Many people have asked my opinion about CCIE vs. CCDE from time to time. Which one is better? Should I take CCIE, or CCDE with some mid-level professional certification such as CCNP/CCIP? Which certification will give me more chance to get a job? And so on.
I don’t have CCDE yet, so my answer below can be considered partial. You know, I’m a kind of guy who thinks I should have done or completed something first before I can give my full review about it. Been there, done that, then write a review. But that’s just me.
This afternoon I passed the CCDE written exam. I didn’t spend much time to prepare. I was busy writing a low level design, network migration plan and pre-sales document for customers in three different countries. And I currently have personal issue that makes me really run out of time, so studying CCDE was my lowest priority.
No time to study, no practice test, no reading books at all.
What I did: looked at the CCDE written blueprint and realized I have done and implemented most of the technologies listed either in real world networks or during my previous CCIE labs. So I just spent a couple of hours during the weekend to read Networkers presentation to refresh my memory for some specific technology, then walked to the testing center. Networkers slides are priceless, since they explain in detail about the technology with implementation case study and best practice. Now the material is available for public called Cisco Networkers Virtual with only €200 for annual subscription.
I don’t know if it’s possible to do the same for CCDE lab later on. Ah, it is not a real lab actually, but computer based exam instead. I guess if in CCDE written the questions are just about the implication of the protocols or design as separate different questions that are not related one to another, CCDE lab should provide more like scenario-based questions where there are series of questions that we have to answer to build or improve the design. So knowing the implication of running one protocol is not enough, we must know the implication in specific topology and scenario, where there are different requirements and other protocols running too. And the scenario in CCDE lab will start from gathering information about the requirements, before we can decide which design can fit to answer the requirements.
There is a practical exam demo in Cisco Learning Network, as well as some sample questions in Networkers presentation. I encourage you to check the slides and do the demo.
So here is the fact: CCIE was made with main focus on building a complex network with practical implementation in the lab, and troubleshoot the issues during the process. We can only troubleshoot something if we know how it works in normal operation. So by studying CCIE can make us understand how the protocol works in detail, know the limitation and implication of running multiple protocols at the same time, give us hands-on experience to implement them, and able to decide what is the best way to enable the protocols or features to answer the requirements.
But it is not a design exam.
The requirement stated in CCIE questions is not to test the design skill, but to ensure the candidates have deep understanding of the topic. What kind of design we can do with less than 10 routers anyway? We will surely utilize all the lab routers to enable the required protocols and features, without having to know the best practice design and the implications of running those chosen protocols in real world scenarios.
That is where the CCDE comes into play.
Most of the folks who built the CCDE program have CCIE and started their career as TAC engineers, who know how exactly the protocol works and how to implement it, as well as have seen how the network fails, before they all moved to become design engineers. They got design knowledge by implementing and troubleshooting the real world networks, with different topology and requirements. And personally, I believe this is the best way to become a real design expert.
So what is my answer to the original question? Which one is better, CCIE or CCDE? Well, it depends, as always :). To get a job in current situation you may want to get CCIE or multiple mid certifications such as CCNP/CCIP as well as other vendor certifications, depending on the requirement listed in the job description. Especially since CCDE lab will still need time before it’s available world wide. But if you really want to become a network designer with a solid knowledge and experience, why don’t you follow the path that was taken by most network designers, including those who made the CCDE program: take the CCIE first, get implementation and design experience from the real world, and then take CCDE in the end to backfill the missing knowledge, or to certify our skills as network designer, or just for fun.
I suggest you to read the Networkers slides about CCDE or check out the Cisco Learning Network to get more information.
If you had asked me a different question: which one is better, CCIE or IE certification from other vendors such as the JxxIE or HxIE? The answer would be easy and straight forward: CCIE! Why, you may ask? Well, because those vendors even when they are hiring most of the time they write: CCIE preferable.
With that, I rest my case.