Why Engineers Who Like Cisco Systems Will Love DevNet

eWEEK ANALYSIS: Network engineers should take a look at Cisco DevNet exams to address the future of their careers.


Cisco Systems Senior Vice-President and General Manager of its DevNet program, Susie Wee, recently provided an update to a handful of analysts on the program’s changes and momentum. For those not familiar with DevNet, it’s Cisco’s developer program. One might ask a series of questions, such as: Why does Cisco need a developer program? Don’t they sell hardware? Aren’t developer programs for software companies? 

Cisco does indeed sell network, security and collaboration hardware–and a lot of it. In fact, itsells more of that stuff than any other vendor out there, more than all of their other major competitors combined. 

Network engineers need to be software power users

However, Cisco delivers much of its innovation in software--advanced software with a number of best-in-class features to make the network more secure, automatable and less complex. Most of those features are available via a rich set of APIs (application programming interfaces). Now the term “developer” is very broad, and I’m certainly not advocating that all network engineers should become coders, but they should know how to perform an API call, write scripts and basic programming in languages like Python. Some network engineers might choose to go down the software coder path, but they all need to become software power users. 

The challenge for many is how to get started. My research estimates that about 70% of network engineers have never made an API call. Many engineers spend immense amounts of time working in Cisco’s command line interface (CLI) to get information but, in most cases, whatever the engineer is trying to do, it can be done with a single API call. To help engineers get going, Cisco has implemented a number of programs, including quick starts that walk the individual through how to work with APIs, which is what Cisco products offer. There are also a number of online learning labs, local events, national conferences; every Cisco Live conference now has a DevNet Zone where people can interact with their peers.

Cisco engineers need to adapt or go the way of the Novell engineer

Cisco’s DevNet is about as complete a developer program as there is and something all network engineers should consider. I say that because software is the future of networking. Whether it’s Cisco or one of its competitors, more and more innovation is being done in software. Cisco just happens to have a massive install base so it can bring more internal and external resources to bear than other vendors. 

Engineers who do not make the shift in skills will become obsolete. If you’re skeptical, how many TDM technicians or token ring experts does your company currently have employed? How about mainframe engineer? Novell certified people? Probably not a lot, and that’s where hardware-focused engineers are headed. 

One of the elements of a developer program Cisco was missing was a way for individuals to prove their level of software prowess. With networking, Cisco has a wide range of certifications, from entry level up to the vaunted CCIE, which carries with it a certain amount of gravitas and “oohs and ahhs” from other engineers. 

Earlier this year, at Cisco Live EMEA, Cisco announced DevNet specific certifications. These include: 

  • Cisco DevNet Associate 
  • Cisco DevNet Specialist 
  • Cisco DevNet Professional 

A more detailed look at the certifications can be found on the DevNet training and certification page. 

New DevNet Certifications off to a fast start 

While the certification program was announced in January, the program launched in late February, and it’s off to a fast start. Wee told us the plan was to recognize the first 500 to get certified to be the DevNet 500, a designation they can keep the rest of their careers. Since the launch, Cisco saw the following activity for its certification programs:

  • 2256 exams registered 
  • 1456 exams delivered 
  • 542 CCNA exams delivered 
  • 265 CCNP exams delivered 
  • 551 DevNet Associated exams delivered 
  • 98 DevNet Professional exams delivered 
  • 1037 DevNet Foundational courses purchased 
  • First 500 DevNet certifications earned in 16 days. 

For network professionals, the future is software and Cisco’s DevNet can help chart a path through what might look like murky waters but is quite achievable. Thousands of people have already started so don’t get caught lagging behind. 

Zeus Kerravala is an eWEEK regular contributor and the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. He spent 10 years at Yankee Group and prior to that held a number of corporate IT positions.