The enterprise network is undergoing a fundamental transition from manual to automated, from hardware to software-defined, from tightly controlled to sprawling across software-as-a-service (SaaS), multi-cloud, remote work and Internet of Things (IoT) environments.
Network professionals are expected to not only extend existing functionality across all of those environments, they must elevate the capabilities of the network to enable digital transformation. That means building a network that’s more agile, resilient, secure, scalable, observable and intelligent.
For network managers, engineers and architects looking to stay ahead of the technology curve, advance their careers, and provide additional value to the business, an entirely new skill set based on software development is required.
In response to these changing dynamics, Cisco, which already offers a broad range of certifications in areas of networking, security and cloud, has created a certification track called DevNet.
“Cisco Certified DevNet engineers are empowered to think about complex networking problems and deliver solutions at scale via automation,” says Joe Clarke, distinguished engineer at Cisco.
Cisco launched its first DevNet certifications – DevNet Associate, DevNet Professional, and DevNet Specialist – in early 2020. And this year, Cisco added DevNet Expert to the certification track, with the first exams taking place in May.
DevNet certification basics
Since these are Cisco-specific certifications, candidates should have experience working in a Cisco shop. Cisco recommends that candidates for the entry-level certification have at least one year of experience, while the Expert cert is targeted at candidates with 5-7 years experience.
- Are there prerequisities? There are no prerequisites to pursue any of the DevNet certifications, but Cisco recommends that candidates have a good understanding of the topics before taking any exams.
- Who administers the exams? Testing company Pearson administers the exams, which can be taken online or in person at a physical location.
- How can I prepare for an exam? Cisco has a DevNet resources page with links to the DevNet certifications community, webinars and training videos, and other training products.
- How long is the certification valid? All Cisco DevNet certifications are valid for three years, and people who are already certified will be able to recertify by taking exams, completing continuing education activities, or a combination of both.
What are the benefits of a DevNet certification?
Companies will pay a premium to workers with specific certifications, which means extra pay above and beyond the base salary.
“That whole category of skills premiums for network and communications on average is earning what would be the equivalent of about five per cent of base pay,” says Mike Connelly, an analyst at Foote Partners, which just released research for the first six months of this year, based on data from over 90,000 tech workers who are getting skills premiums at just over 4,000 employers.
In addition to increasing your earning power, the DevNet certifications show that you’re serious about upgrading you skills.
“The whole nature of DevNet or DevOps — DevNet being the network infrastructure equivalent within DevOps — is that you want to be as multi-skilled as you can possibly be,” he says. “People who work in DevOps who have multiple skills and dimensions that they can bring to a job do much better than people who do not.”
Network administration, network security, network virtualisation, and DevOps have become important to companies, especially with the pandemic shift to remote work, says Connelly.
“More and more workers are not going back into the office,” he says. “The more you have employees working remotely, the more network architecture, network security, and networking infrastructure you have to attend to.”
Adds Clarke, “the idea of total observability – to know that all of your services are healthy and how those applications are performing – is a hot topic right now. As we move more toward the cloud and more remote workers, it will be more important to have network engineers be able to develop centralised policies for all those users to have the same experience.”
Looking a bit further out, Vijoy Pandey, vice president of cloud and distributed systems at Cisco, predicts, “in a few years no one will configure networking, they will only configure applications. We want autonomous, programmable networks that take care of themselves.” For network professionals who want to be part of that future, becoming skilled in software development is key.
Here are descriptions of the four certifications on the DevNet track:
Cisco says the DevNet Associate certification validates a person’s core knowledge of working with applications, Cisco platforms, Cisco’s programmability strategy, and APIs. A DevNet Associate certification introduces a candidate to the knowledge they would need for various jobs, including network automation engineer, software developer, and system integration programmer.
Experience level: This certification is recommended for developers with one or more years of hands-on experience developing and maintaining applications built on Cisco platforms.
Pay range: The DevNet Associate certification is comparable to the CCNA or Cisco Certified Network Associate certification. According to PayScale, the average base salary for a CCNA-certified professional is $82,000 a year.
Premium: The Cisco Certified DevNet Associate falls right in line with the network and communications average skills premium of 5%, according to Foote Partners’ Connelly. “Some are willing to give you the equivalent of 3% to as much as 7%, but more and more right in the middle 5%,” he says.
Cost: The DevNet Associate Exam v1.0 (200-901) costs $300 and takes 120 minutes.
How to prepare: Candidates can prepare for the test by taking the DevNet Associate Fundamentals training course, which Cisco calls an interactive learning experience that includes built-in integrated labs. The training course should take around 60 hours to complete and includes sections on software development and design, understanding and using APIs, network fundamentals, application deployment and security, infrastructure and automation, and Cisco platforms and development.
Cisco also has the DevNet Associate Guided Study Group, which offers 180-day access to a self-paced e-learning program that prepares students for the exam. Students can participate in expert-led learning sessions, access a community of other people preparing for the exam, and receive personalized coaching from their instructor with access to regularly designated office hours.
This certification will prepare a candidate for roles that include senior network automation engineer, senior software developer, senior system integration programmer, senior infrastructure architect, senior test development engineer, and senior network designer.
Experience: The DevNet Professional certification is recommended for developers with at least three to five years of experience designing and implementing applications built on Cisco platforms.
Pay: The DevNet Professional certification is comparable to the CCNP, or Cisco Certified Network Professional certification. According to Payscale, the average salary for someone with a CCNP is about US$100,000 annually.
Premium: The DevNet Professional certification delivers a premium of seven per cent of base pay, according to Foote Partners’ Connelly.
Cost: DevNet Professional certification requires passing two exams, a core exam and a concentration exam. The core exam costs $400, takes 120 minutes, and focuses on a candidate’s software development and design knowledge. After passing the core exam, candidates have to choose a specialist concentration and pass the concentration exam to receive their DevNet Professional certification. Each concentration exam costs $300 and takes 90 minutes.
Cisco says the Specialist Certification is for developers with three to five years of experience in application development, operations, security, or infrastructure. Only one exam needs to be passed for each certification, and Cisco says that the Specialist certifications give a person incremental recognition as they work toward other certifications.
The five DevNet automation specialist certifications can count as the concentration exam for both the DevNet Professional and the CCNP Professional certifications in Enterprise, Data Centre, Security, Service Provider, or Collaboration.
DevNet Expert certification validates expert knowledge in network automation, secure automation tools, and programmability. According to Cisco, a person with DevNet Expert certification has the skills to plan, design, develop, and maintain automation-driven network environments. Roles include network architect, senior software developer, senior network automation engineer, senior network designer, senior infrastructure architect, and NetDevOps team lead.
Experience: Cisco recommends that candidates have five to seven years of experience with designing, deploying, operating, and optimising NetDevOps technologies and solutions before they seek DevNet Expert certification.
Pay: The Cisco Certified DevNet Expert certification is comparable to the CCIE, or Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert. According to Payscale, somebody with a CCIE can expect an average base salary of $131,000 per year.
Premium: Because the DevNet Expert certification is new, Foote Partners doesn’t have enough data yet to report what the skills premium is for this level of certification, according to Connelly.
Cost: Earning the DevNet Expert certification requires passing two exams: a written exam that covers software and automation development and design for Cisco platforms, plus a lab exam. The written exam costs $400.
The lab exam is an eight-hour, closed book, hands-on exam that requires a candidate to plan, design, develop, test, deploy, and maintain automation solutions within software-driven network environments. The lab exam was first available on May 2, 2022.
The lab exam fee is $1,600 if you bring your own device; $1,900 if you use Cisco devices.