The CCIE Training Business


It’s interesting to watch the CCIE training business these days.  InternetworkExpert adds Scott Morris to their roster.  IPExpert gets together with Narbik Kocharians for some sort of mutually beneficial arrangement.  InternetworkExpert has added a new CCIE community site, because apparently we needed Yet Another Forum.  Of course, Cisco has started their own “learning community” targeted at getting more certified folks on the street, CCIE candidates certainly a part of that target audience.  I’ve heard significant rumors about other training vendors that are unconfirmed or not public knowledge yet.  To add to all that movement, I’ve been hit up by 3 different training vendors, all trying to enroll me in a second CCIE track.

What does all of this mean to you and me?  I’m not sure exactly, so allow me to make Wild Speculation Just For Fun to provoke some thought.

  • There’s too many CCIE training vendors out there with essentially parallel product lines.  Not everyone is going to make it. For example, I am interested in selling this site.  When I named my price to an interested vendor, negotiations ended.  My asking price was barely higher than one of their end-to-end programs.  If they’d sold 2 end-to-end programs as a result of taking ownership of CCIECandidate.com, they would have recouped their cost.  But they dropped out.  Why?  Obviously speculation on my part, but I can guess that cash flow is tight.  Advertising budgets are tight.  If my price for this site was a major consideration, then they are having to be very careful with their cash management.  (Alternatively, this site isn’t worth what I want for it.  LOL.) Possibly then, other CCIE training vendors are in a similar state.  Thus, my thought that not everyone’s going to make it.  There’s not enough CCIE training business out there to be had.  The CCIE certification is still perceived as too challenging, too difficult for the mere mortal, plus the value of earning and maintaining the CCIE certification is starting to be questioned by a jaundiced but notable few.  Techies are just not flocking to earn the CCIE designation like they do to the entry- and mid-level Cisco certs.
  • Vendors are trying to differentiate their product lines, and that’s proving difficult.  Therefore, we might see a price war. You can find people who’ve used any of the big names for their studies, and have nice things to say about those vendors, me included.  I bet you can use this problem the vendors are facing to get some discounts on training products.  Why do I say this?  If you can’t differentiate your product through reputation or perceived quality, you end up having to compete on price.  While we all might have our opinions on which CCIE training vendor is “the best”, at the end of the day, all the big names have a long list of candidates that passed the lab.  In my opinion, most of the big names offer products roughly equal in terms of reputation and quality.  Therefore, the difference becomes largely one of price.  I have no idea if you’ll have any luck, but poke your CCIE training salesperson a bit, and see if you can get some discounts on products you are interested in.  Get competing quotes for competing products, and be ready to share those quotes to the competing salespeople.  Use the environment to your advantage, especially if you’re paying for training materials out-of-pocket.  If you’re an active CCIE blogger, mention it as negotiating tactic.  There’s no point in being a “I spent 80 million dollars on CCIE training” martyr just to impress people with how much you spent on your way to your digits.

Just a reminder – this is purely an opinion article.  I have no inside track on what’s going on at any of these training vendors.  I don’t work for any CCIE training vendors, nor do I currently earn revenue for the banner ads you see in the left pane of this site.  This is just me talking about some things I’ve been contemplating for a while.

About the author

Ethan Banks

Most people know me because I write & podcast about IT on the Packet Pushers network. I also co-authored "Computer Networks Problems & Solutions" with Russ White.

Find out more on my about page.


  • Yes, I’m interested in selling it, but I’m skeptical that I’ll be successful. I put a private e-mail out to the people who I felt would be the most interested in this site, and received the following responses: complete silence; a bid for not enough $$ to be worth it to me; and the creation of a directly competing site that was probably on its way already and I just didn’t know it.

    Oh, well. It was worth a shot. ;-)

  • Ethan, dont sell it just now :)
    And for vendors, I had some financial constraints.
    I only bought first 10 labs (dynamips) from IEWB, and that because it was the cheapest package. And then my company agreed to finance the bootcamp.

    I shouldn’t be saying it before I get my digits, but I feel preparation is very much dependent on personal effort and not on vendors.
    When I landed in the bootcamp, I had done 10 IEWB labs and thats it and read tons of documents from DOC cd. Bootcamp gave me Narbik’s workbook as well. I didnt have, or still have popular COD from IEWB, or plethora of workbooks. And even in the bootcamp, Narbik told me that I was more than ready and one of his better students throughout the year (Btw, the other guy he mentioned was you Ethan). Point is, I think, placing too much emphasis on vendors is silly, because at the end of it, if you know the technology well, thats what will get you through the lab and earn you your digits, and that was the whole point of study anyway.
    Some of people in the bootcamp had done 20 IEWB labs and all IPexpert labs, (Btw, I was the only one there who actually bought the workbook, where I could’ve downloaded in for free my ethics didn’t let me, and that was starnge for people in the bootcamp as well. They couldnt figure out, why in the earth would I buy a workbook:P and what part ethics play in that). Anyway, what I felt was, those people know could configure everything in those labs, and nothing else.:)
    To summarize, vendors or names matter, but not that much. Personal dedication and willingness to learn is more important. At least this is what I hope is true :D. Won’t know for sure until September 18th though.

