Continually sharpening the saw

I have been fortunate to have found my way into the networking industry almost 25 years ago, and to have learned foundational skills which have been amazingly helpful to my career along the way. These are skills in topics like binary, IP Addressing and masking, and BGP. These are some of the fundamental protocols used in every cloud, in every network, and across the internet.

These skills have been built upon and refined over this time, continually sharpening the saw. But learning them provided the platform from which to begin architecting and engineering highly available systems. These cornerstone technologies are best described in two words: pervasive, and fundamental.

There have also been a number of technologies that were learned and became tools for a period, or for a niche environment. Like Openflow, for example. A great protocol for some things (like making a switch not switch), but overly complex for other things (like trying to get a switch to just, switch). That’s just part of the evolution. We take in a new technology, pick it up, turn it over, evaluate it for fit, and determine how it will benefit the masterpiece that we are working on. An important aspect of picking the best technology is understanding why you chose it, and to do that means you have to understand its value over the alternatives. Whether we absorbed these technologies or not, they were building blocks in our evolutions.

DevNet Associate certification focuses on cornerstone technologies

The DevNet Associate and core exams are focused on what I call cornerstone technologies. They are both fundamental, and pervasive. 85% of the exam focuses on vendor neutral open protocols and architectures (like BGP), that apply across the Cisco portfolio, as well as cloud environments. The focus on API structure, and particularly RESTful API’s, applies not just to a Meraki system as it does to every cloud provider. Not just one, every single Cloud provider, uses the same structure. The same HTTPS verbs. The same Authentication schemas and protocols. The same response codes. Every one of Cisco’s partners and competitors have converged on these technologies as the basis for communicating with their automation systems.

After having taken many certification exams with multiple vendors, I found this curriculum and the exam experience to be very relevant to the work I do on a regular basis. I am not a programmer. I am not a developer. I work with these technologies, and my customers are asking me questions on how to use these tools.

There is the 15% of the exam which focuses on Cisco’s application of those technologies (and given the vastness of Cisco’s portfolio, module 3 of the syllabus has a lot of technologies). But this is 15% of the exam. The remainder of the exam is focused on the cornerstone technologies that are ubiquitous across the industry. This is why learning this is like learning BGP and IP 20 years ago. It runs on everything. What BGP is to the control plane, and IP is to the forwarding plane, Rest API’s and HTTPS, are to the management plane. This is the new normal.

Certify your skills on technologies of the future

The modules of the exam, and the technologies covered includes the below. I reference each as cornerstone (Pervasive, foundational), or building block. The cornerstone technologies have become de-facto standards and are ubiquitous across all major cloud providers, the major software vendors, and most modern third party sites like Wikipedia and google, for integrations.

  1. Software structures  – 15% of the exam; Cornerstone Technology
    1. XML, JSON, YAML
    2. Software Concepts
    3. GIT
  2. API Structures and Methods – 20% of the exam; Cornerstone Technology
    1. HTTP verbs and response codes
    2. REST Fundamentals
    3. API fundamentals
    4. Basic python to a rest API call.
  3. Cisco Technologies and API applications – 15% of the exam; Building Block
  4. Application Deployment and Security; 15%, Cornerstone technology
    1. Cloud models,
    2. CI/CD and unit test.
    3. Containers and Docker
    4. Application deployment networking and security.
  5. Infrastructure and Automation, 20% of the exam, Cornerstone technology
    1. SDN and management models
    2. Model driven programmability and standards (IETF)
    3. Testing and Simulation
    4. IAC, infrastructure as code, and principles.
  6. Networking Fundamentals, 15% of exam. Cornerstone of everything connectivity related.

You come from a position of strength

We will all enter this DevNet associate exam from a position of strength, we simply must understand that strength. If you have a networking background, and nominal programmability, you should have module 6 (networking) and parts of module 3 in the bag. If you are a developer, base python, bash, and application development principles should be simple for you, and strengthening around application of those technologies into networking will be an area of focus.

The Devnet Certifications are providing the base skills for network automation for the next 20 years

I look forward to working with many of you on these new skills over the next 20 years, scaling out our information systems securely and deterministically.

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William Nellis

Systems Architect