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If you manage Cisco gear for your IT shop, it's worth considering whether earning a Cisco network programmability certification could boost your skill set and make you more lucrative on the job.
Currently, Cisco has focused its innovation roadmap on such areas as software-defined networking (SDN), network functions virtualization, and making networking platforms more open and programmable, which is known as ”network programmability.” Together these technologies form the building blocks of intent-based networking systems, which enables networking administrators to configure networks in a more automated, agile way through software than is possible with traditional hardware-based network configuration.
Glad you asked. In May 2017, Cisco blogger and corporate development technology engineer Adrian Iliesiu defined the term in "Defining Network Programmability."
"Driven by real benefits like time and cost savings, reduction of human error, customization and innovation," he wrote, "network programmability is currently understood as a set of tools and best practices to deploy, manage and troubleshoot network devices."
The problems that make network programmability something essential, rather than a nice-to-have, are best understood in terms of the scale, scope and speed that virtualization enables for network infrastructure.
"In a dynamic DevOps world when entire testing and development environments are built and destroyed within minutes, we expect the network to keep up and be just as flexible" as the other parts of the infrastructure and services that IT now routinely provides on demand, Iliesiu said. Think about the networking component of infrastructure as a service. Such virtual environments can involve thousands of servers; hundreds of routers and IP networks; routing domains, virtual local area networks and so forth.
Simply put, network programmability makes creating and managing such environments a matter of scripting or writing programs to handle the functions and configurations involved. Once the individual elements are tested, they can be mixed and matched as needed, changed or removed, to keep up with changing needs and requirements.
To get IT pros going down this important path to networking's future, Cisco also offers a pair of specialist certifications in network programmability -- namely the following:
Today, Cisco offers only two network programmability credentials, but they lead nicely into the worlds of automation and programming to set up and run programmable networks. The course description indicates administrators will learn how to interpret and produce code to deploy configurations to multiple devices, as well as network programmability tools and Cisco virtual platforms.
Those who pursue the Design and Implementation credential are expected to be more experienced in working with Cisco platforms and technologies. They may have a more nuanced and architectural view of how to use network programmability to automate. The course enables candidates to understand SDN controllers; learn how to use device-level application programming interfaces (APIs); and learn about DevOps and Agile software development methodologies using automation tools, such as Ansible, Chef and Puppet.
For those interested in network programmability and in Cisco networking programmability certification, here are some key resources:
If you're Cisco-certified at the CCNP or CCDP level or higher, network programmability is a logical next step. It's part of the dynamic or evolving content for CCIE, and it's likely to be integrated into other mid- to senior-level Cisco certificaion under that same rubric in the next year. It's also a great way to exploit tools and technology to make networks easier to design, deploy and manage. That's why even more junior Cisco-certified professionals -- CCNA, CCDA and so on -- should also consider network programmability. It's just a matter of time until network programmability becomes a part of all aspects of networking.
Ed Tittel is a 30-plus year IT veteran who's worked as a developer, networking consultant, technical trainer, writer and expert witness. Perhaps best known for the Exam Cram series of IT cert prep books, Tittel has contributed to more than 100 titles on computing topics, including information security, Windows OSes and HTML.