Is Their Kool-Aid Staining Your Training?By CWNP On 04/09/2009 - 15 Comments
I'm often asked by individuals wanting to get into the IT networking industry where they should start. My answer, like everyone else's, has always been:
1. Cisco CCNA - if you're going to work in a Cisco-centric environment
2. CompTIA Network+ - if you're not
Given Cisco's dominance in the networking arena over the last 15 years, many people opt for Cisco's CCNA. How many employers, even Cisco competitors, ask for Cisco certifications as part of their job requirements? I worked at Foundry Networks, once upon a time, and was hired in-part due to Cisco certifications. Back when there were publicly-announced System Engineer (SE) openings on Aruba's website, Cisco's CCIE was usually part of their suggested qualifications. Everywhere you go, it was more of the same.
Just the other day, Motorola pointed out to me their frustration with having to reprogram their engineers' minds after they have been trained by Cisco on Wi-Fi technology. They cited a fundamental difference in philosophy where Cisco believes that Wi-Fi is just an extension of the wired network, and Motorola believes in the all-wireless enterprise. They made a strong and valid point that, while the engineer might get high-quality training, they also get seriously indoctrinated into Cisco's philosophy without even realizing it. This philosophy serves only Cisco's bottom line.
Do Cisco competitors ask for Cisco certifications because they want to employ engineers who know Cisco gear for competitive reasons? Perhaps that's 25% of the equation. The other 75% of the equation is that the manufacturer needs to know that the candidate has a given level of training and certification - a given level of provable knowledge. Why Cisco then? Because traditionally Cisco has been the only decent networking education game in town. Individuals wanting to beef up their personal credentials in order to stay marketable know this about Cisco certs and therefore, pursue them.
Cisco's Education is The Matrix. If that doesn't make sense, go here:
Cisco is fundamentally about one thing: world dominance through superior fire power (metaphorically speaking). It's about owning it all. In some parts of the networking industry, Cisco is the undisputed leader - not only in marketshare, but also in product quality. Any reasonable person has to give credit where credit is due. But I think it's also important for that same reasonable people to also understand that being #1 in one part of the industry doesn't make you #1 in every part of the industry. Paraphrasing John Chambers, it's Cisco's goal to be #1 or #2 in most, if not all, of the product lines that Cisco offers. This is an admirable goal for sure, and I can personally identify with that level of competitiveness. :-) With this as a goal, Cisco has to be aggressive with its training programs, and it has to build high-quality training programs built around its products. People often miss that part... 'built around its products.' Wi-Fi education & certification is no different. Cisco has the responsibility to its customer base to train them on Cisco products, but remember what kind of training it is: product training...with some Cisco philosophy mixed in for good measure. We call this philosophy training 'Kool-Aid.'
...and that's the reason for today's rant.
I'm sure you'll be glad to know that Cisco is mixing up a few million fresh new gallons of Pantone 7477 Kool-Aid. Cisco has already launched its CCNA-Wireless (Q4/08) certification and is preparing to launch its CCNP-Wireless (Q4/09, targeted for a July release) and CCIE-Wireless (Q3/09, targeted for a late April lab exam release) certifications soon.
CCNP-Wireless will, according to their roadmap, be made up of:
1. Site Survey course/cert
2. Wireless Voice course/cert
3. Mobility Services course/cert
4. Wireless Security course/cert
Not as market-relevant as CWNP's forthcoming roadmap (thanks to a new group of 22 Wi-Fi Ninjas called the CWNE Round Table), but not way off-target either. But hey, I'm biased. :-)
What does this mean for the industry at large? Tons. It means that Cisco is going to try to redefine, in one swift blow, how wireless networking is done at every level. A bit late to market? We think so, but who will notice that they were late after their classes have been running for a year? This stroke will be broad-reaching, and if other manufacturers are not prepared, this will be more than just painful. It will be a death knell. Why, you ask?
Cisco's upcoming education blitz will be a massive volley for the mindshare... nay, the very soul... of the industry's engineers, administrators, and end-users. It is entirely possible that, given Cisco's go-to-market budget, the dozen or so other vendors in the Wi-Fi space will be completely overwhelmed by this onslaught to discredit their architectures, product offerings, and Wi-Fi networking philosophies. Mind Share = Market Share. It's a fact. Forced-fed Kool-Aid is on its way, served by-the-pitcher.
Is it competition for CWNP? Of course. You know it, and we know it. But let’s not forget the inherent difference between a Cisco-created certification and the CWNP proposition. Simply put, it’s a matter of neutrality. We have it; they don't. That is why CWNP exists as the Wi-Fi education/certification alternative.
CWNP is about standards and technology, no matter the vendor. CWNP is the Kool-Aid antidote. CWNP is Switzerland. CWNP is the red pill.
One issue within the industry lies with the importance of certification itself. Within most Wi-Fi manufacturers, training and certification is treated as a support mechanism - often just an afterthought - instead of the strategic marketing tool that it can be if properly executed. Many VARs and end-user organizations treat it as a luxury - nice to have when you can afford it, but often the first thing to go when funds are low. For an education freak like me, this is a frustrating thing, and I know I'm not alone. Though I doubt there are too many people with as much passion about this topic as me, one analyst seems to come pretty close: Paul DeBeasi with The Burton Group. If you're not yet familiar with him or his work, you will be soon enough. His blog is found here:
Paul keeps his eye on the ball and obviously loves to learn - two things that make a great analyst. Paul is the analyst to keep your eye on over the next 5 years - trust me on that.
In case you missed Paul's guest spot on Aerohive's September 2008 webinar, I carved out (with permission) the part that pertains directly to Wi-Fi education and certification. Give it a listen; it's short, but spot-on.
Excellent presentation! Also, I'd like to give a big shout out to the Aerohive team for championing education among their employees, VARs, and customer base. It warms my heart to see that kind of commitment to the 'people side' of the Wi-Fi equation.
Another renowned analyst, Craig Mathias, recently published a good article on Wi-Fi certification/education here:
Thanks for the mention Craig! :-)
Now, back to that Kool-Aid...
I stumbled across an image that is representative of most of the networking world from an education standpoint. I bought it so that you could get the full benefit by seeing it right here in the blog:
Does this represent you? Your partners? How about your customers? It surely begs the question, "What will you and your organization do in light of this forthcoming frontal assault?" More of the same perhaps?
Devinator's shout out to Cisco:
Thank you for helping to raise awareness of the importance of quality Wi-Fi education. Anything that encourages education is OK with me. If you check among the ranks of the CWNP certified, you’ll find many (200+ and counting) a Cisco employee among them. In fact, Cisco employs 15 of the now 77 CWNEs worldwide. You know the value a quality certification – a CWNP certification – carries. And while having you join the party (so to speak) changes the dynamics of the game a bit, our game plan at CWNP isn’t going to change. We’re going to do what we have always done: provide the best vendor-neutral Wi-Fi training and certification program in the industry. You may be the proverbial 900 lb. gorilla, but we’re quick and adaptable and not tethered to one set of Wi-Fi equipment. Bigger isn’t always better.
Words of wisdom to live by:
(for other manufacturers)
'The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in combat.'
- Devinator's Dad (Marine Corp, Vietnam Veteran)
(for everyone else)
Take the RED pill.