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Cisco announces Design Expert Certification for network engineers

Michael Morisy

Cisco has announced a new certification, the Certified Design Expert (CCDE, that will see the networking giant start to offer a standard for demarcating those senior network engineers who play a more strategic planning role in their companies.

"There's not going to be a lot of CCDEs walking the street," said David Bump, a portfolio manager with Cisco. "It's a very senior credential; it's a very exclusive credential."

So what exactly sets a DE apart from the DP (Design Professional)? According to Bump, it is looking at goals strategically and being able to take a business vision and design a network that supports that.

Bump said a CCDE-certified engineer might be asked to add a remote site to the network. The details of the remote site might not be provided, so the CCDE must obtain requirements for the site and create a design that meets those requirements and stays within budget and time constraints. Some steps a CCDE might take:

  1. Gather and clarify network functional specifications.
  2. Develop network designs to meet functional specifications.
  3. Develop an implementation plan.
  4. Convey design decisions and the rationale for the design decisions.

David Willis, a vice president with Gartner Inc., said the certification fills a definite void.

"Basically, people have been learning just by doing in the field,"

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Willis said. "If there had been any formal training, it was more likely to come from a university which would teach more theory than pure design. So this fills that gap between theoretical with university study and the more practical, mechanical aspects of configuration and diagnostics."

To prove that proficiency, network designers can expect to brush up a bit on a variety of topics. Applicants will be required to take the two-hour CCDE Qualification Exam, which will also meet their Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) re-certification requirement, if applicable.

For those who pass the Qualification Exam, the eight-hour-long, proctored CCDE Practical Exam will be made available in the Fall in select locations. Although neither exam has any prerequisites, Cisco recommends at least seven years of networking experience and expects a fair number of CCIE-certified network engineers to pursue the higher status.

"The qualification exam is pretty tough," Bump said. "Even the gurus will need to brush up on topics they haven't looked at in years."

For some, it may also be a way to stand out in an increasingly crowded field of CCIEs.

"This is really where network engineers need to take themselves," Willis said. "Instead of being ... fungible technician[s], they can also show they can customize solutions specifically to a set of business problems."