Welcome to our introduction to the latest rendition of Cisco Certified Network Associate Routing & Switching (CCNA R&S) and the new exam series that came with it. Cisco CCNA version 3.0 was launched back in 2016 and along with it came the new exams 100-105 for ICND1, 200-105 for ICND2 and 200-125 for CCNA composite exam which is part of the CCNA Routing and Switching certification. These exams replaced the 100-101, 200-101 and the 200-120 exams back in 2016, when Cisco announced the new version of CCNA 3.0 exams. This was an astronomical change and if you are planning to take your CCNA exam or want to start studying for it then you should probably want to read on.
Cisco keeps on adding more and more stuff to their newer versions of exams however this time they have taken-out a lot of old topics that lingered on for years. And actually things that are part of the bygone era have finally been put to rest. For example, the CCNA exam that I took back in 2004, it was so basic and easy that you in the certification world might joke I can’t believe they called you certified, eh. But I thought that it was difficult at the time. Fast forward to 2016, the newer exams not only contain a lot more topics, they are actually a much better representation of the current technologies and protocols. And in this rendition Cisco has brought the focus back on the core of what routing and switching should be all about.
CCNA what is new now?
I will provide a short overview of the new exam topics and then I will share my preparation advice to achieve success in a short time. So what do you need to know before starting the preparation. This exam tests a candidate’s knowledge and skills related to network fundamentals including Local Area Network (LAN) switching technologies, IPv4 and IPv6 routing technologies, Wide Area Networks (WAN) technologies, infrastructure services, infrastructure security, and infrastructure management. It also deals with a candidates ability to describe the impact of infrastructure components in an enterprise network and compare and contrast static routing and dynamic routing. Network engineers, Network Administrators and IT Managers usually hold or pursue this certification and you can expect similar job roles after completion of this certification. There are no prerequisites for the 200-125 exam, and after passing it you will earn the CCNA Routing and Switching Certification, after which you can move towards professional level certifications namely CCNP. You can also gain this certification after first passing 100-105 and then the 200-105 exam. However after passing the 100-105 ICND1 exam you will earn Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician (CCENT) Certification. And this is the entry level after which you can pursue further specializations within Cisco technologies such as CCNA Security, Wireless, Voice, Service Provider or even the CCDA Certification.
Historically, Cisco updates their flagship certifications like the CCNA and the CCNP about once every four to five years, and this one is no exception. The last update for CCNA exams came about four years ago so CCNA was due for an update.
I know a lot of people in the Cisco space who want to know a little bit more about the changes that have been introduced so why not just talk about what’s new in the latest CCNA version 3.0:
Of the interesting things and I believe this is probably the number one question that I get out about ICND1 is why did Cisco take OSPF out of ICND1 and go with RIP only. Most will argue why even talk about RIP anymore (RIP version 2), but ICND1 brings back the RIP protocol that was actually yanked out in the older edition, where it was kind of like an honorable mention. Well the reason why they did it and as soon as they did it I was like I know exactly why they’re doing that. RIP is more of a foundation protocol, and it is one of the easiest routing protocols to learn and it teaches you the concept. Cisco has eliminated OSPF as a major topic for ICND as they really have focused on RIP, because it teaches you the structure of routing protocols. Also think about where Cisco would position somebody who has only passed ICND1, meaning CCENT certification. The answer is a Small business. And most small businesses don’t even use RIP, they use static routes to get around. That’s where most organizations begin and so the framework of routing protocols is conveyed in ICND1 but they don’t expect you to actually use them if you only have a ICND1 certification or CCENT certification and you walk out into the real world.
