Who at Cisco makes these decisions? Does Cisco think their CCNA Datacenter certification is so prestige that they can charge $250 per exam? Not to mention your CCNA will require two exams, that’s right two exams! You do the math. Lets dive into this craziness of a certification.

The first of two exams is the 640-911 Introducing Cisco Data Center Networking. This exam covers the networking concepts for the “datacenter” environment and is essentially based on the Cisco NX-OS platform. This exam, in my opinion is nothing more than a slight step above your CCENT certification, maybe parallel with the ICND-1 exam for the CCNA R&S track. If you explore the exam blueprint you will find that this exam covers pretty much the fundamentals of what a CCNA R&S exam would cover, but wait, Cisco throws the work Nexus in there a few times. Beside the slight differences in syntax, that any true working CCNA R&S individual will pick up real quick or may not even know the difference, the Nexus platform operates like any other router/switch within the Cisco products. Routing is routing, and switching is switching. Ok, Ok, so there are some things like Virtual Port-channels that are new, but sure didn’t see any reference to that in the blueprint topics.

The second exam is really where you are tested on knowing the datacenter topics. This exam will focus on things Unified Fabric, virtualization, storage networking, and Unified Computing. This exam I will agree to be a good solid requirement for the certification, still not sure on the price though. According to Cisco , 30% of this exam is going to focus on the fundamentals of the datacenter. These fundamentals are definitely going to cover the previously mentioned Virtual Port-Channels (vPC).

So what do you think? Are these exams worth $250 a piece? I am scheduling CCNP R&S exams at a cost of $200 per exam, so why are CCNA level exams $250? I haven’t even looked at the professional level exam costs for the DC track because I am afraid of why my blood pressure would be. I feel that the first exam is very CCNA R&S like, and the reason Cisco has this exam for this certification is because a valid CCNA in R&S is not required as a prerequisite for this certification. Lets ask ourselves why though? Does traditional routing and switching not exist in the datacenter? Is spanning-tree gone? Is there a new IGP for the datacenter that we didn’t learn about in our CCNA studies? Not really. Although some datacenter technologies, like FabricPath will replace Spanning-tree, don’t think every organization is on the bandwagon yet with this technology.

Here are my final thoughts on this:

1. I think the cost of these exams are unreasonable for average individuals that want to get certified. Not everyone has a nice “cushy” job that will pay for these. I think Cisco needs to rethink their pricing to get more people onboard with this certification track.

2. I think any individual that holds a valid CCNA in R&S and is current on this certification, should be able to use that certification credential to bypass the first exam in this series. I worked with IOS for 3 years solid before moving to NX-OS and I didn’t struggle with the new syntax at all. Ok, fine NX-OS no longer has a “write” command, but it has the ability to create an alias! Just saying! 


I personally would love to get this certification as it would not take much studying to achieve due to my regular everyday work in the datacenter, but I can’t justify the cost on a professional level or even a personally level. I guess I will stick with my CCNP level exams for R&S.

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