Last Tuesday, I got an e-mail from Learning@Cisco entitled “A ‘Bundle’ of Useful Information.” Upon opening this email, I discovered it to be the latest Cisco Learning Network Store Newsletter (July 2012, Volume 2, Issue 09). Turns out it’s a promotion for the Cisco CCNA Premium Study Bundle, and it’s got a lot of bits and pieces and a pretty hefty price tag to with it — namely $699! But I think it might be the next big phenomenon in the cert prep business, and I ‘d like to lay out the contents of that bundle to explain my reasoning:
- The bundle includes a Pearson VUE exam code that covers the cost of the 640-802 CCNA exam, plus a coupon for an 80 percent discount on the retake exam for $59 (each try normally costs $295). This exam combines the coverage of the two-part Cisco ICND1 (640-822) and ICND2 (640-816) exams, which cost $150 each. Thus this part of the offering gets you completely past the exam requirement, with a very low price retake, if needed.
- Cisco CCNA Premium Study Bundle Install Guide (no charge)
- Cisco CCNA 640-802 Premium Study Planner ($29.99 MSRP)
- Cisco Certification Practice Exam for 640-822 ICND1 ($49.95 MSRP)
- Cisco Certification Practice Exam for 640-802 CCNA ($79.95 MSRP)
- Cisco Learning Labs for CCENT and CCNA ICND1 25-hour 240-day labs ($75.00 MSRP)
- Cisco Learning Labs for CCNA ICND2 25-hour 240-day labs($75.00 MSRP)
- Cisco Press: CCENT/CCNA ICND1 640-822 Official Cert Guide, Premium Edition eBook and Practice Test, 3rd Edition ($39.99 MSRP)
- Cisco Press: CCNA ICND2 640-816 Official Cert Guide, Premium Edition eBook and Practice Test, 3rd Edition ($39.99 MSRP)
- Cisco Press: CCNA 640-802 Network Simulator, 2nd Edition (MSRP $149.99)
- Cisco Press: CCNA Video Mentor: (CCNA Exam 640-802), 2nd Edition ($74.99 MSRP)
The MSRP total for the $699 package tots up to about $910, including the total costs of a single exam; total costs go to $758 for $1,205 MSRP total for those who must spend another $59 for a second exam re-take on 640-802. Given that you can buy most of the Cisco Press items listed above (including the video mentor and network simulator) at discounts of up to 30% from Amazon and other online vendors, the deal isn’t necessarily as stunning as it might look on first blush. That said, it remains an excellent value, and a great combination of components. And in fact, Pearson boosts the lab time for its learning labs to more than double the usual amount, and the overall study guide, designed by veteran CCNA expert Wendell Odom (a double CCIE), explains to owners which materials to use, when, and how to help them learn the materials and tasks necessary to pass the demanding 640-802 CCNA exam.
But to me, the real “big deal” here is that one organization is offering a complete and very high-featured self-study collection for a highly popular certification at a very good price. $699 is just over twice what you’d pay to take and pass the exam on the first try, and $100 over the cost of two exams, and includes a great deal of well-written reading material, good practice exams, learning labs, and a network simulator. I expect this kind of bundling to become matter-of-course for other Cisco certifications, now that Cisco Press has figured out how to do it for its most popular entry-level credential.
I also expect to see other big cert sponsor press organizations — such as Microsoft Press/O’Reilly, Wiley/Sybex, and Osborne/McGraw-Hill jump rapidly into this game. Pearson is already doing it with Cisco Press, and it’s no great leap to extend it to Exam Cram and some of their other popular cert prep lines (and given that Pearson also owns VUE, they have a better opportunity to make money from programs that offer exams through the VUE testing centers). I also expect to see bundles start to include e-copies or e-access to materials and facilities as part and parcel of the overall package as well. No reason why candidates shouldn’t be able to download or access remotely on their tablets and smartphones what they can access directly on paper or on their PCs in the office or at home.
