Submission By: Tejas Vashi


Tejas pic2.jpgOrganizations that want to survive are going digital. Digitization is enabling organizations to be faster, more agile, and more flexible in developing new business models and new ways to get things done.

The impact of digitization on enterprise IT is huge. Digitization brings about explosive data growth, known as big data. It replaces older systems with new technologies like cloud computing, converged infrastructure, and unified networking.

It also changes the ways in which organizations operate. The CEO today broadcasts her messages to employees. The factory floor uses digital signs to control production systems. Mobile professionals collaborate via video conferences on their tablets. Today’s professionals need to be able to access web conferencing, collaboration tools, document sharing, and interactive whiteboarding from wherever they are working, any time of day. They need to leverage analytics in their business in real time through a variety of applications, and they need to do all of this securely.

The New Network

Technology trends like the explosion of Internet of Things (IoT) sensors—and extracting actionable insights from the data they generate—are driving the demand for professionals with skills around application support and network programmability.

Securing this explosive infrastructure is more critical than ever, as these IoT devices and sensors are often not positioned within the on-premises network environment. Rather, they are on endpoints in the field, embedded in municipal infrastructure, on offshore oil platforms, or within fleet vehicles across the country.

These booming market demands are running up against an uncomfortable reality: there are too few professionals with the skills required by the digitized network, including application awareness, virtualization, programmability, security, and analytics.

networking-1626665_1280.jpgWhat’s more, traditional networking job roles are evolving: network administrators, engineers, and designers now have to consider automation, programmability, virtualization, application awareness, and securing the network environment. As a result, professionals who design, install, operate, automate, orchestrate, and manage digital networks must keep pace with the industry or be left behind.

To close the digital networking skills gap and preserve important routing and switching knowledge, Cisco has revised its CCNA Routing and Switching certification.

Programmable Networks, Virtualized Network Functions, and Application-Awareness Skills

The digital-ready enterprise network is driving changes within network engineering job roles. This network is open and software-driven, and requires greater specialization and advanced skills, like policy-based network management, programming for automation, or virtualizing network functions and services.

These types of new skills are essential for software-defined networking (SDN) and IoT. And they are lagging in the current networking workforce. Bear in mind, however, that even with these changes being driven by digitization, legacy infrastructure will continue to coexist with virtualized services, so routing and switching knowledge will remain fundamental. It cannot be ignored or forgotten.

Here are the key enhancements to the revised CCNA Routing and Switching certification curriculum related to application awareness, virtualization, and programmability:

  • Extending programmability skills across all segments of the enterprise. Network administrators need to understand how to provision using controllers. Now you don’t have to sweat the details of configuring one device at a time.
  • Bringing a core understanding of quality of service (QoS) principles down from the CCNP Routing and Switching level, because policy-based network management relies on a thorough grasp of QoS. With this understanding, you can address jitter, latency, and so on.
  • Learning how virtualized services and functions will coexist with physical infrastructure.


Security and Analytics Skills

Security skills are a major element in network management and cannot be ignored. New security threats pop up by the minute. There are new regulatory compliance mandates. The need to protect customer and organizational data is soaring. The mobile workforce, social networking, voice, video, virtualization, and cloud computing entail more risks. Then there are physical safety and security requirements to consider as well.

All of these digital security issues have led to better network security technologies. To handle it, networking professionals require training. They need new skills to manage virtual private networks (VPNs), firewalls, authentication, and intrusion prevention.

Analytics skills are also critical. Millions of connected devices are creating data across the network, and increasingly at the edges of that network. Being able to collect, organize, refine, and extract actionable insights from that data presents an irresistible business opportunity for enterprises. As a result, organizations are seeking professionals with the analytics skills needed to help companies take advantage of these opportunities.

These areas of change are also reflected in the revised CCNA Routing and Switching certification curriculum to support new security and analytics demands:

  • Learning network-leveraged analytics: configuration, event logging, NetFlow, Network-Based Application Recognition (NBAR), and other data sources used in analytics
  • Refocusing VPN technologies to align with CCIE and CCNP and enterprise adoption (Dynamic Multipoint VPNs [DMVPNs], site-to-site VPNs, and client VPNs)
  • Emphasizing IPv6 over IPv4 to support enterprise migration and adoption


Opportunities for Networking Professionals Continue to Grow

The good news? Networking is about to become the second-fastest growing U.S. profession. There were more than 800,000 networking jobs in the United States in 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Another 96,600 jobs should be added by 2020. By 2024, networking job growth is projected at 24 percent. The growth in networking jobs will be higher than the average for all occupations. Fueled by digitization, these trends should continue as organizations invest in new, faster technology and mobile networks.

The revised CCNA Routing and Switching certification helps routing and switching networking professionals keep current with emerging technologies. It also helps organizations develop the talent they need to thrive in the era of digital networking.

It’s never been a better time to enter this market or retrain employees in new skills. This is an exciting career opportunity for those who want to be at the forefront of what technology can do for business.

I welcome your feedback and thoughts in the comments below.

For more information on the revised CCNA Routing and Switching certification, click here. In addition, get up to speed about the CCNA Routing and Switching update with our three-part webinar series, "The Essentials of CCNA Routing and Switching."


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Tejas Vashi is currently Senior Director, Product Strategy & Marketing for Learning@Cisco, within Cisco’s Services organization. In this role, he leads the Product Management team responsible for building and maintaining the comprehensive product portfolio strategy, establishing cross-company alignment with respect to education for Cisco’s products, systems, solutions, and architectures, as well as establishing the global learning portfolio characterization to meet internal, partner, customer and industry training, certification, and enablement requirements.