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CCNP Data Center – DCIT 300-615 Exam Experience

 To finish off my CCNP: Data Center certification I successfully passed the DCIT exam.  While preparing for the exam I found there is very little preparation material outside of the official Cisco course.

I recently posted about my experience with the DCCOR exam, and in that covered my background and some of the general information on this set of exams.  You can read more about it here:

About the Exam

The exam topics can be found here:

I went over the specific technologies in the DCCOR exam review, but I’ll quickly touch on them here as well.  The exam is specifically focused on troubleshooting the various technologies in each of these areas

Network (25%)

This section covers L2/L3 technologies including vPC, LACP, STP, OSPF, BGP, PIM, and FHRP (mainly HSRP).  Overlay protocols are also included, primarily VXLAN, but OTV is in there as well.  Of course ACI is also covered here.

Compute (25%)

Under the Compute category it’s exactly what you’d expect to see.  Lots of UCS, and though it doesn’t specifically call out HyperFlex or Intersight I think it’s fair to assume that those would be in scope.  Remember, Cisco states in the exam objectives that “The following topics are general guidelines for the content likely to be included on the exam. However, other related topics may also appear on any specific delivery of the exam.” 

Storage (15%)

Again, nothing unexpected here.  There’s fibre channel and FCoE, and you need to be able to troubleshoot issues that can come up with those protocols.  One specific call out here though is storage is 15% of the exam, but only has one major subtopic.  That leads me to a presumption that there will be a significant number of FC questions compared to something like vPC.

Automation (15%)

Like the Storage section, there’s only two subtopics for 15% of the exam.  It seems sensible to be very familiar with EEM, scheduling, and automation tools.

Management and Operations (20%)

In the final section the topics include the firmware management and security topics that were covered in DCCOR under different parent topics.  This topic feels a little more like a grab bag, being worth 20% and having the most subtopics.

Exam Prep

The biggest resource used for this was the preparation work I did for the DCCOR exam.  Both exams cover the same technology areas, but the DCIT is strictly on troubleshooting, instead of understanding how to use each piece.
As mentioned earlier, the only resource I could find on the exam was the Cisco training course.  Well, that’s not entirely true.  Google was more that willing to provide links to brain dump sites, and I found a set of practice tests on Udemy.  Unfortunately the tests on Udemy appear to be from the previous DCIT v6 300-180 exam, with questions on topics that are no longer in the exam objectives.  I suspect the author just took the same exam they wrote for the 300-180 and renamed it for 300-615.
I ended up purchasing the e-learning bundle from Cisco Learning Network: mainly for the labs offered.  There are 30 guided labs included, with access to ACI, UCS, MDS, and Nexus hardware.  I found this much more useful than working with the limitations from the UCS Emulator, ACI Simulator, CML, dCloud, and DevNet.  Plus it was less expensive than looking at rack rentals, and it was cheaper and easier than searching eBay for all the hardware to build my own lab.
The video training in the course was pretty good.  Much of it was review from the DCCOR material, but that’s not a bad thing.  It helps to reinforce that learning and to use that understanding to help in the troubleshooting process.
The labs were decent.  I appreciated that they were broken out with your objective, and had a button to see the steps to work through getting the correct solution.  Often I found I took a different path to get to the answer, but I was usually able to figure it out on my own.  I would have liked to have seen more potential scenarios though.  Usually each topic area only had a few misconfigurations.  With some topics there wasn’t a lab at all.  There were no labs for anything under the Automation or Management and Operations topics.  
Within the lab you have full access to the hardware, which allows you to create your own scenarios to some extent.  One example would be EEM, a topic clearly listed in the exam topics, but there’s not a lab for it.  Since there’s not a scenario for it I tried to create my own.  It’s very difficult to build a troubleshooting problem for yourself because you likely know where the issue is when you set it up.  What I did instead was to create a scenario that I knew would not work, but then I would look at different show commands to see how it worked.  Sticking with the EEM example, here some of the questions I worked off of:
  • What happens if you create multiple events, but make a mistake in the tagging?
  • What happens if you don’t add event-default when you need it, or do add it when you don’t?
  • What happens if the event is based on CLI entries, but a user doesn’t type the full command, or uses an alias?
The idea was to work in reverse.  I know the problem, but I am learning how that problem presents.  This can be fun coming up with all the different scenarios of how something could break, and then seeing how that shows up.
The same process can be used for other areas too.  Here’s a few questions to work with on the storage side:
  • What’s the output of show flogi database or show fcns database if
    • a zoneset isn’t active?
    • a zone isn’t part of the active zoneset?
    • a port is assigned to the wrong VSAN?
    • a port mode is incorrect?
    • a WWN is incorrect in a zone config?
    • the FCoE VSAN to VLAN mapping is incorrect?
  • Using the above examples, are there other show commands that would be useful?
The more you know about how problems present themselves the easier the exam will be.  Of course, these are only a few examples what you could encounter on the exam.  The more you build out the better off you’ll be.

Exam Experience

Unfortunately Cisco has removed the simulation questions from the exams.  The TSHOOT exam was one of my favorite tests because it was heavy in the simulation side.  The sims had their share of issues, but I prefer them over the rote memorization of command syntax.  That said, the DCIT exam is the typical multiple choice type exam.  There might be some multi-select or drag-and-drop for some added flair, but no more sims.
Overall I thought the exam wasn’t bad.  Most of the questions were clear, but there were some that had me scratching my head.  I had a few questions that waded into the rote memorization world, and some that seemed very unlikely scenarios.  There were a few questions that were fairly complex, and took some work to find the right answer.
Since the exam is focused on troubleshooting I found it to be easier to work with than the DCCOR exam.    The DCCOR topic list is longer, and it includes verbs like Describe, Apply, Analyze, Implement, Evaluate, and Explain.  The DCIT had one verb, Troubleshoot.

Final Thoughts

I wish the exam had sim questions, but even without, I prefer the scenario-based questions.  I’d like to see less rote memorization and edge case questions, and more focus on things that are more realistic to face in the real world.  Given that though, I think the exam was fair.  If you have a good understanding of how these technologies work, and what happens when they are misconfigured then this exam shouldn’t be too bad.

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