Few technical credentials carry the weight and RoI of the Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) badge. And after two decades, Cisco is looking to evolve it to encompass the "Internet of Everything".
Introduced in 1993, the Cisco CCIE was intended to provide networking engineers and administrators working for providers and end users with deep technical knowledge and skills around the Cisco switching and routing platform.
Over the years, CCIE has evolved from ensuring networking pros could push packets around efficiently to providing them with the skills to make Cisco-powered networks a business platform and enabler.
When the badge was introduced, then-senior vice president John Chambers (now CEO) (pictured, below right), said: "The CCIE Programme begins where other vendors' certification programmes leave off. It can be compared to completing a university course versus taking college entrance exams.
"Prospective CCIE candidates must be highly qualified just to enter the programme, and then, after taking an intensive troubleshooting course, must pass a rigorous hands-on lab test conducted by senior support engineers. This very stringent set of requirements ensures that only the best professionals are selected."
Cisco is celebrating CCIE's anniversary by conferring the two millionth credential and delivering a survey that shows the credential remains relevant and valuable after two decades of service.
According to the Cisco survey, 78 per cent of network managers say CCIE professionals get up to speed 20 per cent faster than non-credentialled administrators and engineers.
Most network managers say customer satisfaction is higher because of the contributions of CCIE professionals. And network downtime is 37 per cent lower because of skills and work of CCIEs, it said.
"It has been a great pleasure to participate in the CCIE programme. I contribute back to the CCIE programme every time the opportunity arises. I've enjoyed the opportunities that it has helped create.
"It has been amazing to witness the progression of the CCIE, and the networking industry as a whole over the past 20 years. I look forward to seeing where the programme goes over the next 20 years," said Terry Slattery, principal engineer at Chesapeake Netcraftsmen, a US Cisco partner.
Just what comes next for CCIE is the so-called Internet of Everything -- or what others in the industry are simply calling the Internet of Things, a concept that reflects how billions of IP-enabled devices will connect to the internet and private networks.
Cisco pegs the Internet of Things market opportunity at $14trn, as more than 50bn devices are expected to be connected to the internet by 2020.
Cisco is planning to maintain the CCIE and expand its relevance to include the philosophy underlying its "Internet of Everything" concept, arming credential holders with information and skills for building, optimising and maintaining networks that can support the device onslaught.
"Every major technology trend relies on a highly secure, resilient network prepared to deliver these services. Cisco intends to meet this growth demand by helping prepare qualified individuals with the skills and experience to design, install, operate and manage these networks and infrastructure.
"The Cisco certified community will continue to expand as we offer new and refreshed certifications and education services that equip individuals with the qualifications to support changing technologies and business requirements today and into the future, delivering unparalleled value to the organisations they support," said Jeanne Beliveau-Dunn, vice president and general manager of [email protected].
Is the Internet of Everything that big a deal? Cisco is fond of hyping trends that drive the sale of its hardware, and this is no different. But Cisco is correct that the increasingly interconnected, automated and information-driven world will need highly reliable, secure and optimised networks to support myriad devices.
From a channel perspective, the Cisco CCIE has proven valuable for VARs to demonstrate the competence of their network practices to Cisco and end users, alike. Individual credential holders have proven valuable over non-certified peers, making them more marketable to solution providers. Few credentials in the channel carry the weight and value as Cisco CCIE.
For Cisco, the CCIE has proven quite valuable in segregating resellers. Technical credentials are one of the primary ways vendors like Cisco corral partners into investing in their products and channel programmes. Getting partners vested in a credential often lowers the likelihood of them switching to an alternative vendor.
The actual value that credentials return to providers is debatable. Resellers tend to see credentials as a perfunctory requirement imposed by vendors, rather than something translatable into a go-to-market value statement.
Cisco's intent to extend CCIE into the era of the Internet of Everything means that certifications and professional credentials will continue to be a prerequisite for participation in the Cisco community and future IT infrastructure.
A sad footnote to the Cisco CCIE's anniversary is the June passing of its creator, Stuart Biggs, aged 53.
He was not only the team leader and creator of the accreditation, but the first person to receive a CCIE number. Several colleagues and supporters have expressed how the CCIE programme and the subsequent benefits it created would not have been possible without Biggs' efforts.
As part of our special editorial partnership, CRN is republishing this article from Channelnomics
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