Unless you ve been stuck on Mars for the past couple of years, you re probably already well aware of the fact that most of the buzz words projected out of jubilant salesmen s and saleswomen s mouths around Cisco canteens invariably have something to do with voice. The CCIE Voice track has almost caught up with the Service Provider track in terms of numbers qualified, despite the latter being available for a much longer period of time. But gaining a Voice certification doesn t always have to mean IE. Have you considered its little sister, namely the CCVP
Whether you use it as a stepping stone towards attaining your IE or merely as a measure of consolidating your skill set, it certainly has proved to be as popular and valuable to a great number of engineers just look at the comments received on the various Discussion forums, such as the Cisco Netpro Forum.
The questions one typically asks before embarking on the pursuit of a CCVP go along the lines of So is it worth the effort does it enhance job prospects what does it entail how much experience in Cisco s voice technologies do I need how much Routing and Switching knowledge do I need etc etc
Whether you like it or not, right now and probably for the next 3.5 years, convergence is hot. Not only inside the US, where technology used for carrying voice over a packetized network is at its most mature, but across the globe. So having a CCVP under your belt is most definitely worth the paper it s printed on and then some. Whether job prospects are enhanced by having a CCVP is a more difficult issue to tackle it certainly helps getting you to the interview, but ultimately the rest is down to you. One thing in your favor however is that companies pursuing the Cisco Unified Communications Specialization partnership program require a number of engineers holding a CCVP on their books.
Why should you bother with the CCVP when you can go straight to CCIE Voice It depends on your experience and certainly there are at least 80.90 CCIE Voice engineers who passed the CCIE Voice lab exam without acquiring the CCVP. These figures are not based upon published statistics but simple mathematics the IE Voice track was released in September 03 whereas the VP debuted in February 05. However the VP, now that it does exist, is very much worthy as a preparation tool for the IE, as well as a qualification in its own right. It would be impossible to pass the Voice lab without first becoming comfortable with the concepts covered in the VP material so that begs the question why wouldn t you start with the VP
As with anything, nothing can substitute real world experience, so every minute working on Call Manager, gateways, QoS, gatekeepers and Catalyst switches, which make up the core components tested on the CCVP exams, helps. The official pre requisite is having a valid CCNA certification, but don t be fooled there is virtually no knowledge of routing and switching protocols required to pass the exams, although it does help in tying everything together when looking at the big picture . Whereas the CCNA .CCDA most definitely have tangible benefits when certifying on the CCNP or CCDA, the CCNA is only a pre requisite for the VP because, er there isn t a CCVA When it comes to teaching the CCVP bootcamp this makes life very difficult because there is absolutely no knowledge of voice required whatsoever.
In total there are five exams that need to be cleared before attaining the VP
Cisco Voice over IP CVOICE
Cisco IP Telephony CIPT
Implementing Gateways and Gatekeepers GWGK
Quality of Service QOS
IP Telephony and Troubleshooting IPTT
Lets start with CVOICE. Earlier releases of this exam dealt with VoFR and VoATM, as well as VoIP. Thankfully Cisco changed their minds and restricted the tested technologies to VoIP. This is the first part of the magic quintet you should deal with and provides a good introduction and grounding for the more glorified exams that follow. In my own view, I would propose that CVOICE should be one half of the CCVA the other half being the ICND exam that is required for the CCNA. Let s wait and see
There s two methods of training for this exam 1 the official Cisco authorized training constituting of the self study Cisco Voice Fundamentals CVF and the 4 day classroom based CVOICE. 2 A CCVP bootcamp which is not authorized by Cisco but does cram much of the same information.
After CVOICE, the next hurdle is the CIPT exam. This is probably the toughest exam out of the five. Its so difficult that Cisco decided to split the material covered into two separate classes CIPT1 5 days in the class room and CIPT2 3 days in the class room. In doing so they forgot to split the exam in two halves, hence you are presented with one pretty tough exam. How many times have you heard people say real world experience really does help get you thru this exam and end up in the testing center answering a load of questions which do not pertain to any real world situation Well, real world experience really does help you get thru this exam. No, really it does
Of the five, the CIPT test is probably the most important in its application to the real world. The reason is that the primary focus of the test is Call Manager, which so happens to be the call processing element of any Unified Communications solution. Let s put it another way Call Manager is the brain of the IP Telephony network. Your Skinny IP Phones, MGCP gateways, Quality of Service, IPCC Express and Unity servers are fairly reliant on Call Manager. In fact, they are totally dependent on Call Manager.