  • I agree that the success of the CCIE candidate ultimately depends on him, and less on the choice of vendor material. I’m going to write an article on that at some point. I’m case in point, where I mixed and matched materials from 3 different vendors, but my eventual success had more to do with not quitting than it did with which workbooks I chose.

    It’s interesting what you were saying about people downloading workbooks. I didn’t know that was so prominent in the CCIE world, but I guess there’s no reason to think it would be any different than anywhere else. But if I’m right that the CCIE training vendors aren’t exactly making huge profits, then people downloading their workbooks must hurt them badly.

    I think 9/18 will be a good day for you, Barooq. Where are you taking your test?

  • Ethan, Didnt you know the greatest source of copy right infringments: Sadikhov.com/forum ?
    Btw, you shouldn’t visit the site.
    Any faith you may have in IT industry goes away seeing people begging for dumps or writing their experiences on how the CCXP exam was so easy:D

    And in my case the whole workbook situation was actually funny. During the bootcamp I opened the workbook, the guy next to me saw my email in watermark and almost shouted in wonder ‘You actually bought it ?’… And then all 8 people came to see the silly guy who bought a workbook :P
    During the next days, my ethics were a common joke among the peers :P
    And my lab is in Dubai.

  • Ethan, I really don’t think that any offers made for your site are a reflection of the state of the CCIE training business currently. Its a matter of how much more (the incremental revenue) your site will help them in selling their products and services. Your site would just give them a bit more web presence and perhaps that bit more isn’t worth quite so much. I think the CCIE training business is going quite well these days actually. The cert is more accessible than ever, I’d say. Compare the cost of the CCIE-tested devices today with their cost in 2001 or so. This is particularly a factor when considering what dynamips does for the CCIE student. I don’t think there’s ever been as much as push by networking employers for hires with the CCIE as there is now. So, the pressure is high to get the cert and its never been as accessible as it is now. Balance that with a somewhat more active vendor environment, and you’ll see that they’re clamoring to obtain business from this growing group of (potential) students. So, it is somewhat more competitive for the vendors, but they have many students to sell to. Your domain is nice, but their existing domains are better and already heavily advertised. You might have a better chance selling the domain to someone who doesn’t already have an established domain name, because yours carries both implicit and accumulated goodwill.

  • The current situation in the training world is only going to benefit the students now for sure. I have paid over $5k out of my own pocket so far, so I will welcome it!

    Now if I could only get my wife to go into labor sooner than later I could actually get down to take my lab :D

    Alot of different vendor workbooks are on that site and others, but I too made sure I paid for all their material. A lot of time and effort was put into these material, plus the whole karma thing ;)

  • Marko – I suspect you might be exactly right, thus my chuckle at myself that my site might not be worth what I would like to get for it. I might be dreaming, but I’m having fun doing it.

    I’m not sure where you’re seeing the CCIE employment demand coming from, because I just don’t see it at all in this area. I’ll take your word for it that the demand is growing, though. New Hampshire isn’t exactly tech heaven, since this state is incapable of maintaining a freeway infrastructure, let alone attracting significant high-tech. I’m dead in the water trying to get a different gig as a CCIE up here. If I was willing to move somewhere else, there are certainly opportunities. But I’m not seeing the demand at all locally. I’ve asked a CCIE-focused headhunter explicitly for CCIE job leads in this area, and had exactly zero prospects from him, even after he told me about a very specific opportunity with a Cisco partner (but never told me the partner’s name). Maybe I’m just in a bad area for that. Maybe I need to shower more often – not sure. In any case, the silence is deafening, and my current job is fine. I’m not pushing hard for a new gig by any means.

    I look at this site as an opportunity to grab an established readership, keep the technical articles flowing, and dedicate some pixelspace to advertising their own products. I’m not asking for much, in all seriousness. At the same time, you’re right – they all have their own pretty sites, most designed by web designers, as opposed to this site, which is just a CSS hack of someone else’s WordPress template. I hear you. It isn’t that I think this site is “sexy” – it’s more about putting advertisements in front of eyeballs you wouldn’t otherwise get, the holy grail of marketing. There’s a little value there.

  • Barooq – I guess I shouldn’t be surprised at the lack of ethics. I had a friend ask me for all my materials, which I’d paid dearly for. I politely declined, and he understood. I guess it’s so commonplace now.

