August 23, 2013 3:27 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
Nobody can deny that virtualization tools, platforms, and technologies are at the white-hot heart of what’s making things happen in IT these days, and driving future growth and development . That’s why I examined a nice infographic from the folks at TrainSignal (now part of Pluralsight, a developer training outfit) with great interest this morning. Here’s just a snippet of what’s on offer: it’s a fairly complete roadmap to the many virtualization credentials currently available that shows how they might be threaded together to create a certification “ladder” or hierarchy.
Top virtualization skills to boost your career – An infographic by the team at TrainSignal, which is now Pluralsight
The roadmap shown is the final panel in a collection of four that make up the infographic. The other three panels cover the following topics, and are worth perusing:
1. Top Virtualization Skills to Boost Your Career: information about topics of interest, and the obligatory plug for TrainSignal online training.
2. Why You Must Learn Virtualization: statistics and pay information to incent IT pros to dig into this topic.
3. Top 10 Most-Watched Virtualization Courses: the list of TrainSignal’s top virtualization courses includes their basic introduction (1), VMware entries (5), Citrix (3 for Xen App, Server, and Desktop) and Hyper-V (1).
Check it out!
August 21, 2013 2:50 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
I got a very nice e-mail on Monday from Joe Cannata, Brocade University’s Senior Manager of Certification. He shared pointers to the results of the company’s 2013 Certification Survey, which polls as many of its certified IT professionals as are willing to respond, to take their temperature on a number of interesting topics. The screenshot below, for example, graphs responses to the query: “What value do you perceive as a result of earning a Brocade credential? (Please choose all that apply)”
Answers to the perceived value of Brocade certification reflect the overall high ratings the program enjoys from the people who’ve earned such credentials.
To peruse the entire set of survey results, see the blog post entitled “2013 Certification Survey Results,” where you’ll find answers to questions about geographic location, employment status, performance improvements, social media, and more. With over 1200 respondents — a reported increase in response rate of 94% over the company’s similar 2012 survey — it’s pretty obvious that the Brocade program is thriving and that it enjoys strong support from its community of certified professionals.
Perhaps even more interesting, Brocade is launching a beta version of the Brocade Certified vRouter Engineer Exam (BCVRE) on September 10, which remains available through October 21, 2013. During that time 150 free seats for that beta exam will be made available to interested IT professionals. For this beta exam, Brocade has adapted the content of Vyatta’s Certified Professional exam with a number of changes and additions. According to a recent blog post from Mr. Cannata entitled “Brocade Certified vRouter Engineer Beta Exam Information” that exam includes 97 questions and runs for 120 minutes (2 hours). Not only will the first 150 applicants be able to take the exam at no charge, they will also be granted free access to study materials. Registration opens next Monday (August 26, 2013) so there’s still time to enroll by following the step-by-step instructions available in the blog post (follow the hyperlink in the preceding sentence). This credential is one of the few currently available in the hot and high-demand area of “software defined networking” (SDN) and very much worth digging into. The blog post also includes links to the Brocade IP Primer, and three different PDF-based Vyatta manuals with useful background and technical information. Check it out!
August 19, 2013 4:37 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
When I posted about SDN (Software Defined Networking) nearly two weeks ago, I didn’t anticipate the huge groundswell of interest and reaction that information would provoke (to see that original post, check out Learning@Cisco Takes Bold Steps Forward into the World of SDN ). To answer the large number of requests for additional reading and information on this subject, I’ve compiled a “materials list” that includes numerous online references, links to a couple of (commercial, meaning “available for purchase”) e-books, PPTs from a course at Duke University, and even a free online course on the subject from Dr. Nick Feamster of the Georgia Institute of Technology. Enjoy!
SDN enables fully virtualized network infrastructures of all kinds: great stuff!
1. Wikipedia “Software Defined Networking”
2. Compsci 514 (Duke University) “Software Defined Networking” (PowerPoint Presentation, 32 slides)
3. Cisco White Paper “Software Defined Networking: Why We Like It and How We Are Building On It” (PDF)
4. Vishal Shukla: “Introduction to SDN – OpenFlow & VxLAN” (book & e-book, Amazon link, $13.77 e-book or $14.49 in paperback)
5. Rajesh K. Sundararajan: “SDN – A Definitive Guide” (e-book only, Amazon link, $9.99)
6. Dr. Nick Feamster (Georgia Institute of Technology; free course) “Software Defined Networking”
7. SDN Central (good general resources on this subject, see especially their SDN PDF Library and SDN PPT Library)
Of all these items, if you feel inclined to spring $10 to buy something, the Sundararajan pamphlet (it’s just under 80 pages, so it doesn’t really deserve to be called a “book” per se, though it is sold as an e-book in Kindle edition format on Amazon), provides an excellent introduction to the overall subject matters, protocols, and technologies involved, in a clean, straightforward and vendor-neutral fashion.
