Network pros will need to look further than traditional vendor certifications if they want to build and manage SDN and programmable infrastructure.
The Cisco certification ladder is no longer a foolproof career path.
In fact, career-level networking certifications from most hardware vendors don't offer the SDN and programming skills that network engineers will inevitably need, according to a group of experts who spoke on a certs panel at Interop NYC last week.
Instead of plodding through every level of a vendor certification program, engineers should take the lower-level classes for networking basics, and then chart their own course in learning programming and management for automated, software-driven networks.
"You have to fundamentally understand how to route packets and use protocols to use equipment," said Lori MacVittie, principal technical evangelist at F5 Networks. "But things are changing and it's going to be more important to understand APIs and the tool sets around them, than it is to know how to interact with particular devices."
Network engineers are changing from "consumers of network technology to creators of network technology" as they move away from using CLI and GUI for proprietary, static infrastructure, said Colin McNamara, chief cloud architect at Nexus IS, a Dimension Data company. Now that networks are being abstracted and virtualized, engineers will need programming skills and the ability to interact with SDN controllers and orchestration systems to provision networking resources as an integrated part of IT, he said.
As networking becomes an integrated part of IT resource provisioning, it's no longer feasible for network vendors to train engineers to solely specialize in their technology, McNamara explained.
Meanwhile, it could be years before hardware vendors like Cisco include network programmability concepts even for their own systems in career-level certification programs, said Wendell Odom, a CCIE, longtime Cisco Press author and well-known certifications expert.