Is the CCNP Data Center Worth It?
For a growing number of companies all around the world, data centers are the solution to many of their long-term problems. Cutting-edge network, compute, storage network, and automation technologies can save time, money, and manpower. But someone has to install, maintain, optimize and troubleshoot all that tech.
Maybe you want to be that person – and maybe you're a great data center administrator. Can you prove it? The CCNP Data Center is a certification that proves an IT professional's comfort with implementing core Cisco data center technologies. It's a credential that defines many data center careers – read on to learn if the CCNP Data Center is worth it for you.
What is the CCNP Data Center?
The Cisco Certified Networking Professional – Data Center, or the CCNP Data Center, is a highly respected data center certification and one of the most well-regarded IT certs in the industry. Earning it requires passing a test on advanced knowledge of implementing core data center technologies related to Cisco networks.
The CCNP family of certificates is published and maintained by Cisco themselves, which means they represent Cisco's own expectations for administration and implementation. That can be particularly nice for companies who administer massive data centers, taking comfort that their network professionals have "by the book" credentials.
To earn the CCNP Data Center, you have to pass two exams. One of those exams is specified – the second is up to you. The core exam focuses on core data center tech, while the other tests cover topics like designing or troubleshooting Cisco data center infrastructures, implementing application-centric infrastructure, configuring MDS 9000 Series switches, and others.
What's nice is that in addition to getting you closer to earning your CCNP Data Center, you can take as many of the concentration exams as you like. And each time you do, you earn an individual specialist certification in that field.
What Does the CCNP Data Center Exam Test?
Earning the CCNP Data Center requires passing the 350-601 DCCOR and a concentration exam of your choice. The 350-601 DCCOR is a 120-minute exam with five exam objectives:
In addition to the core exam are six concentration exams. Each has different exam objectives, but you can see what the specialty is from their titles: 300-610 DCID – Designing Cisco Data Center Infrastructure; 300-615 DCIT – Troubleshooting Cisco Data Center Infrastructure; 300-620 DCACI – Implementing Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure; 300-625 DCSAN – Configuring Cisco MDS 9000 Series Switches; 300-630 DCACIA – Implementing Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure – Advanced; and 300-635 DCAUTO – Implementing Automation for Cisco Data Center Solutions.
How Much Does the CCNP Data Center Exam Cost?
In total, the CCNP Data Center costs $700. The core exam, 350-601 DCCOR, costs $400 to attempt. Each of the six concentration exams cost $300. There are no prerequisite exams, so those two exams are all you'll have to pay for.
Before doing so, you'll probably want to take a course to make sure you're prepared. YouTube videos are free, but there are also many paid courses that can prepare you for the CCNP Data Center, and you should add the cost of those courses to the $700 it costs to earn the CCNP Data Center.
What Experience Do You Need for the CCNP Data Center?
Cisco doesn't have any prerequisites for the CCNP Data Center and there are no experience requirements before attempting the CCNP Data Center. Obviously, that means you can attempt the exam when you're prepared – not that it's not a challenging certification.
You should have broad experience with implementing core data center technologies for a Cisco data center for the CCNP Data Center. The CCNP Data Center certifies a networking professional for advanced-level data center roles and any experience you can get doing work like that you’d do in those positions would help you pass the exam.
Before attempting the CCNP Data center, you'll want familiarity with routing and switching protocols in a data center environment as well as implementing overlay networks. You should be able to describe Cisco Cloud service and deployment models. Fibre Channel and Fibre Channel over Ethernet unified fabric are important parts of the exam, as are security features present in data centers. You should know how to implement software management and infrastructure monitoring solutions as well as how to use Cisco Unified Computing System, UCS Fabric Interconnect, and Cisco HyperFlex. Last, you'll need to feel comfortable with Cisco automation and scripting tools as well as automation and orchestration technologies.
Who Should Take the CCNP Data Center?
Pretty much anyone who works in a data center in a technical capacity should plan to earn their CCNP Data Center eventually. For junior administrators, it's an excellent goal to set early in your career. For senior engineers and even designers, it's a hallmark of excellence. Frankly it's hard to imagine a networking professional who wouldn't benefit from having the CCNP Data Center on their resume.
CCNP Data Center for Network Administrators
The CCNP Data Center is definitely worth it for network administrators. Do you work on Cisco equipment? Do you use data center technologies? Do you like your work and want to make a long-term career of it?
If you answer "yes" to those three questions, the CCNP Data Center is how to prove that you're fully equipped to perform network administration duties inside a Cisco data center. If you're early in your career and you set your sights on passing the CCNP Data Center within a few years, you've practically got a training roadmap pre-made for you. From routing and switching protocols to Fibre Channel over Ethernet and on to automation and scripting tools, the CCNP Data Center represents everything a network administrator should eventually know.
CCNP Data Center for a Network Designer
The CCNP Data Center is worth it for network designers, especially those who are relatively new to the career or those who haven't worked much with Cisco technologies. The CCNP Data Center covers the protocols, tools, and technologies that make a Cisco data center possible.
Earning it can provide a network designer with all the familiarity they need to plan a new data center implementation or network upgrade. In addition to that, the CCNP Data Center doesn't go into the deep technical depth that Cisco's CCIE certifications do, which makes it a lower bar to clear.
CCNP Data Center for a Systems Engineer
The CCNP Data Center will generally be worth it for a systems engineer, depending on their day-to-day tasks. If you design and implement system implementations in a data center environment, studying for the CCNP Data Center will make sure you understand the protocols and interfaces necessary for success.
The core objectives of the CCNP Data Center focus on implementing various protocols and technologies – like overlay networks, Fibre Channel, and infrastructure monitoring software. For systems engineers who might need to install or troubleshoot new network systems and technology, the CCNP Data Center can familiarize you with regular operations and make sure your upgrades are always successful.
Is the CCNP Data Center Worth It?
The CCNP Data Center is definitely worth it. Whether you work with data centers directly or indirectly, the CCNP Data Center is simply one of the best possible ways to learn the tools, hardware and software, and technologies that make them possible.
Using CCNP Data Center to Learn Skills
The CCNP Data Center is a challenging and thorough exploration of the concepts, skills and technologies used in Cisco data centers. That means that if you find yourself in a position where you need to learn one specific aspect of data center administration, or all of them, you can use the CCNP Data Center to learn skills.
Cisco developed the CCNP Data Center exam to test and explore broad industry-standard topics like routing and switching protocols, implementing overlay networks and implementing security features. But there's also a lot of Cisco-specific skills and knowledge like implementing Cisco UCS Fabric Interconnect or Cisco HyperFlex infrastructure.
You can choose, like a menu, from courses designed for individual parts of the exam. Or you can take one course that takes you through the entire body of knowledge. Either way, the skills you need to be a professional data center administrator are laid out in the CCNP Data Center.
Using CCNP Data Center to Validate Skills
If you've gotten this far and you're thinking the CCNP Data Center sounds easy, or that it covers all the parts of the job you've been doing for years, there's one obvious reason to earn it: the same reason most people earn any certification. The CCNP Data Center can prove your expertise and give you external validation of your skills.
Employers and managers recognize and respect Cisco's entire family of certifications. Earning a CCNP Data Center is a way to validate your skills in data center administration that follows you on job applications or in promotion interviews.