Cisco Launches New 'Critical' Certifications: 10 Things Partners Need To Know

Cisco's New Certifications

Cisco launched a new set of "critical" certifications today around application development and network programmability to better arm channel partners with the skills needed in the software-centric era.

"It's definitely needed. Cisco is bringing the certifications in line with where business is starting to evolve to," said Rick Bauer, practice architect at High Point Solutions, a Sparta, N.J.-based solution provider and Cisco partner. "It's crucial to people progressing in this next evolutionary step of the network … The whole software-defined everything and the controller-base approach is going to require programmability to enable automation."

Tejas Vashi, senior director, product strategy & marketing for Cisco Services, said the new certifications are "critical because our end customers are now transitioning their architectures and moving into a digital era to drive better business outcomes."

CRN breaks down Cisco's new certifications and training that partners need to know.

Network Programmability Design And Implementation Specialist

Cisco's new Network Programmability Design and Implementation Specialist (NPDESI) certification is designed for network engineers to learn crucial network programmability skills.

"It explains network programmability and talks about things like Linux and Python, automotive protocols – really focusing on our traditional network base," said Vashi. "These are network engineers that now need to evolve their skills and learn more about software programmability, automation and orchestration."

Partners will receive a "soup-to-nuts" curriculum to develop and validate automation and programming skills that addresses the evolving role of network engineers.

Network Programmability Developer Specialist

The networking giant's new Network Programmability Developer Specialist (NPDEV) certification is for application developers to build infrastructure programming skills.

"It's providing application developers with a comprehensive curriculum needed to understand the development required for the infrastructure and how do you program an infrastructure," said Vashi. "It's really teaching what the care-abouts and characteristics are around a network and how they can actually leverage the network to drive better applications and better results."

The certification course includes instruction on data handling and formats, fundamentals of networking and network programmability, APIs as well as automation protocols, data models, operations and controller platforms and protocols.

Digital Network Architecture Implementation Essentials

Cisco is giving its Digital Network Architecture (DNA) a shot in the arm with a new training course for partners: the DNA Implementation Essentials (DNAIE).

Partners will learn general concepts including the role of orchestration and automation enabled by controllers in DNA, as well as integration with other technologies and security implementation. DNAIE is a five-day course dubbed as a "training bootcamp" for partners.

"It's to really be able to look at this entire architecture and understand the very critical components – whether it's the infrastructure, the programmability aspects of it across the networks, how you do the analytics, how the data collection from IoT all fit together or how all of this infrastructure is secure," said Teshi.

Passing New Certs Gets You CCNA/CCNP Recertified

If a partner passes either the NPDEV or NPDESI exam, they are automatically recertified for any existing Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) and Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) certifications, according to Cisco.


Training for the NPDESI and NPDEV exams are offered both as an instructor-led training workshop via Cisco Learning Partners, as well as through self-paced interactive training with videos, integrated labs and assessments. Cisco Learning Partners include the likes of Global Knowledge, NetMasterClass and Skyline, to name a few.

E-Learning Available For DNA Training

The new five-day DNAIE boot camp around Cisco DNA is also available in e-learning format, where partners can do the course online at their own pace and without needing to travel. Teshi said Cisco is expanding its learning options for partners around virtual labs, learning libraries and social platforms.

"Getting time out of the field, the cost of traveling and expenses to sit through training sessions with instructors – all of this is causing a huge burden on the channel environment overall," said Teshi. "So they're looking at other ways to be able to learn the same level of skills, but learn it at their own pace with mentoring and coaching from the Learning Partners as oppose to do it in a set five-day instructor training."

New Programming For Network Engineers

Cisco also introduced its new Programming for Network Engineers (PRNE), a self-paced training course designed to be of immediate value to network engineers looking to use network programming to simplify or automate tasks.

NPDEV 'Next Evolution' Of Cisco DevNet

Cisco's new Network Programmability Developer Specialist (NPDEV) certification goes along with its DevNet community of developers.

"A lot of the DevNet training and components offered are very short in duration and they're basically to provide a baseline or introduction to the developers or the individuals that want get into DevOps and understand this at the basic level," said Teshi. "As they learn more, that's when they take [NPDEV] and get certified. Most of folks come to DevNet are not ready to get certified, they're getting in to get their feet wet. So this is the next evolution for folks that come through the DevNet channels."

New Skills On The Way

Over the next 18 months, Cisco said it plans to completely reskill its three million technical community. The networking giant will continue to expand the list of digital training skills around the Internet of Things, cloud, data analytics, business skills and security.

Rewriting The Networking Playbook

Prashanth Shenoy, Cisco's vice president of product marketing, told CRN that Cisco's new certifications are rewriting its networking playbook from hardware-centric to software driven, and from closed to programmable.

"The way of doing things manually on a box-by-box basis is not going to cut it. So that's one of the key reasons why we completely rewrote the networking playbook, to provide a foundational platform that is open and programmable so our customers can rapidly address the business demands and then customize the network for the way they want to behave in the digital era," said Shenoy.