Cisco Adds New Service Provider Network Operations Certificate, Updates CCNP Badge

New certification track maps to job requirements for managing and maintaining network operating centers.

February 9, 2010

D.H. Kass

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Cisco Systems Inc. has added a new certification directed at service provider network operating center professionals and upgraded its venerable Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) badge, aligning it more closely to job roles of network engineers in an enterprise setting.

Cisco said that the layout of its SP operations certificate and its revamped CCNP credential reflect a sea change in how the vendor thinks about and constructs certification programs, defining them less by technology and more by job roles and the corresponding necessary skill sets.

Cisco’s service provider operations certificates, of which there are three, namely, CCNA (associate), CCNP (professional) and CCIE (internetwork expert), add to the vendor’s two existing, installation-focused service provider medallions.

The certifications, built primarily for Tier 1 – Tier IV operations engineers and people in similar job roles, hone in on skills such as troubleshooting, maintaining and monitoring complex SP networks, operations management processes and network management systems tools.

Company officials said that the vendor’s service provider operations certificate was generated by heightened demand, documented by external research data, for skilled professionals to manage, maintain and troubleshoot network operating centers.

“It fills in a gap we had with network operating center engineers,” said Christine Yoshida, learning and development manager, Learning at Cisco.

“The new track is meant for people who run a network operating center, on site or for managed services,” she said. “Our other SP certifications are for engineers who install the network,” she said.

Cisco is still honing details of the SP operations certifications but revealed that the matching CCIE written exam will be released by in the second quarter of this year and the practical exam by this coming September.

The CCNA and CCNP programs for service provider operations will be available by this June and this September, respectively, the company said.

Yoshida said that the service provider operations CCNA certificate, when finalized, will require “one or two” courses and exams, including a five-day, instructor-led class offered by Cisco’s authorized learning partners.

The CCNP service provider operations certificate is expected to encompass three-to-five courses and exams, she said.

Vendor reworks CCNP certification

Cisco said that it reworked its network engineer CCNP certificate, which it last adjust nearly five years ago, to make it more relevant to specific job requirements, based on significant input from customers and partners, said Lora O'Haver, product marketing manager, Learning at Cisco.

“The CCNP certification now aligns to the job role of an experienced network engineer in an enterprise,” she said. “Hiring managers and IT leaders wanted us to make the program more rigorous than it was in the past.”

Relevant job titles include network engineer, systems engineer, network support specialist, network administrator, network consultant and system integrator.

The revised CCNP certification places more emphasis on troubleshooting skills and knowledge, a key element identified by employers, O’Haver said.

To help candidates prepare for the SP certification exams, the vendor is offering three new courses on implementing Cisco IP routing, switched networks and troubleshooting, all of which will be delivered by its authorized learning partners.

Three new CCNP exams, expected for release by this coming April and structured to be more representative of actual job tasks, have been added to the four existing CCNP tests, O’Haver said.

Study guides to help candidates pass the new exams will be issued in February and learning handbooks will be released by June 2010, Cisco said.

TAGS: certification,Cisco,network,Enterprise,service provider

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