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Cisco network design certification gets update

Cisco has updated its professional network design certification, CCDP, to account for new levels of intelligence embedded in a service-oriented architecture.

Cisco has revamped its professional network design certification, Cisco Certified Design Professional (CCDP), to be more in line with the host of new services and applications that network pros must accommodate when building complex corporate networks.

The CCDP revamp comes on the heels of February's update to the Cisco Certified Design Associate (CCDA) and June's introduction of a new entry-level networking certification, Cisco Certified Entry Network Technician (CCENT).

According to Roger Beatty, senior manager of learning and development for Cisco, the CCDP course had not been updated in two years, and a plethora of new market drivers, such as the addition of voice and video into the network architecture, spawned the need for a change.

Beatty said the network, over that two-year period, has transformed from simply a data transport mechanism to a platform that must accommodate voice and video among various other applications and services.

Essentially, Beatty said, networks no longer merely provide connectivity. Instead, they now embed intelligence to improve business processes and performance. Design professionals today require new skill sets to build a service-oriented architecture (SOA) that adds application-level intelligence into the network infrastructure. Beatty added that a service-oriented architecture creates efficiencies throughout the enterprise IT environment, enabling higher availability, greater scalability and lower TCO via better performance over existing infrastructure.

"The market is demanding the network perform in ways that it hasn't performed before," he said.

Other intelligence, such as prioritized packet flows, quality of service, and load balancing also come into play in this new network environment, meaning that those charged with designing such complex networks need skills and knowledge of technologies that may not have existed two years ago.

"Intelligence in the host has now moved to the network, creating a different hierarchical approach to the network itself," Beatty said.

Gartner Inc. estimates that 50% of new mission-critical applications and processes will be SOA-based this year; and by 2010, nearly 80% of these new initiatives will be designed around SOA. The newly revised CCDP certification will illustrate a networker's ability to design networks that embed that level of application intelligence.

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Touching on Gartner's predictions, Beatty added that "the revised CCDP curriculum and exam will prepare next-generation design professionals to design and implement these intelligent networks."

The revised CCDP course is Designing Cisco Network Service Architectures, or ARCH 2.0, and the revised exam is number 642-873. The exam will become available in October, and Cisco said that 90% of the course covers new material that is in line with current Cisco products and solutions.

"[The revised course] reflects the way people's jobs have changed," Beatty said, adding that when a network is designed, it cannot just be considered as a data transport mechanism. Now, factors such as VoIP, application-level intelligence and load balancing must be taken into consideration.

Beatty said the certification will help network designers implement these new services and applications in the beginning, saving time and money when compared with adding them in after the fact.

"It should be designed into the network from the beginning," he said. "It's expensive and difficult to add in as an afterthought."

Dan Stern, program manager of learning and development for Cisco, said the revised CCDP certification will also require network designers to undergo a cultural shift. While the job hasn't changed, the goals of the job have.

"The general description of what a networking designer should do doesn't change," Stean said. "It's the same kind of job. However, the products change and the technologies become more complex. It's like putting new meat on the old bone."

Beatty added that the message to take away from the new CCDP is that "all data is not equal." He said there is still traditional "data data," but now designers need to be concerned with "voice data" and "video data," which require different treatment of packet flows.

"The technology is here; we need designers to make use of it," he said. "We need to train a new generation of network designers about the new capabilities and get them to employ them in a cost-effective and efficient way."

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