One of the ways to measure an engineer's value is by the number of certifications that he or she holds. In networking, the gold standard has always been Cisco certifications (disclosure: Cisco is a client of ZK Research). The company has a wide range of certifications, ranging from the entry-level Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) and culminating with the difficult-to-achieve but highly valued Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE). The perception of CCIEs is so high that the term has become part of networking vernacular. When describing difficult network challenges, it's common to say that a particularly complex issue was so complicated that "even a team of CCIEs couldn't solve it."
One of the reasons the certifications have been so highly valued for so long is that Cisco has done a great job of continually evolving the programs as times change. This week, Cisco announced some major changes to its CCIE Data Center and CCNA Security certifications to bring them in line with the digital era.
The changes to the CCIE framework are to ensure that the certification is aligned with the evolution of the role of IT and an engineer's ability to produce business outcomes. The technical aspects of CCIE will continue to live on, but Cisco is trying to raise the bar on those who carry a certification that indicates being a leader in the IT industry.
This week's news is centered around changes to CCIE Data Center, but in practicality Cisco is revising the charger for all of its expert-level CCIE and Cisco Certified Design Expert (CCDE) certifications to ensure that individuals carrying these titles can have meaningful business conversations about new technical areas that are causing organizations to rethink their business strategies.
Updates to the programs include a new way of assessing individuals to ensure certified individuals have working knowledge and skill in many emerging areas, such as the Internet of Things (IoT), network programmability, cloud, and business transformation. Also, there will be unified written and lab exam topics for candidates to demonstrate holistic knowledge of exam domain.
Regarding the certifications that Cisco announced are changing, the CCIE Data Center version 2.0 requires skills focused on advanced data center solutions needed to design, implement, and troubleshoot today's modern data center. This includes skills focused on end-to-end management of the environment, policy-based infrastructure, advanced virtualization, automation, and orchestration. Cisco has also added a requirement for building skills in IoT, software defined networking (SDN), cloud, and their impact on architectures and deployment models.
The new CCNA Security builds the skills required to deploy secure infrastructure, implement security controls, enforce policies, and assist in addressing security issues. One of the big changes in the refreshed CCNA is that it now expands the focus of security from just the network to a broader, end-to-end IT security purview. Exam topics will now included new but critical technologies, such as 802.11x, ISE, BYOD, web security, FirePOWER, FireSIGHT, cloud, virtualization, and advanced malware protection.
Digitization is changing business, and this is creating the requirement for new jobs, most of which didn't exist a few years ago. It's critical that IT professionals keep up with current technologies, or they'll see their careers go the way of the mainframe administer and voice manager. Cisco's changes to its certification program ensure that the careers of the certified professionals are aligned with the direction of digitization.