HP: ProCurve Networking Certification

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Certification seekers tend to follow hot products and markets. According to Gartner Group, ProCurve Networking by HP is offering “increasingly compelling solutions” in the networking arena. And as the ProCurve Networking Adaptive EDGE Architecture and its inherent solutions catch on in the market, the demand for ProCurve certifications is heating up.

In a recent Gartner report titled “Magic Quadrant for Global Campus LAN, 2004,” analyst Mark Fabbi said, “Although not yet applicable for every enterprise network, HP’s ProCurve solution meets the needs of at least 80 percent of enterprise networks.” He added, “Enterprises investing in campus LANs where the largest site is less than 5,000 nodes must have HP on their shortlist.”

“ProCurve Networking by HP is about more than just switches and routers,” said John McHugh, the business unit’s vice president and general manager. “ProCurve Networking offers complete networking solutions that give customers a unique network design strategy built on the promise of delivering command from the center while taking control—and intelligence—all the way to the network edge. This approach enables a secure, mobile multi-service network via the ProCurve Networking Adaptive EDGE Architecture.”

But technology is not the only reason for the sharp rise in interest in ProCurve solutions. “HP networking solutions are often priced 70 percent less than competing solutions,” Fabbi said. It is this great bang for the buck that is drawing more value-added resellers and enterprise customers to consider and buy ProCurve products. In fact, HP has a solid number two market position in the global campus LAN market. HP is responding to these market dynamics by offering both sales and integration certifications focused on the ProCurve solutions.

Resellers in HP’s Elite partner program are required to have certified professionals on staff in order to maintain their Elite status, and HP requires certification for employees who sell and support ProCurve products. Other HP partners and customers also are using the certifications to validate their skills.

Rebuilding the Certification Program
Two years ago, the ProCurve Networking certification program consisted of just two training courses and regional exams. Vast improvements were undertaken at that time, according to Janet Lehr, manager of ProCurve Networking Global Certification.

“In December of 2002 and again in May 2004, we brought in networking professionals from around the world for a job task analysis workshop to define the skill requirements for each level of certification,” Lehr said. “We solicited input from resellers, customers, alliance partners, response center engineers and field system engineers to help drive our curriculum model that maps into the real world of networking jobs.” These workshops were the genesis of the networking certifications that HP offers today.

Sales Credentials
The two credentials available to sales personnel are Accredited Sales Professional (ASP) and Accredited Sales Consultant (ASC). The ASP designation certifies that an individual is knowledgeable of networking concepts and can describe the features, functions and positioning of the products in the HP ProCurve portfolio. It also certifies that the candidate has the sales skills to understand the customer’s business environment and can recommend an HP ProCurve product or solution that meets the customer’s networking needs. HP offers a one-day training course called HP ProCurve Sales Professional Training to help the candidate attain the requisite knowledge and skills.

Moving up the scale is the Accredited Sales Consultant credential. This certification enables sales representatives to develop a long-term, value-added relationship with their customers. The skills of the Sales Professional are enhanced by focusing on how to engage customers at an executive level to gain a deeper understanding of their mission-critical business issues and enabling a total solution sell. There is an emphasis on how to design a comprehensive ProCurve Networking solution based on the Adaptive EDGE Architecture strategy that will meet the customer’s evolving networking requirements. And like the ASP credential, HP offers a one-day training course, called HP ProCurve Sales Consultant Training, designed to prepare candidates to acquire the information that will help them pass the exam.

Technical Credentials
There are four credentials for people with a more technical pursuit: Accredited Platform Specialist (APS), Accredited Integration Specialist (AIS), Accredited Systems Engineer (ASE) and Master Accredited Systems Engineer (Master ASE). Candidates pursuing these credentials are in an ideal position to design, deploy and support networks based on the Adaptive EDGE Architecture strategy.

As the ground-level technical credential, APS ensures that a service professional can repair ProCurve hardware while keeping customer downtime to a minimum. This individual is commonly called on to install and support ProCurve network devices. A two-day course is available to help the candidate learn the subject matter and prepare for the single exam.

The AIS credential ensures that a technical professional is able to design a ProCurve Networking customer solution based on intermediate switching and basic routing environments. The required capabilities include hands-on configuration, implementation, integration and support of these networks. Candidates are encouraged to take a prerequisite computer-based course called the ProCurve Networking Primer as well as a four-day classroom session, titled Adaptive EDGE Fundamentals to help them learn needed skills before taking the certification exam.

The next level up the certification ladder is the ASE credential. It is here that candidates prove their knowledge and skills on developing Adaptive EDGE networks as well as their understanding of the mobility, security and convergence aspects of ProCurve Networking. The candidate starts with the Routing Switch Essentials exam, for which there is a three-day training course. At this stage, the systems engineer is focused on routing switch management, defining interfaces, filtering traffic and routing IP multicast traffic. Next the candidate will focus on network security and mobility. The candidate can either take individual exams or a combined exam, which saves time and cost.

The top of the ladder for the HP ProCurve certifications is the Master ASE designation. This new certification measures the competencies required for full implementation and support of the Adaptive EDGE Architecture solutions for advanced enterprise environments. Given a set of customer business requirements, the Master ASE credential holder is expected to design and deploy ProCurve Networking security, mobility, convergence and command from the center solutions, which may include products and components from third-party vendors as necessary.

An Efficient and Effective Program
The ProCurve Networking certification is attractive for two reasons, Lehr said. “Because the ProCurve product line is rock-solid and easy to configure, we can fully train engineers in far fewer days than other networking vendors,” she said. “The team has also focused on creating high-impact training in which most technology content is offered in a self-paced format, and the face-to-face training is 70 percent hands-on labs. Of course, candidates always have the option to test out if they have the required knowledge and skills.”

In addition, the Adaptive EDGE Architecture that the ProCurve Networking solutions are based on is sophisticated and easy to implement and maintain. “This architecture allows an enterprise to create policies at the core of the network, and then execute them at the edge where users are,” said Brian Beneda, manager of global program architecture for the HP Certified Profess

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