Monday, July 08, 2013

How to Prepare for CCDE Practical Exam

I was a bit harsh when I wrote: you have to be CCIE to pass CCDE. Couple of friends of mine, who are not CCIEs, came to me after reading that post and said I had demolished their hope to pass the exam.

I won't lie. It's easier to become CCDE if you have already had a CCIE. But fear not, there is still chance for non-CCIE to pass CCDE exam as well. And several guys who are not CCIE but able to put their name in this Hall of Fame is the proof.

The next CCDE practical exam date is on August 27. So there is still time for both groups of CCIE and non-CCIE to pass it, and here is another version of "how to prepare for CCDE exam" that may help to do so:

1. You still need a good reason to do it
You need a good reason as your main motivation to keep continue pursuing this certification, after you fail the exam. Or after you fail the exam several times.
So find your reason.

2. You still need the experience
You can't skip experience. I'm not kidding.
From CCDE Techtorial it says "CCDE Practical is multidimensional, each question or problem must map to all three blueprints"
And the three blueprints are:
- Task Domain
- Job Tasks
- Technology

Scope of Job Tasks:
- Analyze design requirements
- Develop network designs
- Implement network design
- Validate and optimize network design

You can try to learn those from case study, you can try to practice using sample scenarios from books or from training material, but the best resource to learn the above is always the experience.

It's recommended to have 7+ years related experience, as shown in table from Cisco Learning below, with multiple technologies covering from Routing and switching, Security to Data Center.

It's easier to get opportunity to work with the design of those various technologies if you are a CCIE. Ok, nevermind, I will stop pushing it.

3. Learn the technology 
First, you have to do "self assessment" by checking your current knowledge against the technologies listed in CCDE Written blueprint. From CCDE Techtorial, the technologies include but not limited to:

- Layer 2 control plane (STP, Fabric, Down detection, Failure domain, multicast, FHRP etc)
- Layer 3 control plane (OSPF, ISIS, EIGRP, BGP, PIM, Modularity, Hierarchy, FC/Resiliency, Core topology etc)
- Network virtualization (802.1q, MPLS L3VPN, L2VPN, L2TPv3, IPsec, GRE, routing, scaling, inter-AS, traffic engineering etc)
- Quality of Services (classification, CBWFQ, WRED, shaping, policing, QoS model, hierarchy, QoS inside tunnel etc)
- Network Management (FCAPS, SNMP, Syslog, Netflow, RMON, In band, OOB, baseline etc)
- Security (DDoS, GTSM, RPF, IPsec, Infrastructure security, QoS as security tool, RTBH etc)

Assess yourself to identify the technology that you are already familiar with, the one that you heard about it before but need more time to study, and the technology that is completely alien to you.
Once you have the result you will know where you should put your focus on.

4. Read or watch
Well, August 27 is near so I guess there is no time to read all the books in CCDE Practical Reading Booklist. But at least you should read Russ White's CCDE Quick Reference, for written exam, and Optimal Routing Design book. And you can skim the scenarios in Definitive MPLS Network Design book. Those three books are the only ones I read during my study.

And nowadays if I want to learn something new, or to re-fresh my mind, I prefer to watch Cisco Live 365 recorded session instead of reading books. I actually watched more than 40 videos during my preparation, and some of them are not relevant to CCDE exam.

So even if you have to watch 40+ Cisco Live sessions like me, you still have more than 40 days to do that until the next exam date.
Watch one video per day, at least.
And focus on why and when to use the technology.
If you have spare time, spend at least another hour per day to read CVDs/Design Zone.
Remember, stay away from CLI but you still need to understand on which device to enable the features.

I use iPhone as my daily phone, but to watch Cisco Live sessions I use HTC One black edition. No, you don't have to buy one to become CCDE. And I have no affiliation with HTC. I'm just happy to use it to watch any videos while on the move.

5. Remember Task Domain during your study
The third blueprint is Task Domain blueprint:
- Merge/Divest
- Add Technology
- Replace Technology
- Scaling

Try to consider the third blueprint when learning about the technologies, for example:

- Merge/Divest
How to merge two L3 control plane? What is the implication? What are the steps required to implement?

- Add Technology
What will be impact to QoS if customer adds new technology like Telepresence? Any security concern when adding new services?

- Replace Technology
What is the best network virtualization technology to replace the current physical technology e.g. TDM? Which one is better to the other, on which type of scenario?

- Scaling
How to scale each IGP? How to scale virtualization technology like GRE or L2VPN?

6. Master the skill of skimming
Make sure you are used to read many information within short time, skimming rather than reading completely, and find the information that's important.

