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What’s your networking certification worth? Vendor-specific credentials

What’s your networking certification worth? Vendor-specific credentials

Ed Tittel

by Ed Tittel

Networking certifications can boost your salary and open the door to new opportunities. Here’s a guide to vendor certifications.

Should I get a networking certification? Many a certification candidate deliberates about whether the time and cost needed to obtain a networking certification is worth it. Our research and experience show that, in many cases, the answer is “Yes.”

Most employers understand the commitment required to pursue a networking certification path: You spend plenty of time studying. You might take one or more training courses. And because most candidates can't drop work and family obligations, that means devoting nights and weekends to test prep. When you factor in the cost of exams – $125 to $450 for the certs featured in this article – you're signaling to potential employers that you are serious about advancing your career.

In this installment of our series on software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV), we explore vendor-specific networking credentials related to SDN/NFV technologies or components. We chose certifications from Cisco, VMware, Brocade and HPE because of the reputation and of each company's overall certification program.

Cisco ACI certifications

Cisco ACI, or Application-Centric Infrastructure, is an SDN architecture for data centers and cloud environments. ACI policies apply to physical and virtual environments – under a single model – making automation and management a whole lot easier.

Currently, two Cisco certifications support the use of SDN and NFV, which cover design/implementation and development. Here are brief descriptions for each cert:

  • Cisco Network Programmability Design and Implementation Specialist (NPDESI): This certification targets networking engineers who understand network programmability basics, automation policies[PS1]  and related application programming interfaces (APIs). In addition, you'll need working knowledge of the YANG data modeling language, operations/orchestration (which is where NFV is covered) and controllers.
  • ·Cisco Network Programmability Developer Specialist (NPDEV): You must pass an exam to achieve this cert. The Developer Specialist knows how to code in Python and handle data using JSON and XML. You'll need a grasp of network controller platforms and protocols, as well as networking fundamentals (the OSI reference model, and routing and switching concepts). Also important will be a thorough understanding of APIs and device programmability, which includes NX-OS API, ASA API, IOS (XE/XR) and how to use Cisco software development kits (SDKs).

Although Cisco doesn't require training for any of its certifications, the company highly recommends instructor-led or self-paced courses delivered through authorized training partners.

Table 1: Cisco Network Programmability Specialist Facts, Figures and Links

Item

Design and Implementation Specialist (NPDESI)

Developer Specialist (NPDEV)

Requirements/Prerequisites

NPDESI home page

NPDEV home page

Exam ID

300-550 NPDESI

300-560 NPDEV

Exam Questions

65-75

60-70

Exam Duration

90 minutes

90 minutes

Exam Cost

$300

$300

Learning Resources

See Recommended Training and Additional Resources tabs on exam page

See Recommended Training and Additional Resources tabs on exam page

Sorry, no results matched your search criteria(s). Please try again.

VMware NSX certifications

VMware has a large, well-developed networking certification program that's regularly updated for new technologies, and the company's educational arm churns out courses to support each cert. VMware certifications tend to follow a ladder: A certification at one level typically requires the certification at the level beneath it. That doesn't always hold true, so be sure to explore requirements carefully if you pursue VMware certifications. Here are the VMware certs most closely related to SDN and NFV:

  • VMware Certified Associate 6 – Network Virtualization (VCA6-NV): At the bottom of the certification ladder is the VCA6-NV. You'll need to understand the concept of the software-defined data center (SDDC), network virtualization basics and, in particular, VMware NSX components, services and security. There are no prerequisites, and VMware offers a free course.
  • VMware Certified Professional 6 – Network Virtualization (VCP6-NV): The next rung on the certification ladder is the Professional credential. It aims at networkers with at least six months of experience and the VCA6-NV or equivalent training. The exam covers some VMware NSX essentials, but dives into installation, configuration, management, upgrades, troubleshooting and the like.
  • VMware Certified Advanced Professional 6 – Network Virtualization Deployment (VCAP6-NV Deploy): The Advanced Professional credential is geared toward networkers with at least two years of experience and the VCP6-NV cert (or some design credential). The VCAP6-NV covers many of the same topics as the Professional cert, only at a deeper level.

