The Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert designation (CCIE) is the highest level of Cisco
certification achievement. Considered the ‘master level’ of the Cisco certification program,
it is awarded to the candidate who has an in-depth understanding of the subtleties,
intricacies and challenges of end-to-end networking. It earned the number-one spot in
the CertCities.com Ten Hottest Certifications for 2005, and for the third year in a row
was awarded Most Respected High-Level Certification by CertCities.com readers. Less
than three percent of Cisco certified professionals worldwide earn their CCIE. The testing
process includes a written qualification exam and the lab exam, an eight hour-long hands-
on practicum described by one CertCities.com reader as “grueling.”
Unitek IT Education is a Cisco Learning Partner (CLP) in the San Francisco Bay Area,
and a prominent provider of Cisco authorized training. Cisco has a rigid process in place
for managing its CLPs, ensuring a level of quality and relevance at all levels of training
on any Cisco technology. Unitek worked recently with Cisco to construct a VOIP lab to
serve those aspiring to a CCIE Voice certification or who need hands-on experience with
“VoIP is the future of communications and a key initiative for Cisco” says Navraj Bawa,
vice president of operations for Unitek. “Studies have proven that CCIE certification is a
passport to a big leap in bill rates for services. However, the certification is tough to get
and there are only a few labs worldwide set up for the hands-on portion of the certification
process. The equipment is expensive and high customer demand makes it tough to obtain”.
As part of a business strategy to broaden the scope of training and education services into
advanced technologies such as IP telephony and security, Unitek approached Cisco about
creating a lab with official Cisco hardware. The lab would help meet the high demand for
CCIE certification and for training on this critical new technology.
“Cisco very much wanted a state-of-the-art lab available to its partners, employees and
customers, but recognized that it is not in the lab-building and training business,” says
Michael Whitlock, director, business development for Unitek. “Besides constructing the lab,
courseware needed to be written and qualified instructors had to be found. Cisco wisely
decided to outsource this to a learning partner whose core competency it is to train.”
Cisco Account Manager Scott Braddock, who worked with Unitek and within Cisco to get
the lab set up, says that CCIE certification differs from other programs in that it’s a very
hands-on certification. Those pursuing CCIE certification must have direct experience with
the equipment to know how to make it work.
“When you get up to the expert level of CCIE you’re dealing with technology of a certain
complexity,” says Braddock. “There are no simulators for learning this technology. Cisco
solutions demand high performance so you must learn the equipment to get the maximum
performance out of it.”
Cisco Learning Partner Unitek IT Education Builds Voice
Lab for Cisco CCIE Certification
Braddock worked with Unitek and Cisco to design the lab and populate it with Cisco
refurbished equipment. By using refurbished equipment, the lab could be completed more
quickly and less expensively.
Prior to this new Cisco lab, Unitek had the facilities and equipment to address Cisco
Certified Voice Professional (CCVP) level training. Now it can provide students with the
resources necessary to mirror the gamut of deployment scenarios found in real world
environments, and provide the hands-on environment necessary to undertake the CCIE
Voice certification process.
“This lab allows us to showcase the power of Cisco technology, and Cisco users, the
world over,” says Bawa. “As a Cisco Learning Partner, we’re in a unique position to touch
hundreds of Cisco customers and partners, and to evangelize this incredible technology. I
can’t speak enough of Scott’s commitment to this project. We are small compared to some
of the huge Cisco enterprise customers, and yet, with our custom and advanced technical
needs, we got what we needed. This personal touch despite the awesome size of Cisco is
commendable, and speaks highly of its commitment to its partners and customers.”
Today, Cisco partners, employees, and customers from around the world vie for a spot in
Unitek’s CCIE Voice Lab. It represents the final step following 10 weeks of training, after
which students may tackle the CCIE certification exam.
A good number of Unitek CCIE students are Cisco employees who need the technical
knowledge of VoIP. Cisco partners enroll in the training for the CCIE certification, and
many high-end IT Cisco customers take the course to more fully understand the technology
being deployed for their company.
“If these customers are not yet running VoIP in their own environment, they’ve never seen
it work and want to do so; and if they are running it in their environment they sure don’t
want to play around with it while the business is running on it,” says Whitlock. “It is
Unitek’s goal to ensure that these people leave the lab with expert level familiarity with the
equipment that they will be managing in their work environs.”
Braddock is also confident that the new Unitek CCIE Voice Lab will fill a large, and
“With the VoIP market showing exponential growth, access to capable, credible resources
for education and hands-on technology training is essential,” he says. “My customers
are looking for certified staff resources and proven expertise with advanced technologies.
Unitek’s CCIE Voice Lab gives individuals and organizations access to a state-of-the-art
facility with all the hardware and software necessary to learn, demonstrate, and prove their
knowledge, skills, and capabilities in a controlled environment.”
Unitek estimates it will train 250 students at the new lab this year. And as it entertains
requests from around the world, it can take the lab on the road and run it anywhere it’s
needed. Plans are in place for a lab road show, with Cisco Singapore as the first stop.
CCIE certification has had multiple designations, offering training to help partners,
employees, and customers be best prepared to take on the prevalent issues at hand.