Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Cisco CCIE Wireless Lab Version 2.0 Announced

Updated 2011-05-20. Cisco has released the updated Lab Equipment and Software list.

Today Cisco announced the release of version 2.0 of the CCIE Wireless Lab Exam. The new version will go into effect on November 18, 2011, and adds several topics to the lab that were not included in the first version, updates software used in the lab, and swaps some legacy end-of-life equipment with newer product models or replacements. The new written and lab exam blueprints are available for candidates, and the lab exam hardware and software list have also been released.

Given that the pass rate on the CCIE Wireless lab exam is really low, this gives Cisco and CCIE candidates an opportunity for course correction. It appears the pass rate is only around 13%, but Cisco stopped reporting official numbers last year so it's hard to be sure. Also, this doesn't give us insight into the number of attempts that candidates are requiring in order to pass. I'm sure Cisco gained a lot of information into why candidates were failing the lab, and from what I've heard in the candidate ranks it appears that most are stumbling on the wired network integration and wired quality of service sections.

Here is a summary of the major changes and new topics candidates will need to be prepared to encounter.

New Software 

  • WLC updated from version 4.2 to Cisco purposefully waited until 7.0 maintenance release 1 was publicly available before announcing the lab exam update.
  • Autonomous updated from version 12.3(8) to 12.4(25d)
  • WCS updated from version 4.2 to 7.0
  • ACS server updated from version 4.2 to 5.2. Candidates will need to learn the new ACS software interface since there was a major overhaul between 4.x and 5.x versions.
  • Cisco AnyConnect client replaces Cisco ADU and SSC client supplicants.

New Hardware 
  • 5500 Series Wireless LAN Controller (the WiSM and 4400 Series have been removed)
  • 1260, 1040, and 3500 Series APs (the 1240 and 1250 Series have been removed)
  • 3300 Series Mobility Services Engine (MSE) (the 2700 Series Location Appliance has been removed)
New Lab Exam Topics
  • VSS - Virtual Switching System on the Catalyst 6500 series platform used to pool multiple physical switches into one logical virtual switch.
  • Static Multicast Routing. PIM and IGMP were on version 1, but static multicast routing is a new addition.
  • IPv6 subnetting and static routing (on the wired network). I find this particularly interesting since Cisco only supports IPv6 bridging on their wireless equipment right now, and not even that when using H-REAP)
  • Basic PKI for dot1x and web-auth. This was inferred in version 1, but is now explicitly called out as a requirement.
  • Unified AP Locally Significant Certificates (LSC) obtained from a corporate / enterprise PKI system, rather than relying on the Manufacturer Installed Certificate (MIC).
  • OfficeExtend for remote and teleworker access points.
  • AP Groups used for SSID availability, which replaces WLAN Override from version 1.
  • WLAN load-balancing, BandSelect, and Passive Client support.
  • H-REAP local auth, groups, and address learning by the WLC.
  • ClientLink (Beamforming)
  • CleanAir (Spectrum Analysis)
  • VideoStream (Multicast Optimization)
  • Mesh networking
  • WCS Virtual Domains
  • WCS High Availability
  • Wireless Intrusion Prevention Services (WIPS) with the MSE appliance.
  • Context Aware Services (CAS) with the MSE appliance replaces location tracking with the 2700 appliance from version 1.
The big items in this list that are really new to version 2 are VSS, IPv6, LSC, OfficeExtend, BandSelect,  Passive Client support, ClientLink, CleanAir, VideoStream, Mesh, and WIPS.

Revolution or Evolution? - Andrew's Take
The CCIE Wireless lab exam was already extremely tough and had a comparatively low pass rate versus other CCIE tracks. The inclusion of many new wired network technologies and protocols have undoubtedly expanded the scope of the lab exam. Coupled with the feedback that I am hearing from candidates, the wired integration seems to be the stumbling block for most candidates, and the expansion of wired requirements in the lab may make it even harder to pass. Time will tell come November and beyond as candidates begin taking the new version. My recommendation is for traditional RF and wireless engineers to be fluent in wired networking technologies, as the Cisco CCIE Wireless is as much about wired networking as it is about wireless (and even less so about actual RF engineering, really). Candidates with strong route/switch background seem to be fairing a bit better at the exam in my estimation due to the exam structure and topics.

Cheer (and happy studying),

Other Posts You Might Like:
- Cisco CCIE Lab Exam Preparation
- Lab Version 2 by Jerome Henry (FastLane)
- Cisco CleanAir Review


  1. Great post Andy. I'm liking the focus on getting the LAN side right. I personally think that a Wireless CCIE should be able to deal with multicast, QoS and routing issues. At least identify them.

    This is obviously irrelevant if the RF design is wrong. But we're talking about the best of the best here :)

  2. Kinda reinforces my thoughts about first going for the CCIE R&S before my 3rd attempt at CCIEW. Although its overkill I'll benefit in the long.