What’s Expected of Me in the Practical Exam?
You will need to show you can analyze design requirements based on real-world business scenarios and use this information to develop, implement, validate, and optimize network designs. You need to be skilled at reading comprehension, as you will be presented with a significant amount of background information that sets the scene of the scenario, information about the existing network, issues, and strategy, along with any relevant business information. You will have to find what is actually important from this information, which means skimming and taking notes or highlighting specific sections within the documents—points that could ultimately influence a design decision. Time is a big factor due to the quantity of information that grows as the scenario progresses, with new information in emails being presented to you. You will need to know what’s relevant to your design decision and where that information is in order to locate it quickly when required. There could be sections of a network presented within the exam that you are not familiar with; as such, you will need to be able to abstract and see any technology you are not familiar with or considered non-core to the syllabus as a “black box.” In other words, have a flow or connection to it but don’t concern yourself about the complexity that lies inside.
Over the course of the eight-hour test, you will be presented with four separate scenarios (two before lunch and two after lunch). The first three scenarios will be based on core competencies, and the final will be the area of expertise module. Each scenario will include the following components:
Use cases: Use cases are going to be the main theme of the scenario where you will be performing one of the following:
Add technology/service: Here you could be adding a new application to an existing network or new technology such as VoIP, Wi-Fi, and so on. You will need to determine what you need to do to support this addition, including implementation and how it could affect the existing infrastructure/services.
Replace technology/service: Here you could be replacing a legacy technology/service currently running in the network. You will need to determine what you need to do to support this replacement, including the implementation plan and how it could affect the existing infrastructure/services.
Merge/divest: Here you could be merging or divesting businesses or departments and will need to determine how this can affect the legacy infrastructure and services.
Scaling: Here you will need to consider the ability of the network to grow with planned growth levels and organic growth while still functioning correctly. Will modularity be required, for example?
Greenfield: This is generally every architect’s best-case scenario; however, implementation will need to be planned, and you will usually need to consider migrating traffic or applications and how your design will cater for this.
Design failure: Here you are likely to be presented with a suboptimal network that has been designed poorly or has suffered from organic growth and is no longer functioning correctly. Your design will need to provide optimization and possibly introduce fault domains, scalability, and enhanced manageability. You could be asked to optimize and then redesign a network with all the necessary migration steps factored into your implementation plan.
Design lifecycle: These are the actual questions you will be presented with. You will need to analyze, design, and create an implementation plan as well as validate and optimize throughout the scenario.
Technologies: These are the technologies you will need to be proficient in so you can make a valid design decision based on requirements and constraints presented to you within the scenario. The supplied blueprint is the place to check which technologies you should be proficient in, but ultimately you need to be an expert in Layer 3 protocols to be successful.