part, the exam topics from the two exams align nicely. L2/L3 connectivity and network services map into the Network and Security sections on the DCCOR exam, likewise storage networking, compute, and automation and orchestration map into compute, storage network, and automation sections respectively. At 15% weight, the Automation section carries 5% extra weight in the newer DCCOR exam. The topics from Evolving Technologies can be found in the Automation section and some such as IoT are simply dropped.
I think one of the crucial things about any professional certification exam is the measure of how closely the exam aligns with the actual job tasks that the role supposed to carry out. I think there are four main roles for a DC expert, i.e. traditional networking skill set, your L2, L3, and fabric infrastructure such as ACI. You can also be an expert on Cisco UCS or Cisco storage portfolio and use those skill sets to land job managing servers or storage deployments.
Finally, automation is yet another area where automation and programmability skill set can qualify you for a DC job as well. Based on the job postings across the web platforms also suggests a big appetite hire Cisco DC experts as opposed to VMware or Juniper.
Now, let’s shift gears to the 5 DC concentration exams that I touched upon earlier. Those are DCID, DCIT, DCACI, DCSAN, and DCAUTO exams. Let’s go through them one by one. So, the DCID exam just digs deeper into the four core DCCOR domains. DCIT is a troubleshooting focused exam, so it adds management and operations to it. The DCACI, obviously is about the Cisco ACI solution and entirely focuses on the ACI solution with exam topics within those 6 sections. The DCSAN is about the storage area network so it deals with storage topics, no surprises there. And finally, the DCAUTO exam, is all about automation. It dives deep into network programmability, SDN, or controller-based networking as well as device-based networking with topics such as day 0 provisioning in NX-OS with POAP and iPXE, guest shell, bash, EEM, NX-API and what have you.
Now, before we jump into the DCCOR exam topics, let me first break it down into theory versus hands-on content. When I say theory, I mean line items in the official blueprint that starts with keywords such as explain, describe, define – I think you get the idea. Likewise, for hands-on, I am looking at keywords such as implement, configure, verify, and so on. So, based on that breakdown, the blueprint works out to be about 27% theory and 73% hands-on. Last not least, just for fun, I also compared the line items with the now obsolete CCNA, CCNP, and CCIE DC exams. So, what does that mean? Well, if you are CCNA DC certified, you can expect yourself to be familiar with less than half of the exam topics. However, that number goes up considerably to 76% to 84% if you are a CCNP or CCIE DC certified respectively.
To become CCNP DC, you need to pass DCCOR and one of the 5 concentration exams. When it comes to the CCNP recertification, you have at least 4 choices. You can pass the DCCOR exam, you can also pass 2 concentration exams. Now, I am daydreaming, but successfully passing CCIE DC lab will also qualify for the CCNP DC. Finally, you can also put your earning credits to use and the requirement is to have 80 or more. Well, the bar is a little higher for CCIE DC recertification, so you need to pass DCCOR and one of the concentration exams or you could pass three concentration exams if you don’t mind spending $900. You can also a CCIE lab or put 120 learning credits to use, all that good stuff.