Cisco CCIE Celebrates 20 Years, 2 Million Certs

CCIEFew technical credentials carry the weight and return on investment as the Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert. After two decades, Cisco Systems Inc. is looking to maintain Cisco CCIE relevance by evolving it to encompass the “Internet of Everything.”

Introduced in 1993, the Cisco CCIE has evolved from ensuring networking pros could push packets around efficiently to providing them with the skills to make Cisco-powered networks a business platform and enabler.

When the Cisco CCIE was introduced, then-senior vice president John Chambers (now CEO), wrote of its importance: “The CCIE Program begins where other vendors’ certification programs leave off. It can be compared to completing a university course versus taking college entrance exams. Prospective CCIE candidates must be highly qualified just to enter the program, and then, after taking an intensive troubleshooting course, must pass a rigorous hands-on lab test conducted by senior support engineers. This very stringent set of requirements ensures that only the best professionals are selected.”

Cisco is celebrating CCIE’s anniversary by conferring the 2 millionth credential and a survey that shows the credential remains relevant and valuable after two decades of service.

According to the Cisco survey, 78 percent of network managers say CCIE professionals get up to speed 20 percent faster than non-credentialed administrators and engineers. Most network managers say customer satisfaction is higher because of the contributions of CCIE professionals. And network downtime is 37 percent lower because of skills and work of CCIEs.

“It has been a great pleasure to participate in the CCIE program,”  said Terry Slattery, principal engineer at Chesapeake Netcraftsmen, a Cisco partner. “I contribute back to the CCIE program every time the opportunity arises. I’ve enjoyed the opportunities that it has helped create. It has been amazing to witness the progression of the CCIE, and the networking industry as a whole over the past 20 years. I look forward to seeing where the program goes over the next 20 years.”

Just what comes next for CCIE is the “Internet of Everything” — what others in the industry simply call the “Internet of Things,” a concept that reflects how billions of IP-enabled devices will connect to the Internet and private networks. Cisco pegs the Internet of Things market opportunity at $14 trillion, as more than 50 billion devices will be connected to the Internet by 2020.

Cisco is planning to maintain the CCIE and expand its relevancy to include the philosophy of the Internet of Everything, arming credential-holders with skills for building, optimizing and maintaining networks that can support the device onslaught.

“Every major technology trend relies on a highly secure, resilient network that is prepared to deliver these services,” said Jeanne Beliveau-Dunn, vice president and general manager of Learning@Cisco. ”Cisco intends to meet this growth demand by helping prepare qualified individuals with the skills and experience to design, install, operate and manage these networks and infrastructure. … The Cisco certified community will continue to expand as we offer new and refreshed certifications and education services that equip individuals with the qualifications to support changing technologies and business requirements today and into the future, delivering unparalleled value to the organizations they support.”

Is the Internet of Everything That Big a Deal?

Cisco is fond of hyping trends that drive the sale of its hardware, and the Internet of Everything is no different. But Cisco is correct: The increasingly interconnected, automated and information-driven world will need highly reliable, secure and optimized networks to support myriad devices coming into service.

From a channel perspective, the Cisco CCIE has proven valuable for solution providers to demonstrate the competency of their network practices to Cisco and end users. Individual credential-holders are more valuable than non-certified peers, making them more marketable to solution providers. Few credentials in the channel carry the weight and value as the Cisco CCIE.

For Cisco, the CCIE is quite valuable in segregating solution providers. Technical credentials are one of the primary mechanisms by which vendors like Cisco corral partners into investing in their products and channel programs. Getting partners vested in a credential equates to lowering the likelihood of them switching to an alternate vendor.

The actual value credentials return to solution providers is debatable. Solution providers tend to see credentials as a perfunctory requirement imposed by vendors rather than something translatable into a go-to-market value statement.

Cisco’s intent to extend CCIE into the era of the Internet of Everything means certifications and professional credentials will be a prerequisite for participation in the Cisco community and the future build of technology infrastructure.

A sad footnote to the Cisco CCIE’s anniversary is the June passing of its creator, Stuart Biggs, at the age of 53. He was not only the team leader and creator of the credential, but the first person to receive a CCIE number. Several colleagues and supporters expressed how the CCIE program and the subsequent benefits it created would not have been possible without Biggs’ efforts.