Cisco Service Provider Certifications Not Only for Service Providers

serverroomdatacenter2You may have noticed Cisco has new CCNA SP and CCNP SP certifications. Along with them is a series of new classes to get you ready for the certification exams. The thing is, these classes and certifications aren’t all about the service provider. Don’t let the name fool you.

Yes, the program does have that slant, and yes, it does cover “typical” service provider architecture, but the concepts are used in service provider and enterprise. CCNA Routing and Switching (the traditional and original CCNA that I’ll refer to as CCNA R&S) and CCNA SP cover a lot of the same information, but CCNA SP goes deeper and further into topics that are normally covered at the CCNP level.

The CCNP SP goes fairly deep into OSPF, ISIS, QoS, Multicast, BGP, and MPLS—all this with IPv4 and IPv6 mixed throughout and IOS, IOS-XE, and IOS-XR too. These technologies are not limited to the provider space; they are also present in a lot of larger enterprise networks.

Why Should the Enterprise Technician Care?
If you work for a larger enterprise, you most likely have larger routers and switches. Most enterprise-level devices are based on Cisco’s Internetwork Operating System (IOS), but more often, larger enterprises are running into the limitations of those devices. Therefore, they are starting to implement devices that would be more of a traditional service provider type of router, such as ASR1000, ASR9000, GSR, and CRS. These routers run something other than IOS—either IOS-XE or IOS-XR. The R&S track of courses and certifications only covers IOS and not really how the operating system works under the hood. SP courses and certifications cover IOS, IOS-XE, and IOS-XR and how they differ and how they work. The CCNA SP and CCNP SP tracks cover these operating systems throughout all courses.

In addition, more enterprises are looking to, if not starting to, deploy IPv6. In the CCNA R&S curriculum, there is a cursory look at IPv6. In the CCNA SP one, IPv6 is covered in a deeper fashion and incorporated throughout any IP discussions, such as routing protocols.

The CCNA SP labs are based around IOS, IOS-XE, and IOS-XR routers and IOS switches. The switches are the Metro Ethernet series switches, but the difference between these and typical enterprise switches are minimal. Also, all router labs have you implement both IPv4 and IPv6 solutions.

The SP certifications are relatively new, and so are the courses, but they are well built and cover topics of interest beyond the service provider world. With larger enterprise networks, there are more overlapping technologies and protocols than one might expect. As you move forward within the SP track of courses, you’ll see consistent content and lab topologies from course to course, which you don’t see in the R&S track of courses.

Related Courses
SPNGN1 – Building Cisco Service Provider Next-Generation Networks, Part 1
SPNGN2 – Building Cisco Service Provider Next-Generation Networks, Part 2
SPROUTE – Deploying Cisco Service Provider Network Routing

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