Cisco’s CCNA certification, and once upon a time it did start out just as one, has become one of the most readily recognized and desired tech certs out there. As I begin my preparations for my CCNA Data Center studies, I became curious as to what other new CCNA specializations had been added since I first started to get into tech certifications a few years ago. When I obtained my CCNA there were also a few specializations that you were able to obtain. At that time you had to obtain your CCNA Routing and Switching before you were able to obtain one of the CCNA specializations: Wireless, Security, Video, Voice, and the newly added Service Provider among them. When the ICND1 exam was expanded to include more topics, essentially making it “tougher,” the policy changed to allow one to challenge for most of the CCNA specializations after just obtaining your CCENT. Nowadays, they aren’t even really thought of as specializations, they are simply CCNA certs covering a different topic than Routing and Switching. And the available topics to obtain a CCNA in began to expand even further, take a look for yourself. There are currently ten current CCNA certifications, eleven if you include CCDA, that’s certainly enough to keep you busy for a while!
CCNA Service Provider was still very new, only having been around for about a year, when I obtained mine. One of the things I worried about as I worked towards obtaining the cert was if I was spending time on a cert that’s right for me. I think everyone will have that moment, or many moments, of doubt at some point during their cert studies about if they are focusing on the right thing. I’ve had this happen a good month or two into my studies, and once, I actually decided to drop that topic and change over to something else entirely. Was it wasted time? I try not to think of it that way, it’s true I didn’t obtain a cert from that time, but I still gained some useful knowledge that I can apply to my work.
Another thing to keep in mind when pursuing a relatively new cert is that there will not be a wide variety of study material for it. If you are not able to obtain training from a provider like Global Knowledge, assuming they even have a course for the new cert, you often have limited options: one or two study guides, and maybe video training. This can be a bit of shellshock after you leave the safe, warm confines of CCNA Routing and Switching training, where there is absolutely no shortage of study guides, practice labs, and training videos from a multitude of vendors. When I started CCNA SP, the only material available was the training guides from the classroom-based courses I was fortunate enough to attend, and the Cisco recommending reading of two of their Cisco Press books: MPLS Fundamentals and Cisco IOS-XR Fundamentals. There was also no way to effectively sim IOS XR for home studies (some limited options have seen come around), so only my limited time with in-class labs and poking around (very carefully!) with our production routers at work.
It’s also interesting to see existing certifications can change in response to changes in the IT world, the obvious example is that CCNA Voice and CCNA Video have now been rolled into CCNA Collaboration, and those who possessed either one of those certs will need to complete a new Collaboration exam to move to the new exam, while those that have completed both previous certs will be awarded the new one. The latest newcomers to the family are CCNA Cloud and CCNA Industrial. CCNA Cloud, much like Service Provider, does NOT list CCENT as a prerequisite, it requires that you complete two exams specific to it. It also will likely attract the attention of those who are hoping to get their skillset ready for the jobs that will make themselves available as more knowledgable people are required to design and maintain cloud infrastructure. CCNA Industrial is a bit of a curiosity to me, after reading the synopsis I have a hard time imagining there is a large target audience for such a cert. On the other hand, I can’t imagine that Cisco planned, developed, and released the cert and its material in a vacuum. It’s a cert I can safely say that I will never acquire.
Another topic that I foresee starting to become more popular is Software Defined Networking. Large vendors such as Cisco and Juniper already have implementations of SDN available for sale, and Cisco has some SDN certifications available. I expect that this topic will start to move more toward the mainstream of networking, with more study material and certs to be made available as the need for SDN experts begins to grow. I’m going to guess that it won’t be long before we see a CCNA branded Openflow or SDN cert!