Networking giant Cisco Systems has ignited a controversy about the way it handles the routing and switching lab exam for its Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) program.
Beginning Oct. 1, the routing and switching CCIE lab exam will be offered in one extended day, rather than the longstanding two-day format.
Cisco said the new format eliminates redundancies that exist over the two-day exam. Also, fundamental tasks like basic addressing and cabling will no longer be included in the CCIE, rather they'll be moved into an extended qualification exam and Cisco's other certifications.
The news is generating plenty of discussion among CCIEs and CCIE candidates. On the CCIE Lab mailing list at GroupStudy.com, for example, an estimated 200 messages on the lab format change have been posted this month. Many of the comments on that board express concern that the changes will affect the integrity of the CCIE certification.
Lorne Braddock, CCIE program manager for Cisco, said the changes will in no way affect the quality of the exam. He said the single, extended day, and elimination of redundancies gets candidates "right to the heart of the most complex elements of CCIE."
Braddock also said the change will serve to increase the number of openings for candidates waiting to take the lab exam. It will also reduce travel time and lost productivity for Cisco customers, he said.
Braddock said he suspects some of the more outspoken critics of the lab change are CCIEs who want the program to remain as small and exclusive as possible, thus preserving the prestige of their accomplishments.
But Braddock argued that just the opposite is true: that over time, if large numbers of qualified candidates can't get in to take the test, the value of certification could decrease.
David Foote managing partner and research director for Foot Partners, suspects Cisco may be trying to "create more of a good thing, faster."
"It would appear at first glance that they may be trying to accelerate the growth of the CCIE base, always a good thing in a 'down' economy," he said. "I can't think of any other good reason for them to be messing with this -- bottom line."
Ed Tittel, principal at the IT training, and consulting company LANWrights Inc., said the only way to truly assess the format change will be to talk to past exam candidates who also take the new exam after it goes into effect Oct. 1. Still, the news came as a surprise to Tittel.
"It's the most highly-regarded certification exam out there," he said. "I'm surprised Cisco would do anything that could even call the certification into question."
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