The differences between CCIE and CCDE by Yuri LukinEvery once in a while I get asked by a potential CCDE candidate whether they should focus on obtaining a CCIE first before pursuing the CCDE track. The answer is almost always “no, but having some experience implementing the technology couldn’t hurt”. In fact, if you look at the people that have gone through the CCDE program and got certified, most of them hold at least one CCIE certification already. Some would argue this is purely due to timing and the only reason some have the CCIE first rather than their CCDE is because the CCDE certification was not yet available. I would partially agree with that. But I would also argue that there’s a fundamental difference in the way one prepares for the CCDE practical exam as compared to a CCIE lab and that is the reason why so many become CCIE certified before they achieve the CCDE certification. One simply cannot study for the CCDE practical exam like they would for a typical exam, as there are no predetermined tasks or facts to memorize. Practical experience and solid understanding and application of fundamental design principles is how most candidates gauge their readiness. In the process of gaining this experience, many find themselves implementing the technology, which naturally lends itself to the CCIE program. Where a CCIE candidate is given specific tasks and told to go forth and do it, the CCDE candidate is presented with a myriad of options that all resemble each other and quite possibly, suit the need in their own way. Here the candidate really needs to rely on his or her requirements gathering technique to find the best and optimal solution. If the CCIE is asking “the how” of implementing the technology, then the CCDE is asking “the why”.


In the early days of my own professional career, I have spent a considerable amount of time on the engineering side of IT. This is where I learned the intricacies of technology implementation, interoperability considerations and how to deploy it rapidly and efficiently. I became more proficient and it naturally made sense for me to pursue the CCIE certification in order to validate those skills. As I gained more experience over time, I began to notice patterns and started drawing conclusions as to why certain technologies worked the way they did or how a specific tool would solve a particular problem. It was right around that time in my career that my role evolved to be more of a designer rather than one concerned with implementation. I was no longer spending my time with the bits and bytes of a technology but rather focusing on understanding the design requirements and how I would leverage the capabilities of a particular technology to solve the problem at hand. This is also when I began to realize that sometimes there is more than one way to solve the problem and you really need to pay attention to the requirements and the constraints laid out before you to make optimal decisions. As I gravitated more and more into this designer role, the CCDE certification became a way for me to validate my newly acquired design skills.


With this in mind, one should be able to conclude that CCIE is not a prerequisite for the CCDE; however, many candidates spend considerable time in engineering and implementation while they gain valuable experience in network infrastructure design. It is akin to the age-old adage of “you must learn to walk before you can run” where you must learn how a technology works before you can use it. As for our infamous question from earlier, the answer is it’s entirely up to you to decide whether you are ready to take on the CCDE directly or if you need to brush up on your implementation skills before tackling the design challenges of the CCDE.


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Yuri Lukin is CCDE #2012:4 and triple CCIE #22899 (R&S, Wireless, and Data Center). Yuri is a Solutions Architect within Cisco’s Advanced Services team focusing on enterprise network design and architecture. His current interests include business-driven development and enterprise modeling. He is also pursuing a Masters degree in Enterprise Architecture.





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