SDN Appears in Cisco Career Certs: The New CCNA (and CCNP) Cloud

Wendell Odom
By Wendell Odom May 29, 2015 09:05

Most of us probably don’t sit around meticulously reading the exam topics of vendor certification exams. But if you did, you might have noticed the announcement of a few new career certifications from Cisco this week. And if you look closely at one of the exam blueprints, for the first of two exams related to the CCNA Cloud certification, you’d see a bit of a milestone:

  • The first Cisco career cert exam blueprints that mention ACI
  • The first Cisco career cert exam blueprints that mention SDN

In today’s post, I’ll outline the key facts about the new certs, and look more closely at the exam blueprint for one of the exams. And the most interesting exam topic, given that it’s the first Cisco career cert exam with SDN in it?

“Describe how ACI solves the problem not addressed by SDN”.

Read on!

Quick Overview

Cisco refers to their CCNA, CCNP, and CCIE certifications as career certifications. The CCNA Cloud and CCNA Industrial certifications push the total number of current Cisco CCNA certifications up to 11.

As for an SDN angle – this blog is called SDNSkills, after all – the cloud certs happen to be Cisco’s first career certifications (best I can tell) that directly mention either SDN or ACI by name. Other Cisco specialist certs do include both SDN and ACI, but the new CCNA cloud exams mention both ACI and SDN by acronym.

In this post, I’ll lay out the basics of CCNA Cloud, CCNP Cloud, and finally CCNA Industrial. Then I’ll take a closer look at CCENT Cloud’s first exam, which incudes the first bit of SDN content in this new set of Cisco Career certifications.


Overview of the Cisco CCNA Cloud

The Cisco CCNA Cloud certification follows a familiar pattern of late with Cisco CCNA certs:

  • Two exams
    • Understanding Cisco Cloud Fundamentals (CLDFND) 210-451
    • Introducing Cisco Cloud Administration (CLDADM) 210-455
  • No prerequisites

Figure 1: CCNA Cloud

In a slight departure from Cisco’s typical release practices, however, the only one blueprint of the two is available as of the announcement date (May 26, 2015). I’ll work through the blueprint of the Cloud Fundamentals (CLDFND) exam here in this post, and revisit the Cloud Administration (CLDADM) exam in a later post as needed. (Cisco’s web site currently shows that more info will be available in July.)


Overview of the Cisco CCNP Cloud

Cisco’s CCNP Cloud certification follows a similar story to other CCNP certs as well, but again with the oddity that the blueprints weren’t posted at the same time as the announcement of the certifications. In particular:

  • Four exams:
    • Implementing and Troubleshooting the Cisco Cloud (300-504) CLDINF
    • Designing the Cisco Cloud (CLDDES) 300-305
    • Automating the Cisco Enterprise Cloud (CLDAUT) 300-506
    • Building the Cisco Cloud with Application Centric Infrastructure (CLDACI)
  • CCNA Cloud as a prerequisite (or any CCIE)
  • More info promised in August 2015

Figure 2: CCNP Cloud


One More – CCNA Industrial (CCNA IoT)

As long as we’re here… I don’t see a direct SDN link, but it’s announced at the same time, so it’s a good place to add a few words.

The Cisco CCNA Industrial certification takes a more traditional approach to CCNA. Like many of the original CCNA certifications, it uses CCENT as the prerequisite, and then adds another exam. In particular:

  • Prerequisite: CCENT certification (or a Cisco Industrial networking specialist certification)
  • One Exam:
    • Managing Industrial Networks with Cisco Technologies (MINCT) 200-601
  • Blueprint is available now!


Figure 3: CCNA Industrial


On paper, it looks like a great cert. The blueprint shows an exam focused on networking exam, with all the traditional and IoT-specific protocols used in IoT. By way of exam blueprint, I like what I see – focused and relevant.

And CCNA Industrial? Nah. Everyone will end up calling it CCNA IoT.


About the Cisco Cloud Fundamentals (CLDFND) Exam

As is typical these days, Cisco assigns a weighting percentage to each section of the blueprint. For perspective, if you combine the first two sections (which are both about basics of cloud), and do a little rounding, you get around ¼ each for four main topics for this exam:

Figure 4: Blueprint Percentages (Adjusted) for CCNP Cloud’s Cloud Fundamentals Exam


Summarizing the content of the exam blueprint:

Basics/Overview: What is cloud, types of cloud (XaaS), deployment models (public, private…), and Cisco InterCloud.

Compute: UCS features and server virtualization.

Networking: Unified fabric (Nexus), SDN, and ACI, and virtual networking (VMWare, VSM, vswitches)

Storage: A wide variety of storage and SAN basics, plus product info about Cisco MDS, Nexus, and UCS Invicta, as well as NetApp FlexPod, VCE VBlock, EMC VSPEX, and Red Hat OpenBlock


First, of the two CCNA Cloud and four CCNP Cloud exams, Cisco has published the blueprint for only one exam so far. So, we don’t have a lot to go on yet.

The first CCNA Cloud exam’s content has a fair amount of overlap with Cisco’s Data Center CCNA/CCNP. For instance, the following DC track exam topics are also mentioned in the Cloud Fundamentals blueprint:

  • CCNA Introducing Cisco Data Center Technologies (640-916) DCICT (2nd of two CCNA DC exams) introduces similar basics for compute, storage, and unified fabric.
  • CCNP Implementing Cisco Data Center Unified Computing (642-999) DCUCI includes the particulars of the UCS B and C series servers.
  • CCNP Implementing Cisco Data Center Unified Fabric (642-997) DCUFI includes unified fabric, and the implementation of both storage and networking topics.

It does beg a question: If you were starting today, would you rather pursue CCNA DC or CCNA Cloud? I think Data Center is the easy answer literally today – there’s no CCIE Cloud, there’s still little info about the CCNA/CCNP Cloud exams – but we’re promised more info about CCNP Cloud by August ’15. It will be interesting to see how much overlap exists in the rest of the exams.

Finally, if you take this one exam blueprint, ignore the rest of the Cisco certifications, it has a nice balance. The content looks reasonable as a first exam in cloud, with about the same amount of content for compute, network, and storage. I’m looking forward to seeing more about both the CCNA Cloud and CCNP Cloud Cert.


SDN Exam Topics in the Cloud Fundamentals Exam

So, if you didn’t click to the exam blueprint, here’s a quick description of section 4.1, which mentions SDN and ACI.

  • There’s one item (4.1.b) that mentions SDN, with three bullet topics below it.
  • The next item (4.1.c) lists ACI, with three bullet topics below it.
  • That first bullet in the ACI section is: “Describe how ACI solves the problem not addressed by SDN”.

That one gave me a chuckle. Taken out of context, you might think it’s knocking SDN. But I think it’s more a sequencing statement. The SDN section examines three exam topics about: control vs. data plane, programmability, and Open Daylight. Then the ACI section shows a contrast of ACI’s policy model, with three exam topics: using a policy model (arguing that it solves some issues with traditional SDN), along with exam topics about the ACI leaf/spine topology and the APIC controller.

Basically, the ACI and SDN sections of the blueprint create a comparison of open SDN model of ONF and the ACI model from Cisco.


Closing Poll

I still think that the IT workers that care about certs will wonder over the coming years – Cisco DC certs, cloud certs, or both? So, it’s a good time to start a poll. It may be too early to choose, but give your opinion when you’re ready!


Cisco ACI in the CNPES Cert (Engineering Specialist)
The Cisco CNPES Cert, First Exam (600-504) and Course
Wendell Odom
By Wendell Odom May 29, 2015 09:05
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