CCIE Service Provider cert gets an overhaul

It's been widely reported that experts estimate there will be more than 50 billion devices connected to the internet (a little more than three times the number of connected devices at the end of 2013) by 2020. This puts a lot of pressure on service providers, whose networks need to be clean, reliable, well-maintained and broad. With the fast-approaching Internet of Everything looming, ISP's are going to need qualified IT techs to meet the demand, and networking giant Cisco is doing its best to identify them.


ISP concept

Just before Halloween, Cisco announced plans to update the company's CCIE Service Provider Exam. The current exam, version 3.0, will end its run on May 21, 2015. From May 22 onward, Cisco will offer the 4.0 version.


Like the other exams in its tier, the grueling CCIE Service Provider exam has two parts, the written exam and the lab. The written portion is almost just to keep the unprepared from getting to the lab test, which runs eight hours if you're determined enough to last that long. The written portion of the CCIE will not change significantly from 3.0 to 4.0, but the lab has been substantially revised.


Where the 3.0 lab concentrated on evaluation knowledge of hardware platforms, the 4.0 version focuses more on conceptual design technologies, implementation, and troubleshooting. It will consist of three modules: troubleshoot (two hours), diagnostic (one hour) and configuration (five hours). The shift in emphasis is more toward the new world of complex, cloud-based networking than tangible servers, and to that end is offered entirely on virtual machines.


Cisco also launched two new mobility specialist certifications, the Cisco Service Provider Mobility CDMA to LTE Specialist and the similar UMTS to LTE Specialist (these are listed with the recommended courses from Cisco Learning here).The two new mobile certifications are geared toward bridging the gaps between old CDMA and UMTS mobile internet technologies and the emerging 4G LTE. Both of the new certifications require passing two 90-minute exams, and both are valid for two years.


The ISP game is changing, and the certification world is changing with it. Gigabit pioneers like Google Fiber are shaking the established providers out of their stupor (Comcast has recently put in a trademark application on the term "True Gig," hinting at the possibility of gigabit services). Retaining marketability as an IT tech isn't so much about your experience as your adaptability.


The changes that Cisco is making to its certifications predict this new world of object communication and increased mobility, a world of cloud computing and machine autonomy. It may not be easy keeping up, but IT professionals who can help ISPs build and maintain fast, high-capacity networks are going to profit by the Internet of Everything.


Interested applicants can visit the comparative change log for the CCIE Service Provider Exam here. The file includes necessary prep equipment and test subjects for study. As always, Cisco Learning provides training for interested parties.


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David Telford

David Telford is a short-attention-span renaissance man and university student. His current project is the card game MatchTags, which you can find on Facebook and Kickstarter.