August 14, 2013 5:10 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
I get lots of e-mail from readers of this and other blogs I write on IT certification and career development topics, which also include my “Making it in IT” blog for Tom’s IT Pro, and another blog on the same general topics for PearsonITCertification.com. In the last couple of years, I’ve fielded numerous queries that might best be summarized as “How can I future-proof my IT career?” Before I provide some information on this process, let me explain first that future-proofing is something of a misnomer, in the sense that there’s really no way to make decisions here and now that can keep your career safe and secure for more than 3-5 years. But where careers are concerned, change comes so thick and fast that future-proofing can only protect a career for those topics, tools, technologies, and platforms that we already know about. As futurologists are fond of observing, half the jobs (and supporting infrastructure, including the topics, tools, and so forth just mentioned) IT professionals will be doing in 10 years, don’t even exist yet! That makes serious future-proofing something of a contradiction at best, and an impossibility at worst.
Future-proofing is really just a synonym for well-planned, regular, and systematic career development practices.
But this constant ferment points to a few important principles that IT professionals can use to keep up with (and in many workplaces, ahead of) emerging and important topics, tools, and technologies:
1. Keep up with technology, tools, and platforms. As a serious professional, you owe it to yourself, your employer, and the people whose jobs you help to enable, to keep an eye on what’s new, interesting, and potentially useful as it touches upon the platforms, tools, technologies, operating systems, applications, and so forth, that you work with and support.
2. Choose and pursue relevant IT certifications. For most technical specialties in IT, lots of vendor offerings, and key soft skills (project management, IT governance, risk management, and more) you can find, pursue, and earn relevant certifications to demonstrate and validate current skills and knowledge. The best of these credentials will require regular updates or continuing education to make sure you keep those skills sharp, and that knowledge up-to-date. Use these credentials as a way to keep yourself learning — and earning — in the IT world.
3. Participate in professional activities, groups, associations, or societies. Like-minded (and -focused) IT professionals often congregate through professional groups of all kinds, with active local chapters in many larger metro areas, and active national or global parent organizations holding periodic conferences or meetings. The real goal in joining and participating in such organizations is to spread knowledge, foment learning, and develop a shared sense of purpose and identity. Such organizations are also great for interpersonal networking, and learning about (or even searching for) the next rung to climb on any given career ladder. Please: make use of the opportunities these groups present.
4. Give something back to express your gratitude for what you’ve got. Whether it’s working with underprivileged kids to teach basic and technical literacy skills, or mentoring somebody who’s just getting started down the path to an IT career, you can learn a lot about yourself, and help others to get started and find success in areas where you toil, learn, and earn yourself. Chances are that somebody has helped you get where you are today. Why not pay it forward, and do likewise for others? You’ll often find new interests, and discover new subjects and technologies worth digging into for your own personal development, by helping others figure out what they want to do in IT (or elsewhere in life) and then helping them to achieve their goals.
Though none of these things I’ve described can future-proof your career indefinitely, doing some or all of them will provide an ongoing impetus to keep you engaged, learning about, and active in your field. Ultimately, it’s what you can do today, and are planning and learning how to do for tomorrow, that makes for an ongoing, interesting, and engaging professional life. The drive, attitude, and relationships that you cultivate and develop will bestow a certain amount of future-proofing all the time in small and easy-to-swallow increments. Keep it up, and you’ll keep the future-proofing going. That’s it!
August 12, 2013 5:22 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
Last March, I blogged for PearsonITCertification.com about certifications related to big data and data analytics. In researching that specific patch on the certification landscape, I was able to uncover just over two dozen related credentials from organizations such as Cloudera (3), EMC, HP, IBM, Oracle (10), and SAS (8), among others. I plan to make a systematic search of this arena for Tom’s IT Pro in coming months, but was not at all surprised to get an e-mail from Information Management recently to notify me about another new credential in this fast-growing area. It’s from an organization known as INFORMS (the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences) and it’s called Certified Analytics Professional (aka CAP).
While the cert is now announced, the first exams won’t be offered until early October (check cert page for “Upcoming 2013 Exam Dates” for more info).
To qualify to take the CAP exam, candidates must have a Bachelors (MA or MS) or a Master’s degree, and varying levels of work experience (7 years plus BA in unrelated field, 5 years with BA in a related field or an MA in an unrelated one, or 3 years plus an MA in a related field), along with employer verification of soft skills and “provision of business value”. See the application form for more specifics, and the candidate handbook for more details about the content and coverage of this IT certification (both documents are in PDF format).
