CRN Exclusive: Cisco Raises The Bar For All Certifications; Cloud, IoT Now Mandatory

Cisco has created a new framework and standards for all Cisco-certified individuals, who will now be assessed not only on a specific domain, but also on advanced skill sets that encapsulate emerging technologies across the IT industry.

"The core competencies are really no longer enough. You need to have the vision for the future," said Tejas Vashi, director of marketing and product management at Cisco, in an interview with CRN. "It's the first time we're making this broad-based announcement around the fact that if you're an expert in one specific technology area, you still need to understand the emerging technologies, because these emerging technologies could and will become even more impactful to whatever it is you're focused on."

Starting in July, all individuals seeking to be Cisco-certified -- including all seeking the Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) and Cisco Certified Design Expert (CCDE) certifications -- will need to understand interrelated technologies and how they impact business outcomes. Topics such as the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud, business transformation and network programmability will influence all certifications, according to Vashi.

[Related: CEO Robbins Has Cisco On The Fast Track, And Partners Are Ready, Set, Go]

Sponsored post

"So for example, if you're a security or data center expert, you need to understand IoT and analytics and how those things are going to impact your security or data center," said Vashi. "Folks on channel partners' staff will be even more relevant to the industry and therefore even more critical for their customers."

Cisco-certified individuals do not need to become recertified immediately in July, but rather, when their specific Cisco certifications are refreshed, according to Vashi. He said the new assessment approach focuses on making sure candidates demonstrate knowledge of and skills with evolving technologies, and its unified written and lab exam topics are based on a more holistic view of each domain.

The first expert-level program to implement these changes is CCIE Data Center, which will be refreshed in July around the new framework.

The CCIE Data Center Version 2.0 certification will provide skills focused on end-to-end management of complex data center, aimed at policy-based infrastructure, advanced virtualization, orchestrations and automation. The certification will also aim at skills around IoT, software-defined networking (SDN) and cloud, and their impact on architectural framework, deployment models, implementation and operations.

"Absolutely, this is the right time for [the certification change]," said John Amer, security design and architecture lead at BT Global Services, who has been a CCIE since 1999. "We're in a period of real change as businesses seek to adopt cloud technology to transform the way they operate. … It’s no longer acceptable to be an expert is an isolated subject. To be an expert today, [you must] challenge existing thinking."

Amer says he needs Cisco-certified experts who are not only well-versed in their own subjects, but also can communicate from a common base to customers and peers.

The San Jose, Calif.-based networking giant is also refreshing its CCNA Security certification in July around the new framework.

The new CCNA Security certification expands focus from network security to end-to-end IT security with emphasis on core technologies and skills needed to maintain enterprise information systems. The training exams now include newer technologies such as 802.1x, ISE, BYOD, cloud Web security, FirePOWER, FireSIGHT, Advanced Malware Protection (AMP), cloud and virtualization.

Robert Keblusek, chief technology officer of Downers Grove, Ill.-based Sentinel Technologies, a Cisco Gold partner, said Sentinel and its customers are both thinking more "software-defined" than traditional networking.

"That's an evolution that's occurring in the market, and it's a new challenge that we welcome. Definitely the certifications programs have to evolve to keep our engineers, us and everybody relevant," said Keblusek.

Vashi said there will be no changes in channel programs.

"This just means that your CCIEs and staff are going to be that much more relevant to the industry and your customers," said Vashi. "They will be able to talk about their specific technology domain, but also have an understanding of all the evolution that's happening in the industry in terms of new technologies emerging as well as how all of these things can impact driving you and your customers to business outcomes."