If the title of this blog post, and CompTIA’s recent survey “Technology Grows in Importance for Retailers, New CompTIA Research Study Shows,” didn’t give away the game, even I would have been hard -pressed to pick retail as an emerging growth sector for IT investment. I guess that’s because what with consumer confidence up and down so much lately, with downs often getting more emphasis than ups, it comes as something of a shock to learn that retailers are keenly aware that technology innovation and adoption are vital to ongoing success and growth.
Key technologies identified in a study reported by CompTIA on June 27, 2012, include the following:
- geo-location services: only 20% of retails currently use geo-location technologies, but many more are considering or working toward its adoption
- digital signage: which includes sales and promotional announcements, in addition to more traditional “here we are” self-identification and -promotion uses
- payment processing: strong interest in, investigation of, and pending technology adoptions for mobile device based payment systems
- customer engagement (social media, targeted e-mail and advertising, mobile access and interaction): more and better ways to identify and target prospective customers, while staying in touch with existing customers, and providing incentives and special treatment for regular buyers and patrons
Supporting technologies necessary to make these initiatives fly, according to Tim Herbert, VP of Research for CompTIA, include “reliable wireless connectivity, robust security, quality end-points, data back-up, and other IT basics” that “cannot be overlooked by retailers anxious to add new capabilities.” CompTIA’s survey was conducted online from March 27 through April 2, 2012, and involved 500 retails in numerous key market categories, including apparel, health and beauty, home and sporting goods, plus related types of stores .
What does this indicate for current and prospective IT professionals? Certainly, the importance of social media and nuts-and-bolts e-commerce technologies (including SEO, customer outreach, and audience identification and communication) continue to gain importance and luster. Geo-location promises to be a white-hot technology for any kind of business that has to recruit, sell to, and service customers on the basis of physical proximity. And of course, mobile development and communications promises to remain the key avenue for businesses to communicate with real and potential customers for the foreseeable future. This certainly lays out lots of great opportunities to develop expertise to boost one’s employability as well as earning power. And I have to say, these niches extend well beyond retail into general business and industry in the private sector, and are gaining considerable traction in the public sector as well.
Lots of good stuff to chew on here, and possible directions for study and career growth as well.
In yesterday’s blog, I commented on outplacement firm CEO John Challenger’s observation that we face a period of “slow growth mode” for the foreseeable future. The accuracy and relevance of his remarks were underscored by today’s release of the Employment Situation Summary from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics for June 2012. The numbers paint just the kind of picture that Challenger might have suggested himself: low job growth numbers (a net gain of 80,000, somewhat less than the 100,000 needed to maintain parity with new entrants to the workforce), unchanged overall unemployment still at 8.2 percent, and little net change by industry sectors except for professional and business services for June.
The information sector, as depicted in Table A-14 shows some improvements over this time last year. The number of unemployed has dropped from 504,000 (June ’11) to 437,000 (June ’12), while unemployment rates have moved from 7.9 percent (June ’11) to 7.1 percent (June ’12). Despite some modest improvements here in our home sector, however, job growth is flat enough to suggest that it will be long and gradual slog before unemployment rates will get back down to the 5-6 percent levels that have traditionally denoted “full employment” here in the USA.
But gosh, things could be worse. I heard on NPR earlier this week that average unemployment in the EU is around eleven percent, with some of the worst-off countries in that bloc at levels over 20 percent (such as Greece and Spain, where austerity and ultra-lean budgets have resulted in the dismissal of many public sector employees, and where businesses keep retrenching as well). Let’s hope that some crisis does not derail this slow growth mode we’re currently involved in, and do away with job growth altogether.
This line is from John Challenger, CEO of Employment and Outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. whom I heard intone this phrase on NPR this morning with long, drawn-out “Oh” sounds in the middle of all three words (sort of a three-syllable spondee, for poetry fans). There’s a press release to go with his pronouncement, of course, but it falls way too short of the disappointment and despair that his phrase delivered so forcefully over the air as I heard it. The way he drew out the vowel sounds and gave equal emphasis to all three words really brought the impact of this situation home to me as I listened.
Here is that situation, then, as he explained it for the foreseeable future: we’ll potter and putter along on a very slight slope of improvement, unless some major disaster or crisis comes along to derail such modest growth as we can maintain and sustain. With this perspective in mind, tomorrow’s June employment situation summary from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics should be unusually riveting, even though I guess we should expect that report to convey something like the “same old, same old” growth trend once again.