Collapsed Core, DNS, DHCP, Firewall, WAPs/Controllers
They really focus a lot more on the big picture of rotting protocols for networking like collapsed core design. At ICND1 level you will not be doing the design of a network and placing devices in a hierarchy with the Access, Distribution, and Core with different layers. At best you are doing a collapse core design, meaning you’ve got a couple of switches that served the purpose of both the Distribution and Core layer that are put together for a single site. So again the focus of ICND1 is on design and other big picture stuff like DNS, DHCP and how these are integrated even though they are not direct networking topics. For example, a simple DNS server failure could cause everyone to point their finger at the network. So the ability of the ICND1 individual to understand that if you ping google.com and it fails maybe try pinging 18.104.22.168 or something like that to see if it is a DNS issue.
So these kind of big picture concepts along with the concepts of firewalls, wireless access points and what does a controller do.
More Monitoring and Day to Day
Cisco has added further topics on monitoring and the day to day routine stuff, as Cisco really wants you to focus on that. Things such as How do you know verify your iOS is running the latest version? How do you verify SYSLOG messages are not sounding the alarm on these network devices? So Cisco is finally moving toward the actual stuff network engineers encounter on a daily basis.
Death of Serial Connectivity (Frame Relay)
It makes me said that finally Frame Relay is gone, and I know a lot of people rejoiced it. I am kind of rejoiced too, because Frame Relay and serial connectivity in general is becoming a dated concept as Fiber Optic and other advanced connectivity methods have taken over the world. And a lot of folks like me had to learn it so everybody’s going to have to unlearn it.
BGP & Modern WAN
Today we have modern network connectivity options like MPLS and so they finally said enough learning DLCIs and PVCs and everything else when really we can just talk about a lot more modern stuff and that’s why they introduced more of modern ways such as BGP.
Introduction to Cloud & SDN
They have introduced Cloud and Software-Defined Networking (SDN). The idea of Cloud has really taken off, and almost everyone uses clouds on a routine basis. Services such as Google Drive, DropBox, Office 365 and all these things that we fight a lot of times in the corporate world is taking over the world.
SDN is point and click networking, so the idea behind SDN is if you get all the same equipment from all the same vendor you can have a centralized console that manages all of it from a point-and-click interface. Essentially Software-Defined Networking is reshaping the entire networking world by taking the intelligence out of the devices and centralizing it so all your little devices (routers and switches and other devices) become little drones of the central control plane or the core of the entire system. And it can make system-wide adjustments based on whatever the current needs of the network are. So SDN is being introduced with ICND2, other than the fact that it is totally changing the flow of how networks work.
Introduction to QoS
With ICND2 Cisco is also adding quality of service. It is important even though today’s connectivity methods are a lot faster in terms of bandwidth but everybody’s going to the internet so then the core of all of our routing focus is how do we quickly get them to the internet. How to provide priority to voice traffic and video traffic and in today’s corporate networks Citrix applications require good quality connection. So QoS is an important topic and Cisco has seen that and introduced it at the ICND2 level.
Preparation & Training
As you are now well aware about the course outline, related technologies and required skills for this exam, let’s move to the exam preparation discussion. This advice is also best suited for busy professionals who have minimum time to prepare for their certification exam. Two types of candidates mostly attempt the exam. One, who are complete beginners and the others are mostly professionals who have enough theoretical knowledge and want to get a certification to validate their credentials. For the beginners, there is no alternate to Study guides or tutorials, recommended on Official Vendor site. Even if those resources are little pricier and detailed, you should prefer them. They are recommended for a reason!
You can also search around the internet or join online study groups to find relevant study materials for free or at a discount. Cisco isn’t after do you know the commands anymore for the exams, they are after “do you get it”. They want you to be able to identify issue and be able to know where to look for. No matter what type of candidate you are, to pass the actual certification exam, do not forget that the more practice you have with actual devices, the easier it will be on the exam day. Try to practice with actual exam scenarios in mind and that way you can validate your knowledge quickly.
The CCNA will not make you a millionaire but it will open the door among the hundreds of resumes that an employer has to pick candidates from. So if you want to embark on a true journey to success, take the first steps along with us with our bespoke Cisco Certified Routing and Switching (CCNA) Training with instructor led practical scenarios and real world advice.