    Good luck in Dubai, sir. We’ll all hope to hear good news from you in a couple of months.

  • Ethan – your site was probably worth more before you finished your CCIE. You need to find another struggling candidate that can express the trials and tribulations of self study as eloquently as you and Keith. Make no mistake — that is the attraction of your site, cciecandidate.com. Focus on the value.

    CCIE economics. After the vendor price wars come the vendor consolidations. If the recession lasts long enough, CCIEs will start getting laid off. Remember CCIEs are high paid network consultants needed when networks are growing and changing. Once the music stops, they are almost certainly on the hit list when a company needs to downsize. Things could get rough for a stretch. The good news, training classes and materials will get comparatively cheap as deflation sets in. Who knows, maybe IPExpert will throw in an SUV with every COD!

  • I think one of my most remembered quotes from the 2001-2002 recession was, “CCIEs had to take CCNP level jobs”. If a CCIE gets laid off, s/he will most likely find another job pretty quickly, just maybe not at the usual pay or prestige (assuming there’s any prestige to begin with).

    So the question is, if hoards of CCIEs are taking CCNP level jobs, exactly what jobs are the CCNP/CCNAs landing?

    I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be an underpaid CCIE than an unemployed CCNP.

    A recession is even more the reason to study hard and get those digits.

  • I am really liking the community here.
    Too much in common and all our way of thinking is like typical Engineers.

    Regarding the quality of your blog I think it helped me alot more than the vendor forums and blogs.
    It is also much more fun
    You are the only one who had a solution guide for Doit and i really wanted to talk to others about my solution and their solution

    I will be taking the Lab also in September also in Dubai.

    I wanted to ask you all if you are interested in participating in developing a free “opensource” training material.

    I have been thinking much about it and if I do not ask this before i attempt my lab i might loose interest after it.

    And how difficult could it be to produce this material
    if we work together like a WIKI for a week in a specific topic we will cover it through.

    Why sell your work to a Vendor when you can sell it to mankind for infinity and beyond :)

  • Playing devils advocate I agree with the vendors that buying the domain is pretty much worth $9 per annum. The reason is that the real value behind this blog is the content and quality of the articles etc, which will be lost with the sale.

    My personal opinion is that the site has much more value than the asking price by keeping it and selling advertising space over a longer term. At the moment the advertising is a freebie

  • The theft of material is not a surprise. Almost no one I know under 20 even considers downloading movies and songs to be questionable; it’s simply a fact of life. Most ethics aside, as a coworker of mine put it – dude, these guys worked really hard for this material and it costs a few hundred dollars, how cheap are you? I guess some people are really hurting for money, but anyone in the US with a decent job has no reason to swipe this stuff. I’m looking at IE Volume 1 for Service Provider right now – it’s 200 measly bucks. Come on … if you need to steal that ….

  • Ethan… how are you buddy!?

    Saw this post just now! IMHO ok?! You may have more to win keeping the site than selling it! Keith, Barooq are very good writers and the quality of your site still AMAZING buddy! Others will come as well for sure man! Your blog is a legend for CCIE guys already! Keep it! PLS!

    Just for curiosity… how much you´re asking for the site?! rsrsrsrs!

    All the best man!

    Cheers buddy!

  • The reactions of some of you guys about me possibly selling the site has been interesting. Different people value the site for different reasons. Some like the technical articles. Some like the sense of community. Some like the “experience” articles, where people write about their pain and suffering as they prep for the lab. Some like all of those things.

    It’s awkward for me to know where to go with this site. Having passed my lab and not having plans to do another track (at least not unless my job role changes or I switch employers), my motivation to write is naturally less. Therefore, it’s a temptation to just walk away, especially with the huge number of CCIE blogs that have arisen. Any void left would be readily filled.

    At the same time, there’s a good number of readers. So, I’ve been adding writers, in order to keep the readers. Now, I can’t PAY the writers, right? They write because they want to, just like I write because I want to. So that’s nice in that the writers are self-motivated, but a challenge in that I can’t control the volume of posts, and quality control is also somewhat out of my hands. I screen based on previous writing, and so far, that’s worked. The people that have contributed to cciecandidate.com are making solid contributions that readers have reacted positively to.

    What would selling the site change? I’m not sure, as it depends largely on the buyer. Would it cause the quality content to cease? It might. Would it turn the site into a great big spamvertisement? Possibly, if the buyer was unwise.

    It’s a wait-and-see right now. There’s not much happening on that front anyway, so nothing is likely to change in the short-term. Although I do have a phone call to make…


Most people know me because I write & podcast about IT on the Packet Pushers network. I also co-authored "Computer Networks Problems & Solutions" with Russ White.

Find out more on my about page.

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