The Cisco Certified DevNet Expert certification is designed to demonstrate expert-level skills in network automation, programmability, and secure automation tools. This is a brand-new certification. The first date to take the lab exam is in May of 2022.
"We realise that there are people building cultures around automation and changing how the network interacts with the business," says Cisco's Clarke.
That's where the Cisco Certified DevNet Expert comes in. "It's a different realm," he says. "Focused more on the software side of things." Someone who has this certification is a leader in network automation, he says.
It costs US$1,600 to take the lab exam, not including travel and lodging expenses. Test takers may also want to take preparatory courses, which vary greatly in price.
To sign up for the lab exam, test-takers need to pass the written exam during the previous three years.
The written exam depends on the area of concentration. For the enterprise infrastructure and enterprise wireless concentrations, for example, the foundational exam is the 350-401 ENCOR, titled “Implementing and Operating Cisco Enterprise Network Core Technologies." It can be taken both in-person and online and costs US$400.
During the pandemic, many of the testing centres were shut down. Clarke declined to say how many people were able to get their CCIE accreditations during this time, but he did say that the numbers are back up again now that restrictions have been lifted.
"The pandemic is waning a little bit," he says, "and testing centres are opening up."
Cisco has recently added more mobile options, where the proctors go out to different sites with all the gear, to make it easier for test-takers to find a location.
Regular exam locations (published here) cover eight different countries: the United States, Australia, Japan, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, Belgium, China, and India.
Mobile exam locations (published here) change frequently. There are eleven mobile labs scheduled in November in the U.S., China, UK and South Africa. The calendar currently goes through July, and it includes tests in Mexico, Poland, Russia, Taiwan, Denmark, Brazil and Saudi Arabia.
Cisco is also piloting a "bring your own device" test, where test-takers bring their own computer and get the lab materials on a USB stick.
"It's hugely popular," says Clarke. "A lot of people signed up for the pilot. You get the comfort of using your own equipment. And we don't have to bring a kit, so we can scale better."
While the bring-your-own-device program is being piloted, Cisco is also waiving the US$1,900 mobile exam fee.
Other than the core technologies written qualifying test, there are no other prerequisites for taking the CCIE lab exams, but candidates are recommended to have five to seven years of relevant industry experience.
Do you need a CCIE?
While the CCIE is the top certification for a network professional, it might not necessarily be the right option for everyone.
It used to be that people got on the networking track in their careers and stayed on that track, getting their CCNA, then their CCNP, then, a few years after that, their CCIE, says Mark Leary, director of network analytics and automation at research firm IDC.
"Today's world is a very different world," he said. "As you're going up the ladder, you've got a lot more distractions, and a lot more options. Your route to advancement isn't necessarily going to stick to networking."
Companies are breaking down silos, he says, and are looking for people with a broader perspective.
As a result, someone on the networking track might want to go sideways, and get a second CCNP certification in security, or get certified in cloud technologies.
"A double major in networking and security is a very valuable thing," he says. It might even be worth more than a single CCIE. "If you ask IT executives, someone who's very good at both is more valuable to them than someone who is great at only one thing."
That's not to say that a CCIE isn't valuable, he says. "But the biggest permanent change of the pandemic, the number one thing, is that networking and security teams are working more closely together," he says. "If you qualify on both sides, that puts you at the point of the spear."