Again, you have 8 days of official Cisco training or material covered in bootcamp format. Whatever means you choose, a hands on lab exercise is vital for this class. There s a whole new dialog that you will come across call manager groups, regions, device pools, locations, inter cluster trunks, calling search spaces, partitions, route plans, CDR, BAT, BARS and a whole lot more. And the neat thing is, as well as being useful for the CIPT test, they are the building blocks of engineering any Cisco IPT network in the real world.
You data guys might like this class too CIPT is heavily focused on the Call Manager Administration GUI you might get fed up of pointing and clicking in Windows by the end of the CIPT class, so don t say you haven t been warned. The good news with the GWGK class 5 days with Cisco training or bootcamp is that it is by and large IOS based. Hence you don t need to stray too far away from your beloved router. Which, by the way, is now renamed gateway or gatekeeper. That is not to say you re going to spend all your time configuring OSPF, EIGRP, RIP, et No, there s a whole new world that exists on a Cisco router that you knew nothing about.
If the data guys didn t like GWGK they are sure to love QoS, the next logical step in the Fibonacci sequence. The reason is that you spend most, if not all, your time configuring and learning about class maps, policy maps and the things you can do inside WAN interfaces to prioritize beautiful Cinderella like voice packets ahead of the ugly cumbersome data packets. Not only that, you can also learn about how you can bring down Serialization delay so voice packets don t need to queue up for very long before being transmitted. And if that wasn t enough, you can finally work out what the wrr queue command does on a Catalyst switch and what the hell 2q2t queues are.
In all seriousness, the QoS class test is extremely useful not only for the CCVP certification but for a number of other Cisco Certifications. How applicable is it in the real world I m not going to say it isn t at all because it s definitely better to understand all the various commands that show up on configurations, but AutoQos makes life in the real world an awful lot easier AutoQos being a macro that implements all the QoS you need with two or three commands.
QoS is covered in a 5 day Cisco class or in any bootcamp. Beware, they also choose to throw in a little BGP, which is interesting to say the least. Did you know you can classify packets based on BGBP community lists and AS paths Well, you can using the QoS Policy Propagation via BGP feature a.k.a. QPPB. Another interesting point to note on the QoS exam is the number of simlets and simulations that the candidate is required to negotiate. Of all the exams that comprise the CCVP, the QoS exam tests the candidate s ability to apply knowledge gained more than any other test. This makes it, from a personal perspective, the best, and if there is such a thing, the most enjoyable exam.
Once youve passed the CVOICE, CIPT and QOS exams, congratulations are in order. No you haven t got your CCVP yet, but you have now qualified as a Cisco IP Communications Support Specialist which is a nice bonus to pick up along the way to your VP and also useful for partner specialization programs.
The final bridge to cross is the IPTT exam. Troubleshooting always sounds interesting, as if you are on the brink of learning some ground breaking skill that s been missing your entire life. Well, if that s what you re expecting you might be bitterly disappointed. Troubleshooting methodology is a very difficult skill to learn in a classroom the best troubleshooters in a particular technology invariably have the most experience troubleshooting that technology. At first glance that may not be such a radical statement to make, however the knock on affect makes one wonder what the point of the IPTT exam is And that would be a very good question.
Let me explain why. When sitting the QoS class, a large part of any lab exercise demands that the candidate uses the appropriate debug and show commands in order to fully appreciate and verify the particular QoS technique in operation. When performing lab exercises in the GWGK class, you will also need to be able to perform the appropriate verification. In the CIPT class, CIPT2 focuses largely on the Internal Server Tools that aid troubleshooting Call Manager. In other words, the IPTT class is a culmination of all the other classes with one little exception, namely Unity.
For some reason, probably because the people responsible for writing the IPTT course content decided that all the content was already covered, decided to throw in troubleshooting Unity into the mix. We end up with the interesting prospect of not needing to know anything about designing or supporting Unity for the CCVP certification, but candidates are expected to know how to troubleshoot Unity. Puzzled You re not the only one.
What we end up with is a mix of all the other tests and some intricate details on Cisco Unity. It s quite an easy exam if the candidate has passed all the other exams in the not so distant past and has the Cisco Unity Systems Engineer CUSE certification. It s still quite easy if you re comfortable with everything apart from the Unity sections, but the IPTT exam gets quite difficult if you ve forgotten the content of the other parts of the CCVP cert.
IPTT should be the last exam any CCVP candidate attempts and training constitutes a 5 day Cisco official class or the final chapter of a CCVP bootcamp.
So what are you waiting for Go ahead and make your voice heard
Vik Malhi, CCIE 13890 Voice, CCVP, Cisco IP Telephony Support Specialist, Cisco IP Telephony Operations Specialist, Cisco IP Telephony Design Specialist and Cisco Wireless LAN Design Specialist.
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