Cisco's main motivation behind the current certification program is to provide a means of measuring the skills of people working for Cisco Resellers and Certified Partners. Cisco fulfills only a small portion of its orders via direct sale from Cisco; most times, a Cisco reseller is involved.
Cisco has not attempted to become the only source for consulting and implementation services for network deployment using Cisco products. In 1996-97 Cisco embarked on a channel program whereby business partners would be the eyes and ears to the smaller and midsize businesses that Cisco could not form a peer relationship with. Instead, Cisco partners of all sizes were carrying the Cisco flag into these smaller companies. With that business model, there was a great need to certify the skill levels of the partner companies.
The Cisco Certified Internetworking Expert (CCIE) program was Cisco's first cut at certifications. Introduced in 1994, the CCIE was designed to be one of the most respected, difficult-to-achieve certifications. To certify, a candidate had to pass a written test offered at Sylvan Prometric and then a two-day hands-on lab administered by Cisco.
Certifying resellers and services partners by using the number of employed CCIEs as the gauge worked well originally, partly because Cisco had significantly fewer partners than it does today. Cisco was using the number of CCIEs on staff as part of the criteria in determining the level of partner status for the company, which in turn dictated the discount received by the reseller when buying from Cisco. The number of resellers was growing and with Cisco's commitment to the lower tier market and smaller size business, it needed to have smaller integrators sized appropriately.
The CCIE certification fell short of the goal of helping to certify resellers and other partners as the number of partners increased to include some smaller integrators that were satisfying the medium and small business markets. Many smaller resellers that provided turnkey solutions for small businesses were not able to attain any degree of discount because of their size. Cisco, however, needed their skills to continue to capture the small business market, which is one of the largest markets in the internetworking arena today.
Cisco needed certifications that were less rigorous than the CCIE, which would allow Cisco more granularity in judging the skills on staff at a partner company. Therefore, Cisco created several additional certifications: the CCNA, CCDA, CCNP, and CCDP.
Two categories of certifications were developed: one to certify implementation skills and the other to certify design skills. Resellers working in a pre-sales environment need more design skills, whereas services companies require more implementation skills. So the CCNA and CCNP provide implementation-oriented certifications; whereas, the CCDA and CCDP provide design-oriented certifications.
Rather than just one level of certification besides CCIE, Cisco created two additional levels: an Associate level and a Professional level. CCNA is the more basic, and CCNP is the intermediate level between CCNA and CCIE. Likewise, CCDA is more basic than CCDP.
Several of the certifications require additional certifications as a prerequsite. For instance, CCNP certification requires CCNA first. Also, CCDP requires both CCDA and CCNA certification. CCIE, however, does not require any other certification prior to the written and lab tests, mainly for historical reasons.
Cisco certifications have become a much needed commodity in the internetworking world. The CCNP and CCDP certifications are truly another win-win situation for you and for Cisco.
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