The Year of the Network

I’ve shared a couple times in previous weeks how much I’m impressed with the Cisco Learning Network.  It was just recently that I started my own journey to beef up my networking skill set and also validate what I already knew.  I’ve been working in data center environments for over fifteen years but I’ve been primarily a “systems guy”.  Networking was in a separate silo and thus handled by network engineers.  I’ve long had two of the three classic pillars of IT infrastructure covered: compute and storage.  I just needed to complete the foundation by tackling the third pillar, the network.  So, earlier this year, I decided to dub this year, “The Year of the Network” and thus, I set out to work on my Cisco certifications.  I thought it especially important since I work for an IT consulting organization and just about every customer engagement I’ve been on has required a strong understanding of networking.  And with my company being a strong Cisco partner, it made no sense to not have the foundational skills or certifications in place.

I believe my situation is fairly similar to many others in the industry.  Even with virtualization helping to break down many of the silos in our data centers, we still find that the silos still persist and are ever prevalent.  It seems that many VMware admins know networking as far as the Standard and Distributed vSwitch in vSphere.  Sure, we’ve had to learn about VLANs and load distribution across physical NICs, but what goes on internally on the physical switch and/or router has remained behind the curtain.  We might know the OSI layers and basic TCP/IP addressing; heck we had to know that to get Microsoft certified.  But how does one configure a VLAN, troubleshoot Spanning Tree Protocol, or even provision an EtherChannel?  It seems that this understanding might be lacking, but is ever so important for today’s virtual data center engineer to grasp.  That might explain why we see industry experts helping to fill that gap.  Take for example the recent book by Chris Wahl and Steven Pantol, “Networking for VMware Administrators” or the vBrownBag crew running through the Cisco certification track on their weekly podcast.  There is a reason these resources have been popping up and have been so popular.

So, I personally have been pursing the CCNA Routing and Switching certification.  I’m just a few weeks from achieving that milestone (yes, this late in my career), at which point I’ll set a schedule to pursue the CCNA Data Center track.  I’ve actually been more involved in UCS and Nexus engagements, but I wanted to make sure I had the routing and switching fundamentals down cold before trekking down the data center path.  I’ve been primarily studying Todd Lammle’s book, “CCNA Routing and Switching Study Guide“, supplemented with the great networking courses from Pluralsight.com.  However, I also just recently came across the Cisco Learning Network and am blown away by the sheer volume of content on this site as well as access to a huge community of folks on the same path.  What an amazing site for anyone pursuing a Cisco certification or even just looking to learn some new concepts.  I’ll be doing a separate post on this, but I just wanted to give a quick shout out to these folks.  Well done!

I’ll continue to share my thoughts as I work down this path.

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