Does CCIE still make sense?
A reader of my blog sent me this question:
I am a Telecommunication Engineer currently preparing for the CCIE exam. Do you think that in a near future it will be worth to be a CCIE, due to the recent developments like Nicira? What will be the future of Cisco IOS, and protocols like OSPF or BGP? I am totally disoriented about my career.
Well, although I wholeheartedly agree with recent post from Derick Winkworth, the sky is not falling (yet):
- Derick, Amazon and Google are years ahead of (almost) everyone else.
- Technology changes are never abrupt. It took SNA decades to die (and it’s still kicking).
- TCP/IP will not disappear in the foreseeable future. One would hope to see IPv4 disappear, but even there I’m not an optimist.
- Nicira NVP is a point solution for huge IaaS clouds. It will be years before something similar will take hold in mid-range data centers. Most of them don’t need more than what VLANs offer today.
- Data centers are not the only environment where we need networking (although they are the fastest evolving one).
- CCIE gives you a lot of knowledge you’ll need in the future – regardless of whether you’ll be configuring routers or virtual appliances from Cisco, Juniper, Vyatta or someone else. The same applies to firewalls, load balancers etc.
- The never-ending layers of abstractions, facades and glass panes don’t make the technology less complex – they’re just hiding the exploding complexity and zillions of hastily thrown together moving parts. Someone will have great fun fixing the whole enchilada once it breaks down (and you can’t reformat a network like a laptop).
On the other hand, do remember that networking is just plumbing – it works best when you don’t know it’s there – and CCIE, while indubitably being the most prestigious certification in this space, is no longer The Top Gun it was when it was introduced.
To summarize: Go for your CCIE, but focus on knowledge not typing skills and memorized configuration commands ... and never expect your CCIE certification to be a final step to a lifelong nirvana. If you decide to work in a data center environment, you’ll have to learn a lot more about virtualization, servers, storage, and emerging technologies – but that’s what makes it so much fun.
Finally a snarky thought on the OpenFlow versus OSPF/BGP conundrum. Although the OpenFlow pundits like to tell us how OSPF, BGP, and the rest of the protocols we use today are broken (and I somewhat agree with their “having a separate protocol for each problem is stupid” mantra – I would just use BGP+MPLS :D ), we’ve seen wide-area systems with centralized management and control planes before – they were called SDH, Frame Relay and ATM networks. Do I have to say more?
If you are new to the field, a CCIE it is a nice challenge to shoot for, but even better is to get a job in the field. IMHO, don't waste time at home alone in a lab preparing for a CCIE if you have zero job experience. Once you have that base level of knowledge that gets you in the door at a job that gets you near a router, go for it.
I started out as the tech guy at a pair of private high schools. I had to teach secretaries how to do mail merges. I had to manage exchange servers. I also got to manage their 2501 router and Cat 5K/RSM "core" router. I was lucky to find a great mentor who inspired me. I've interviewed way to many people with a CCIE who haven't worked in the field.
Openflow and all the other wizbang new networking technologies are not going to take of the world tomorrow. There are way too many devices out there running ospf and bgp to even consider saying that the skills you need to pass the CCIE won't stay relevant. I love our field. We have awesomely interesting problems to solve. If you bring that hunger for knowledge and a proven ability to dive deep into core protocols (including TCP/IP), Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc will find you.
"I have been in the recruiting industry for over 15 years, and I can honestly tell you, CCIE's are in a hot demand, regardless of what is going on in the economy."
Second we stop learning is the second we become irrelevant. Proof of discipline and goals accomplishment. I hope to knuckle down someday and work on a PHD, not necessarily for the relevancy to network architecture but the process of learning and achieving goals. Or I just need a hobby outside of work. More credentials never hurt especially when economies decrease.
A primary value prop IMO of SDN in general is lowering OPeX. Technology fundamentally is to do more with less. There will always be a need for high level engineers/architect/developers regardless of the technology. Integrating basic understandings business is becoming just as vital as tech IQ. Our intellect is our currency. Cisco may fade at some point (partnership value lowered), but the age old debate over vendor certs is anything that still has integrity and a vicious lab should hold value (I think :)
Hell, like Marc pointed out, go look at Monster. Thanks for the read.
Self-directed learning is one of the key skills I look for in interviews. Particularly between phone screens and in person interviews. If you missed a question in a screen and didn't spend some time figuring it out before an in-house... you'd better be a rockstar.
