Cisco 360 (CCIE 360) Friend or Foe?

October 22, 2008

The Cisco 360 program has been launched. What is it? It’s Cisco authorized training for the CCIE R&S lab exam. There’s going to be a lot of talk about this new program over the next few months. Will it be the next big thing in the training industry? Probably not! The new program appears to be riddled with holes and overpriced offerings. Either some drastic changes will be made or the program will die off quicker than Sarah Palin’s publicity after the election is over and Obama wins.

“The Facts”

Offerings for the Cisco 360 Learning Program for the CCIE

  • Four hour pre-assessment
  • Class on demand for Link Layer, Frame Relay, QoS, IPv6, IGP, and BGP
  • Twenty five practice labs
  • Ten assessment labs
  • 2000 page technical reference library
  • Five-day classroom training part 1
  • Five-day classroom training part 2
  • Mentoring services

Base pricing of $6k which will include:

  • Four hour pre-assessment
  • Class on demand for Link Layer, Frame Relay, QoS, IPv6, IGP, and BGP
  • Twenty five practice labs
  • Ten assessment labs
  • 2000 page technical reference library
  • Mentoring services will be around $100/hr (one on one with a CCIE instructor).

Price for five-day classroom training part 1, $4k, and after, five-day classroom training part 2, $3k.

For $13,000, you get two weeks of training, a few CoDs, some assessment labs, and some practice labs. Oh…and wait…there’s more. Guess what? This doesn’t include any remote rack access nor mentoring services. Add in the mentoring services and rack time, and you’re looking at over $20k!

After calling and emailing the CCIE training companies listed below, it appears that one can get something similar, on average, for under $10,000 – HALF the price.

Now, here’s the real crazy part. The entire list of everything being offered in the Cisco 360 program, matches up, almost identically to what Netmaster is selling – once again for about half the price for the package. It would appear that Cisco is “reselling” the Netmaster training programs and offering them for a 100% mark up.

What’s so special about the Cisco 360 program? Nothing as far as I can tell. It’s just the Netmaster class program with the Cisco stamp on it. Someone must have switched Netmaster coolaid for the normal Cisco coolaid at the Raleigh, NC Cisco office.

So who is participating in the Cisco 360 program? Almost NONE of the current CCIE training vendors as far as I can tell (except Netmaster). Here is a list of companies that I called:

  • Unitek – not sure if they are going to join the program due to it’s “entrance fee.”
  • CCBootcamp – considering joining, but hasn’t formally applied or been accepted.
  • Netmaster – wrote the program.
  • IPExpert – “We have our own blended learning solution which is cheaper and more effective.”
  • Internetworkexpert – We are looking at it, but we don’t believe it’s the best option at this time.

I tried to find out more about the “entrance fee” and I was told it would cost a training company around $30,000 to $45,000 per instructor between missed work (up to four weeks) and program fees. I am guessing that’s the reason the two currently Cisco authorized training companies, Unitek and CCBootcamp are having a hard time justifying the costs. If these companies join the program, and it fails, they just wasted $45k per instructor.

Take a glance at the number of CCIEs between CCBootcamp, IPExpert, and Internetworkexpert (Unitek doesn’t have a list of successes). I think these companies have a proven track record of training that works. How is anyone going to justify paying twice as much?

Other things to think about:

When is the material and content for the Cisco 360 program going to be updated? The CCIE lab is updated on a regular basis, I’m going to guess that the Cisco 360 program materials won’t be updated quite as frequently. Where is the content for the classes and workbooks going to come from? It looks straight from Netmaster. Does anyone on the actual CCIE lab exam team contribute content? As far as I can tell, it’s a big fat NO since I’ve been told the learning team is separate from the certification team.

Who is going to be delivering the Cisco 360 program other than Netmaster? I was told most of the major Cisco Learning Partners. So Global Knowledge, Tech 2000, Fastlane, Sunset Learning, and Skyline ATS are going to be teaching CCIE lab? Oh boy. I haven’t seen any mailing lists, newsgroups, nor blogs that mention any of these companies in helping someone obtain their CCIE.

What are the prequisites? Practically none. No written class preparation, no kickstart program, no lab exam voucher. Tack on a couple lab attempts, and your cost is now over $25k.

What really makes or breaks a CCIE training class? The instructor. I have heard really good things about Bruce and Val. Paying $10,000 for their program is probably worth it. Who wants to pay $20,000 for the Netmaster materials, and not get Bruce and Val? That’s kind of like paying $20 for a $10 subway sandwich and not getting the bread, only getting half the cheese, and no damn mayo.

With the ever increasing number of CCIE R&S certified engineers and the salaries of these engineers declining, it’s going to be hard to justify over $25,000 to get this certification. There’s a bunch that can be changed – from my comments above, you can make your own assumptions. Cisco should do a 360 and re-do it’s 360!

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Battle of the CCIE Vendors

October 31, 2008

The CCIE vendors are taking the gloves off and going at it! This is great to watch. It should, in the long run, improve CCIE training offerings. Thank you Cisco, Wayne, Brian, and Brad. Keep up the great work.

Cisco’s 360 program: http://www.cisco.com/web/learning/le3/learning_cisco_360.html
IPExpert’s Tolly Report: http://www.tolly.com/DocDetail.aspx?DocNumber=208334
CCBOOTCAMP’s spoof of IPExpert Report: http://www.ccbootcamp.com/collateral/the_trolley_car.pdf
Internetwork Expert’s CCIE 2.0: http://ieclass.internetworkexpert.com/p95047727/