DISCLAIMER: I am working towards my CCIE and this isn’t an emotional or knee-jerk reaction. For me the CCIE is only a stepping stone for the further expansion of my knowledge.

I woke up this morning to an interesting article written by friend Colin McNamara. Colin is an all around cloud evangelist promoting the leading and bleeding edge in cloud, automation and cultural change within IT. It isn’t the first time I have heard grumblings of the CCIE becoming less valued or out of touch with the industry but I wanted to respond to Colins post.

The changing value of the CCIE by Colin McNamara

I agree with many points in his article and as I write this I have multiple python tabs open, I am looking at the VMware NSX API and have a few open documents on OpenStack integration. My role is slowly changing and I am right in the middle of seeing this. VMware NSX provides the ability to administrators of virtual environments to deliver programmatically delivered network constructs that change how we consume network functions. This can be done through a GUI (which uses the API ) , the RESTful API or an orchestration platform such as vCAC or Openstack. My role consists on understanding how to consume these, the network in the modern data center and how business benefit from such.

At some point, while monitoring for changes in their ability to earn money, these individuals saw the market, tech, whatever hit a tipping point.

Once at that point, their focus switched from monitoring the rate of change in their current skill set, to prepping to flip to the new cheese, the new cert, the new skill that will provide for them and their families for the next couple years.

The industry change is visible. For once we can see our industry changing right beneath us. The currents of change are pushing careers down different paths. Seeing this happening or if I be more accurate – choosing to see this happening – is something that will keep you ahead of the curve. The CCIE provides a great base standard of protocol knowledge mixed in with current and useful networking practices (I speak about the v5 blueprint!).

SDN, NFV, Cloud and devops all change the way we consume traditional function. We approach problem spaces in a new way with a different mindset. In this new world we have not re-written TCP/IP, we still consume IPv4 and IPv6 and deploy x86 workloads in software containers. What is changing is that no longer is big iron the way we do this or using the console to get into physical firewalls. No longer are we seeing us touching all the boxes across all sites manually. Change is programmatic and deployed across all devices. This gives us new scale and a new approach. Taking this to the new level are solutions like Distributed Firewall within NSX. Centrally managed and enforced via distribution in-kernel firewall uses the firewall technology in a different way.

Once you learn to enjoy the act of change, you will find that your perspective during tech transitions changes from fear, to wonder. That this world and industry is an amazing place.

I agree with Colin here. Embracing change is an absolute blast. Change doesn’t mean old skills are instantly or at all deprecated. A lot of times consumption methods change or we look at a problem in a differently but at the core we are looking to achieve the same end result.

I fully believe that the progression of technology will affect the hiring pool. I believe that the value that the CCIE currently holds will be replaced by the concept of “Network Developer”

I think the word replaced here is a bit dramatic and don’t agree entirely. I agree there is a progression in technology and that the hiring pool is seeking additional skills to the traditional acronym check list – BGP, MPLS, CCIE, CCNP, JNCIE. We are adding DevOps, Continuous Integration, Puppet, Chef and the like. We are adding Python and a language to this. We might see ACI or NSX or Contrail pop on here in time but I feel supplementing or core knowledge fields shouldn’t be about a product solely. It needs to be around a movement, technology, trend and the consumption of this.

The CCIE still gives a very robust knowledge platform in the networking space. What is important to remember that if you do not evolve from here and compliment core knowledge and diversify with a programming language or another technology you may go stale. If you become complacent with the notion that CCIE is the end-goal then you’re sorely mistaken. Someone who doesn’t develop on their CCIE will be looking for work at Taco Bell in time. Choosing not to evolve is what will break you not the advent of new technologies.

Colin draws on some childhood experience about changing through work, jobs and adapting to survive. Coming from little and appreciating providing for his family have driven him to not return to a place. Change has become a means to be the best and is fuel by knowing first hand what awaits for those that don’t. This context adds the reality to the situation.

I agree with change and the majority of what Colin is saying. Look where I am now. I moved from enterprise into VMware’s networking division working with disruptive network technologies. I want to boost my current depth of practical protocol knowledge too whilst learning API consumption. I too refuse to be the Lilliputian and want to always hunt for my cheese. I do owe Colin a beer or two and a beard rubbing next time I see him.

8 thoughts on “RESPONSE: The changing value of the CCIE

  1. Great article and very timely with the current state of flux happening. I’m writing this from the ONS2014 Day #2 and the wider message being repeated is how networking must shift towards being programmatic, open and modular. Interactions with APIs and DevOps tools will become the new CLI. While I am sure Cisco will evolve the CCIE program to align with these shifts, I also believe the skillsets required for the future network engineers will have to be far broader and open ended. Staying relevant is going to a lot tougher in the next 3-5 years.

    1. I think there is a CCIE “SDN” being developed which may cover that.

      Staying relevant in the next 3-5 years will be simply identifying what is occurring around us and being abreast. Don’t be a 9-5 IT person and you will be okay.

      Thanks for the comment and reading this.

  2. Eww gross, a beard rubbing. Lol.

    Over time, I have come to the place that I mostly agree a lot with Colin. I do, however, agree with your last point. CCIE’s will have deep knowledge of fundamentals that will be important as these transitions happen. I also think there is a SMB space that will 1) adopt this later due to fewer drivers, 2) migrate to cloud servers, or 3) some of both (probably this one).

    1. I do too but I believe you need to understand what you’re programming to succeed to. I feel a lot of people believe the CCIE is an end game. That used to be the case but I fear that this has changed but the mentality has not.

  3. I wouldn’t worry yet, they will probably come out with CCIE – Network Programmer or something.. Seriously though, things change, we adapt. My lab had Token Ring, Appletalk, IPX, Decnet, IGRP, ATM, etc. I remember even back then people tried to say the CCIE was losing value and it was always the people who had already passed it.

  4. Yeah, you said it Anthony: “Colin is …. promoting the …. cloud”> The dude is just that, a promoter. Trust me, he has absolutely no idea what he is talking about. He is simply summarizing buzzwords/concepts from the internet to confuse and discourage others to become better than him. Colin failed measurably and sadly these days he has become a CCIE basher. Ask him to show you what was the last great thing he did. This kind of empty talk is what happens when a lazy and dysfunctional person with a useless retired storage CCIE cert becomes a director with no one on his team and too much time on his hands. It is sad to see Marco agreeing. Sure anyone can do python, its not a big deal. But you guessed it, it is a huge deal for Colin who does not posses a basic knowledge of data center technologies or networks of any kind.

    Go for your CCIE RS and you will never regret it. Dont listen to CCIE bashers, dont give up, dont hesitate and dont give credit to loosers. Best of luck to you Anthony.

    1. Thanks for the comments.

      I believe skills and knowledge transcend any one product or certification stream. CCIE is still a goal – just need to find the time 🙂

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