What is Cisco Enterprise Network Core ENCOR 350-401 Exam (and Download the 80-Hour Learning Plan!)
In this article, I am going to discuss everything you need to know about Cisco Enterprise Network Core or ENCOR 350-401 Exam what it is and why it is the most important exam within Cisco Certification Path or Portfolio 2020. If you are already up to speed on what this exam is all about, you can go ahead and download my 80-hour ENCOR learning plan here.
So, what is Cisco ENCOR or CCNP and CCIE Enterprise Infrastructure exam?
Well, ENCOR or Implementing Cisco Enterprise Network Core Technologies (ENCOR 350-401) exam is a big deal because of the following reasons.
- ENCOR exam consists of topics from six domains of knowledge, i.e. Architecture, Virtualization, Automation, Infrastructure, Network Assurance and Security. It is slated to go into effect starting February 24 2020.
- ENCOR serves triple purpose as CCNP Core, and CCIE Infrastructure Lab and CCIE Wireless Lab qualification exam. CCIE recertification requirements are now different from the initial qualification.
- It is the mandatory Core exam for CCNP Enterprise track. You will become CCNP Enterprise certified when you pass one of the professional Concentration exams (such as ENARSI) in addition to ENCOR.
- It obsoletes old CCNP R&S exams (300-101 and 300-115), and CCIE written exams for both R&S (400-101) and Wireless (400-351) tracks.
- It is a 120-minute exam that costs $400 (USD) per attempt, which is $100 more compared to 300-series CCNP exams today, but significantly cheaper than $450 per attempt for 400 series qualification or “written exams”.
- Each successful attempt at ENCOR will recertify your CCNP for three years, which is same as today. However, CCNP Recertification exam cost will change from $300 (passing one exam) to either passing one core exam ($400) or passing two exams ($700), i.e. you may pay up to x2 more in new versus old format. There are other possible exam combinations for recertification including Continuing Education (CE) credits.
- Each successful attempt at ENCOR plus any one Professional concentration exam such as ENARSI will recertify your CCIE Enterprise for a period of three years. However, recertification exam cost will change from $450 (one exam) to $700 (2 exams i.e. 1 core and 1 concentration exam such as ENARSI) or $900 (3 concentration exams), i.e. up to x2 more in new versus old format. Again, there are other possible exam combinations for recertification including Continuing Education (CE) credits.
Well, if you’ve not caught up on Cisco’s recent changes to CCIE, CCNP and CCNA certification programs, I’d suggest you do so now. Cisco rolled out massive certification changes on June 10th at Cisco Live 2019 San Diego. All Cisco Certification changes, and new exams are going into effect simultaneously starting February 24, 2020.
For Cisco CMO, Routing and Switching nomenclature is apparently not cool enough anymore so they have come up with “Enterprise” as the new name for “Routing and Switching” going forward. Anyhow, what’s in a name, let’s deep dive into the ENCOR 300-401 exam topics.
CCIE R&S 400-101 V5.1 Exam Topics or Syllabus Breakdown
CCIE R&S 400-101 V5.1 exam contains only about 20% of exam weight within the horizontal domains that apply end to end such as networking principles or fundamentals and evolving technologies which contains Cloud and network programmability topics. What am I talking about? Today, most of the exam weight is carried by the vertical technology areas such as L2/L3 or VPN or Security topics. If you follow the above diagram, you can’t help but notice that about 80% of the exam weight today is set aside for Cisco technologies.
Don’t get me wrong, these topics are crucial for a traditional network engineer working on a Cisco end-to-end network but those are not enough to meet today’s job requirements which are less about knowing a specific Cisco feature or technology and more about knowing network architecture or design, software-defined infrastructure, network programmability and automation. Again, you can still get a job at a Cisco shop with your traditional CCIE or CCNP skillset, but it will do little to help you advance your career into the newer emerging network engineering roles such as NetDevOps.
Now, enter ENCOR exam topics!
Enterprise Network Core (ENCOR) 350-401 V1.0 Exam Topics Breakdown
With ENCOR, there is a fair balance between Cisco proprietary (lock icon) and open standard technologies (green icon), well at least it is better than the older 400-101 V5.1 exam topics. Likewise, there is a similar balance between horizontal and vertical knowledge domains, so kudos to Cisco.
Let me now compare both exam topics side by side so you can understand how the horizontal versus vertical domains and open versus proprietary proportions are affected between the old and new exams.