To return to the original NPR story, they’re forecasting that tomorrow’s numbers will show 176,000 jobs added to private employment for June, which tops the May numbers by about 40,000. Joel Prakken, chairman of the company that produces the survey for ADP (its sponsor), said in the latest ADP National Employment Report:
The gain in private employment is strong enough to suggest that the national unemployment rate may have decline in June. Today’s estimate, if reinforced by a comparable reading on employment from the Bureau of Labor Statistics tomorrow, likely will ease concerns that the economy is headed into a downturn.”
This is what I call “looking for the silver lining,” when it comes to interpreting the numbers. Most economists recognize that job growth of 100-200,000 per month is needed simply to absorb the entry of new workers into the ranks of the employed. Given that current unemployment is two-plus points over what is considered full employment in the USA (which seems to work best when in a range of 5.5-6.0 percent), we really need numbers over 250,000 jobs added per month — and preferably over 300,000 — to absorb new workers, and to get the unemployed who want to be working full-time back onto somebody’s payroll. The ADP survey forecast is enough to pick up new entrants into the job force and perhaps provide a few slots for those out of work as a result of the recent downturn, but it spells out Mr. Challenger’s phrase very clearly when you consider it means five or more years before long, slow growth can make those unemployment numbers move down past 8 percent, and perhaps even dip below 7 percent after that.
And that, of course, is why tomorrow’s employment situation summary looms unusually large for the fortunes of the economy and the equity markets. With the Dow once again flirting with the 13,000 mark, and the S&P 500 on a recent high, I think it’s safe to predict that the directions of the markets tomorrow will hinge on the trends in the upcoming report from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Stay tuned: I’ll have more to say after I get a look at that report early tomorrow morning.
At the end of June, Microsoft held its first “Windows Server 2012 Jump Start: Preparing fro the Datacenter Evolution” Jump Start class online. Attendance was a pretty amazing 2,064 from 103 countries with an unheard of Overall Net Satisfaction (NSAT) rating of 189 (200 is perfect, and never happens), according to the Born To Learn blog that announced the release of the videos made from that very same course. These were all recorded in HD, and have been published to TechNet Edge, where they are available for free. Here’s the complete module list for download and access, pulled straight from that selfsame blog:
• Windows Server 2012 Jump Start (01): Core Hyper-V
• Windows Server 2012 Jump Start (02a): Virtualization Infrastructure, Part 1
• Windows Server 2012 Jump Start (02b): Virtualization Infrastructure, Part 2
• Windows Server 2012 Jump Start (03a): Storage Architecture, Part 1
• Windows Server 2012 Jump Start (03b): Storage Architecture, Part 2
• Windows Server 2012 Jump Start (04): Continuous Availability
• Windows Server 2012 Jump Start (05a): Multi-Server Management, Part 1
• Windows Server 2012 Jump Start (05b): Multi-Server Management, Part 2
• Windows Server 2012 Jump Start (06a): Security and Access, Part 1
• Windows Server 2012 Jump Start (06b): Security and Access, Part 2
• Windows Server 2012 Jump Start (07): Remote Connectivity and Networking
• Windows Server 2012 Jump Start (08): IIS, DHCP and IPAM
If you’re even the slightest bit interested in checking out what’s coming up with Windows Server 2012 — due out in Q4 2012 (probably October) — be sure to check this stuff out. It’s gotten rave reviews, and the price can’t be beat. There’s at least 6 hours of great materials here, so you’ll want to set aside some time to work your way through the dozen modules that are available.