VMware's certification program also includes two expert-level certifications on design and implementation, but they're still under development. For the time being, you can earn the VMware Certified Implementation Expert 6 - Network Virtualization (VCIX6-NV) or Design Expert 6 (VCDX-NV) credential by achieving the VCAP6-NV (Advanced Professional) cert.

Table 2: VMware Associate and Professional - Network Virtualization Facts, Figures and Links

Item

Associate (VCA6-NV)

Professional (VCP6-NV)

Advanced Professional (VCAP6-NV)

Requirements/Prerequisites

VCA6-NV home page

VCP6-NV home page

VCAP6-NV home page

Exam ID

1V0-642

2V0-642

3V0-643

Exam Questions

50

77

23

Exam Duration

75 minutes

120 minutes

205 minutes

Exam Cost

$125

$250

$450

Learning Resources

See How to Prepare and Additional Resources tabs on the exam page

See How to Prepare and Additional Resources tabs on the exam page

See How to Prepare and Additional Resources tabs on the exam page

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Brocade certifications

Brocade has specialized in data center networking and storage since 1995. The company is now in a period of transition, with a sale to Broadcom in the works and the related sale of its data center business to Extreme Networks pending. Regardless, the Brocade certification program pushes on.

The Brocade Professional vADC Administrator credential covers most major topics in network virtualization, so it includes SDN and NFV coverage. For this certification, you must know how to install and configure Brocade Virtual Traffic Manager (vTM). Topics such as server load balancing and bandwidth management, web services, and rule configuration and application are also essential. The certification requires candidates to take an initial assessment, complete a few training courses and pass one exam.

Table 3: Brocade vADC Administrator Facts, Figures and Links

Item

Brocade Professional vADC Administrator 2016 (BPvADCA)

Requirements/Prerequisites

BPvADCA home page

Exam ID

170-030

Exam Questions

68

Exam Duration

90 minutes

Exam Cost

$150

Learning Resources

See the Study Guide and Practice Exam links on the exam home page; Brocade University for training

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HP FlexNetwork certifications

FlexNetwork is the HPE enterprise networking architecture supporting traditional, virtual and cloud environments. From an SDN perspective, relevant certifications include the following items:

  • HP ASE – FlexNetwork Architect V2: This expert-level certification focuses on designing networks for traditional, cloud and converged infrastructures. You can choose SDN as an elective.
  • HP ASE – FlexNetwork Integrator V1: This cert is also at the expert level and requires you to understand all aspects of configuring, implementing and troubleshooting enterprise HPE FlexNetwork products. At least 20% of the content is SDN and/or NFV related.
  • HPE Master ASE – FlexNetwork Solutions V2: This master-level credential recognizes professionals who design and deploy complex networks in the enterprise, with SDN as a core technology.

Table 4: HPE Facts, Figures and Links

Item

FlexNetwork Architect

FlexNetwork Integrator

FlexNetwork Solutions

Requirements/Prerequisites

FlexNetwork Architect ASE home page

FlexNetwork Integrator ASE home page

FlexNetwork Solutions Master ASE home page

Exam ID

HP0-Y50

HP0-Y47

HPE0-Y53

Exam Questions

60

55

60

Exam Duration

115 minutes

150 minutes

115 minutes

Exam Cost

$200

$200

$200

Learning Resources

See the exam page

See the exam page

See the exam page

Sorry, no results matched your search criteria(s). Please try again.

Moving on

Choosing a vendor-specific certification is a matter of deciding which vendor's technologies you want to work with in the future. Or it could be that you want to obtain a certification or two from a vendor whose  products and services you know well already. At this point, few vendor certification programs focus on SDN/NFV technologies, but this list represents the current best of the best.

In the next part of this series on networking certifications, we’ll explore vendor-neutral certifications. For part one of this series, which covers the differences between SDN and NFV technologies,

For more Cisco news on virtualized networking:

For more on Cisco technologies:

Ed Tittel

Ed Tittel

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.