Well, looking at the diagram bottoms up, topics related to network principles and evolving & vpn technologies in the older exam format are now broken out into automation, architecture and virtualization areas and at the same carry more weight in the ENCOR exam (+7%).
Likewise, L2/L3 and Infra services are now consolidated into infrastructure and network assurance areas in the new ENCOR exam, and the corresponding topic weight has decreased by a whopping 22% (62% – 40%). Last but not least, infra security related topics have quadrupled in weight in the new newer exam. Having said that, let’s now double click into each of those areas and the actual underlying topics that are either removed or added into the new exam.
Let me summarize the key differences in terms of topics.
Key Differences Between CCIE Routing and Switching Written and ENCOR Exam Topics
- Beyond the addition of wireless topics (makes sense now that ENCOR doubles up as Enterprise as well as Wireless qualification exam), network fundamental topics are pretty much gone. Thumbs up!
- Layer 2, Layer 3 and VPN technologies have only seen removal and no additions. If you compare ENCOR with 400-101 V5.1 blueprint, you will be shocked to see that protocols or technologies such as VLANs, most multicast, RIP, IS-IS, iBGP, MPLS/MPLS VPNs, DMVPN and even most topics related to OSPF and eBGP have been eliminated. Now, if you look at the CCIE Enterprise Lab exam topics, all of those topics are still there so I am not sure what message is Cisco trying to send there. Overall, I’d still give it a thumbs up!
- Security topics are a net gainer by a major margin (+15% as we noted above), however most security topics are Cisco proprietary and lack some crucial security technologies and solutions such as Cloud Access Security Broker (or CASB). While I like addition of REST API, it is a thumbs down when you look at next-gen FW (whatever that’s supposed to mean) and cisco cyber threat defense.
- IP or Infra services topics have mostly shrunk but Cisco still managed to paddle along Flexible NetFlow and DNA Center, so a thumbs down!
- Finally, I really liked how Cisco chucked away IOT topics (good one!), but super surprised to see removal of SDN, Kubernetes and containers topics. Cisco also added a lot of proprietary SD-WAN (aka Viptela solution). I think Cisco should have doubled down on Kubernetes, microservices and containers so overall, a thumbs down!
CCIE Enterprise Infrastructure Exam Topics – Practical or Lab Exam
The new CCIE Enterprise Lab exam includes five sections where exam weights are peanut buttered those areas.
Looking at the actual exam topics line items, I can’t help but notice that about 90% of the exam is actually Cisco proprietary while 10-15% within Infra automation and programmability consist of open standard and evolving topics. Now, if you recall, in the older format, Evolving Technologies are only part of the CCIE written exam but no-show in the CCIE R&S lab. So given the context, inclusion of automation in the Lab exam is a huge step forward and I applaud this change.
CCNP Enterprise Certification
The new CCNP Enterprise certification track obsoletes the current CCNP R&S, Wireless, and CCDP certifications. Unlike the old CCNP, the new exams don’t require CCNA as pre-qualification.
The CCNP Enterprise certification requires you to pass one Core and one Concentration exams before you can become certified. ENCOR 350-401 is the mandatory Core exam, whereas there are six Concentration or Elective exams available that you can choose from. Unlike the older, ROUTE/SWITCH/TSHOOT exams, you’ve plenty of choices in the newer CCNP Enterprise.
CCNP Enterprise Concentration Exams include the following exams.
- Implementing Cisco Enterprise Advanced Routing and Services (ENARSI 300-410)
- Implementing Cisco SD-WAN Solutions (ENSDWI 300-415)
- Designing Cisco Enterprise Networks (ENSLD 300-420)
- Designing Cisco Enterprise Wireless Networks (ENWLSD 300-425)
- Implementing Cisco Enterprise Wireless Networks (ENWLSI 300-430)
- Automating and Programming Cisco Enterprise Solutions (ENAUTO 300-435)
CCNP and CCIE Enterprise Infrastructure Study Material
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.
CCNP and CCIE Enterprise Infrastructure ENCOR Learning and Study Plan
In this video, I cover the following topics about the Enterprise Core (ENCOR 350-401 V1.0) Exam topics, bodies of knowledge and a detailed 80 hours learning and study plan.
The learning and study plan covers the entire official ENCOR curriculum and exam topics along with free public resources that you can follow to prepare for the Cisco ENCOR Exam, the DIY way!
You can now also order Cisco ENCOR Exam Paperback Study Guide.
Download the 80-Hour ENCOR 350-401 Learning Plan
Author:Muhammad Afaq Khan, CCIE #9070
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