Preparing IT Professionals for Converged Network Solutions
BackBy Scott Schauer — July 2007
For many people, unified messaging, mobile connectivity, virtual collaboration and real-time video aren’t simply technology terms — they’re an integral and growing part of everyday life. Technology will continue to evolve, and the IT workforce needs to evolve with it.
The next era in business communications will deliver voice, video and multimedia applications at broadband speed across access-independent, multivendor networks. These converged solutions will result from the intersection of numerous technologies at the system and application level.
Not surprisingly, the demand for IT professionals is growing as converged network solutions take on an increasing role in the way we work, play, learn and conduct business.
Training and certifying IT professionals is a constantly evolving challenge. Historically, the focus has been at the product level. In addition to product knowledge, the IT workforce must be skilled in the technologies that form the building blocks that power today’s networks and the applications delivering business solutions. Nortel has developed a series of certifications to address these needs.
Technology Certifications: Understanding Network Building Blocks
Converged solutions deliver advanced voice and data services over one Internet Protocol (IP) network. Nortel has developed certification tracks specific to these converged network technologies. The technology tracks certify that successful candidates can apply the technical knowledge required to engineer and support converged network solutions being deployed in the enterprise and carrier spaces. Two technology certifications exist now:
1. Nortel Certified Technology Specialist. This certification can be achieved by passing one of the following two exams:
- Technology Standards and Protocols for IP Telephony Solutions: This exam is designed for individuals needing a working knowledge of voice-over Internet protocol (VoIP) technologies, including VoIP standards and protocols, voice packetization, voice quality, traffic convergence issues and basic network assessment tools.
- Real-Time Networking: True convergence requires the functionality of one network that spans enterprise, carrier, wireless, wired and optical infrastructure. This exam addresses the technology, performance requirements and best practices for engineering and implementing real-time applications across this spectrum of communications technologies.
2. Nortel Certified Technology Expert. This credential can be achieved by passing the following exam in addition to holding the Technology Specialist certification.
- Technology Standards and Protocols for Converged Networks: This exam is designed for IT professionals who design and support complex VoIP solutions in a wide area network (WAN) and local area network (LAN) environments. Skill sets include traffic-flow recommendations, WAN-convergence issues, security in a VoIP environment and performing advanced network assessments.
Specialization does not stop at the technology level — Nortel also is expanding its certification portfolio to include enterprise solutions and carrier network certifications.
Enterprise Solution Certifications: Solving Communications Problems
Often, the majority of employees are not at headquarters or on large campus locations. Many IT executives have not established a unified branch communications strategy, resulting in many branch communications architectures being inefficient and costly to support. Nortel’s Communication Server (CS) 1000, in combination with Nortel’s family of Business Communications Managers (BCMs), addresses these market requirements.
Nortel’s CS1000-BCM Integration Expert credential certifies the ability to deploy branch office solutions, using BCM and CS1000 in a multisite branch environment, delivering a consistent user quality of experience and application performance. It addresses applications such as tandem VoIP calls across BCM and CS1000 and allowing CS1000 to act as a host for BCM CallPilot voicemail.
Carrier Network Certifications: Deploying the Converged Network
The converged communications solutions available today on private networks also are becoming available through carrier networks as hosted services. In response to demand for certified resources, Nortel has expanded its program to include a suite of certifications for Nortel carrier network offers. This will smooth the transition to the converged IP networks of tomorrow, including wireless access.
Initial exams address carrier wireline, wireless, data and optical product solutions. These credentials validate the holder’s ability to configure, operate and maintain next-generation network infrastructures. Examples include:
- Carrier Wireline - VoIP Communication Server 2000 XA-Core.
- Carrier Wireless - GSM BSS BTS 18000 Operations.
- Carrier Data - Multiservice Switch 7000/15000/20000 Operations.
- Carrier Optical - Optical Metro 3500 Operations and Maintenance.
Speeding the Path to Proficiency
Time is money, and defining the right certification exam content is only half the solution. Training and certification need to be available at the right time, in the right way and at the right cost. Nortel constantly is improving the way it trains and certifies the industry on technology, products and solutions.
Nortel’s Professional Certification Program recently was enhanced to provide customers with a more efficient path to achieve Nortel certifications. Major enhancements include:
- Segment Exams. Segment exams “unbundle” a certification exam and deliver it in segments. This provides a step-by-step approach to certification and tests the required skills and knowledge in more manageable pieces.
A segment exam can be taken at the conclusion of the training class or at a Prometric testing center. A group of segment exams associated with courses in a recommended training track equates to a standard, full-length exam. Passing the appropriate segment exams will yield the same credit as the standard exam. This allows candidates to work toward an exam requirement in a granular, phased approach, if desired.
For example, if a standard, full-length exam has two courses in its training track, two segment exams are created — one for each course. Once candidates pass the two segment exams, they will earn the same credit as if they had taken the standard exam.
- End-of-Class Certification Exams. Recognizing an individual’s time away from the job is a critical challenge for all customers, testing options have been introduced that allow candidates to challenge an exam at the end of class while attending selected leader-led courses.
Certification exams had been challenged at only a Prometric testing center. Individuals now have more choice: continue to challenge exams at a Prometric testing center or challenge an exam while attending a leader-led training course.
Exam attempts at the end-of-class can be for a segment exam or for a standard exam and adhere to the same standards as a normal exam attempt (monitored by a Nortel-approved exam proctor, time limits, closed book, etc.).
End-of-class exams test the material while it is still fresh in the student’s mind and eliminate the need to travel to a certification testing center.
- Delta Exams. Delta exams are being offered, when appropriate, to test incremental knowledge and skills for a major new product release. Delta exams are targeted toward individuals holding a Nortel Professional Certification at the previous product release, and they enable individuals to update their certification by passing an exam that covers only the new product content.
Preparing Future IT Workforces
In March, Nortel launched the Nortel Technology Solutions Academy (NTSA). Through the NTSA, Nortel provides educational institutions with leading learning solutions that educate and certify students in technologies that are shaping the future of business communications.
Schools that add Nortel technology solutions training to their curriculum not only will become more appealing to prospective students — they’ll also provide their current students with a competitive advantage as they prepare to enter the workforce. The initial course offering is VoIP, which is a building block of next-generation networks and a key to preparing students for emerging IT-related jobs.
The program has three key components: free courseware, specially priced lab bundles and certification. When combined, they offer students a relevant and rich learning experience.
NTSA VoIP courseware is the same material offered to IT professionals in Nortel classrooms. The content is developed based on industry requirements and in conjunction with subject-matter experts from the research and development sector and commercial sector.
Schools have the option to purchase a specially priced, award-winning Business Communications Manager VoIP communications lab to provide students a practical, hands-on experience.
Professional certification offers students a competitive advantage as they prepare to enter the workforce. Schools participating in the NTSA program have the opportunity to offer students Nortel certification exams either in the classroom or at Prometric testing centers around the globe.
Nortel Certification Value
Nortel understands the value certifications offer IT professionals — they are proof of an individual’s knowledge and skill to support technology solutions. Nortel Professional Certifications are developed in accordance with industry standards and recognized within the IT community as an authoritative measure of skills proficiency.
To learn more about the NTSA, visit www.nortel.com/academy. For additional information on Nortel certifications, visit www.nortel.com/certification.
Scott Schauer is director of Nortel Professional Certifications and the Nortel Technology Solutions Academy Program. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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