I get this question a lot so, here’s a blog post on my thoughts. There’s a huge difference in these two certifications. First the difference is in level. The Cisco Certified Internetworking Expert (CCIE) is an expert level certification for a designated area of Cisco product expertise. The VMware Certified Professional (VCP) is the entry level professional level certification for VMware related products. It’s like comparing the CCIE to the CCNA. A more appropriate comparison may be the CCIE vs. VMware Certified Design Expert (VCDX).
Outside of the level comparison you need to compare the actual disciplines. When you are considering becoming a VCDX you need to expand your view beyond a single discipline. In virtualization you are considering the entire data center not just one discipline within the data center such as servers. This is a misconception with people new to virtualization. Storage, Networks and Servers are all part of a virtualization strategy. You need a balanced level of knowledge across all three domains to be considered a virtualization expert or someone willing to sit for the VCDX.
CCIE candidates are laser focused on networking. There are actually several tracks within the CCIE certification with the most popular one being Routing and Switching. An example of the difference in the level of knowledge required for a CCIE in networking vs. a VCDX in network would be knowledge of BGP. A CCIE is expected to be an expert in BGP routing where a VCDX may need to know BGP from a high level but doesn’t need that level of understanding to build a complex virtualized environment. Similarly, a VCDX would need to have near expert level knowledge of the impact of I/O on server performance between Fiber Channel and iSCSI however; a CCIE candidate would just need high level understanding of when to use one over the other and how to configure them on a switch.
I believe it’s possible for the most diligent of us to obtain both certifications but each are extremely difficult in their own right. I would typically say you’d have to eat and sleep data center architecture to make both certifications worthwhile. From a career perspective, I can see one of the professional level certifications complementing one of the expert level certifications. For example I can see someone obtaining a CCNP and a VCDX. I believe this is a practical level of knowledge in both areas. Normally, an expert would practice primarily in one area. I’m hard pressed to think of a practical job title for someone with both a CCIE and VCDX would hold that they could stay sharp in box disciplines. What do you think can someone practically maintain the expertise in both disciplines to justify the dual expert level certifications?