Owing to software-defined data center technologies, many of today's data center certifications require additional skills, including virtualization and cloud computing. Other trends affecting this space include big data, the Internet of Things, network virtualization and more. Here are some of the very best options for data center certifications for 2017.
Because of a significant trend toward virtualized data center networking and software-defined networks, the lines between data center and cloud certifications have blurred. Typically, data center networking skills require knowledge of virtualization and cloud technologies, and supporting data in the cloud usually means managing information housed in a data center and making it available securely.
However, there are still plenty of organizations that offer certifications specific to data center networking and infrastructure, which tend to focus mainly on traditional networking technologies. But as you dig into their details, you'll see virtualization and cloud management skills woven into those requirements as well.
This article explores the top five data center certifications for 2017, which come from Cisco (two different credentials), VMware, Juniper Networks and BICSI, and then introduces you to a few worthy competitors that belong in a more extended list.
Cisco certifications continue to be some of the most recognizable and respected credentials in the industry. The CCNA Data Center certification is a great introductory certification for networking professionals who want to specialize in data center operations and support, and who have one to three years of experience.
Candidates for the CCNA Data Center certification need to understand basic data center networking concepts, including addressing schemes, troubleshooting and configuring switches with VLANs and routers using Nexus-OS, network and server virtualization, storage and common network services such as load balancing.
The CCNA Data Center is valid for three years, after which credential holders must recertify. Recertification requires passing a current version of one of the following exams:
- Associate-level exam except for ICND1 exam
- 642-XXX Professional-level or 300-XXX Professional-level exam
- 642-XXX Cisco Specialist exam (does not include Sales Specialist exams or MeetingPlace Specialist exams, Implementing Cisco TelePresence Installations (ITI) exams, Cisco Leading Virtual Classroom Instruction exams or any 650 online exams)
- Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) written exam
- Cisco Certified Design Expert (CCDE) written exam or current CCDE practical exam
Candidates can also sit through the Cisco Certified Architect (CCAr) interview and the CCAr board review to achieve recertification for CCNA Data Center.
Networking professionals looking to validate their data center skills and achieve a competitive edge in the workplace can't go wrong with the Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) Data Center credential.
Geared toward technology architects, along with design and implementation engineers and solutions experts, the CCNP Data Center identifies individuals who can implement Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS) blade and rack-mount servers, and install, configure and manage Cisco Nexus switches. The CCNP Data Center is designed for candidates with three to five years of experience working with Cisco technologies.
When pursuing the CCNP Data Center, Cisco lets you choose either a design or troubleshooting track. Related data center certifications include the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA Data Center), which requires one to three years of experience, and the Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) Data Center, aimed at professionals with seven or more years of experience.
The CCNP Data Center is valid for three years, after which credential holders must recertify. The recertification process requires candidates to pass a single exam to maintain the credential, or to sit for the Cisco Certified Architect (CCAr) interview and the CCAr board review. Credential holders should check the Cisco website for the current list of qualifying exams before attempting to recertify.
The VMware VCP6-DCV is one of those credentials that sits firmly on the line between traditional data center networking and cloud management.
VMware offers an extensive certification program with a rigorous Data Center virtualization track, which includes the VCP6-DCV. Candidates must thoroughly understand Domain Name System (DNS), routing and database connectivity techniques, and know how to deploy, configure, manage and scale VMware vSphere environments and storage. VMware recommends that candidates have a minimum of six months of experience with VMware vSphere 6 before attempting the VCP6-DCV certification.
New candidates must take a VMware training course and pass two exams. Training courses start at $4,125; pricing is based on the specific course selected, delivery format and learning partner.
VMware requires credential holders to recertify every two years. Recertification is achieved by taking whatever exam is most current for the certification, earning a new VCP certification in a different solution track or advancing to the next-level VMware certification.
Juniper Networks, based in California and incorporated in 1997, develops and sells network infrastructure equipment and software aimed at corporations, network service providers, government agencies and educational institutions. The company has a large certification and training program designed to support its solutions, which includes data center, Junos security, enterprise routing and switching, service provider routing and switching, design, firewall and VPN, and QFabric.
The Data Center track recognizes networking professionals who deploy, manage and troubleshoot Juniper Networks Junos software and data center equipment. The single exam (JN0-680) covers implementation and maintenance of multi-chassis link aggregation group (LAG), virtual chassis and Internet Protocol (IP) fabric, and virtual extensible LANs (VXLANs), as well as signaling and data center interconnections.
To renew a JNCIP certification, candidates must pass the current JNCIP-DC exam or pass the current Juniper Networks Certified Internet Expert (JNCIE) lab exam in the same track (currently under development for data center topics).
BICSI is a membership association that offers several engineering-oriented IT communications credentials aimed at networking professionals who design and implement optical fiber-, copper-based and wireless infrastructures.
BICSI is perhaps best known for its Registered Communications Distribution Designer (RCDD) and cabling certifications. It also offers the Registered Telecommunications Project Manager (RTPM) credential, along with other certifications for outside plant design and cabling. The RTPM certification launched in October 2015 and replaced the Registered Information Technology Professional (RITP).
The Data Center Design Consultant (DCDC) is designed for IT professionals with at least two years of experience in designing, planning and implementing data centers. This vendor-neutral certification is ideal for data center engineers, architects, designers and consultants.
The DCDC credential is valid for three years. To renew, credential holders are required to obtain a minimum of 24 hours of BICSI continuing education credits (CEC) to maintain the credential.