I think that's all.

And below are some of Cisco Live sessions that I watched during my study:

To refresh the IGP, Tunneling, and WAN Concept design:
- BRKRST-2310 Deploying OSPF in a Large Scale Network
- BRKIPM-3010 Which Routing Protocol? IPv4 and IPv6
- BRKIPM-2444 EIGRP – An in depth look at the Protocol
- BRKMPL-2101 Deploying L2 Based MPLS VPN
- BRKCCIE-3345 CCIE Candidate Introduction to MPLS L3VPN
- BRKCRS-2041 Enterprise WAN Architectures and Design Principles
- BRKMPL-2109 MPLS Solutions for Cloud Networking
- BRKRST-2042 Highly Available Wide Area Network Design

To refresh Campus design and QoS:
- BRKCRS-2661 Designing Layer 2 Networks - Avoiding Loops, Drops, Flooding
- BRKCRS-2031 Multilayer Campus Architectures and Design Principles
- BRKRST-2501 Enterprise QoS or BRKCRS-2500 Campus QoS

I did "speed watching" the following:
- BRKSEC-4054 DMVPN Deployment Model
- BRKRST-2301 Enterprise IPv6 Deployment
- BRKSEC-2000 Secure Enterprise Design
- BRKMPL-1261 IP Multicast Concept Design and Troubleshooting

Some Cisco Live sessions that were not recorded, but I went through the slides:
- BRKRST-2335 IS-IS Network Design and Deployment -
- BRKIPM-2261 Deploying IP Multicast
- BRKMPL-2105 Inter-AS MPLS Solutions
- TECSEC-2011 IPSec and SSL VPNs

Good luck and let me know when you get your number!


Anonymous said...

Hi Himawan,

thanks alot for the tips.
after reviewing the telecom jobs in UAE specifically Dubai i can see that non of the employers or the recruiters cares about Cisco certifications in general. does that mean that something like CCIE lost its integrity? i have been searching for similar jobs for years but nobody mentioned Cisco cert. all what they ask about is CCNA if any.
i know that Cisco really appreciate its staff who pass any expert level title like CCIE/CCDE but the outside world!!! hmmmmm
Khalid AlJorf, CCIE#24552
du Telecom

Philippe said...

Hello Himawan,

Your "howto become CCDE" is really good : short and precise.

Being CCDE since february 2013, without any CCIE, I would confirm a few points :
You don't have to be CCIE but you have to be an expert in the routing domain. CCIEs know tons of CLI commands from memory whereas i only know that the command should exist and have to search its syntax into cisco's web site, so i will not be able (by far) to terminate the CCIE lab on time. Except this point i think i have the CCIE level.

My studies were close to the ones mentionned by Hinawan, i have carefully read the CiscoLive pdf (i will also add to the list BRKCRS-2044 - Enterprise Multi-Homed Internet Edge Architectures). I bought a reader to read Cisco Validated Designs (the tip is to use an online pdf to epub converter), protocols specifications (you have to acquire deep knowledge of each L3 protocol) and pdf/epub releases of Cisco Press books.
I also made a few labs to improve my weakest points (Inter-AS MPLS, Inter area OSPF/IS-IS, ...).

But the main part of the CCDE (practical) is to figure out what is the best technology for a particular use case. In some cases, the number of protocols at work is a clue. For instance, L2TPv3 will be prefered (at least for the CCDE exam) to EoMPLSoGRE for tunneling Ethernet over IP since L2TP uses only one encapsulation whereas the second one needs two encapsulations. Sometimes, you have to check applications requirements : a VPLS VPN will be a poor choice if you need efficient multicast replication. Other times, you have to refer to best practices and good sense : triangles rather than squares, physical interfaces rather than tunnels... And remember you don't have to design the best (and most expensive/complicated) network, but the simplest one which fits all requirements. Priscillia Oppenheimer's book "Top-Down Network Design" may help you to understand the way of thinking (online resources : and,, etc...).

CCIE Seccurity said...

Thanks for the precious tips, My friend just cleared CCIE Datacenter and mee too studying hard to crack the next level after CCIE Security

SSAT pre tests said...

Excellent post. The preparation tips are so useful for us. Thanks for sharing it...

Anonymous said...

Greuat Post!

Richard C. Lambert said...

I won't lie. It's easier to become CCDE if you have already had a CCIE. But fear not, there is still chance for non-CCIE to pass CCDE exam as well. And several guys who are not CCIE but able to put their name in this Hall of Fame is the proof.ccde exam