Cisco Systems is keeping pace with the growing popularity of VoIP and converged networks by building new skill sets into its midlevel certification program.
Cisco has expanded its CCNP (Cisco Certified Network Professional) program -- its second-most-popular program behind CCIE (Cisco Certified Internetworking Expert) -- so that it extends beyond just core routing and switching. The certification now encompasses applications such as voice, wireless and security.
"The program used to emphasize routing and switching, so the major change is in recognition of a broader set of solutions: security, voice and wireless," said Don Field, director of certifications at Cisco. "We have significantly increased the content in those three areas because that's the way companies are buying, or will buy, our product. Having individuals with skills in those areas, plus switching and routing, will help enterprises … to have [network professionals] who can design, troubleshoot, etc., a converged network."
While adding training in areas including converged networks, quality of service, virtual private networks, and broadband technologies, the CCNP program will continue to maintain its focus on the advanced skills required to manage the routers and switches that form the network core. The CCNP integrates next-generation Cisco Integrated Services Routers, engineered to provide wire-speed delivery of concurrent data, voice, video and wireless services with optimized security. A CCNP certification now validates that a network professional has the ability to install, configure and troubleshoot converged local and wide area networks.
The program expansion is important because it reduces the "implementation risk" associated with a lack of available skills, according to Cushing Anderson, Framingham, Mass.-based IDC's program director of learning, consulting and systems integration.
"The best predictor of project success is project team skill," Anderson said. "So Cisco is reasonable in assuming that the more networking professionals who are skilled in VoIP or wireless or security, the more quickly technologies like VoIP will be adopted."
IDC assumes that convergence is a permanent phenomenon and that it will be increasingly adopted during the next decade. The company predicts that by 2009 there will be 1.5 billion users of the Internet, 3 billion users of the phone network, and 2.5 billion mobile phone users. "The overlap among these users will be massive," Anderson said.
Also, IDC anticipates that the number of IP telephones activated will triple between 2006 and 2010. And the number of IP PBXs shipped will double in the same period.
"Convergence impacts many levels of the IT infrastructure -- convergence of the telephone network and the Internet; of consumer and enterprise technologies; and even of storage, routing and processing in the data center," Anderson said. "Convergence of voice, video and data communications is probably the most dramatic."
The CCNP course and exam now include:
- BCMSN (642-812) Campus Switch Networks Wireless LAN
- BSCI (642-901) Routing Protocols at Campus Edge
- ISCW (642-825) Implementing Secure Converged WANs
- ONT (642-845) Optimized Converged Cisco Networks
CCNP integrates VoIP, wireless and security evenly into the converged network certification, but Cisco also offers specific certification training for network professionals wanting to delve deeper into individual convergence technologies.
"Even though it's very exciting to have a significant increase in VoIP, security and wireless content in a certification as popular as CCNP," Field said, "we also have even more that we can offer in each of those areas."