Cisco Aims to Future Proof Certs Through 'Evolving Technologies'

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An upcoming change to the content for Cisco's CCIE and CCDE credentials may not sound like a game-changer for IT certification. Anything, however, that touches what is perhaps the most evergreen of all IT certs — namely, the CCIE — is worth heeding and pondering.


I spent quite a lot of time doing just that following an extended and freewheeling conversation with Tejas Vashi and other Cisco Learning Network personnel on Nov. 11. I'm convinced that Cisco is on to something important here, and that this new wrinkle for one cert program might just have a profound ripple effect across the entire certification landscape.


The gist of the upcoming change is that Cisco is going to readjust its content coverage and weighting of knowledge items to accommodate some new and dynamic content that falls under the heading of "Evolving Technologies." This change will ultimately affect all of the CCIE written exams, though Cisco hastens to point out that, "Lab exams will not be affected," on the Expert-Level Program Evolution web page that introduces and explains these changes.


The fundamental concept is to incorporate coverage of a constantly changing collection of technologies that organizations are pondering, acquiring, and adopting to keep up with the relentless and accelerating pace of change in IT.


Cisco is providing guidance on this coverage in a collection of what it calls Evolving Technologies Study Resources. Here is a list of topic titles and the links beneath them that are currently available. All of this makes for a fascinating snapshot of what's on Cisco's radar, and on many IT pros' minds, in terms of identifying hot and important new areas of technology and accompanying technical expertise:


? Internet of Things
? Internet of Everything
? Internet of Everything - PDF Library
? Cisco IoT white paper by Dave Evans
? Cisco IoE white paper by Dave Evans
? SDN - Recorded Seminars
? Cloud Strategy and Solutions
? Unleashing IT - Cloud Edition
? OpenStack
? OpenStack 101 Video
? OpenStack Documentation
? NFV - whitepapers


Overall, the Evolving Technologies Domain is identified at the moment to include three primary areas: Cloud, Network Programmability, and Internet of Things, or IoT. There are corresponding topics for coverage and learning (all of these are covered on the aforelinked Expert-Level Program Evolution page mentioned at the outset of this blog post).


This new evolving technologies section will account for 10 percent of the total exam score on CCIE written exams going forward, with core technologies accounting for 90 percent. Though the three areas mentioned (Cloud, Network Programmability, and IoT) apply for the time being, the Evolving Technologies section is subject to change at any time, and exam candidates are expected to use whatever definition is in effect at the time they sit for the written test to guide their study and preparation for this portion of that test. This policy goes into effect on July 25, 2016, and the current definition for evolving technologies will apply going forward from there.


Why do I assert that this seemingly modest adjustment to the CCIE written exam content may cause change across the certification landscape? Because Cisco has neatly found a way to make sure that important topics can be incorporated and adjusted to reflect current conditions quickly, within the context of a slower-moving, more ponderous exam analysis, design, development and deployment system.


Man ponders the future of IT while holding laptop

Lots of certification topics need to embrace new and important stuff, but all certification programs struggle when it comes to keeping pace with change and innovation. Cisco has neatly come up with a way to include and test on such revolutionary developments without requiring the entire edifice behind certification credentials to be changed at a more rapid pace. I can't help but think that this will push down into professional-, and possibly even associate-level, certs at Cisco over time. Likewise, similar inclusions will find a home within other certification programs outside the Cisco umbrella.


Managing the learning and developing the content for such new and constantly changing coverage is not without its challenges. But I have to hand it to Cisco for finding a good way to take a credential with massive name recognition and value, and improve it with the incorporation of a new philosophy and approach to driving coverage of "leading edge" content and topics. This is indeed a good step to take, and should inspire other programs to do likewise. We'll have to wait and see whether imitation springs forth to flatter this new approach.


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About the Author

Ed Tittel is a 30-plus-year computer industry veteran who's worked as a software developer, technical marketer, consultant, author, and researcher. Author of many books and articles, Ed also writes on certification topics for Tech Target, ComputerWorld and Win10.Guru. Check out his website at, where he also blogs daily on Windows 10 and 11 topics.