Network Development Group (NDG) Offers Online Learning and Labs
When a company builds good technology it can create a commanding market presence by doing two things. First, it needs to keep reinvesting in its tools and platforms, to keep up with the relentless pace of change and development of ever newer and snazzier stuff.
Second, it needs to make it easy and affordable for other companies and organizations to buy into its vision and products. It also needs to enable those business partners to deliver compelling content and capability by using its platforms and tools.
The Network Development Group, which goes by its initials NDG, makes an excellent case in point. Let me explain�
What Does NGD Offer to Companies? To Learners/End-Users?
NDG isn't exactly a mega-corporation: Online profiles indicate that the company is privately held, based in Durham, North Carolina, and operates at a single location. Founded in 1999 with 5 employees, and now boasting revenues of less than $1 million per year, it's not exactly a colossus or powerhouse.
The company offers two basic product sets:
NDG Online: This ia a platform for online learning delivery focused on cultivating and developing IT professionals. Content elements offered on the platform include coursebooks, lab exercises, and a variety of assessments (to gauge readiness to learn, absorption of material, readiness for testing, and so forth). Interestingly, NDG uses what they call a "practice as you read" approach to learning, so that learners read a little, then practice a little, and repeat that cycle indefinitely.
NETLAB+ VE: This is a remote access online environment for academic institutions that hosts virtual machines along with various curriculum content elements. This environment provides all the software necessary for students to schedule and complete lab exercises related to IT courses and training. Implementations include a virtual appliance that targets VMware vSphere, as well as physical hardware versions.
Simply put, NETLAB+ provides the infrastructure and access necessary to hook students up with hands-on labs and learning, anywhere they have an internet connection and a system capable of windowing its way into the runtime environment (a laptop PC or better is recommended; YMMV with smaller mobile devices).
Where's the (at)Traction?
A quick look at this battery of program icons for organizations that use NDG's content and virtual labs for academic programs and outreach provides an excellent clue that there's more going on here than meets the eye:
Included in this list are some real names to conjure with. Most notably, we've got academy programs from Cisco, VMware, EMC and Red Hat. I think this order of mention reflects their size, heft, and market influence. The only big Academy programs missing from this list are Microsoft and CompTIA, in fact.
And though the LPI (Linux Professional Institute) and Palo Alto Networks may not be in the same class as those other outfits, they're not negligible either. Certainly LPI, especially through its partnership with CompTIA (Linux+) remains one of the best known and best recognized brands in the Linux space.
Palo Alto Networks is notable here for its focus on information security, and also for its understanding that you can never start �em too young when it comes to learning the whys and wherefores of cyber security, as well as best processes and practices.
Does this mean your favorite IT certification is likely to sprout an NGD-based academy program of its own? Maybe, maybe not. But it's fascinating to observe that a good content delivery platform coupled with a workable hands-on lab environment improves the odds of learning and mastery of IT topics and technologies enough to make these big, savvy technology purveyors ready to sign up and use this stuff.
Kind of makes me want to try it out for myself. You too, I would imagine ...