WAVE Life Sciences was barreling toward its commercial launch when it hit a critical speedbump. The company\u2019s network, a key part of the launch, received a negative assessment and would need to be re-architected. Anthony Murabito, vice president of IT at the Cambridge, Mass. biotechnology company, only wanted one thing from the IT pros that would be helping him fix the issue fast \u2013 to be Cisco Certified Internetwork Experts (CCIE).\n\u201cWe needed to do a major refresh and replacement on our network and, when I looked around, I had no network skills available in the organization,\u201d Murabito says. Cisco\u2019s top-tier certification would serve for Murabito and his hiring team as an indicator of a candidate\u2019s expertise.\n\nBE SURE NOT TO MISS:\n\nDon\u2019t get left behind: SDN, programmable networks change the role of network engineers\nWhat\u2019s hot in network certifications\nWhat network pros need to know about IoT\nDo network pros need to up their devops chops?\nData center staff are aging faster than the equipment\n\n\nMurabito\u2019s reliance on the CCIE as network gospel comes at a time when the industry is debating the relevance of the CCIE. A search for \u201cCCIE\u201d and \u201cis it worth it?\u201d returns dozens of blogs and comments from people who wonder whether investing $10,000 to $15,000 as well as a large chunk of their time (it can take over a year to properly study) is the best strategy for advancing their network careers. With cloud platforms such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft\u2019s Azure gaining in stature and a heavier presence of virtualization, focusing so heavily on just Cisco\u2019s environment seems folly to some critics. Others, like Murabito, say until another certification comes along that is as proven a bellwether for talent, the CCIE, which was first awarded in 1993, is still the best bet.\nKeeping the CCIE relevant is a priority for Cisco and its training team. In 2016, Cisco added an emerging technologies track to the written portion of its CCIE (and CCDE) exam, asking questions about cloud, network programmability, and the Internet of Things (IoT), albeit without the same depth as other traditional networking topics. Last fall, Cisco fine-tuned the emerging technologies questions, which is worth 10% of the overall score. Test takers are expected to be able to compare and contrast public, private, hybrid, and multi-cloud design considerations, describe architectural and operational considerations for a programmable network, and describe architectural framework and deployment considerations for IoT.\n\u201cWhat we were hearing from the industry is that CCIEs are expected to be more than just network engineers. They need to be technologists who can tell their business what\u2019s coming and how to adopt these technologies,\u201d says Joe Clarke, distinguished services engineer at Cisco and an original contributor to the emerging technologies section of the CCIE.\nFor instance, the emerging technologies sections aim to make test-takers aware of the impact of IoT protocols and low-power and loss-prone networks by asking questions such as what is an IoT technology that seeks to cover a wide area using a mesh of very low-powered devices? (Answer: ZigBee) For programmability, they want to help engineers understand the implications of being able to incorporate scripts into the network in a friendly and useful manner and where software-defined networking (SDN) can be used to improve performance.\n\u201cWhile the network engineer of today doesn\u2019t have to be a software engineer or software architect or even a great programmer, he or she does have to be unafraid of programming,\u201d Clarke says. \u201cYou may not like programming, but it sure will make your job easier.\u201d That\u2019s the message the enhanced CCIE certification hopes to convey and to present these technologies as an evolution, not a revolution. \u201cWe don\u2019t want to scare people off. We\u2019re trying to take them there in a way that feels transitional.\u201d\nClarke anticipates that emerging technologies eventually will be addressed in a broader and more integrated manner as demand for automation and programmability grow. For those looking to concentrate in these areas, though, Cisco offers Network Programmability Design and Implementation Specialist and Cisco Network Programmability Developer Specialist certifications.\nSupplementing the CCIE\u00a0\nJoseph Swanson, director of technical solutions at a contractor for a large government agency and a recently re-certified CCIE himself, says the certification certainly jumps out to him when he is hiring network professionals because \u201c90% of the work here is still traditional CCIE technology and methodology.\u201d\n\u201cRoute\/switch, one of the more traditional CCIE paths, is not dead,\u201d Swanson says. The commitment it takes to obtain a CCIE proves a candidate \u201chas the ability to buckle down and learn something fast.\u201d\nHe would like to see the certification evolve. \u201cThe current CCIE certification needs to be augmented to support more SDN and programming functions,\u201d he says. When he reviews resumes, he looks for programming experience and if candidates know the basic structures of \u201cif\/then\/what\u201d, how to use REST APIs vs. copy and paste, and whether they can write a script and push it out from a server. He recommends network engineers learn automation programs such as Ansible, scripting languages such as Python and Perl, and data interchange languages such as XML and JSON. He also recommends network engineers become well versed in AWS and Azure.\nAs the cloud and virtualization overtake traditional networks, Swanson expects to see that shift in resumes as well, where experience designing a program or script will stand out more than having deployed 5,000 switches manually.\n\u201cI believe the CCIE is still extremely important and relevant for those who have it,\u201d says Andrew Lerner, a Gartner analyst. \u201cHowever, if I were to guide a network engineer starting today, I\u2019m not sure I would point them toward any specific vendor network certification.\u201d\nLerner wrote in January about how enterprises should look beyond network vendors for network innovation, and he says the same is true for certifications. \u201cEstablished networking vendors present themselves as trusted advisors to their enterprise clients; however, they have not guided customers toward dramatic operational improvements, particularly in the data center,\u201d he wrote.\nMoving forward, he says, \u201cthe skill set networking folks will need is going to be multi-vendor, so a single-vendor certification, which crafts the world in that image, wouldn\u2019t be my suggestion.\u201d Instead, learning Linux inside and out would prep network professionals for automation and programmability as it is \u201cthe lowest common denominator that permeates across multiple products.\u201d He adds that most learning is available online, including labs and study materials at low or no cost.\nThis new era of networking is going to depend more and more on self-taught skills, agrees Zeus Kerravala, founder and principal analyst of ZK Research. For instance, he says open-source configuration management tools like Puppet and Chef are incredibly useful for network engineers delving into orchestration. That said, he is still bullish on the benefits of a CCIE. \u201cUntil some other vendor reaches double-digit market share, network professionals should stay current on their CCIE,\u201d he says.\nGreg Ferro, founder of the Packet Pushers podcast, disagrees. He recently decided to let his CCIE lapse and says it\u2019s \u201cnot relevant for the future I want to follow.\u201d Like Swanson, he sees that future heading more toward AWS and Azure, as well as Google. He adds that Cisco\u2019s skills aren\u2019t \u201cas portable as they once were,\u201d citing the closed nature of Cisco\u2019s SDN technology compared to other vendors' implementations.Ferro calls on network engineers to learn programming and automation on their own time. \u201cA key aspect of certification is about showing your work. There are more effective ways to do that,\u201d Ferro says. For instance, he recommends starting a blog and sharing the results of a lab on an Ethernet Virtual Private Network or posting Python scripts on open-source software building site GitHub. All of these, in his opinion, go a long way to showing real skills rather than answering correctly the emerging technologies questions on the CCIE exam.\nMurabito, meanwhile, sees value in pursuing certifications as well as bolstering emerging network skills. He has a development plan and budget in place to help his networking professionals to not only continue or obtain their CCIEs but also learn programming and automation.