Contivity confusion

This morning, I took and passed the certification exam for Nortel Networks Certified Design Specialist for Contivity VPN Extranet Switches (NNCDS – Contivity). So now I know a lot more about the Contivity than most mortal men.

The Contivity is actually a pretty neat product – it’s a router, it’s a stateful firewall, but most of all, it’s a VPN demarcation point. Simply put, it allows a remote user to access their corporate LAN via the public Internet in a completely secure fashion. Cisco PIX and Netscreen devices can do the same thing, but Contivitys are fairly inexpensive, high-performing, and easy to configure.

What was hard to figure was the bloody exam. First off, the Global Knowledge book and course I took was scarcely adequate. Sample questions, which they claimed were based on actual exam questions, did not even remotely resemble the exam in format, topic or difficulty. The samples were simple “gimmies”, like “Does the Contivity 100 support user tunnels? True/False?” (False, btw).

The real questions were scenario-based. They went like this: You are required to implement a 5000 tunnel solution. They have users dialling in from home, as well as branch offices. Which Contivity with which options would you recommend?”

Topics, such as IPX encapsulation, and the featureset of the Advanced Routing License, were not even covered.

The exam itself was fairly poorly designed. A lot of the questions boiled down to semantics. I feel sorry for the ESL crowd, they would have a helluva time figuring out these vague, obtuse questions. Here’s a good example.

Question: HQ has two Model Zs. They want remote users and their business partners to connect to them. What should the remote offices do? (“Remote offices”? I guess they mean both the remote users and business partners.)

  1. Model X, end to end (end to end of what?)
  2. Model X only for SOHO (Too bad if you don’t know what SOHO stands for. Also: are you referring to the “remote users”? Or the business partners? Both? If so, why the distinction?)
  3. Model X only for the remote offices (Only?! Isn’t this question only about the remote offices to begin with???)

In contrast, the Cisco exams are usually difficult and sometimes tries to trick you, but not by straining your knowledge of the English language.