Breaking Down the Cisco ENCOR Exam: Automation

by AJ Murray
This is the sixth and final 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.

Welcome to the final installment of this series where I will break down the Automation section of the Cisco ENCOR Enterprise certification exam 350-401 blueprint. Automation is, by far, my favorite topic these days. If you’re new to Network Automation this section will give you a run for you money, so don’t think for a second you can overlook it because it’s not as heavily weighted as some of the other sections at only 15%. Every point counts on this exam so doing well here will contribute to your overall success. Let’s get started!

6.1 Interpret basic Python components and scripts

6.2 Construct valid JSON encoded file

6.3 Describe the high-level principles and benefits of a data modeling language, such as YANG

6.4 Describe APIs for Cisco DNA Center and vManage

6.5 Interpret REST API response codes and results in payload using Cisco DNA Center and RESTCONF

6.6 Construct EEM applet to automate configuration, troubleshooting, or data collection

6.7 Compare agent vs. agentless orchestration tools, such as Chef, Puppet, Ansible, and SaltStac

Know Your Python Types

In order to be successful on this exam, you do not need to be a python programming wizard. You just don’t. But, you should be familiar with the different types of Python data types: strings, list, dictionaries, tuples, Booleans, etc. You should know what YAML and JSON are, and recognize data structures when you see data formatted in either of those types. This is a great skill to have period because you can view running configs in JSON format on Cisco devices.

REST Response codes are important to know, for sure! They are also known has HTTP response codes. Think 404 “Not Found.” There are a bunch of different ones and they are categorized by hundreds – 200: Success, 300: Redirects, 400: Client-side Errors, and 500: Server side error. So understand that if a client is asking for something, but it’s not on the server – that’s a 404 error. However, if the client presents something to or asks the server to process something, but the server isn’t configured to do that then the server will return a 500 series error – because that’s a server problem and not a client problem.

Embedded Event Manager

Embedded Event Manager is a really neat tool that can be used to script actions on IOS devices. You can do things like send an email when certain items show up in the logs. Or, if a BGP peer goes down then shut and no shut the port. The possibilities are nearly endless. The great part about EEM is that it’s already there in IOS. So, whether your running physical gear or virtual gear you’ll have access to play with and learn EEM.

Lastly, there’s orchestration tools! This is a favorite topic of mine. There are many different types of orchestration tools, but the big ones are Ansible, Puppet, Chef, and SaltStack. Now, I highly recommend you spend some time with each of these, not only for the exam but just so you know them. Now, for the exam specifically you need only know them at a high level. Like Ansible is agentless and Chef is agent-based. An agent is a piece of code that runs on client that you want to be managed by that orchestration service. On routers and switches you cannot run agents so you have to use either natively agentless orchestration tools like Ansible, or the agentless versions of Chef and Puppet. Understand the pros and cons of running an agentless vs an agent-based orchestration tool.

These Automation topics are also covered in the ENCOR Implementing and Operating Cisco Enterprise Network Core Technologies class. And that’s it! I hope this series of articles has helped you prepare for the Cisco ENCOR exam! If you haven’t yet please make sure you go back and checkout the entire series with links below. Thanks and good luck on exam day!

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

Read the other articles from this series:
Section 1: Architecture
Section 2: Virtualization
Section 3: Infrastructure
Section 4: Network Assurance
Section 5: Security


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