Scott Morris Guest Editorial: CCIE R&S 4.0 Blueprint Announced

    Scott Morris Guest Editorial: CCIE R&S 4.0 Blueprint Announced


    Scott Morris Photo 1.JPG

    Scott Morris (CCIE #4713)


    Well, life as we know it just got a LOT more interesting….  Well, if you are in the midst of preparing for the CCIE Routing & Switching lab exam, life just became a lot more complicated.  You have an impending question to contemplate:  What do I do?

    1.    You can run in circles, scream and shout, and quickly book up ANY lab date between now and October 17th.  (There will be many of you who do this, so quit looking at me like that.)
    2.    You can sit back, relax, regroup your methodology of learning the topics and actually look forward to October 18th when the new blueprint goes live.
    3.    You can run in circles, scream and shout and continue to mutter under your breath about things well past October 18th up to the point where your family really does think you have gone crazy and has you committed to a nice padded room with a Cisco logo at forehead level.


    Which option looks best?  What?  You haven’t heard the news and have no idea what I’m rambling on about?  Well, you need to pause and go look at and check out the news!


    Details at


    The gist of it?  Things change!  One of the large changes in the CCIE program is the focus on real life.  It has long been a fundamental philosophy of life that the CCIE lab exam did not reflect on real life.  Very often it showed you what NOT to do with your network, but tested well on a candidates deep understanding of protocols.

    The 4.0 version of the CCIE R&S Lab Blueprint is instilling a sense of reality into the world.  Part of this came from the CCIE Program’s self-analysis.

    “What basically we did,” said CCIE R&S Program Manager Maurilio Gorito, “was validate our Blueprint through job/task analysis.  A couple of external CCIEs and SMEs worldwide, and a couple of internal CCIEs were asked what they were doing at an ‘expert’ level and we tried to validate our blueprint.”

    The good news, according to Gorito, was that the 3.0 blueprint was generally a valid list of topics.  Topics, however, do not necessarily equal methods.  One of the first things readers will notice in the 4.0 version of the blueprint is that there really isn’t much missing.  Well…  Ok, Multicast DMVPN has finally been removed.  And Layer2 Tunneling has met a silent demise.


    What else?  Ummmm… Nothing that really leapt out at me, and nothing that was highlighted in my conversations with CCIE team members.

    Next, the interesting news…Format changes!  A full-fledged troubleshooting section will be added into the CCIE R&S Lab exam (other tracks will follow).  This, much like the Core Technology Questions, will be a completely separate test portion.

    Just in case you were wondering, the Core Technology Questions are here to stay.  So you now get a three-part exam.  Just when you thought it was safe.  How paranoid are you feeling now?

    The funny thing is that you shouldn’t feel paranoid at all.  Candidates that study through the technologies should be able to handle either the Core Technology Questions or the Troubleshooting Section without much difficulty!  So why are people going to be paranoid anyway?  Because it’s something new.  It’s something nobody has talked about.  And therefore we fear the unknown.

    Everything in the CCIE lab is about thought process though.  If you treat the new things like anything else, you’ll find a process and will be successful at it!  (Well, with practice anyway).  I am quite excited about the addition of a troubleshooting section to the lab exam!


    Granted, I don’t have to go  take the test again, but I have thought for the past six years that the troubleshooting was something sorely missing from the lab exam.  In case you were wondering, the old two-day labs had a troubleshooting section.  Although a different focus than the upcoming troubleshooting, it was still a different process to think through!

    According to Gorito, the “total lab will still be an eight-hour exam.  We are not adding hours to the day.”

    “There is no minimum time to spend on a section [of the lab]”, he adds, “but there will be maximum times.”

    Just like candidates are becoming used to in the current exam format, once you tell the system you are “finished” with one section (the Core Technology Questions in today’s lab), you cannot return to it.

    The grading mechanism will change with the new lab as well, although full details aren’t going to be released as is common with any of the lab exams.  “The candidate will need to pass in all three sections in order to pass the exam,” Gorito stated.

    He did offer a little insight to the Troubleshooting section though.  “Candidates may find a single Trouble Ticket comprised of just one problem.  Or you may see one with more than one issue to figure out.”  He alluded to the idea that 2-3 issues may be seen within a Trouble Ticket, but nothing more.

    So we’ve had the shock….  Seen the good news (no matter how small)…  Seen the interesting news…  Like everything, there’s always a “bad news” portion.  Want the bad news?

    Well, there are a significant number of things that are ADDED to the 4.0 blueprint!  What?  Added?  Keeping the Core Technolgoy Questions…  Adding in Troubleshooting…  When are candidates going to have time to actually do any real work, let alone adding new technologies in here?

