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Networking engineers that have primarily made their living by focusing on hardware are coming to a crossroads in their careers. Router and switch functions are becoming more automated. And virtual networks are now being extended across multiple cloud computing environments using network virtualization (NV) overlays. This means that NV certifications are becoming more important for job growth.
This creates a challenge for network administrators who must understand how to deploy and manage those NV overlays on top of being a Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE).
The good news is that when it comes to NV overlays spanning multiple clouds, network administrators already understand the core networking concepts, said Chris McCain, director of product management for NSX at VMware.
“Nobody is in a better position than networking administrators,” McCain said.
No More Silos
Network administrators need to have the mindset that enables them to look for career advancement opportunities that go well beyond network hardware, said McCain. Networking will always be at the core of those opportunities but the days when networking professionals could concentrate on a single silo without having to be aware of the characteristics of the rest of the IT environment are clearly coming to an end, he added.
To help foster that transition, VMware has created an NSX Mindset page on its Web site that features interviews with a handful of IT professionals that have made that transition. VMware claims there are now 7,500 customers that have licensed NSX. But in terms of that impact NV virtualization software is having roles inside IT organizations McCain says it is still early days. The NSX 6.0 instance of the network overlay represents the first real instance capable of being deployed on multiple clouds. As such, demand for networking professionals that have NSX expertise is still growing. VMware expects that demand to rapidly accelerate as it gears up to deliver NSX 7.0, McCain said. As part of that process, VMware will also make the NSX certification process more robust.
The VMware Certified Professional 6 – Network Virtualization (VCP6-NV) credential currently requires networking professionals to have at least six months of experience installing, configuring, and administering NSX implementations. Candidates must attend a required training course plus pass two exams to earn the credentials. The training course prerequisite is waived for candidates who possess a valid Cisco Routing and Switching (CCIE, CCNP or CCNA) or Data Center (CCIE, CCNP or CCNA) credential.
There is also a VMware Certified Advanced Professional 6 – Network Virtualization Deployment (VCAP6-NV Deploy) certification. Networking professionals must have two years of experience, a VCP6-NV certification and pass the VMware Certified Advanced Professional 6 – Network Virtualization Deployment exam. But networking professionals that have a Cisco CCIE Data Center or CCIE Routing and Switching certifications need only take the exam to obtain the credential. A second advanced credential – VMware Certified Advanced Professional 6 – Network Virtualization Design (VCAP6-NV Design) – is planned but not yet available.
Demand is Growing
Demand for NSX certifications is rising as the growth in network overlays rises, said Greg Richey, director of training and professional services for Ingram Micro, a distributor that works closely with IT services firms. “NSX is firing on all cylinders,” Richey said.
It isn’t clear where network professionals with NSX certifications can demand more pay if they have NV overlay expertise. VMware is hoping those certifications will be more valuable than a CCIE certification as functions such as setting up VLANs or configuring firewalls become automated.
That same scenario occurred when organizations embraced server virtualization and IT professionals with VMware certifications were able to command higher salaries than other IT administrators. In fact, networking professionals that haven’t started to upgrade their technical skills may soon lose out on job opportunities and the bigger salaries that their peers with certifications can demand.