If you’ve been in networking for a few years, and already have acquired the traditional network certifications, it may be time to expand your horizons with certificates in specialized areas.
There’s no doubt that certifications such as the CompTIA Network+ and Cisco CCNA Routing and Switching are the exams that burgeoning network administrators seek to obtain first. But, you probably already knew that. Instead of covering the typical certifications that everyone else has, this slideshow will detail eight certifications that will prove that you've got the "X-factor" that sets your skill set apart from the others.
It must be pointed out that I believe a solid foundation in traditional fundamentals is important. That’s why, year after year, the same network certifications make the list of the “hottest” IT certifications available. That said, if you’ve been in networking for a few years, and already have acquired the traditional network certifications, it may be time to expand your horizons. Within the field of enterprise networking, there are plenty of different niche areas with which to focus on. Much of your decision on what area of networking to focus on will likely revolve around two factors. First is what part of networking is in-demand as it relates to your current job – or the job you wish to have someday. The other is what area of networking interests you the most.
Certifications that focus on how to design, configure and manage virtualized networks and networks within data centers will help you land jobs in larger enterprises that maintain private data centers. These types of certifications are also useful if you work (or seek to work) for a cloud service provider (CSP). If your goal is to become a specialist in network troubleshooting of complex problems, a certification in a specific monitoring or troubleshooting tools can be incredibly valuable toward reaching your goals. Finally, if you want to spend more of your time working with specific network components such as security appliances, wireless technologies or network automation, a certification in one of these specific fields can help you to steer your career toward those targets.
Join us as I show you eight network certifications that will truly set you apart from the others and can potentially change the trajectory of your IT career to better suit your company – as well as your own personal interests.
Certification for the data center: Cisco CCNP Data Center
Data center network topologies, services, and protocols contrast dramatically from campus LAN technologies. Everything from the types of physical cabling, to routing/switching protocols to security policies, diverge in the data center when compared to common campus LAN architectures. The Cisco CCNP Data Center certification program provides a deep-dive into the world of enterprise-grade data centers to cover things like the impact of networking as it related to converged or hyper-converged architectures, automating common data center processes as well as designing for highly-resilient, distributed environments.
Certification for virtualization: VMware Certified Professional – Network Virtualization
If your goal is to work both on the server and networking sides of the house, one great certification that bridges the two area specializations is to achieve a certification in VMware’s Certified Professional -- Network Virtualization category. With this certification, you prove that you can configure and manage a VMware NSX overlay platform including the building and deployment of network data flow and security policies.
Certification for the cloud: AWS Certified Advanced Networking
If you’d rather specialize in managing virtual networks in a public cloud, you really can’t go wrong with the AWS Certified Advanced Networking specialization specialization. This certification focuses on AWS-specific networking functions including best-practice designs and the ability to use AWS automation tools to simplify ongoing network management.
Certification for troubleshooting: Wireshark Certified Network Analyst (WCNA)
The best network troubleshooting tools are often the most complex to master. This is true for Wireshark – an open-source and widely used packet capture tool. While it’s easy to learn how to use the tool to capture data on a network, deciphering it is a different story. The Wireshark Certified Network Analyst certification speeds the process of learning how to read packet capture output for the purpose of identifying the root cause of network and application performance issues across a network.
Certification for network performance management: SolarWinds Certified Professional - NPM
While there are literally dozens of network performance monitoring (NPM) tools available on the market today, SolarWinds sells a platform that is easier than most to configure and deploy on networks both small and large. Beginning in 2018, the SolarWinds Certified Professional (CDP) became available for NPM and takes students through topics including how to troubleshoot agent issues on servers, build alerts specific to your application environment, and the different ways to discover, categorize, and manage nodes.
Certification for wireless technologies: Certified Wireless Network Technician (CWT)
Most seasoned network engineers have experience configuring and managing enterprise-grade WLANs. Yet, when those WLANs begin to falter, the lack of a sound understanding of wireless technologies begins to show. If this sounds like you, it might be a good idea to check out the CWNP Certified Wireless Technician (CWT) certification. CWT material covers a wide range of vendor-neutral WiFi-related topics such as radio frequency terminology, signal propagation, antenna types, and various troubleshooting techniques.
Certification for security: EC-Council Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)
These days, every network engineer is required to have at least a basic level of data security competency under their belt. Infrastructure security begins and ends at the network with firewalls, intrusion prevention systems (IPS), and a multitude of cloud-managed network security tools. Thus, it’s critical not to shy away from this subject. One way to obtain a tremendous amount of enterprise security skills – much of which is network-focused – is to study for and achieve the EC-Council’s Certified Ethical Hacker certification. Certificate holders will demonstrate a proficiency in network scanning, packet sniffing and different ways to identify and remediate infrastructure vulnerabilities.
Certification for network automation: Cisco Network Programmability Developer Specialist
Lastly, one of the hottest areas of enterprise networking is the automation of enterprise LANs and WANs to eliminate manual processes and to provide better data flow visibility and useful analytics. Because most network vendors have opened their network operating systems using application programming interfaces (API’s), network administrators that also enjoy coding can learn how to build useful automations that are specific to the environment they work in. Cisco’s Network Programmability Developer Specialist certification is a great one to start with. Holders of this certificate have demonstrated they can faithfully work in several different programmable environments such as Cisco’s Application Policy Infrastructure Controllers (APICs) and the Open Daylight Controller (ODL).