New Cisco CCNA Certification Targets Service Provider Installs

The CCNA certification follows a partner specialization Cisco rolled out in mid-February called the Advanced IP Next-Generation Network (IPNGN) Architecture Specialization, all part of a stepped-up effort by Cisco to recognize a class of partners and engineers focused on carrier network upgrades.

Cisco executives told CRN in February that sales to tier-two, tier-three and tier-four service providers represent a $20 billion worldwide total addressable market opportunity. About 200 Cisco partners focus on the space and sell primarily to regional service providers, although many also sell to enterprises that use some of Cisco's lower-end carrier-grade networking gear.

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CCNA Service Provider joins Cisco's various existing CCNA certifications, which cover areas such such as security, voice, wireless, and routing and switching. CCNA is considered an "Associate-level" certification by Cisco -- higher than an Entry-level Cisco networking certification and below the Professional-level and Expert-level certifications, of which Cisco's Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) is probably the best known.

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CCNA Service Provider includes the basics of deploying and verifying IP next-generation service provider core networks using Cisco Carrier Routing System (CRS) products and services, Aggregated Services Routers (ASRs), various Catalyst and ME switches, and Cisco's XR12K platform. It includes configuration of routing protocols such as BGP, IS-IS and OSPF, and transport technologies such as SONET, Metro Ethernet and 10/40/100 Gigabit Ethernet.

The certification has no prerequisites. There are two courses, SPNGN1 and SPNGN2, and two affiliated exams and, like other CCNAs, a three-year recertification schedule, according to Tejas Vashi, director of product development at Cisco.

"Service provider folks must be service provider-focused," said Vashi. "You absolutely must be knowledgeable and intimately aware of what service provider networks look like."

Norman Dunn, manager of technical marketing and global content at Cisco, said partners sought a service provider-focused credential to differentiate themselves to service provider customers.

"They want to create that foundational base of knowledge around IPNGN," Dunn explained.

The training courses for CCNA Service Provider are available through Cisco Authorized Learning Partners, and exams are available through Pearson Vue, the test company Cisco uses for its coursework.