CCNP Enterprise: What to Expect
Change can be a scary thing. You never know what's going to happen. Nobody does. It's all new to everyone. When Cisco announced their cert changes in June 2019, it was a big enough deal to be dubbed by many onlookers as the certpocalypse.
Now we have the benefit of hindsight. The new certification paths went live on Feb 24, 2020. Changes included things like retiring the CCENT, retiring all CCNA paths and replacing them with a single CCNA, and introducing the Cisco Certified DevNet. Additionally, these changes made a lot of information online about Cisco certs stale.
So, we're going to take a look at what Cisco's changes mean for the new CCNP Enterprise certification. We'll explore the new CCNP Enterprise certification paths, the new exams, and what you need to know to prepare for them.
CCNP Enterprise: The Basics
The first thing you should know is: you'll need to pass two exams in order to earn the CCNP Enterprise.
Like other new Cisco certs, this means you'll have to pass both a core exam and a concentration exam. The nice thing about this setup is every concentration exam will also earn you a Cisco specialist certification.
The core exams will change depending on which path you decide to take. In the case of CCNP Enterprise you'll be looking at the 350-401 ENCOR exam. Even with the core exam, a passing score will earn you a specialist certification. In this case that is the Cisco Certified Specialist – Enterprise Core. Additionally, the core exam for the 350-401 ENCOR doubles as a requirement for a CCIE Enterprise Infrastructure and CCIE Enterprise Wireless.
CCNP Enterprise: The 350-401 ENCOR Exam
350-401 ENCOR is a 120-minute exam and that tests your overall knowledge of implementing core enterprise networking technologies. The exam costs $400 in the United States. While there are no formal prerequisites, three to five years of experience implementing enterprise networking solutions is recommended. When you pass the core exam, you'll have three years from the pass date to take a concentration exam and earn the CCNP Enterprise.
Looking at Cisco's enumeration of exam topics, the CCNP Enterprise core exam will test your skills in the following (the number in parenthesis is how much of the exam is dedicated to that topic):
- Architecture (15%)
- Virtualization (10%)
- Infrastructure (30%)
- Network assurance (10%)
- Security (20%)
- Automation (15%)
CCNP Enterprise: Core Exam Options
Once you complete the core exam, you have six different concentration exams to pick from. The one you decide to go with will depend on the area you choose as your speciality. Let's take a quick look at the different exams.
Implementing Cisco Enterprise Advanced Routing and Services – 300-410 ENARSI: With this exam, you will test your knowledge of implementing and troubleshooting advanced routing technologies and services. Once completing this exam, you will also receive the Cisco Certified Specialist – Enterprise Advanced Infrastructure Implementation certification. When preparing for this exam, you'll be expected to have an understanding of the following:
- Layer 3
- VPN services
- Infrastructure security
- Infrastructure services
- Infrastructure automation
Implementing Cisco SD-WAN Solutions – 300-415 ENSDWI: You will be tested on your knowledge of Cisco's SD-WAN solutions. Once completing this exam, you'll receive the Cisco Certified Specialist – Enterprise SD-WAN Implementation certification. The exam will test your knowledge of:
- SD-WAN architecture
- Controller deployment
- Edge router deployment
- Quality of service
- Management and operations
Designing Cisco Enterprise Networks – 300-420 ENSLD: Here, you'll test your knowledge of designing an enterprise network. Once you complete this exam, you'll also get your Cisco Certified Specialist – Enterprise Design certification. You'll be tested on enterprise design topics including:
- Advanced addressing and routing solutions
- Advanced enterprise campus networks
- Security services
- Network services
Designing Cisco Enterprise Wireless Networks – 300-425 ENWLSD: For this exam, you'll be tested on your knowledge of wireless network designs. When passing this exam, you'll receive Cisco Certified Specialist – Enterprise Wireless Design certification. You'll be tested on:
- Site surveys
- Wired and wireless infrastructure
- WLAN high availability
Implementing Cisco Enterprise Wireless Networks – 300-430 ENWLSI: Here, you'll be tested in your knowledge of wireless network implementation. You'll receive the Cisco Certified Specialist – Enterprise Wireless Implementation certification upon passing this exam. This exam will be used to certify your knowledge in:
- Advanced location services
- Security for client connectivity
- Device hardening
Automating Cisco Enterprise Solutions – 300-435 ENAUTO: With this exam, you'll be tested on automated solutions. If you pass this exam, you'll receive the Cisco Certified DevNet Specialist – Enterprise Automation and Programmability certification. You'll be putting your automation skills to the test and will need to have an understanding of:
- Programming concepts
- Python programming
- Automation tools
All of these concentration exams are 90 minutes long and cost $300 per exam in the U.S.
The core exam covers essential topics and skills any IT pro at this level needs to know. Depending on the area you're looking to focus on, you'll be diving deeper into a particular topic with the concentration exam.
Who Should Take the CCNP?
So, who should be looking at getting a CCNP, specifically the CCNP Enterprise? Let's say you held one of the now retired certs like CCNA Routing and Switching before February 24, 2020. Assuming you were current at the time, you would have transitioned to the new CCNA at that point. From there, it would make sense to take the next step by looking into a relevant CCNP. In this case the natural move is the CCNP Enterprise.
Many of the skills validated by the CCNP Enterprise are useful in real-world enterprise network environments. For example, network engineers can benefit from the skills and resume boost a CCNP can bring. With Cisco solutions being as widely valued as they are, you can't really go wrong with a CCNP Enterprise cert. The specialist certs earned along the way alone will be worth it as you progress.
Difficulty of the New CCNP exams
If you're looking at this information and wondering if the new exams are harder than the old exams, of course, there is no one-size-fits all answer to that question. That said, in our opinion, the short answer is yes, they're harder than the old CCNP exams.
But you have to consider that the older exams were very… well… old. They were in need of a major update to cover topics more relevant to today's networking environments. Understanding Python and some basic scripts comes with the new emphasis on automation. These are things that weren't included in the old CCNP exams. While the update does make the exams harder than they were, they're also more relevant to what to expect in the real world.
How to Prepare for the New CCNP Exams
Having hands-on networking experience, studying based on the exam blueprints, and having the right resources will help optimize your CCNP studies. The new Cisco exams aren't easy, but they do seem to have a reputation so far of being "fair". That is, they match the exam blueprints pretty well. If you put in the work and have good study habits, you have a good chance of passing the exams.
From security, infrastructure, and automation. If you're interested in having your concentration in automation, you might find this training helpful, the Cisco CCNP Automating Enterprise Solutions (300 435 ENAUTO). You'll need to start off by getting comfortable with implementing and operating Cisco solutions in a modern environment. For a deep dive into the 350-401 ENCOR, check out our recent New Training: Cisco CCNP Enterprise Core (350-401 ENCOR) post.
In short, the new CCNP hasn't lost the value and prestige of the old CCNP, but it has modernized the content. The new CCNP exams are challenging, relevant, and modern. The previous offering was starting to show its age and they've done a good job adjusting the exams to match skills that are in demand. Additionally, providing specialist certs along the way helps with a better sense of progression. Good luck getting your new CCNP!