The popularity of the Cisco Career Certification program has grown tremendously. Cisco is a leading provider of switch and routing gear, so it’s clear to many network administrators that a Cisco certification can pay huge dividends. But while many administrators are familiar with the Cisco Career Certification Routing and Switching track, most are unaware that there are actually two Cisco Career Certification tracks.

In addition to the Routing and Switching certification track, Cisco offers a WAN Switching track. The first step in the WAN Switching track is the Cisco Certified Network Associate-WAN Switching (CCNA-WAN). The CCNA-WAN is Cisco’s introduction to the world of Cisco wide area networks (WANs).
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CCNA-WAN skills
The CCNA-WAN covers the foundation topics of Cisco WAN switching and establishes the framework for all of the other Cisco WAN Career Certifications. To earn the CCNA-WAN, you must thoroughly understand networking basics. It’s important to have a clear and detailed understanding of the physical and data link layers of the OSI reference model. You must know the function of the lower layers of the OSI model and what protocols operate at each layer. Moreover, you must have thorough knowledge of the StrataCom IGX, BPX, and AXIS brand of WAN switches. Additional skills being measured include:

  • Knowledge of network media.
  • Basic switching concepts.
  • Basic switch configuration using command-line access methods.
  • Knowledge of TCP/IP configuration and troubleshooting.
  • Basic understanding of ATM.

For a more detailed list of the skills that the CCNA-WAN measures, check out the exam objectives on Cisco’s Web site.

Exam preparation
There are two methods of preparing for the CCNA-WAN exam: the official Cisco-recommended curriculum and self-study.

The Cisco-recommended curriculum for the CCNA-WAN contains two courses:

The WAN Quick Start (WQS) course is a CD available on Cisco’s Web site for $100 and offers an introduction to WAN hardware and concepts. Installing Cisco WAN Switches (ICWS) is a four-day, instructor-led course conducted by Cisco Training Partners.

Self-study is a viable alternative for obtaining the MCSE and CNE certifications, but finding self-study materials for the CCNA-WAN is challenging. Some materials are available, but there aren’t nearly as many as there are for the Microsoft and Novell exams. And although it’s not absolutely necessary to have Cisco StrataCom switches to practice on, it can be very helpful. Currently, there is only one self-study guide available for the CCNA-WAN certification exam. The Cisco WAN Quick Start, published by Cisco press, is a compilation of both the WQS CD and the ICSW courses. As the popularity of this certification increases, other self-study materials are sure to follow.

The exam
Just like becoming a Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) or a Certified Novell Administrator (CNA), becoming a CCNA-WAN requires you to pass one exam (#640-410). The exam costs $100, and you can take it at any Prometric testing center. Unlike Microsoft and Novell exams, you must schedule the test at least 24 hours in advance, and you are not allowed to take more than one Cisco exam per day. You can register for the CCNA by phone (800-204-3926) or online.

Warren Heaton Jr., MCSE+I, CCNP, CCDP, is the Cisco Program Manager for A Technological Advantage in Louisville, KY.

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