CCNA venting from a voice professional

Unanswered Question
Feb 27th, 2008

I failed the CCNA exam today. I blew it on one of the Sims. I need the CCNA in order for the CCVP certification which is what I want to vent about. I don't have to have the CCVP. I just want it for personal achievement.

I've been doing Cisco IP Telephony for five years. I've built Call Manager clusters, CRS IP-IVR servers, and Unity voice mail with failover from the ground up (server, app install, and configurations for all the above). I've even built ICM Enterprise from the ground up, configured everything, and did all the scripting for the call flows. And of course, I've done my fair share of playing in voice gateways (H.323 and MGCP). My big grievence is that I use about 50% of the knowledge required for the CCNA.

If I'm interviewing for an IPT job, the hiring manager needs to know that I can configure a dial-plan free from overlap...not if I can configure OSPF or EIGRP...leave that to network admins.

It seems to me that there should be a better way to have the CCVP certification track.

I am a firm believer that the knowledge required for the CCNA is valuable and good stuff. However, there is a lot in the CCNA that isn't necessary for folks focused on voice careers. I have never ever needed to know if OSPF or EIGRP is being used for the WAN connection. I've only needed to be concerned with how much of the bandwidth is carved out for QoS for voice...what's the latency back to the Call Manager...what are the specs of the router (dsp count, VWICs, etc.)...is the IOS bug free for voice.

Understanding voice and making all things voice related work perfectly for the customer is difficult enough without having to become an expert on routing/routed protocols, NAT, frame configuration, etc.

Knowing the fundamentals of networking and the OSI model are definitely used everyday by IPT voice professionals. Understanding switches, vlans, and subnetting is important too. This is why I say about half of the CCNA topics are valid for voice professionals on the CCVP track.

Any other voice veterans feel the same way?

I have this problem too.
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a.cruea1980 Fri, 02/29/2008 - 04:31

It's always good to know what the network guys are doing, that way you're better informed of what's going on with your voice data. For example, when configuring a VPN, they may ask you about what routes might be the best for VoIP; they may well end up having a routing protocol broadcast one route for data, another for voice.

The thing is, it's a good idea to know about the stuff being used on a WAN when you're sending voice out over a WAN link. For example, how often do the protocols update? Do you really want a path going down, but the protocol takes 10 minutes to update the routing table? Which protocol might update the fastest, and which protocol, by default, finds the fastest path to your remote office so that VoIP quality doesn't suffer? While QoS is a great thing, you can QoS the hell out of a T3, but it doesn't matter if your routing protocol is sending it from Indianapolis, Indiana out to Bangledesh, India, then back to Washington, DC because that's the shortest path (in terms of hops). Same with a 56K link; we could say that in terms of latency, you're down to a 20ms ping; is that any good for voice and data, though? No, but your routing protocol picked that over the T3 with massive bandwidth because it had a lower ping.

And it's good to know how the frames are built up simply because what works on one link may cause choppy voice on another. Here you're trying to QoS the hell out of an ATM link when in all actuality, you've got your voice set up for optimal usage of a T1. The frames are constructed differently (IIRC), and thus the amount of data that can be put into each one differs. Maybe G711 works fine over one link, but not the other, with the other requiring something like G729. You want your customers having the best voice quality possible, right? Then why stuff a 64K protocol into a line that has to chop up a 64K packet? Why put a 8K packet onto a wire that will easily handle a 64K packet, waste bandwidth and lower voice quality?

While I agree that it can be highly annoying, it's always a good idea to know the basics so you can fall back on them and utilize them for the benefit of your customers. If you can attain a CCNA, it says "Hey, I know the basics and advanced stuff", whereas just having a CCVP says "I know voice, I know how voice works. Now, when you get it into a network with data, I'm a little shaky as to how it could interact." From a customer's viewpoint, which would you rather have? The guy that is completely sure of himself and how your voice is going to work when you fail over on your WAN link, or the guy that just knows voice and isn't 100% sure how well it's going to work when your WAN link fails over to a backup?

Just something to think about. I'm not flaming, insighting a riot, or trying to belittle, only bring a different perspective to light.

Look at it this way; in voice, you deal with data that is extremely time-sensitive and fickle; why would you NOT want to know all the basics inside and out? Yeah, most of the time you're dealing with it in a LAN, but what about the implementations where it needs to go over a WAN link in a VPN situation?

rob.huffman Sat, 03/01/2008 - 08:25

Hi Stuart,

An excellent question here! Even though I really do agree with your assessment I have given Adam a 5 point rating as well :) His points are very valid so you can't really argue against them. There is no right or wrong answer to this debate.

But...

As a person who has worked in the Voice industry for 30 years now (I know "old-timer") I have always found the need for the CCNA to be a rather odd pre-requisite to attaining the CCVP Cert. I know that it makes some sense, but in most large deployments we are working with a Team of professionals. As part of this Team, we are responsible for the "Voice" portion of the rollout, not the Network itself. Some cross-over knowledge is a must of course but there is a limit to everything :) We need to know the right questions to ask and we must work closely with our Team Members to ensure a solid build. I don't the granular details of OSPF configs is necessary.

All this being said, I do think that with a little more study and practice, you with pass the CCNA and acheive your goal to become a CCVP.The acheivment will be that much sweeter and the knowledge attained, greater for overcoming this hurdle.

Best of Luck in your quest!

Rob

thomas1 Sat, 03/01/2008 - 10:35

Rob,

You made my point. Thanks.

It does require an entire team to deploy IP Telephony if it is to be done right. I know this from my own experience. It is too much to expect one person to know everything. If you are converting an office of five people, then one guy can probably handle it...but still count on something to be overlooked.

Yes, crossover knowledge is important for both the network folks and the voice folks. And the communication has to be there with both teams. Again, I'm not saying that the CCNA is not important. It is important. I just think there should a different CCNA for voice focused professionals. It's good that I know what OSPF is and what it does. But it's never been important for me to know how to configure it.

The fact that you have to pass five exams for the CCVP says a lot about the complexity and depth of voice. And I don't believe any of those five exams goes into the IVR and call center...they may not even go into building Unity. It's more to voice than providing dialtone and voicemail.

Stu

a.cruea1980 Fri, 03/07/2008 - 06:28

You know, you make an interesting point; maybe they should have a CCVA (voice associate) for the voice track. After all, they have CCDA and CCNA; why not a CCVA? I really do think Cisco would do well to have different tracks right from the beginning, instead of branching out on the P level certs.

Not to say that it could gloss over the entire CCNA thing, but it could definitely back off of a few parts of the CCNA and bring in a little voice pre-knowledge.

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