What bugs me about CCIE is afaik, it requires learning EIGRP. I'm sorry, I am not going to spend time learning EIGRP. I don't ever want to work on a network that uses it. I'm sure it is a fine protocol and Cisco gives it a lot of love. It just isn't for me.
Good luck paying your mortgage as a sysadmin!
That said, I think that most people dislikes the CCIE cert because its so hard and demanding to achieve.
From what I gather here and there the CCIE is still extremely valuable and I have not yet encountered
a industry certification that matches in regards to acknowledgement.
All of the above are excellent skills for any engineer, regardless of what they are working on.
Most CCIE's will happily admit they forgot how to configure feature X that was on the blueprint 5 years ago. However throw a book at them, ask them to learn something new for that important customer meeting next week, and more often than not they will deliver.
I pursued and achieved the CCIE R&S and I am very happy with it. Yes, experience of course is key, but one has to realize that often the credentials will open the doors to let you take more experience. As far as relevance goes, I can see cloud computing, initially as a hybrid model then years later as a more full utility computing platform, would likely contain or even reduce the number of data centers maintained by individual corporations. That said, I can see CCIEs (which also have degrees and other attributes that make them attractive to service providers) finding more opportunities with development companies and service providers. In corporations, I believe security teams responsible to audit and validate the service provider networks have not been breached will still be needed but I imagine that business analysts could execute that task. Also, I can see database functions still needed in corporations to do SQL queries, data mining, etc.
I too, like many others here, have been in IT for over 10 years. Started out as a MCSE, then Compaq ASE, then Cisco wannabe. Been after my CCIE for 10 years. Became a PADI instructor somewhere in between. :) Back in IT now. Can honestly tell you, CCIE RS ... it is the stepping stone to everything else. Consulting, deep-dive technical, design ... the works. Whatever you are after ... it can get you there.
The IT world is full of "the-next-big" thing technologies. Now more than ever. I follow a lot of technology. I spend an hour each day, at least, reading the likes of VentureBeat, SiliconValley.com, Ivan's articles, Wired, and more. Following what Apple, Google, Microsoft, all the big players are doing. New technology, where it is going, what people are doing with their time, what new applications are being developed, where mobile is heading. And it excites me more every day. The world is opening up to soooo much potential. But, I can promise you one thing .... they may all be running datacentres, and fancy virtualisation, but, and for me in Africa this is more relevant than anything else, without connectivity .... who is going to be able to use those apps? Connectivity is what makes it all happen ... and who makes the connectivity happen? The CCIE's of the world that's who. Security, SP, R&S ... they're the guys making these things become reality. And how did they get there? Experience, experience, experience. CCIE RS is not going away any time soon. If anything ... it might just get a shed-load harder.
To finish off ... who gets the opportunity to play with all the new kit first? Not typically the NA's or even the NP's. Nope, it's usually the big guys. Here, you know networking, figure this out. One of our customers wants something called a Nexus 7000! ;)
"Chambers: Cisco will be more of a software and services company"
Does it mean that Cisco take serious efforts to OpenFlow/SDN paradigm? I think it's a sign that in near future networking world will greatly change.
Im not talking of being a jack of all trades but being a specialist in multiple vendors is most likely the future.
Problem with Cisco at the moment is an CCIE R+S does not necessarily know how to configure NX OS vpc or otv or the MDS and FCoE systems... and forget often vendor interop...its just not there only Cisco press version of it. So Cisco portfolio grows as they aquire more companies and in fact can clash with methods. Think Meraki WiFi methods and management setup to Aironet ..now all Cisco..
Go for the CCIE sure. R+S will help get aligned to a channel partner of course but does not mean they can configure and setup your VOIP (SIP or Cisco Call Manager Dial peers et all ) and or Cisco Data Centre Environment.
My point is being a CCIE will not guarantee that you will be able to sort out all problems in a mixed vendor stoke vendor interop environment.
But often other vendors are overlooked or not understood even by Cisco CCIE when tackling issues as they only know one way...
That said, there's a TON of carry over. While the syntax changes been vendors (and platforms for that matter as you pointed out with NX-OS, or IOS-XR) the concepts don't. After passing the R/S, I went to a cloud vendor who ran 0 IOS devices. All NX-OS, IOS-XR, and ASA. I had no problems adjusting.