Brocade Introduces Its Compatibility Matrix

Brocade recently introduced a redesign of its certification program, which is referred to as the Matrix.

Joe Cannata, Brocade certification manager, explained how the overhaul began.

“Back in November of last year, we decided it was time to take the program to the next level,” he said. “We’d gotten a lot of feedback from our certified base — the end users, OEMs and partners and the employees, too — who said they wanted something more. We had our four basic certifications at the time, and we have a lot of people who basically got them all — professional certification junkies. There are those people in the industry who were looking for something beyond that, like, ‘OK, I’ve hit the home run, touched all the bases, but I need more.’”

Taking all that into account and factoring in a need for scalability and growth, as well as the company’s then-upcoming acquisition of Foundry, Brocade held a global job test analysis with its test development vendor and subsequently brainstormed and developed the Matrix.

“The idea here was to keep our classic certifications plus the four we inherited from Foundry, and introduce some new accreditations, which are our low-stakes exams,” Cannata said. “Those are for the niche products or the low-volume ones — things that don’t quite warrant the investment in a certification exam yet but could at some point — and we decided to build vertical tracks of competency focusing on specific areas like the data center, security, [and] IP networking, and then we built two for our channel partners.”

According to Cannata, Brocade’s Matrix certification revision is intended for “mid- to upper-range [IT professionals], definitely not the entry-level person.”

He specified the positions of data center, systems, storage and switch administrators [as] “the people who are out in the data centers who are working with the technology all the time: OEM field service personnel, engineers, designers, professional services consultants, pre-sales systems engineers, support personnel, [etc.].”

Reaction to this revision has been somewhat muted. “Quite honestly, I have not gotten what I would call a lot of feedback,” Cannata said. “The feedback that I’ve gotten — once we put it out there and just let it sit for a while and people have gotten a chance to digest it — has been positive. Our sales force has told me they love the idea that there are basically stretch goals for people now.”

Brocade is sticking with its policy of not expiring certifications. “We put out products, we’re on the cutting edge, but sometimes it might be a year or more before there’s true uptake in the actual data centers,” Cannata said. “So we figured there’s no need to put in time limits and start expiring certifications. Give people time to absorb the technology, use it and test on it.”

One thing Brocade has curtailed is giving gifts to certificants, at least at the lower levels of the program. “It wasn’t so much due to the economy, just due to scalability. With the inheritance of the Foundry program, we were giving away gifts in the $40 range [such as] polar fleece jackets and backpacks and other electronic gadgetry, and we just basically couldn’t keep up with it,” Cannata said. “We decided to focus [on giving] better gifts for people that make the higher achievements.”

For some time, SNIA has accepted Brocade certification as credit for their expert-level certification. Brocade is now accepting select SNIA certifications as credit toward its track achievement and is forming a similar partnership with CompTIA.

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