August 9, 2013 3:12 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
Microsoft is going to accommodate the many changes to the UI and APIs that the transition from Windows 8 to Windows 8.1 (and Windows Server 2012 to Windows Server 2012 R2) will bring by doing an “in-place” updates to many of its training courses and IT certification exams. By in-place update, I mean that MS will revise the questions for these exams to reflect new capabilities in Windows 8.1 and Server 2012 R2 without actually changing the exam numbers for the certification credentials affected thereby. In addition to the Windows 8 focused exams 70-687 and 70-688 for MCSA: Windows 8, this affects not only the MCSA: Windows Server 2012 exams (70-410, 70-411, and 70-412), but also MCSE exams (most notably, 70-413 and 70-414 for MCSE: Server Infrastructure, but also 70-415 and 70-416 for MCSE: Desktop Infrastructure, and 70-246 and 70-247 for MCSE: Private Cloud as well).
But wait: there’s more!!!
Looks like the HTML5 and CSS3 content for the Microsoft Virtual Academy training will also get some rework to accommodate changes in Windows 8.1 and Windows Server 2012 R2, too.
Learn how the new Windows 8.1 features can make your apps richer and more integrated by taking these two half-day courses, taught by two Microsoft Technical Evangelists with a passion for the technology: Jeremy Foster (@codefoster) and Michael Palermo (@palermo4).
The refresh course is called Windows Store Apps with HTML5 Refresh JumpStart (registration link), and runs all day (9AM – 5 PM PST/UCT -08:00) on August 22. Those developers who are interested in keeping up with changes to the Modern UI and Windows Store apps in Windows 8.1 will definitely want to attend (or stay tuned to blog postings to be informed when recordings of the live sessions are made available, which usually happens 30-45 days after the live training event occurs).
August 8, 2013 4:57 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
Late last week, I had the pleasure of speaking with several members of the Learning@Cisco team about the company’s future directions for SDN, including Jeanne Beliveau Dunn (VP/GM) and Tejas Vashi (Director, Product Mgmt). The focus of our discussion started from a typical marketing PowerPoint slide deck, entitled (somewhat ominously, I thought initially) “Software Automation Drives Evolution of Industry Job Roles.” But our discussions quickly departed from an orderly progression of key marketing messages to a free-wheeling discussion of a pending sea change for the networking industry as we know it today, and what this could mean for job roles, training, and certification going forward.
Software Defined Networking separates data flow from data and networking control, with all kinds of interesting results.
[Image Source: Coursera, which offers a great, free SDN course online.]
Although there’s lots of buzz around SDN nowadays, and it’s associated with all kinds of key tools and technologies, there’s also no denying that two key technology factors are driving SDN relentlessly forward. First, is virtualization, which now embraces network infrastructure elements of all kinds – including switches, routers, UTM, and more – along with the more typical clients and servers more commonly associated with data center consolidation and VDI. Second comes cloud-based computing, which not only puts virtualization through a set of sometimes harrowing paces and uses, but which also presents extremely compelling opportunities for organizations at all scales to forgo capital IT investment in favor of a flexible and scalable “pay-as-you-go” consumption model for technology deployment, maintenance, and use.
These changes affect IT at all levels, and are more profound and far-reaching than many of us really understand at present. Personally, I’m convinced that we’re standing on the leading edge of a series of technology developments that are going to remake every aspect of IT and technology use as we understand it today, and that SDN will contribute heavily to the form and fashion of 21st-century information technology, particularly in the next decade (the 2020s, that is) and beyond. Learning@Cisco apparently agrees with my assessment though they see it somewhat more narrowly than I do: in a “Vision” statement in the slide deck, for example, they talk about creating a “next generation of loyal customers that will transform the world through the power of the network” where I tend to see things a bit more broadly than that. But Learning@Cisco’s strategy to help realize this goal resonates strongly: it’s stated as an attempt “to remove barriers to education by creating new business models, new platforms, and accelerating talent development.”
And the way in which this vision translates into Learning@Cisco’s understanding of how job roles must evolve going forward is also pretty interesting. They see today’s landscape as populated by a four-tier stack of job roles (presented here in bottom-up order):
- Support Engineer: typical network operations technical staff tasked with routine maintenance, troubleshooting, break-fix, and so forth.
- Network Engineer: senior networking technologist, with oversight on Level 1, escalation responsibility, deeper technical engagements and specializations.
- System Engineer/Network Designer: Ranges from design and deployment specialists to overarching network architect responsibility.
- Business Application Developer: provides the software and services that deliver business value from investments in networking services and applications, seeks to provide competitive advantage and increased productivity/ROI.
That landscape is in the process of changing to a different set of four layers, best expressed as follows:
- Software Automation Engineer: starts from the support engineer foundation from the preceding worldview, but adds basic scripting/automation use skills to refocus that role more on software and less on hardware.
- The Software Automation Developer is a new role, one that concentrates on developing network applications to unify, present, and manage the various sources of information about SDN components, and to help businesses make best use of their features and functions.
