People liked the CCNP -> CCIP -> CCIE R&S route because CCIP had a focus on BGP, MPLS, and QOS that the CCNP lacks. There's no reason you can't still study those topics using the same resources that CCIP candidates used. The CCNP SP does have those topics in its cirriculum, but its added focus on IOS-XR and advanced SP focus will probably make it less attractive to most CCIE R&S candidates now.
On the other hand, CCNP SP is much better preparation for CCIE SP than the CCIP was.
What I'm really saying is: yes, the preferred path for a lot of candidates will probably go CCNP -> CCIE R&S now.
Bradford, you hit the nail right on the head, at least for my situation. Was halfway thorugh MPLS when I read the news. After a good day of thinking about it, I am going to finish where I am at, before 'officially' starting the CCIE journey.
Same as me Robert. It's a shame that the CCIP is retired because I think it would have really helped ease the gap between CCNP & CCIE R&S in my opinion! It also would have gave me a little more time in the network industry, which in itself increases experience time! Pff, anyhow, I'm just glad my new company is paying for my CCIE exam
Why is it a shame? If you hold CCNP and are halfway through CCIP, go ahead and finish it. It will remain valid for 3 years since you earn it, and it will help you to ease the gap. If you did not start it yet, you may want to either study corresponding topics on BGP and QoS without taking exams, or study for CCNP SP.
I had similar concerns with CCIP and CCNP SP. Keep in mind that, 3 years from now, your CCIP certification counts towards CCNP SP. This has advantages of a) not requiring you to take CCNA SP before moving onto CCNP SP and b) having your BGP/MPLS and ROUTE exams count towards a CCNP SP.
So while there's no bridge anymore from CCNP R&S to CCNP SP, if you obtain CCIP this year before its officially sunset, you can use it down the road towards a full-blown CCNP SP.
That's my plan anyways, as I too am in the middle of my BGP+MPLS studies.
Study hard and you will succeed.