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CCNA Data Center exam experience 640-911 DCICN

November 17th, 2013 Leave a comment Go to comments

And another exam done last Friday.

This time it was not VMware but something different, as I kinda run out of VMware exams to take and need a new hobby to spend my time on. As the Microsoft route for certifications seems to get an overhaul every couple of years by now, I wanted to invest my learning in something a little bit more stable. Additionally I wanted to broaden my knowledge a little bit more on the actual infrastructure side than only dealing with the operation, guest OS and management side which I do in my day to day work.

The choice therefore easily was won by Cisco. As the data center track also includes virtualization I decided to start with that instead of going the classical routing and switching track. The CCNA data center is a 2 exam certification without any choice on exams, you will need to pass the 640-911 (which concentrates on data center networking concepts) and the  640-916 (which concentrates on unified computing, storage, virtualization and also some networking).

The exam blue print is extremely accurate and I did not get any bad surprises during the exam. If you have a look at the weight of the different topics on the overview page linked below you will notice that it is not as heavy on subnetting as one would imagine (every time I read of Cisco exams so far there was always some tips for subnetting in the posts and also some favourite links for the preparation, if you don’t like subnetting, this seems to be your track of choice).

A study tip from the training videos was to basically go through the blue print and look for technical terms, go to the Cisco documentation and read up the overview or summary of that term. I found that to be pretty accurate when comparing the depths of the topics asked, this is an entry level certificate therefore it requires a more broad than deep approach to certain topics. Still you should be able to configure everything that is asked in the blueprint and even more important be able to troubleshoot for misconfiguration (show commands are your friend).

One thing that really bugged me is the lack of a calculator during the exam, and yes while I agree that we should be able to do the maths by hand, it is tedious and error prone and no one does it in the real world, that is what calculators were invented for. So you should be decently fast with your binary math.

Overall if you prefer to have a compiled study guide I can only recommend the book authored by Todd Lammle and John Swartz, I highly enjoyed the writing style (while I also liked the technical style of Wendell Odom this is just completely different and enjoyable to read) and it covers all the exam topics with a lot of practices and exercises from cover to cover. If you are not in spending any money except the exam fee I also compiled some study resources for the more important topics below (this is not intended to be a complete list though).

Study resources:

Exam tutorial
Internetworking Technology Handbook
DCICN Overview
Data Center Training Videos
Nexus 5000 Security Configuration Guide
ACL examples – Just be sure to follow the NX-OS syntax as these examples are for IOS
Nexus 5000 Layer 2 Switching Configuration Guide
Nexus 5000 Unicast Routing Configuration Guide
CCNA Data Center – Introducing Cisco Data Center Networking Study Guide: Exam 640-911
A little bit of access to actual hardware doesn’t hurt either (or the simulator from Todd Lammle)

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  1. Will
    December 26th, 2013 at 18:20 | #1

    Any comparisons between 911 and 916? Is 916 more difficult to study for? I am wondering if I should schedule it together…

    • admin
      January 23rd, 2014 at 13:14 | #2

      Hi Will,

      Sorry for taking some time to spot this.

      In my eyes you can’t really compare the 911 and 916 as one is pretty much only networking basics and the other covers “all the rest” of the UCS platform.

      Depending on your experience with one or the other you will find studying easier or harder. If you have to deal with the hardware alot and actually know the specs and what each part is used for you would find studying for the 916 not very hard at all.

      Going through the official documentation for each technology asked and reading through the summaries and overview parts and possibly some of the examples should be good enough for the CCNA level though. Each technology is not covered very deeply but you need a broader knowledge for the 916 as nearly all enterprise datacenter technologies are covered.

  2. William K. Choi
    January 25th, 2014 at 16:45 | #3

    Thank you for that insight!
    All I know is that I learned to apply and use my research and innovating skills while studying for this exam, since I couldn’t find books for 640-916 on Amazon. Studying and passing is one thing, but being able to research and come up with ways to get the job done is another (in this case, coming up with ways to pass).
    One of my IT instructors said “Class, you need to cheat in this class”. “While you go through the class materials, if you don’t understand something, be sure to look it up on Google and get more clarification”. I only used free or inexpensive online sources to prepare for CCNA DC.

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