Six Big Networking Certifications for 2016
For years, IT professionals have targeted certifications as a valuable resource for knowledge and skills. Certifications are published and maintained by various IT companies and organizations, and are continuously updated with the latest technologies and information required for professionals to stay competitive in the IT job market.
Certifications are also a great way to prove your knowledge and skills to recruiters — they easily generate an interest in your profile. Because achieving an IT certification can be a tedious and time consuming process, choosing the right certification for your career is a vital decision as you begin your certification journey.
The IT market continues to rapidly adopt cloud computing. Since time is required, however, for a full transformation to the cloud, observers anticipate that both traditional and cloud-based network infrastructures will continue to co-exist for some time. During this transition period, the IT skills of network administrators covering both domains will continue to be in demand.
To help you choose that all-important network certification, here are six of the most in-demand certs for 2016 and beyond.
Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) – Datacenter is a popular professional level certification from Cisco Systems. It focuses on network infrastructure inside the datacenter. With technology innovations focusing ever more inward, to the core of the datacenter, it's become very attractive for network professionals to master datacenter technologies.
To be CCNP Datacenter certified, the network administrator is required to clear four exams. Two of the exams are mandatory and cover Unified Computing System and datacenter Cisco Nexus switches topics. Upon successful completion, the candidate can then choose two exams from another four exams according to his preference in working in network design or network operations and troubleshooting.
These four exams cover the integration between Cisco's Unified Computing System and other virtualization solutions such as VMware, Microsoft and Citrix ones. They also cover the design and troubleshooting of Cisco's Fabric switches in datacenters.
VMware is an industry-leading virtualization and automation company that focuses on cloud infrastructure and computer, networking, and storage virtualization. The company has a wide portfolio of products in different IT areas such as network, security, storage, servers and desktops.
One highly prized VMware certification for network administrators is VMware Certified Professional 6 – Network Virtualization (VCP6-NV). This is a professional level certification that covers VMware's network virtualization product "VMware NSX" and allows infrastructure administrators to separate IT systems and end-users from the network physical hardware.
To be VCP6-NV certified, candidates are required to pass two exams that cover VMware vSphere and VMware NSX products respectively. Each exam covers VMware technologies as well as how to deploy and troubleshoot the products.
Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE)
The CCIE remains the most desirable expert level certification for network engineers. It's a prestigious certification in the IT industry that shows the commitment and hard work traits of its holder. Since its introduction in 1993, CCIE has attracted many network administrators out to prove their high-level networking skills. The certification is very rewarding for network professionals and it pops up new opportunities for network administrators in the IT market.
On the down side, the CCIE is difficult to achieve (it was originally going to be named "Top Gun"). Earning the certification requires passing an onerous eight hour lab exam that is widely considered one of the toughest exams in the IT industry. In order to keep the CCIE in active status, credentialed individuals are required to renew their CCIE certifications every two years by sitting for CCIE written exam.
Created in 1993, the CCIE has evolved over the years. Cisco currently offers seven expert level certifications covering different specializations, and is continuously updating CCIE topics to cope with industry innovation especially with cloud and infrastructure virtualization.
Network+ is a vendor-neutral certification that introduces network administrators to the various network technologies. This is considered an entry-level certification. It validates the knowledge and skills of network administrators in dealing with network infrastructure. Because the certification is vendor-neutral, it is designed to provide the basic skills needed to design, implement and operate any network.
Network+ certification, once achieved, remains valid for three years. Network administrators usually acquire this certification when starting their career and then build on it to achieve more professional and expert levels certifications. Network+ is very popular in the IT industry. It opens up a great many entry level job opportunities.
Credentialed individuals are qualified to work as junior-level network administrators, as well as network engineers and technicians. Another benefit is that a number of large IT companies like Microsoft, Novell, Cisco and HP recognize CompTIA Network+ as part of their certification tracks. This is a particularly desirable certification for anyone looking to begin for a career in networking.
AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate
More companies are moving their IT systems to a cloud based infrastructure. Also, the diversity of IT professional specializations are shrinking and more consolidated IT professional roles are coming into place. These roles requires network, security, storage and systems skills.
Amazon AWS is the market leader for cloud computing — named the market leader in Gartner IaaS Magic Quadrant for the 5th consecutive year in 2015. Since networking and cloud computing are becoming more intertwined by the day, this is an excellent transitional step for a network engineer transitioning from physical networks to virtual ones.
Amazon launched its AWS certification program in 2013 to train IT professionals to support AWS clients. Networking professionals who strive to build a successful career in cloud computing should consider Amazon AWS certification programs.
Of these certifications: "AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate" is a good starting point. It is intended for individuals who work in supporting cloud based distributed systems. This certification covers scalable, highly available, and fault tolerant systems on AWS. It is valuable for IT professionals who work for customers who are currently or planning to host their IT systems on AWS.
Earning the certification requires programming skills that are mandatory for network engineers who design and operate automated network infrastructures. There is also a professional level certification that covers these topics in more depth. As the certification is relatively new, and with the impressive growth rate of Amazon AWS, this is a good opportunity for engineers.
Juniper Networks Certified Internet Associate or Specialist (JNCIA/JNCIS)
Juniper Networks, based in Sunnyvale, Calif., in the beating heart of Silicon Valley, has been in the networking game for 20 years as of February, and is often viewed as being the foremost competitor of Cisco in the networking hardware market.
Juniper certification generally revolves around knowledge of Junos, the Juniper Networks operating system that has a hand-in-glove fit with Juniper's array of networking hardware. Junos, released in 1998, is a close cousin of the open-source Unix OS FreeBSD. Though its roots are in FreeBSD, Junos has been regularly modified and upgraded by Juniper since its inception.
JNCIA, which has three tracks (Enterprise Routing & Switching, Security, and Service Provider Routing & Switching), is the first rung on the Juniper certification ladder, but is not a prerequisite for JNCIS certification. If you've already got a solid footing in the IT networking realm, you can go straight to JNCIS (which offers the same three tracks, but has two additional product technology tracks specific to Firewall/VPN and QFabric).
Network certifications are a good way to go for IT professionals. The number of networks that need to be managed increases on a daily basis. There are excellent jobs with good salaries available.