On April 11th 2017, well on the edge and on the last day before the old CCNA DC exams expiring I finally gog my CCNA Data Center certification, more than a year after starting the studies.
Was it hard? Yes, but no so much for the content.
My journey started with the decision late 2015, with some experience and after putting my hands on some Cisco Nexus switches I decided to go ahead with certification.
The first exam was DCICN Introducing Cisco Data Center Networking. The first attempt was a surprisingly nice failure. All the networking principles were deeply in me but the exam was “mined” with a series of unexpected questions and some that really were not part of the exam topics. A problem known for this exam unfortunately.
But this exam gave me a very important heads up: I forgot how to study! I still knew how to learn, but I didn’t know how to study anymore. I underestimated the small little details that must be memorized and the need to review what was studied to make sure I really learned enough to pass the exam.
From then on, my plan was suspended by unexpected events in life: work, personal projects and a new kid made me leave the certification behind. Only a year later, December 2016 I finally managed to pass DCICN.
What about exam dumps?
You must be thinking:
“This Mario guy is really dumb! With so many dumps wondering around why did he take more than a year to pass a Cisco A level exam?”
Because I didn’t want the title only. I wanted the knowledge and thats what moves me. Also, the position I had at the time demanded some knowledge.
It was then time for the 2nd certification exam, DCICT Introducing Cisco Data Center Technologies. Studying for this one came with a few more eye openers.
The exam was much more than Nexus switches, VDCs (Virtual Device Contexts), vPC (Virtual Port Channels) and Fabricpath. I soon realized it wasn’t something to just conquer in 2 weeks and it took me 4 more months of off and on studying until I was able to pass, with a failure before that. Storage, SAN, Fibre Channel, virtualization and UCS servers leave confused anyone so focused on pure routing and switching and no “systems” history as I am.
Below is most of the content I used to prepare for both exams. Some items on the list are book I didn’t have time to read but still included because they were recommended. Click on the tabs to change topics.
I started preparing where I recommend anyone to start any Cisco exam: The CLN (Cisco Learning Network). There, its possible to have access not only the list of official exam topics but discussions and some alerts from people who attempted the exams. CLN also has lists of recommended books for certification and some free content.
The INE forum is good for R&S certifications but unfortunately its a bit stale for Data Center certifications. The last post in the forum (CCNA DC) is from 2015).
My opinion is, for video, nothing beats the ones available from Cisco Live library. I would put a list here but they were so many, sooo many… I recommend everyone to visit the site, register for free and just search for any topic you need. However, there are 2 that were critical:
- BRKSAN-1121 Fibre Channel Networking for the IP Network Engineer and SAN Core Edge Design Best Practices
- BRKDCT-1044 – Introductory – FCoE for the IP Network Engineer
For reading, I was fortunate enough to have a Safari Books Online subscription. These subscription gives me access to ALL Cisco Press library and many other publishers too! I highly recommend it. My list included:
- CCNA Data Center DCICN 640-911 Official Cert Guide (the new 200-150 is already available)
- CCNA Data Center DCICT 640-916 Official Cert Guide (the new 200-155 is already available)
- Data Center Fundamentals – a bit old but still interesting. Its a “pre-nexus” book.
- Data Center Virtualization Fundamentals: Understanding Techniques and Designs for Highly Efficient Data Centers with Cisco Nexus, UCS, MDS, and Beyond
- NX-OS and Cisco Nexus Switching: Next-Generation Data Center Architectures, 2nd Edition
- Network Warrior 2nd edition – The Nexus chapter
- Implementing Cisco UCS Solutions
- Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS) (Data Center): A Complete Reference Guide to the Cisco Data Center Virtualization Server Architecture
- Storage Networking Fundamentals: An Introduction to Storage Devices, Subsystems, Applications, Management, and File Systems
Cisco support documentation is phenomenal (mostly). The configuration guides and command references available in the site are a must read especially for “Configure, troubleshoot and verify” topics. The datasheets should also be read for this exam.
Summarizing a pile of links I still remember:
- Nexus 2000 datasheet
- Nexus 5K datasheet (5500, 5600 10G, 5600 40G)
- Nexus 7k datasheet
- NX-OS Licensing Guide
- Nexus 5K Configuration Guides
- Nexus 7K Configuration Guides
- NExus 5K Whitepapers
- Nexus 7K Whitepapers
- Nexus 7K Troubleshooting Guide
- Cisco UCS Manager Quick Start Guide
- Cisco UCS Manager Getting Started Guide
- Cisco UCS Manager Infrastructure Management Guide
- Cisco UCS Manager Install and Upgrade Guides
- Cisco UCS Fabric Interconnects 6200 Support Guides
- Nexus 1000v Install and Upgrade Guide
- MDS 9000 Configuration Guides
To make sure information was kept fresh in my mind I made notes in Microsoft Word and Anki flashcards. Soon I’ll share both with you here and write a bit about Anki. Its a lifesaver!
Was it worth it?
Sure it was! Not only for the “basic” knowledge of Cisco Data Center technologies but for Data Center technologies overall. The exam made me understand a bit about storage, SANs, Fibre Channel, FCoE, virtualization and servers.
Am I an expert?
Not at all, especially on the storage and UCS topics from DCICT. But I fill much more at ease if I have to discuss any of them and I know I can progress much faster than before.
Whats next? CCNP DC?
I hope you enjoyed this one and don’t forget that some of my recommendations may not be valid anymore after the exams changed to v6.