Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert - CCIE

Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert is the highest level of professional certification that Cisco currently provides and is considered one of the hardest certifications in the world. There are six active CCIE tracks, as shown below. As of October 6, 2010 there are 25,810 people with active CCIE certifications in the world.[26][27][28] and from 2002 to 2005[29] it was voted as such in CertCities magazine. It has also been voted the most technically advanced IT certification by CertMag,[30] and is generally reported as the highest salaried certification in IT salary surveys.

Cisco began its CCIE program in 1993[31] originally with a two day lab, later changing it to the one day format used today. Fewer than 3% of Cisco certified individuals attain CCIE certification, and on average will spend thousands of dollars and 18 months studying before passing.[32] Many candidates build training-labs at home using old Cisco equipment, selling it again to other candidates after passing. Alternatively candidates may rent "rack time" online and practice lab scenarios on Cisco equipment hosted on the Internet for that purpose.

The CCIE consists of a written exam and a "lab" exam (each in the specific area of the chosen track). The written exam is required to take the lab exam, and has a cost of $350 USD per attempt. The written exam consists of 100 questions that must be completed within 2 hours. [Candidates used to have 3 hours.] Upon passing the written exam, the candidate has eighteen months to take the lab exam. If the first attempt is unsuccessful the candidate has three years from the date the written exam was passed to successfully complete the lab. The lab is an eight hour hands-on exam designed to demonstrate that the candidate not only knows Internetworking theory, but also demonstrates advanced hands on mastery. If a candidate does not pass the CCIE lab in that time, they must pass the CCIE written exam again before making additional attempts at the CCIE lab exam. As many attempts can be made to pass the lab exam for up to three years after passing the written, so long as the first attempt is within 18 months. There is a minimum waiting time between attempts of one month.

The CCIE Lab is currently $1,400 USD per attempt and is offered only at ten Cisco lab exam locations worldwide. The locations may be found on the Cisco certifications website. Some CCIE tracks do not have lab exams available at all locations. For example, the Storage Networking lab is available only at the Research Triangle Park, NC and Brussels locations. In addition, according to a survey by Cisco the average cost to prepare for CCIE certification is $9,050 as of April 2006, spent mostly on practice equipment and self study material.[33]

There are no formal prerequisites for the CCIE exam, but Cisco recommends one has at least 3–5 years experience in networking before attempting to become a CCIE. CCIE was the first Cisco Certified qualification, and as such there were no other certifications that could be taken prior. The development of the associate and professional certifications was due to recognition of the fact that a CCIE is overkill for many networking personnel, and also for the vast majority of businesses who employ such people, and that certifications needed to be offered at lower levels. Despite the development of the lower certifications, Cisco has chosen not to make them formal requirements for the CCIE certification.

It is possible to hold multiple CCIE certifications. This is done by passing both the written and the lab exam in a particular track. As of September 9, 2008, there are 1,729 individuals who hold multiple CCIE certifications. Of those, 274 hold three or more CCIE certifications.[34]

CCIE Numbering and Recertification

Upon successful completion of the hands on lab exam, a new CCIE is awarded a CCIE number. The first CCIE number allocated (in 1993) was 1024, and has increased incrementally from there. A lower number indicates that the CCIE was awarded some time back, a higher number indicated a more recently awarded certification. As of July 2009, the highest CCIE number allocated was just under 25000.

Number 1024 was allocated to the first CCIE lab location, rather than to an individual, and featured as a plaque at the entrance to the lab. Number 1025 was awarded to Stuart Biggs, who created the first written exam and first lab exam. The first person to pass both CCIE written and lab exams was Terrance Slattery, who was consulting to Cisco at the time when the lab was being devised. Terry Slattery (CCIE 1026) was therefore the first CCIE who passed both exams, and the first CCIE who was not an employee of Cisco.[35][36]

Any CCIE who obtains further CCIE certifications, is not awarded any further numbers, the new CCIE certification is awarded under the same number as the original.

Every two years a CCIE has to take a CCIE written test to retain the certification. If this is not done, the CCIE is in a suspended status. After one further year, if a written test has not been undertaken and passed, the CCIE is then revoked. The CCIE certification can then only be re-gained by taking the written exam and lab exam from scratch.

Recertification can be obtained by passing any CCIE written exam. Recertification can occur up to 2 years before a CCIE's expiration date. After passing a CCIE written exam for recertification, a CCIE must wait 6 months before re-taking the test to use for re-certification.

CCIE Exam paths

* CCIE Routing & Switching

Routing and Switching is by far the most popular track with 17,082 certified individuals as of May 18, 2009.[37] The certification covers a variety of networking concepts and protocols.

* CCIE Security

The Security track concentrates on network security and covers subjects such as ASA, IDS, IOS security, and many others.

* CCIE Service Provider

The Service Provider track focuses on networking in the service provider industry. Subjects include Optical networks, DSL, WAN switching, Voice over IP, Content networking, Broadband Cable and Metro Ethernet.

* CCIE Voice

The Voice track concentrates on voice solutions for the enterprise and includes subjects such as Quality of Service, MGCP, Call Manager (Cisco's VoIP PBX), Cisco Unity Connection (Cisco's Voice Messaging platform), Unity Express, Unified Contact Center Express and Cisco Unified Presence Server. Also Switching (Cisco's HWIC-4ESW and the 3750-24PS).

There are only 802 CCIE Voice certified people in the world as of September 9, 2008.

Most candidates pass the CCIE Voice certification after three or four lab attempts, but there have been cases in which candidates pass after more than six attempts. The low passing rate is attributed to the difficulty of the exam questions as well as the lack of time to complete everything in the allocated eight hours. As such, the lab exam is as much a test of time management and planning as it is a test of technical expertise.

What sets the CCIE Voice lab exam apart from typical CCIE lab exams is the widely dissimilar platforms that are used. Configurations will have to be done on the Windows 2003 Server environment, on a CallManager web-based GUI and on the IOS command line. As such, it is not an exam that involves a uniform method of configuration, and it involves a lot of back-and-forth fine tuning between the numerous platforms.

* CCIE Storage Networking

CCIE Storage Networking validates expert-level knowledge of intelligent storage solutions using multiple transport options over long distances.

* CCIE Wireless

The Cisco CCIE Wireless certification assesses and validates wireless expertise. Candidates who pass the CCIE Wireless certification exams demonstrate broad theoretical knowledge of wireless networking and a solid understanding of wireless local area networking (WLAN) technologies from Cisco, the market leader in WLAN technology[citation needed].

* CCIE Service Provider Operations (SP Operations)

CCIE Service Provider Operations candidates must be able to show skills of an expert level operations engineer who can troubleshoot and maintain complex service provider IP NGN core (PE-PE and PE-CE) network infrastructures in both IOS and IOS XR operating environments.

Retired CCIE tracks

Some previously awarded CCIE specializations are no longer offered and have been retired by Cisco. These are:

* WAN Switching CCIE (Essentially a specialisation focusing on the IGX/BPX switch products, which had been acquired as part of the StrataCom acquisition)
* SNA/IP Integration CCIE (aka CCIE Blue)
* Design CCIE (NOTE: The CCIE Design has been resurrected as the CCDE).

People who had held these now retired certifications can remain CCIE's, provided they continue to take recertification exams. They now simply hold the title "CCIE", rather than CCIE Security, or some other specialization.