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IT professionals often get motivated to learn programmability and automation skills after attending webinars, or reading articles on network programmability, NetDevOps, automation, infrastructure-as-Code, etc.

But learning new skills like Python, Ansible, REST APIs can sometime be very intimidating. Even for very experienced IT professionals. Those of us who are new to network automation may end up spending hours, or even days in debugging their first python module installation issue, or REST API response parsing issue. As a result, it can be difficult to find time and motivation to continue the learning journey before successfully automating your first real task.

Help for new learners

The DevNet engineering and UX team took inspiration from the learning-to-ride-a-bicycle model – i.e. provide training wheels that help learners avoid painful mistakes until they have some basic riding skills.

We’ve done this in the DevNet Associate Fundamentals course. We added interactive, all-in-one learning experiences that include built-in integrated labs. Each lab in the course starts with a preconfigured development environment, with an in-browser code editor and Linux terminal to try hands-on exercises.

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The integrated development environment will help learners do a range of hands-on exercises, including:

  • basic Python programming
  • getting started with Git
  • authoring basic Ansible playbooks
  • making API calls using python to Cisco products like WebEx, Meraki, Cisco DNAC, ACI, and UCS

Preconfigured learning labs remove blockers

These preconfigured, in-browser learning lab environments ensure users gets experience of writing and running realistic automation scenarios, without getting blocked by initial setup challenges. Once a learner gets basic skills down, they can remove the training wheels. Then, the DevNet Associate Fundamentals Course provides instruction to run all these labs on the developer’s laptop.

In addition to great learning labs, the Fundamentals course also has text and videos for each topic to make learning easier. And quizzes to validate your understanding of topics. Throughout, the content of the DevNet Associate Fundamentals Course will help learner acquire fundamentals skills and be  prepared to pass the DevNet Associate Certification exam.

TL;DR – Details for engineers interested in peeking under the hood

The simple interface for the in-browser based integrated development environment hides a great deal of complexity. In face, both the simplicity of the UX, and complexity of the back-end are part of the design.

Starting a learning lab in the course instantiates a preconfigured Docker instance on one of Kubernetes clusters. This Docker instance exposes the terminal and code editor in-browser. For the learner, it acts like a dedicated development box in the Cloud. To ensure lab instructions run seamlessly and repetitively on these development instances, lab authors created custom docker image templates for each lab. All required dependency, SDK, sample code, etc. are preinstalled.

Some labs also require connecting to Cisco product APIs. For this, developer instance are configured to connect with DevNet Sandbox instances of the respective products.

For everyone taking the DevNet Associate Fundamentals Course, all these complexities are hidden. What you see when you start a learning lab is a customized development box. It starts in a few second, and gets automatically cleaned up once you complete the lab.

Our DevNet engineering team puts into practice the Cloud Native technologies that we teach to  engineers on their network automation learning journey. Please leave a comment below if you would like to learn more about specific engineering implementations. We’re happy to hear from you.

Start your journey for DevNet Associate Certification

Achieving Cisco Certified DevNet Associate certification proves your skills in developing and maintaining applications built on Cisco platforms. Start your learning journey for certification by enrolling in the DevNet Associate Fundamentals course.