The New CCNAs: All Carrot, No Stick

I mentioned Wednesday in this blog that Cisco announced three new CCNA exams this week at Networkers: CCNA Voice, CCNA Security, and CCNA Wireless. On the flight down to Orlando, I was pondering the question "why". Turns out that my #1 guess as to why was the main reason I heard from Cisco when I asked at the booth this week. But, just as importantly, I thought is was important to consider what the new certs are not supposed to be.

First on what it's not: It's not a new requirement on Channel Partners. Normally, cert changes have some requirements on Channel Partners, which then results in more time/expense, but no such requirement exists in this case. (Well, at least for today.  Never know down the road. That's just me thinking out loud, by the way.)

Second: the new exams aren't required of CCSP/CCVP candidates for a year. So, plenty of time to keep on rolling.

Third: There's no net extra effort or exam for CCSP wanna-bes even with the new CCNA Sec. If you start with the new CCNA Security exam, you'll have 1 less CCSP exam to take (see So, comparing the effort and exams to go from the traditional CCNA to CCSP should not require more time/exams than with the addition of CCNA Security.

Fourth, for CCVP candidates, you have maybe ½ exam worth of extra effort in you start with the new CCNA Voice exam. Again, you can essentially ignore this week's announcements for a year, and use the old rules. But, if you instead start with CCNA Voice, you'd have 1 more test to take - the CCNA Voice (IIUC) exam - and then the same old CCVP exams, for a total of 1 more exam. However, there's some overlap between the current CCVP exams and the new IIUC exam, so I'd say it's more like adding half an exam to your CCVP.

To net it out - the changes don't negatively impact CCSP, only add a little effort for CCVP compared to today, and the new certs aren't required of Channel Partners.

So, on to the harder question: why did Cisco do it all? In short:

To give the Networking Generalists a way to certify their skills.

To net it out then, there's no requirement that you take any of the three new CCNAs unless you want to pursue CCVP or CCSP, and then only if you take more than a year from now to finish it. Even then, it's probably a wash for the Security track, and a half-exam effort for the Voice track. It's more of a carrot - you can certify your skills in a variety of key networking technologies, or get all 3 new CCNAs and proove yourself a generalist. As you may remember, many times, even in this blog, people ask "what after CCNA"? Before this week, the answer was to pick a technology and get deeper, ie CCNP, CCSP, CCIP, CCVP. Now, we've got another whole option: get 1 or more of the new CCNA's, and show that you've got broad networking skills.

I'll probably do at least 1 more post on this new announcement, but let me stop there for now, and let all of you give me your thoughts. If you take the above at face value, do you like the idea of people getting multiple CCNAs? Does it help demonstrate a person's broad knowledge of networking? Is it appealing compared to going for a CCxP? Let me know!


Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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