CCNA, CCIE and other Cisco certs retooled to keep pace with evolving technology
Posted on
November 24, 2015
Cisco is changing its approach to certification updates.

Being a Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) means breathing rarefied air. CCIE is a powerhouse credential and viewed by many as being the IT industry's most prestigious networking certification. According to Cisco, CCIEs make up less than three percent of all certified Cisco professionals and less than one percent of networking professionals worldwide.

Although Cisco doesn't report the actual global head count of CCIEs, estimates put it somewhere around 50,000. This small number isn't an indication of its popularity, but rather the result of the difficulty in attaining the CCIE. To earn the CCIE, candidates must pass an old-fashioned written exam that typically takes from six to 12 months to prepare for, and an infamously demanding day-long lab. The lab is filled with complex scenarios designed to push candidates to the absolute extent of their high-level technical knowledge. It is not uncommon for candidates to fail the lab portion the first time.

As challenging as it is to earn a CCIE, the career rewards are great. Many companies like to have CCIEs on staff as a selling point to customers of the company's IT knowledge and experience.� Since its inception in 1993, network engineers with CCIE certification have been seen as possessing expert networking skills and a mastery of Cisco products and solutions. (Cisco certs generally are viewed with high regard in the IT realm.)

Over the years Cisco has continually revised testing tools and methodologies to ensure CCIE delivered excellence in "quality, relevance and value" to the Industry. With the rapid pace of IT innovation and the need for businesses to be agile, IT professionals not only need to possess a depth of expertise in their respective domains, but a broad perspective of how existing and emerging technologies and applications impact business outcomes.

Industry innovations — the likes of the Internet of Things (IoT), Cloud Business Transformation, and Network Programmability — require IT pros to constantly update and refresh their skills to assist an organization in meeting its goals.

To ensure that CCIEs are equipped to participate in meaningful business discussions about how emerging technologies impact business operations, Cisco is launching a revision of its certification design mechanism that will eventually touch all Cisco certs. The process of change was unveiled last week with the pending refresh of CCIE Data Center and Cisco Certified Network Associate Security (CCNA).

The changes include a new assessment approach focused on ensuring candidates demonstrate their knowledge and skills with evolving technologies. Cisco is also unifying topics on the written exams and labs to ensure that candidates have a "holistic" view of each exam domain.

Tejas Vashi, Cisco's Director of Product Strategy & Marketing, put it this way: "In today's economy, every company is a digital business. To remain competitive and drive necessary business outcomes, enterprises need IT talent that can understand the interrelationship between technology and business, and that requires a new skills framework."

Cisco is changing its approach to certification updates.

The revised CCNA Security is available immediately, while CCIE Data Center will be available July 2016. The remaining four CCIE tracks, CCIE Routing and Switching, CCIE Collaboration, CCIE Service Provider, CCIE Wireless and Cisco Certified Design Expert (CCDE) will be updated as their scheduled refreshes come due.

"The IT jobs of the future are being defined now, and Cisco is dedicated to providing certified experts with the education they need," said Vashi. "The program enhancements we are introducing today will help individuals develop future-proof IT skills needed to support business outcomes, and organizations gain the confidence that their workforce is trained and skilled to maximize investments in key technologies."

About the Author

Calvin Harper is a former associate editor of Certification Magazine and a veteran of the publishing industry.

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