Cisco makes upgrades to CCNP program

To ensure its certification program stays in step with current technologies such as voice over IP (VoIP), Cisco Systems last month unveiled several major upgrades and enhancements to its Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) certification.

“The CCNP program was developed about eight years ago and its primary focus was to asses the skills and tasked level expertise on routing and switching,” said Ray Garra, senior manager of Cisco’s learning and development group.

However, according to Garra, the old CCNP curriculum was not reflective of what has occurred over the last two to three years at Cisco.

“With Cisco growing its product portfolio in advanced technologies such as security, wireless, QoS and VoIP, it seemed appropriate to update CCNP to reflect these advanced technologies,” he said.

Garra added that the CCNP program was also behind when it came to IOS (Cisco’s operating system for routers and switches). A lot of the program’s components and curriculum measured older technology and older product platforms, he said.

The updated CCNP program will still consist of four exams and four recommended training courses but with some revisions to the exams and course materials. Two out of the four courses, the Building Cisco Remote Access Networks (BCRAN) course and the Cisco Internetwork Troubleshooting (CIT) course have been phased out. Instead troubleshooting skills will be integrated throughout the curriculum and BCRAN is being replaced with Implementing Secure Converged WANs (ISCW), a course that will focus on securing data on the network.

A course entitled Optimized Converged Cisco Networks (ONT) is replacing the CIT course and will teach how to optimize and fine tune a network.

The other two courses, Building Cisco Multilayer Switch Networks (BCMSN) and Building Scalable Cisco Internetworks (BSCI) are only changing about 25 per cent from their current forms. The changes to the BCMSN were made to focus more on wireless and a campus switch network environment. Exams for both courses have been changed to reflect the upgrades.

“These are very comprehensive skill sets that are very much valued in the market place,” Garra said.

Cisco requires that all professional-level certifications be re-certified every three years and those that are in the middle of obtaining their CCNP certification prior to the August 15 changes are still able to continue using the old curriculum.

Garra said those who have already completed the BCMSN and BSCI courses have until November 15 to take the older versions of those exams and students have until October 15 to take the exams for the courses that are being phased out. After that, students would use the new curriculum and take the new versions of the exams.

Cushing Anderson, program director for IT education and certification research with IDC in Framingham, Mass., said Cisco needed to do this refresh because, if not, the adoption of security, VoIP and WLAN in the network would have slowed down as network professionals wouldn’t know how to implement them.

He added the biggest benefit the upgrades to the CCNP will have to network professionals is the exams and the materials will help them recognize the subtleties and complexities that are associated with implementing advanced technologies in the network.

“[With the updates] professionals will see the complex nature of these environments and be prepared to leverage technologies and understand what the risks associated with them are,” he said.

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