As a Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA), it's essential to stay updated with the latest industry trends and technologies to maintain your certification. While there are various options to recertify, obtaining a Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) certification is one of the best paths to take.

However, with five different CCNP tracks and multiple exam options, it can be challenging to determine which exam combinations are best for you. In this article, I, Dean Armada, a multi-award-winning Cisco Certified Instructor, will provide insight into the seven best CCNP exam combinations based on market demand, value, and evolving technologies.

First, let's eliminate the CCNP Service Provider and Collaboration tracks as they offer little to no relevance to evolving technologies. Instead, we'll focus on the remaining tracks: Enterprise, Data Center, Security, and Service Provider.

For CCNP Enterprise, we recommend taking the ENCOR exam, which covers advanced routing and services. Pair this with the ENARSI concentration for a more in-depth understanding of topics such as MPLS, BGP, DNA, DMVPN, MPBGP, and IPv6.

Another great exam option is the Implementing Cisco SD-WAN Solutions (ENSDWI) concentration, which covers software-defined wide-area networking technologies. It's crucial to learn and focus on new technologies, such as SD-WAN, as companies increasingly implement them.

For CCNP Data Center, we recommend taking the DC Core exam, covering various data center technologies such as UCS HyperFlex, Intersight Nexus 2k5k7k9k, ACI, MDS switches, and Python network automation. Pair this with the Implementing Automation for Cisco Data Center Solutions (DCAUTO) concentration to gain knowledge and skills in programming and automation in Cisco data center platforms such as ACI, UCS, and NX-OS.

For CCNP Security, we suggest taking the SCOR exam, which covers security topics such as network security, cloud security, and content security. Pair this with the Implementing and Operating Cisco Security Core Technologies (SCOR) concentration, which covers topics such as VPNs, Cisco ISE, and Cisco Firepower NGFW.

Finally, for CCNP Service Provider, we recommend taking the SPCOR exam, which covers service provider technologies such as architecture, VPN services, and QoS. Pair this with the Implementing and Operating Cisco Service Provider Network Core Technologies (SPCOR) concentration, which covers topics such as segment routing, 5G, and network automation.

As a Cisco network professional, I highly recommend pursuing the CCNP Security certification track. The demand for security specialists in the industry is high, and it can lead to higher-paying job opportunities. Cisco security technologies are versatile and can be applied in various network environments, including service provider or data center networks.

One of the best exam combinations is SCOR and implementing and configuring Cisco Identity Service Engine (ISE) or SISE. ISE is the leading network access control solution, and it is used for VPNs, posture assessment, malware detection, and more. It can also be integrated with other Cisco solutions like Firepower and non-Cisco platforms like Checkpoint and Splunk. Additionally, knowledge of ISE and SD-Access is crucial in understanding the complete DNA solution.

Another exam combination to consider is SCOR and Securing Networks with Cisco Firepower (SNCF). Firepower is an advanced next-generation firewall solution that provides IPS functionality, malware protection, application firewall, VPN solutions, and more. It is still based on Cisco's original IDS and IPS solution, making its IPS functionality one of the best in the industry.

Lastly, for those interested in data center networking, the Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) is a software-defined networking solution that is used in massive data center environments. It is an evolving technology, and there is an increasing demand for ACI specialists since around 2018. Understanding ACI can also help professionals easily comprehend other vendor SDN technologies.


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