The DCICT 640-916 exam completes the two-exam journey to the Cisco CCNA Data Center certification. This article reviews the history of the Cisco Data Center certifications, putting the CCNA Data Center in context. It then discusses one of the biggest differences between the Cisco Data Center certs and other tracks: the fact that the cert includes both networking and computing content. The rest of the article focuses on the CCNA Data Center certification, the DCICT exam in particular, and how to prepare for that exam.
History of Cisco Data Center Certifications
Networking has been an important part of Data Centers for almost the entire history of Information Technology (IT). The earliest computer networks connected user terminals and printers to the applications running in the Data Center. Over time, the details of what makes up a Data Center have progressed tremendously, and networking's role has progressed as well—in both importance and complexity.
Data Centers have been transformed by virtualization and cloud computing. Today's virtualized Data Centers allow applications to move between server OS instances; server instances (virtual machines) can move to new server hardware, whether in the same Data Center or another; and server resources (CPUs, RAM, etc.) may be reallocated to the needs of the virtual machines (VMs). Storage, formerly sitting on a disk drive inside a physical server, now sits on a storage area network (SAN), providing great flexibility. To make all these Data Center features work, network technology has progressed to add networking features unique to the needs of Data Centers.
Cisco has long been the leading company in traditional networking, but also has established a leadership position in storage networking and a highly competitive position in server computing technologies. Cisco began offering SAN products in the early 2000s, helping to lead the transition from separate SANs to converged products that support both storage and more traditional networking with Ethernet LANs. Cisco also launched its Unified Computing System (UCS) family of products in 2009: server hardware built with virtualization in mind, with an eye toward easier integration with the storage and networking features required in every Data Center. (In June 2014, Cisco UCS also achieved the #1 market position in the x86 Blade server market.)
The tremendous growth in Data Center technology over the previous decade has led to a much greater need for skilled engineers with a skillset geared toward Data Centers. Cisco actually offered a CCIE Storage certification for those early years of its SAN products. Then, in 2012, Cisco morphed CCIE SAN into CCIE Data Center, and added the CCNA Data Center and CCNP Data Center certifications. The result: A traditional complete certification track for Cisco Data Center technology.