80% of Cisco's revenue is hardware. And even the service side is something close to $2 billion. I suspect the amount of money they make off of certifications is a tiny slice of that. Even if there are 10k CCIEs each paying $1500 for a yearly test, that's only $15 million, which is nothing to Cisco.
> Of course, in the long run making them actually represent something is best for both sides of the business.
That's not true for many certifiers. Take a look at the CSM certificate. It is meaningless, but popular and therefore profitable.