Wow! Talk about a LOT of hoopla. The recent announcement of the Surface tablet in Los Angeles last Tuesday has unleashed a firestorm of comment and controversy around Microsoft’s super-secret foray into Tablet computing. So far my favorite comment and analysis on this emerging phenomenon comes from Ed Bott, who has posted three times this week on the Surface tablet in his ZDnet blog:
- June 21: What OEMs desperately need to learn from Microsoft’s Surface
- June 19: Microsoft’s new Surface tablets make a solid first impression
- June 21 (slide show): The tech press on Microsoft Surface
Copied from the first slide in Ed's 7/21 slide deck on press reactions
Microsoft is saying that the Windows 8-RT version of the Surface will be available around the same time that Windows 8 ships (probably in October 2012) and that an Intel i5 full-blown PC model will follow sometime in the first quarter of 2013 more than likely. Of course, I can’t wait to get my mitts on one to see if it lives up to the hype, or falls to the pans and potshots. But it looks like that’s going to be a while yet before too many of us will be able to satisfy our gadget lust … err, I mean … our interest in new and well-engineered portable computing devices.
The MCSE: Private Cloud just went live last week, and yesterday MS Learning person Victoria Sopher posted to Born to Learn a Congratulations message that identifies everybody she’s heard about (or from) as having already reached that milestone. A lot of this speed and momentum comes courtesy of the community-backed 60 Days to MCSE initiative that got up and running last April when the first outlines of the program were announced. It may have actually taken a little longer than 60 days for the earliest signers-up to reach the MSCE: PC (as it’s being abbreviated now all over the place) but that’s only because it took longer than 60 days after the group formed for the exams to go live!
Here are the names or handles of the first 7 folks known to have earned the MCSE: PC, to whom I also extend my congratulations:
- Rasmus Haslund
- Adam Richards
- Paul Sanders
- Mitch Garvis
I’ve been distracted by a rush-rush project lately, so I missed the news from last week (June 13) that the exams for the MCSE: Private Cloud are now live. That is to say you can now register for the following exams at any Prometric testing center:
- 70-246 Monitoring and Operating a Private Cloud with System Center 2012
- 70-247 Configuring and Deploying a Private Cloud with System Center 2012
Note The Private Cloud certification requires candidates to show continued ability to perform in this technology area by completing a recertification exam every three years.
All right, after all the moaning and groaning about the new Windows 8 Metro UI it’s definitely time to start mining this sometimes absurd and irritating situation for some humor. And now, there’s a great parody video of Windows 8 that YouTube user “LaughWithLulu” has posted that makes the most of strong emotions and reactions to that UI. You’re definitely going to want to check this out!
Visit this Windows 8 CP Offical Demo Parody link to watch this sometimes cheeky, occasionally brilliant, and completely over-the-top send-up of the Windows 8 UI. WARNING!!!: contains occasional mild profanity and extreme instances of bad taste. I love it, but you may want to consider your organization’s AUP before screening this at work or around small kids.
In the hoopla surrounding the duelling candidates’ visits to Ohio yesterday I was struck by repeated reports that with unemployment below 7% in Ohio, it’s a tough sell for the Republican candidate to promote doom, gloom, and dismal employment to such an audience. Then this morning, I saw a blurb in the Business section of the Austin American Statesman that indicated even though unemployment has jumped recently in the area, the starting point is 5.5 percent and the ending point only 5.8 percent.
I guess that puts my metro area ahead of Ohio, which may be good for local pride, but that’s not the real point of this blog. My musings today are to try to understand what’s brought unemployment down in these areas to see if there’s anything in there for the rest of our country, which is now subject to overall unemployment levels of 8.2 percent as per the latest US Bureau of Labor Statistics report for May, 2012. And actually, the REAL number is probably over 10 percent when you factor in those workers who have been unemployed long enough not to register on the official count any more (the so-called “discouraged workers” who are believed to be no longer looking for work, and whose numbers are probably two or three times the 830,000 that the US BLS estimates in the May report).
In chewing over what’s going on, I see several interesting things at work:
- a resurgence in manufacturing, mostly for newer and greener industries (this one attaches more to Ohio than to the Austin area)
- a surprisingly young general demographic (median age in Austin 31, in Texas overall 40.8; median age in Ohio 36.2, in USA overall 36.9) Admittedly, Austin has the youth edge, but we’re smaller and our reputation is hipper than Ohio. But cities like Cleveland and Cincinnati are undergoing amazing renaissances that put them much more on par with “The Live Music Capital of the World” than many people think.
- high-tech, high-tech, high-tech: both areas are benefiting from lots of interest and activity in technology focused industries and development work, particularly for information technology.