CCDE – Reading approach and reading lists

First of all, the recommendations in this blog are based on proven outcomes. However, you can always consider the preferred approach that works best and is most comfortable for you.


Before you go through the recommended reading lists in this blog or any other suggested reading list, remember that you are reading to design, and not to implement or troubleshoot. Therefore, when you read any book, first you need to set your plan, strategy and goals in order to get the most out of it. This means not every book has to be read cover to cover.

stick_figure_fill_in_the_boxes_text_11075-2Consequently, you should focus on the following approach when you read any resource:

  • Define the technology or design: What is the technology or design option you are reading about?
  • Describe the advantages and disadvantages (if any): What are the benefits (technical and non-technical) for example; what are the technical or non-technical challenges you can overcome with this technology ?
  • Compare and justify: Why this technology better than other technologies and, when other technologies can be better than this technology
  • Highlight the Design implications: Will this technology or design option break any existing technology solution, application etc. which you need to be aware of? (See the figure below as an example).

Screen Shot 2016-06-12 at 2.05.15 AMIt is also important that you use the comparative reading approach, in which you refer to multiple resources to cover a certain topic to see the different perspectives. For example, if you want to read about OSPF you may start with the upcoming CCDP ARCH 4th edition then you read the Optimal Routing Design book to take it a step further, then you can read about OSPF and IGP design considerations using the CCDE Study Guide. With this approach, what you may notice, is that some old resources may suggest to design OSPF ABR with maximum of 3 areas. This recommendation was mainly driven by the performance aspect, because the more areas you have, the more link-state debases the ABR will hold which may consume the ABR hardware resources. Nevertheless, today this may not be always a valid point, because the next generation routers have much more HW resources compared to the ones used 5 or 7 years ago. On the other hand, if your ABR is not a high-end device, the HW resources is something that you should take into account when you design OSPF areas.

This is a very simple example of how you will start ask the question “why” and analyze the different perspectives from the different resources to build a design mindset with analytical thinking.  Last but not least, don’t waste your time with CLI and configurations related sections/chapters unless you like to try it in a lab to see how it works.

Although the more you read the more you learn, keep in mind sometimes this can lead to some confusions and repetitions.


The following figure illustrates a proven study approach, in a high level, as the required level of details and duration can vary, depends on the candidate’s knowledge and experience with the topic(s).

By considering the following lists, you will ensure that you cover the key technical aspects that you need for the CCDE practical exam taking into consideration your design background and experience can reduce the amount and time of studying.

Reading List 1: Cisco Press Books – Must

The following books in my humble opinion are MUST to read and understand “cover to cover”. The good thing here is, all these books are design focused and if you like network design (which I am sure you do) you will enjoy the reading journey. However, you still need to keep in mind the aforementioned approach when you read these books.

Cisco Press Books:

  • CCDE Study Guide: Use this book as your guide to:
    • Identify the topics that you are not familiar with and you need to study more about it
    • Start build your design mindset with business requirements in mind
    • Build awareness of the different design options and approaches and why one option can be more suitable for your design requirements than others.
  • CCDP ARCH 4th Edition: this book is a highly recommended, you may find some topics are not very advanced (depends on which area you are experienced with), or in some chapters you will find some Cisco proprietary technologies such as ACI, vPC, ASA clustering. Nonetheless, in general, I strongly recommend this book, as the newly added topics and mini design case studies are very useful.
  • MPLS Fundamentals: this is an excellent resource to give you an idea about the different MPLS based architectures, benefits and limitations. This book dose not go deep into the technical details
  • The Art of Network Architecture: This book aims to help you to have more insight into the business driven design approach along with some key design principles.
  • Optimal Routing Design: this book is an excellent resource to understand practical IGP design and design principles
  • Definitive MPLS Network Designs: this book will take you through different design scenarios in which you have a very good understanding of how to select design options based on business requirements covering large-scale service provider type of networks.
  • Deploying IPv6 Networks: Although I don’t see many people mention about this book, I found the design scenarios covered in this book are very helpful, therefore, I strongly recommend this book, you may find some minor technical information out of date.
  • Network Management: Accounting and Performance Strategies: this is an excellent book to cover network management related topics with few design case studies.
  • End-to-End QoS Network Design: Quality of Service for Rich-Media & Cloud Networks, 2nd Edition: this book is one of the few QoS books that helps you to build application driven QoS design in a simplified way.

Reading List 2: CiscoLive breakout sessions

CiscoLive breakout sessions (available at are extremely helpful and valuable resources.

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Be aware that you will find a large number of topics available there.  In general, you can read whatever topic you feel you need to understand more about. I recommend you to consider the following topics as a minimum:

  • Designing NGN SP/Enterprise Networks for Scale and Reliability
  • Enterprises’ Dilemma: Choosing L2VPN or L3VPN
  • Enterprise Multi-Homed Internet Edge Architectures
  • Deploying GET to Secure VPNs
  • IP Multicast – Concepts, Design and Troubleshooting
  • Migration Considerations When Buying MPLS VPN Services from Service Provider
  • Minimizing Packet Loss
  • WAN Architectures and Design Principles

Reading List 3: Optional and Recommended books

If you feel you have a gap in your knowledge in any of the topics covered in these books or you want to expand your learning further, you can consider reading all or some of the following books (you may read some chapters or sections from these books based your self-evaluation to your knowledge):

  • MPLS and VPN Architectures Volume II, Cisco Press
  • Comparing Designing and Deploying VPNs, Cisco Press
  • Selecting MPLS VPN Services, Cisco Press
  • Fault-Tolerant IP and MPLS Networks, Cisco Press
  • MPLS-Enabled Applications, Wiley

Furthermore, you should also consider read some of the Cisco Validated Designs such as:

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  • Intelligent WAN Technology Design Guide
  • MPLS WAN Technology Design Guide
  • Layer 2 WAN Technology Design Guide
  • Remote Site Using Local Internet Access Technology Design Guide
  • High Availability Campus Recovery Analysis Design Guide
  • Enterprise Internet Edge Design Guide

CCDE Practical Exam Practice

Last but not least, always refer to the CCDE Practical Exam Reading List at the Cisco Learning Network to see if there is any change or update.

Categories :
Marwan Al-shawi – CCDE No. 20130066, Google Cloud Certified Architect, AWS Certified Solutions Architect, Cisco Press author (author of the Top Cisco Certifications’ Design Books “CCDE Study Guide and the upcoming CCDP Arch 4th Edition”). He is Experienced Technical Architect. Marwan has been in the networking industry for more than 12 years and has been involved in architecting, designing, and implementing various large-scale networks, some of which are global service provider-grade networks. Marwan holds a Master of Science degree in internetworking from the University of Technology, Sydney. Marwan enjoys helping and assessing others, Therefore, he was selected as a Cisco Designated VIP by the Cisco Support Community (CSC) (official Cisco Systems forums) in 2012, and by the Solutions and Architectures subcommunity in 2014. In addition, Marwan was selected as a member of the Cisco Champions program in 2015 and 2016.