F5 Networks and the University of Phoenix have developed a non-degree, application delivery networking curriculum aimed at bridging a talent gap between networking and applications teams. The joint university and F5 training effort is a vendor-neutral program aimed at giving IT pros the skills and knowledge required to deploy and manage application delivery controllers.
Part of the University of Phoenix's continuing education program, the five-course Application Delivery Networking Certificate Program focuses on Layer 4-7 technology, but gives IT personnel a sense of how application delivery controllers and load balancers function within a larger context of networking, security and applications.
F5 started working with the university after it discovered a fundamental skills gap in the industry while revamping its own application delivery controller product certification program, said Ken Salchow, certification manager for F5.
"We have a lot of people coming into application delivery networking from the networking side of the house. They understand basic networking very well, but they don't necessarily understand the higher-level application layer stuff that's required. They don't understand HTTP headers. They don't understand compression," Salchow said. "Conversely, we do have a lot of people coming into application delivery networking that have application layer knowledge, but they're not really squared away on networking. Finding a networking class is easy. Finding an application class is easy. Finding something that talks about how those two fit together -- that was the missing piece."
F5 engineers helped the University of Phoenix develop the content for the program, but the classes will be taught by university staff. The program is generally applicable to any vendor's application delivery controller products.
University of Phoenix and F5 training collaboration: Vendor-neutral
"The University of Phoenix didn't want to be perceived as providing an F5 course, and we agree with that because this is an industry issue, not just an F5 issue," said Joe Taylor, director of service operations and training at F5.
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F5 customer Howard Binner, director of IS technology and security at Overlake Hospital in Bellevue, Wash., said he struggles to validate the application delivery networking skills of staff, particularly around the multiple layers of virtualization that have emerged in his infrastructure -- from servers and storage to desktop virtualization.
In Binner's private cloud environment, "business interactions from both a security and Quality of Service point of view are evolving very fast," he said. He needs engineers with the application delivery networking skills to "not only troubleshoot, but architect away from problems" across multiple layers of infrastructure.
"There is a skills gap. As technologies converge, skills across IT are not converging at the same rate," said Eric Hanselman, research director with New York-based 451 Research. "If you look at a typical production application rollout, you need to understand how an application works as well as understand the infrastructure underneath that supports it. Network admins can keep the network up and running, but they don't understand what the application needs and vice versa."
The University of Phoenix program spans four three-week courses, beginning with an introduction to application delivery networking, and followed by courses on the relationships that application delivery controllers have with networking, applications and security. Then there is a final, six-week "capstone" course where students can pull all these concepts together and learn how to apply them practically.
Binner said he looks for F5 and Cisco certifications when he is hiring engineers, but he also wants employees with the skills and knowledge to work with other vendors' products in his infrastructure.
"You need a neutral observer that looks at the best practices in design and architecture," Binner said. That's one thing that F5's approach [with the University of Phoenix] does. It looks at the whole platform, especially how it's evolving. It looks at the strategies people need to be able to solve business and technical issues as things get more complex."
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