Eye on Certification: Networking

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As a specialty, networking thoroughly dominates the IT industry in terms of its share of the overall workforce. And networking technologies have revolutionized the way business gets done, and it has provided the groundwork for expansion in all the other areas of IT. Given its enormous influence on technology as a whole, it is perhaps unsurprising that networking is one of the most robust spheres of IT certification, as well.


In this edition of Study Guide, we’ll overview some of the more well-known networking credentials out there (excluding wireless-focused certifications):




CompTIA’s Network+, a vendor-neutral, foundational certification, verifies a candidate’s ability to explain the features and functions of networking components, as well as install, arrange and troubleshoot basic networking hardware, protocols and services. Top tech firms such as Microsoft, Novell, Cisco, Compaq, Lotus and 3Com include this credential as part of their own certification tracks.


The Network+ exam tests participants’ comprehension of the layers of the open systems interconnection (OSI) model, as well as knowledge of media and topologies, protocols and standards, network implementation and network support. The test recently underwent a revision, in which objectives were updated to replace older and less common versions of the same material with new technologies, protocols and cable standards. CompTIA recommends participants successfully complete the A+ certification and possess nine months or more of networking experience before they take the Network + exam.


For more information, see www.comptia.org.




Cisco Systems offers a three-tiered certification path in routing and switching, which is intended for professionals who install and support Cisco technology-based networks in which LAN and WAN routers and switches reside. The credentials go from the Associate (novice) to Professional (intermediate) to Expert levels, with Specialist certifications offered between the first two tiers.


The Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) certification indicates a foundation in and apprentice knowledge of networking. CCNA certified professionals can install, configure and operate LAN, WAN and dial access services for small networks (100 nodes or fewer), including but not limited to use of these protocols: IP, IGRP, Serial, Frame Relay, IP RIP, VLANs, RIP, Ethernet and Access Lists.


In the Specialist certification suite, there are two technical routing and switching credentials: Cisco Routing and Switching Field Specialist and Cisco Routing and Switching Solutions Specialist. The former deals with installation, configuration and support of advanced routing and switching solutions, and the latter covers the skills and knowledge required to identify the unique technical, business, and technological requirements of a given customer.


At the more advanced professional stage, Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) certification validates a network professional’s ability to install, configure and troubleshoot converged local and wide-area networks with 100 to 500 or more nodes. Network professionals who achieve the CCNP have demonstrated the knowledge and skills required to manage the routers and switches that form the network core, as well as edge applications that integrate voice, wireless and security into the network.


Finally, for those intrepid few who make it this far, there is the Cisco Certified Internetworking Expert (CCIE) in routing and switching. Although there aren’t any prerequisites, candidates for this certification should have in-depth knowledge of the topics the exam covers, as well as at least three years of experience with Cisco’s routing and switching products. To get the CCIE, participants must first pass a written qualification exam and then the corresponding hands-on lab exam.


For more information, see www.cisco.com.




Novell, which offers the NetWare and SUSE LINUX solutions, has networking certifications that reflect its offerings. Both the Certified Novell Administrator (CNA) and the Certified Novell Engineer (CNE) have two tracks: NetWare 5 and NetWare 6. CNAs can give organizations direct support for users in a variety of work environments, and Novell recommends having a familiarity with networking fundamentals before taking on this certification. The CNE credential verifies that networking professionals can contend with advanced companywide support issues and high-level network problems through their ability to plan, install, construct, troubleshoot and upgrade services.


The Master CNE is the premier Novell credential, and it tests performance on troubleshooting and implementation tasks on specific types of Novell solutions. This certification has one required course and exam, as well as two electives that candidates can choose based on what products with which they’re working or with which they expect to work.


For more information, see www.novell.com.




The Certified Technology Specialist (NCST) is Nortel Networks’ foundation-level credential for network professionals who want to demonstrate a basic level of the proficiency needed to engineer or support a customized converged network solution, which includes development, design and installation functions for enterprise networks. The Certifies Technology Expert (NCTE) certification builds on the NCST skill sets, verifying an intermediate understanding of all stages of constructing an enterprise network. At the top of the Nortel Networks certification “pyramid” is the Novell Certified Architect (NCA), which is targeted for job roles such as senior networking consultants, network architects, design engineers and senior system engineers. This credential shows that candidates can analyze and resolve various issues in challenging internetworking environments, conduct portfolio assessments, interpret customer business drivers and influence customers’ decision making.


For more information, see www.nortelnetworks.com.

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