    Excellent question!  The short answer is that not every lab exam will cover every single thing on the blueprint.  That has always been one of the unspoken rules of the CCIE lab.  Well, that and “Anything is Fair Game”!  But with an increased scope in topics, and a decreased amount of time available, that will definitely change both the depth and breadth of topics covered in any one single exam.

    So after looking at the new blueprint, some of the highlights in new topics are:

    •    PPP over Ethernet (PPPoE)
    •    Performance Routing (Cisco PfR)
    •    Optimized Edge Routing (Cisco OER)
    •    EIGRPv6
    •    MPLS Label Switching
    •    MPLS Layer3 VPN
    •    MPLS VRF-Lite
    •    Interdomain Multicast Routing
    •    IPv6 Multicast support
    •    Multiprotocol BGP (MBGP)
    •    Zone-Based Firewall
    •    Control Plane Policing (CoPP)
    •    Intrusion Prevention (IPS)
    •    Gateway Load Balancing Protocol (GLBP)
    •    AutoQoS
    •    Embedded Event Manager (EEM)
    •    Concept of “Optimize the Network”


    Ok, some of you just passed out.  I tried to figure out how to embed smelling salts into the web article…But even the new and improved Cisco Learning Network couldn’t support that!  Clearly Web 2.0 is not nearly as advanced as we need it to be!

    Many of those topics have HUGE implications on what could be involved.  Just remember that many of these topics also exist on other CCIE tracks.  While the R&S Track is indeed the largest (and therefore it must be the “coolest” track (smirk)), it is not attempting to take over the world.

    When asked about the impact on the WAN we have all become used to seeing on the CCIE labs, Gorito says “We are not replacing Frame-Relay with MPLS.  We are introducing MPLS.”

    Over the course of the entire blueprint, Gorito pointed out “While we are adding topics, we are not really removing anything from the current blueprint.”
    “With some exams,” he adds, “the weighting changes.  We won’t have an exam where people need to configure everything [listed on the blueprint].”

    So now is the time to sit back and regroup your mental faculties regarding the CCIE R&S Lab exam. October 17, 2009 is the last day for the 3.0 blueprint.  Can you comfortably take it by that date?  Can you actually find an open lab date?  The race is on!

    Personally, I think that the changes are great for the CCIE program, at least from the program-side of things.  Troubleshooting is a seriously important concept for real-life networks.

    The breadth of the 4.0 blueprint will lead to a wider variety of possible lab views.  This really means that the CCIE lab is very much like a consulting project.  You never know what you’ll really see until you actually get there!

    Granted, that’s much easier for me to say.  I’m just a couple weeks away from being a 10-year CCIE (May 18th!).  But with the proper study-plan in place everything can be achieved!


    Do I agree with the addition of the topics?  Not all of them.  The biggest one I have a hard time with is the MPLS portion.  I most certainly agree with the committee-type method they used to come up with it, and I agree that there are places it is important to know.  But, on the other hand, since I also do a lot of Service Provider training and consulting work, saying “MPLS” or “MPLS VPN” brings a picture into my head that is much more like the CCIE SP or even beyond that.


    But the public has spoken!  The topics are in the list!  I (like I’m sure all of you are as well) am going to watch the implementation and hope for the best!  The CCIE program seems to have at least some of the same concerns.


    “We have some stuff there, but it’s not our intention to compete with the CCIE [Security or Service Provider] exams,” stated Gorito.  He adds that the topics “are important, but we try to set a limit.  Implement and cover [them], but not too deep.”

    We live in a Grand Experiment.  And that’s about to have a change.  I wasn’t able to get anyone in the CCIE program to go on record in placing bets about how long it will take the entire calendar of CCIE lab bookings for the R&S lab between now and October 17th to disappear!

    Anyone care to place bets on that?  My vote is less than one week!  By the way, in case you didn’t see, the CCIE R&S Written Blueprint is 4.0 also.  Identical to the Lab other than the “Evaluate proposed changes to a Network” Notation!  Happy studies to all, and stay tuned for some deeper looks at the topics introduced.

    Scott Morris (CCIE #4713) has four CCIE Certifications (Routing & Switching, ISP/Dial, Security and Service Provider) among a myriad of other certifications.  He has over 23 years experience in the field including 9 years as an instructor. He currently provides high-end and CCIE-level training and also travels the world as a consultant. He can often be found hanging around the discussion forums at Cisco Learning Network where he is known to post messages at all times of the day or night.