Breaking Down the Cisco ENCOR Exam: Infrastructure

by Bill Heller
This is the third in a series of articles on the six sections of Cisco’s ENCOR certification exam 350-401, which leads to the CCNP Enterprise, CCIE Enterprise Infrastructure, CCIE Enterprise Wireless, and Cisco Certified Specialist – Enterprise Core certifications.

The third section of the Cisco ENCOR Enterprise certification exam 350-401 blueprint is Infrastructure. Now, if you’re someone, whom like me, was studying for the CCNP Routing and Switch certifications, or you have your CCNA Routing and Switching from the 200-125 exam, then you should be familiar with the majority of the topics in this section. However, that being said, I would not assume your knowledge in this area is sufficient and just move on to the next section. This Infrastructure section of the blueprint is 30% of the exam. Whether you’re familiar with these topics or seeing them for the first time, these are the core networking topics for the CCNP Enterprise certification. Let’s review!

3.1 Layer 2

  • 3.1.a Troubleshoot static and dynamic 802.1q trunking protocols
  • 3.1.b Troubleshoot static and dynamic EtherChannels
  • 3.1.c Configure and verify common Spanning Tree Protocols (RSTP and MST)

3.2 Layer 3

  • 3.2.a Compare routing concepts of EIGRP and OSPF (advanced distance vector vs. linked state, load balancing, path selection, path operations, metrics)
  • 3.2.b Configure and verify simple OSPF environments, including multiple normal areas, summarization, and filtering (neighbor adjacency, point-to-point and broadcast network types, and passive interface)
  • 3.2.c Configure and verify eBGP between directly connected neighbors (best path selection algorithm and neighbor relationships)

3.3 Wireless

  • 3.3.a Describe Layer 1 concepts, such as RF power, RSSI, SNR, interference noise, band and channels, and wireless client devices capabilities
  • 3.3.b Describe AP modes and antenna types
  • 3.3.c Describe access point discovery and join process (discovery algorithms, WLC selection process)
  • 3.3.d Describe the main principles and use cases for Layer 2 and Layer 3 roaming
  • 3.3.e Troubleshoot WLAN configuration and wireless client connectivity issues

3.4 IP Services

  • 3.4.a Describe Network Time Protocol (NTP)
  • 3.4.b Configure and verify NAT/PAT
  • 3.4.c Configure first hop redundancy protocols, such as HSRP and VRRP
  • 3.4.d Describe multicast protocols, such as PIM and IGMP v2/v3

Okay, Layer 2 – trunking, EtherChannels, and Spanning Tree. There’s really no surprises here. Know how trucks form, know how to bundle links and the protocols available there, and know your Spanning Tree, including Multiple Spanning Tree.

Layer 3

If this is your first time looking at the CCNP Enterprise, and you completed the new 200-301 exam for the CCNA then it’s likely the first time you’re seeing EIGRP on a Cisco exam. Additionally, you’ll be going deeper with OSPF with multiple areas. Know the differences between OSPF and EIGRP. What’s required to form neighbor relationships? Which one uses DUAL? Know the port numbers they utilize. Even though you won’t be asked to configure OSPF or EIGRP during the exam, spending a healthy amount of time in the lab configuring both of these protocols will serve you well.

And then there is BGP. Again, if you’re coming from the 200-301, this will be your first encounter with BGP. If you’ve studied for the 300-101 CCNP Route exam in the past, you’ll be familiar with the BGP concepts tackled here. I would say that comparing the depth at which the Route exam covers BGP vs the ENCOR exam, it’s not as in depth. But there’s still plenty of meat on that bone.


Next is wireless. Yes, I really did just say wireless. Recall, these new certifications are the result of Cisco going out and talking to hiring managers about what they wanted in their network engineers. The response was that they wanted more of a networking generalist, rather than a specialist. Someone that could do a little bit of everything, rather than a lot of one, or a few things. At any job I’ve had where networking was even a part of my responsibilities, I always had the opportunity to touch a wireless controller. I find the addition of wireless to the CCNP ENCOR exam refreshing and necessary. You cover just enough wireless here to be useful in an enterprise networking environment. Should you choose to want to learn more on wireless then tackle the Wireless Specialists certifications after you conquer ENCOR.

But I digress. For wireless you should know basic RF (Radio-frequency) principles, different antenna types and their associated radiation patterns, what frequencies wireless operates in and what can cause harmful interference to them. Make sure you understand the various forms of wireless authentication, as well as the AP/WLC join process, and troubleshooting common client connectivity issues.

IP Services

The last part of the infrastructure section is IP Service, and should be familiar to most. Here you’ll cover NTP, NAT/PAT, FHRPs, and Multicast. Multicast is definitely new for anyone tackling the CCNP ENCOR exam. To thoroughly cover the topic, you’ll need to understand IGMP (Internet Group Management Protocol) and PIM (Protocol Independent Multicast) and its various modes. Being able to describe those in some depth will serve you well going into your ENCOR exam.

Hopefully, that breakdown helped you better understand what you’ll be facing on the CCNP Enterprise Core (ENCOR) exam when it comes to enterprise infrastructure. All these topics are covered in the ENCOR Implementing and Operating Cisco Enterprise Network Core Technologies class. Read along in my next article where I’ll break down the fourth ENCOR exam topic: Assurance.

Training Resources:
ENCOR Implementing and Operating Cisco Enterprise Network Core Technologies
Cisco Training

Read the other articles from this series:
Section 1: Architecture
Section 2: Virtualization
Section 3: Infrastructure
Section 4: Network Assurance



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