CCIE Voice 3.0 is here!

So finally, after months of waiting and endless debates and conversations, the updated CCIE Voice Blueprint is finally upon us. Cisco made the announcement this morning (https://cisco.hosted.jivesoftware.com/docs/DOC-3641). The changes are effective mid-July 2009.

I must admit that when I first took a look at the refreshed Lab equipment and IOS my first reaction was “Phew- no CatOS, no ATA and no VG248”. These three items took a disproportionate amount of time to configure in the 8 hour lab exam and I can honestly tell you that I for one will not shed too may tears over their impending departure. As a bonus we can say good riddance to FXS/FXO interfaces and finally focus on T1/E1 PRI and CAS gateways (although seeing CAS remaining on the blueprint was somewhat mindboggling).

I guess the biggest surprise is “pre-configurations of basic tasks (such as phone registration, basic application integration, basic dial plan, etc.)” will be done. What this means is that there will be more focus of advanced features and services and, more significantly, opens the door for troubleshooting errors within pre-existing configuration.

In terms of what endpoints you have on your desk- wave goodbye to fax machines and analog phones and say hello to Software clients. What this means- we’ll have to wait and see but Communicator and/or VT-Advantage may make an appearance at some stage, either of which we will be prepared for. Off course you still have IP Phones- nothing more specific to report on there.

Taking a quick look further down the refreshed list and there are no major surprises. We have the Catalyst 3750 switches and 4 port EtherSwitch Card (HWIC-4ESW-POE) introduced in place of the Catalyst 6500 and 3550. Finally we have PVDM-2 in place of their predecessor. They got rid of Unity altogether, which makes sense given the escalating rivalry that exists between Cisco and Microsoft. Most of us knew from Networkers that 7.0 would be the choice of CUCM. Upgrading CUCME along with CUCCX to the 7.0 version is logical in order to maintain alignment across the board. And now we can welcome the Presence server and Unity Connection. The new IOS (12.4T train) opens the door for a topology aware CAC mechanism namely the RSVP Agent. I happen to think that RSVP will be a major new feature added to the test.

So what does it mean for prospective CCIE-Voice candidates? For those of you in the middle of your preparation on the 2.0 blueprint then the obvious message should be don’t let this affect your preparation. Off course you run the risk of being stuck between a rock and a hard place come mid-2009 if you haven’t passed. The point I’d like to make is all the knowledge acquired learning the materials on the CCIE-V 2.0 blueprint is still largely relevant for the CCIE-V 3.0 blueprint (Unity aside). Yes we have a new interface and plenty more features to deal with. But the foundational knowledge is still very much a requirement and remember, typically the new features will be phased into the test- there will not be the massive overhaul you might expect on day one.

So the message for anybody in the middle of your preparation is don’t let the CCIE 3.0 announcement interrupt your preparations. Continue with CCIE 2.0 and try and get the thing nailed before mid-July. If you have not passed in this timeframe then there is no reason to panic. There will still be QoS in much the same format (minus CatOS and add RSVP). There will still be MGCP and H323 gateways. There will still be Calling Search spaces, Route Patterns, etc, etc…Preparation on the 2.0 blueprint will still give you a good grounding for the 3.0 blueprint and the new Applications and Features will be easier to deal with this firm understanding.

Now the exception to this logic is the candidate who has yet to start any kind of preparation on the current 2.0 blueprint. It might be wise to make an executive decision to begin your preparation on the new versions of software since you have the luxury of knowing in advance what the new blueprint comprises before beginning your journey.

Expect to hear some major announcements from IPexpert in the coming weeks and months. Our instructors and executives have been in lengthy discussions for about a year regarding the issue of the new CCIE Voice blueprint. We are very well prepared for this announcement since there has been plenty going on behind the scenes to ensure that we serve our customers as best we can. I’ll leave it to others to make announcements of when we will be ready with updated racks, workbooks and bootcamps.

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