- Software Automation Designer: provides architectural insight and oversight as to what kinds of combinations of and organizations for SDN components are needed, and drives design and development of enhancements for existing such components, and creation of new ones as needed. Works to ensure that software and automation controls provide necessary management, monitoring, and reporting capabilities.
- The Business Application Developer still resides at the top of this hierarchy and performs more or less the same role as always, though he or she must now be aware of underlying automation and software capabilities, to make effective use of same.
The result is what Learning@Cisco calls a “software-enabled network” that makes full and productive use of SDN components, tools, and automation.
What this is going to mean is the development of a new curriculum and certifications for the Software Automation Developer role, but Cisco Learning isn’t yet ready to talk details, deliverables, or dates. They’re still working on their training and certification models, requirements, and credentials. I’m looking forward to learning more as ongoing work bears more fruit. Count on me to keep this blog posted (pun intended) about further developments as and when they become available. One thing’s for sure: this should make for some very interesting Cisco certifications.
August 5, 2013 2:34 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
I found an interesting press release from CompTIA this morning, thanks to a tweet from GoCertify.com. It seems that the organization has decided to retire its Green IT and IT for Sales exams at the end of this year (12/31/2013).
Green IT retires on 12/31/2013
The press release cites “changes in the IT skills marketplace” as the reason for these changes, and provides this additional explanation for the Green IT retirement:
Introduced in 2010, the CompTIA Green IT certification was designed to validate knowledge and skills necessary to implement environmentally sound techniques within an organization’s IT infrastructure. “The product was developed at a time when organizations felt their employees needed to know more about green IT,” said Carol Balkcom, CompTIA director of product management. “However, at this point in 2013, green IT has become embedded in the way companies generally do business.”
I’m not sure I buy this explanation completely, because while IT organizations have moved toward greener pastures, so to speak, that migration is by no means either complete or ubiquitous. My best guess is that demand for the exam didn’t meet expectations, and CompTIA has decided to pull the plug because they’re not generating the kind of revenue they need to justify keeping on — and keeping up — with rapid changes and developments on the technical side of this field.
It’s absolutely certain that the need for green IT skills and knowledge has only increased since the cert was introduced in 2010. Thus, while the CompTIA members may have felt like IT professionals needed to know more about the field, the response to the cert as measured by the number of seats reserved to actually take the exam is likely to have fallen short. Does this mean that IT professionals felt the cert was unnecessary? Perhaps. It is possible that other credentials — such as the Sustainability Professional for Information and Communications Technology (SP-ICT) or the Exin Green IT certificates – might have absorbed more marketshare and uptake that CompTIA Green IT? Again, perhaps.
I’m sorry to see CompTIA vacate this patch on the cert landscape, but I have no trouble understanding why they might choose to do so. They’ve shown themselves ready to move in and out of market areas — think about the Convergence Technologies Professional+, e-Biz+, DHTI+ (digital home technology integrator, which replaced the HTI+ in 2007), and even RFID+ — as return on their investments in technology areas fails to materialize.
August 2, 2013 2:05 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
As I was listening to NPR this morning, I heard job gain estimates that ranged from a low of 170,000 to a high of 200,000 from the economists, employment organizations, and labor pundits polled for their best guesses as to what the July 2013 Employment Situation Summary* might contain. I also heard broad consensus that overall unemployment would dip from 7.6 to 7.5 percent. As is not too unusual for such prognostications, the experts were wrong on both counts: employment was somewhat lower than forecast, with a total of 162, 000 new jobs added; also, the unemployment rate dipped from 7.6 to 7.4 percent, so that turned out a bit better than the estimates.
For July 2013, the numbers represent one step forward (lower overall unemployment) and one step back (lower new jobs added count than hoped/expected).
Where does this all leave us in IT? The sectors that gained jobs were in retail, food service and drinking establishments, financial activities, and wholesale, which indicates that while we’re still adding jobs — and apparently not suffering from the sequester as much as some, including myself, had feared — many of those jobs are of the low-wage, low-skill variety. Nevertheless, the information sector shows an improvement (see Table A-14* for details), both in terms of number of unemployed in the sector (190,000 for 2012 vs. 172,000 for 2013) and the sector-specific unemployment rate (6.7% for 2012 vs. 5.8% for 2013). By those numbers, it seems that IT is edging ever closer to “full employment” as measured by most labor economists (where unemployment under 5.0-5.5% is considered “normal”).
Does that mean it’s time to break out the bubbly and start buying imported caviar to celebrate? Not quite yet, I fear. But a beer with some cheese and crackers might be just the thing this afternoon, once quittin’ time rolls around. The bottom line: modest gains continue in the slow growth mode I’ve been chronicling over the last two years’ analysis of these monthly reports from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.