Cisco Updates CCNP

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Cisco’s Certified Networking Professional (CCNP) is getting a makeover after a run of several years. According to Ray Garra, manager of learning and development on the Cisco certification development and delivery team, the first iteration of the CCNP program is based on the company’s policies and products from 10 years ago, practically an eternity in technology.

“One of the key catalysts that drove the updates to the CCNP is that the program has been out on the market for about seven to eight years,” he said. “It’s a very well-respected program, but it was kind of based on Cisco’s go-to-market strategy about a decade ago. The key ingredients were routing and switching, protocols, access and troubleshooting. But Cisco’s technologies and products have really changed, and so has the IT market. The current CCNP program and curriculum really wasn’t in step with Cisco’s go-to-market strategy with things like the service-oriented network architecture (SONA) or intelligent information network (IIN). It didn’t really push the more integrated switching and networking platforms such as the ISRs or newer operating systems like IOS 12.4. Also, it only touched very briefly on some advanced technology.”

Hence, Cisco needed to revamp the content of both the exams and courseware around the CCNP program to make it align to the company’s strategy now and in the future. “What we did at a high-level was looked at the curriculum and kind of imploded it,” Garra said. “We started off with just a simple program-domain analysis – what we call an ‘evidence-centered’ assessment. With that, we started to break it down then rebuild it back up to a curriculum that made sense. The overview kind of stayed because it still makes sense today: The basic routing and switching and the LAN- and WAN-type campus environments are all still very relevant.”

The overhaul will include increasing coverage of some of the common issues, such as wireless and voice, faced in network implementation and administration today. Although a few of these elements were included in the previous version of the CCNP, the exams and training did not address them to the extent that networking professionals currently need them to. “There was a little bit of security and QoS (quality of service) in there, but it wasn’t to the extent where it was as robust as it should have been,” Garra said. “IT professionals today, regardless of whether they’re in mid-market or large-enterprise levels, don’t really plan out or design a network without really addressing some of those newer applications or advanced technologies. Security, for example, is just a part of designing and planning a network today.”

Additionally, Cisco’s online Prep Center for CCNP candidates, which includes preparation tools like discussion boards and practice questions, also will be revamped to reflect the changes in the program, said Cindy Hoffman, learning and development manager for Cisco certification. “We will be launching the CCNP Prep Center on Aug. 15 as well. Based on feedback from our constituents and research we conduct through annual surveys, it becomes clear to us that one of the mechanisms we can provide is a means for people to practice the skills they’ve learned and chat with other people who are on a similar path after taking a class. The CCNP Prep Center’s goal is to provide that forum.”

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