Cisco CCNP Data Center Certification
The CCNP Data Center certification is a job role based professional level certification for business services architects, technology architects, pre-sales engineers, design engineers, and implementation engineers with three to five years of experience. The certification benefits data center professionals who want to save time and money on data center equipment design, installation, and maintenance. The CCNP Data Center certification programme allows you to maximise your investment in your education and increase the value of your data center network. The certification provides a solid foundation for your career in installing, configuring, and maintaining data centers.
This particular certification allows for specialisation in either the design or troubleshooting of Cisco Data Center technologies, allowing you to better tailor your certification to your planned career path. This CCNP certification is designed for experienced professionals with significant experience with both Cisco routing and switching technologies in addition to data center specific technologies.
The Certification Process
In order to obtain CCNP certification candidates are required to pass four exams, these exams are arranged separately from any training courses offered, further information on these exams can be seen by clicking on the titles. Candidates must hold CCNA Data Center, or any CCIE in order to earn CCNP certification.
Both implementing exams are compulsory, while candidates must either take both designing exams or both troubleshooting exams in order to earn CCNP Data Center certification.
- 642-999 DCUCI Implementing Cisco Data Center Unified Computing
- 942-997 DCUFI Implementing Cisco Data Center Unified Fabric
- 642-998 DCUCD Designing Cisco Data Center Unified Computing
- 642-996 DCUFD Designing Cisco Data Center Unified Fabric
- 642-035 DCUCT Troubleshooting Cisco Data Center Unified Computing
- 642-980 DCUFT Troubleshooting Cisco Data Center Unified Fabric
Note that this certification requires re-certification every three years; this can be done by performing any of the following:
- Pass any current 642-XXX Professional-level exam, or
- Pass any current CCIE Written Exam, or
- Pass the current CCDE Written Exam OR current CCDE Practical Exam, or
- Pass the Cisco Certified Architect (CCAr) interview AND the CCAr board review to extend lower certifications
Preparing for the Exams
All six of the exams in this certification path are 90 minutes in length and comprise of between 65 and 75 questions. Further details, such as examinable content and question percentages, can be seen on the individual exam pages. We would recommend erring on the side of over preparation so as to ensure a mark high enough to provide a pass.
For more information on Cisco exam policies in general, take a look at this page.
GBdirect offer the Cisco approved courses aimed to provide the skills and knowledge required to earn this certification. The courses offered are:
While these courses will help prepare you for the exams they may not provide you with everything you need to pass them. To ensure this we would recommend hands on experience with the products concerned, along with additional reading from Cisco certification texts. It is advisable to look up the content of the exam, while performing practice labs and taking advantage of the practice exams available on the Cisco website should also prove beneficial. We welcome any reviews of your Cisco Certification experience, if you feel that you know of an improved learning method then please don't hesitate to get in touch.
Official Cisco Materials
Cisco provides a large amount of online materials, some of which is available through the certification pages themselves. An excellent starting point is to look at the exam content available on the exam page as well as a PDF that provides the exam guidelines.
The full Syllabus can be found on Cisco's site here.
Cisco provides forums for those taking the CCNP Data Center certification in the form of a study group, which can be found here.
An overview of Cisco Data Center certifications is available in the form of a Webinar that can be found on Cisco's site.
Cisco as usual has a list of all learning materials published on a per exam basis. These can be found on this page, under the headings of each exam title. These materials in combination with the exam topic lists found on each exam page should form the basis of most candidates learning materials.
Some practice questions can also be found on the practice tab of the learning network for each individual exam.
There are currently no certification specific books available for CCNP Data Center, however there are a range of books that cover the material required to achieve this certification:
Data Centre Fundamentals While this book is now somewhat outdated it still serves as an excellent text in terms of providing both a basic overview of data centre technologies as well as more detailed information. This book can be used by those with slightly less experience in both routing and switching as well as data center technologies. Reviewers also tend to praise the availability of supporting diagrams, combined with the concise nature of the book to create an invaluable resource for those studying or working in the data center field.
NX-OS and Cisco Nexus Switching: Next-generation Data Center Architectures Reviewers of this book are generally impressed by the level of detail and depth given to those topics covered, although some experience with routing and switching technologies is assumed. The book is also praised for its examples in terms of configuration, making this a book that will be useful both as a learning tool as well as a practical reference.
While the CCIE is a much more technically demanding certification there is some degree of overlap between CCNP and CCIE Data Center, therefore you may want to consider obtaining some of the other texts that can be found on the CCIE Data Center reading list.
The Techexams.net forum is one of the most active covering Cisco and other certifications, there is a great deal of detailed information related to either specific technical details or the certification as a whole.
CBT Nuggets are currently in the process of producing videos for this certification, at present only two exams are covered, 642-999 DCUCI with 6 and a half hours of content in addition to 642-035 DCUCT which lasts 5 hours.
The Data Center Overlords While this blog is by no means aimed at this particular certification there is a range of fairly useful information about Data Center technologies in general, there is also a section devoted to CCIE certification which could prove useful.
IT Blog The Cisco element of this blog features a variety of posts on different areas and technologies, some of which e.g. those relating to UCS may prove useful to those studying for CCNP Data Center certification.
As of yet there are no practice tests available that are not found on the Cisco learning network.
What if I fail?
Don't panic. You will be able to see and your test result and the areas you felt weakest in, focus on content areas where your performance was weakest and areas with a high percentage of questions. Once you feel ready you can reschedule your exam. Cisco's exam retake policy is listed below:
The policies for retaking exams are as follows:
- Candidates who fail an exam must wait a period of five (5) calendar days, beginning the day after the failed attempt, before they may retest for the same exam.
- Once passed, a candidate must wait a minimum of 180 days before taking the same exam with an identical exam number.
- Candidates who violate these policies are in violation of the agreement. Such conduct is strictly prohibited as described in the Cisco Certification and Confidentiality Agreement.
Excellent, You've Passed
Upon passing you will receive a score report complete with your photo; this can be used to share with employers or other third parties. This will also grant you access to the Cisco Certifications Tracking System, allowing you to see certification progress, access logos for valid certifications, allow third parties/employers to see your certifications and to sign any necessary agreements.
CCNP tends to be the highest level of certification achieved by those pursuing Cisco certifications; however a higher level, CCIE, does exist. This is an extremely highly regarded certification that demonstrates the highest level of technical proficiency with Cisco technologies; due to the difficulty and specialised nature of this qualification we do not offer training courses. Further information can be found on Cisco's site.
CCNP, Salary and Contract Rates
A recent survey of IT jobs offered across the UK reported the following statistics on the average earning of salaried and contract workers holding CCNP certification. The UK average salary for a CCNP is £45,000, with the average salary for London being £47,500. A breakdown of this shows 90% are offered a salary of more than £35,000 while 10% are offered more than £63,500.
Contractor daily rates were also surveyed and the UK average was found to be £360 per day and £375 per day for the city of London. The further breakdown of these figures shows that 90% are offered a daily rate in excess of £250 while 10% are offered more than £450. Further details can be found on the IT Jobs Watch site.