Cisco's newest certification track aims to attract a different audience than the vendor's traditionally networking-focused one.
The DevNet certification track was introduced in February 2020, along with the consolidated Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) exam and updates to the Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) and Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) tracks. Cisco developed the DevNet track to provide software developers and network professionals with a dedicated path to understanding the opposite field and to gain combined experience in areas such as programmability and network infrastructure.
As the newest track, the DevNet certifications have received significant hype, but is Cisco DevNet worth it for network professionals? Authors Jason Gooley and Chris Jackson say yes because the skills readers learn through the DevNet track can greatly prepare them for the future.
The book Cisco Certified DevNet Associate DEVASC 200-901 Official Cert Guide by Gooley, Jackson, Adrian Iliesiu and Ashutosh Malegaonkar explores the balance of networking and software skills that IT professionals may require in the future and whether Cisco DevNet is worth it.
Editor's note: The following interview was edited for length and clarity.
How does Cisco DevNet differ from other Cisco exams?
Jason Gooley: The biggest thing is everything is code-derivative. So, if it's not typed precisely the way it's supposed to be, you run into issues. If you don't put it in properly, especially when studying, it will not work.
Chris Jackson: It's extremely practical for what you're doing every single day. In addition, when you're coding [or] programming, there are lots of ways to interpret an answer and accomplish a goal. So, typically, people find examples and put them into practice. The thing I love about DevNet is you don't have to figure all that out on your own.
The curriculum and test are built in a way that's very useful. Everything you learn, from how to interact with a RESTful API, code your own back-end systems, automate things you're doing manually -- all of it is extremely practical, and that's the biggest difference in this exam versus others.
Is DevNet Cisco's attempt to contextualize the blurring lines between network and software roles?
Jackson: It's a way to professionalize it. We always have an engineer that says, 'I don't want to become a coder.' Guess what? You've always coded -- your languages were CLI [command-line interface] or other tools. These are things we've done before, but by professionalizing it, a lot of engineers see the value to them personally. They can go home at five o'clock at night because they can automate and be more efficient.
You can't have separate silos anymore. To move at the speed we need today, developers and operational teams [must] work hand in hand, and this is a great way to tie the two together.
Gooley: One thing that came up [at Cisco Live] is: 'How do you see network engineers and operators working with developers?' There are no more network engineers and developers; now, it's network developers. We, the network developers, are the bridge to connect different silos in organizations because, otherwise, [disparate] tools can't work together.
Jackson: It's the best example of open source. People across the globe can contribute to something bigger and better.
This particular certification is the gateway. Once you take DevNet labs and experience how accessible it is -- how easy things like Python are to learn -- you have much of the background you need to be successful. It's those first steps in a greater journey that benefit the engineer personally [and] professionally. For the employer, it benefits agility, scalability -- things they need to be successful.
Gooley: Candidates ask, 'Should I go for a DevNet certification or go the typical CCNA, CCNP and CCIE path?' And we say, 'Why not both?' One feeds directly into the other now.
On the CCNA, there's 80% network fundamentals, monitoring and management and about 20% programmability tasks. With DevNet Associate, it's 80% [programmability] but about 20% of network fundamentals, so there is an overlap where we're taking away silos. In every certification, you get a piece of programmability and automation.
It's scary to some folks starting out. I was afraid of Python. … But it's just another language. It's another process to accomplish the exact same thing. So, don't be afraid to start. If you work, you start getting past that fear. You'll, most of the time, be surprised that not only can you do it, but you can do it well.
Jackson: It's going to be an expected skill set. It's like asking somebody in the past, 'Do you know how to use Telnet?' It was just a tool you used to get your job done. That's what this is going to become.
Where does DevNet fall short?
Jackson: I'd like to see more innovative ways of doing education remotely … so we can get people from across the globe. Because diversity makes everything better, including everyone makes solutions better.
The ability for people to study together is amazingly powerful. We've seen that throughout the history of Cisco certifications. Study groups build the best engineers [and] developers. That's something I'd like to see more of.
Gooley: When we were starting off with certifications, there were three or four books for CCIE, and that was it. You could not get labs unless you paid for equipment. Now, you don't have to leave your laptop to learn. It's huge for any learner but also for businesses and partners who want to use this technology to help their businesses succeed and at a rapid pace without worrying about the risk.
We're starting to see the certification industry move towards this interactive approach, where you have video content and … you see the support aspect of DevNet grow, where you can open a support case and say, 'This is what I'm trying to do,' and have somebody work with you. That's priceless when it comes to learning new technologies.
What's your elevator pitch for networks pros wondering, 'Is Cisco DevNet worth it?'
Gooley: Some folks are afraid they're going to get automated out of a job. I tell those folks, 'If you can automate yourself out of a job, good for you -- because you will be the guy or gal somebody hires every single time because you know how to do everything you need to do and then move on.' There are a lot of misconceptions out there that you have to be this stellar programmer, and you don't.
Jackson: Think about how crazy that concept is. When is the job ever done? When does technology stop? You can't automate yourself out of a job.
Gooley: Never. There will always be things to automate, and once they're automated, you're like, 'Oh, that's awesome. Now, I need these specific systems to talk to these because I need insight or information from my network that I wasn't able to get with disparate systems.'
Jackson: These skills will future-proof you. If the business has an idea and you can turn that into something practical via automation, via programming, you are future-proof. You will be relevant, regardless of technology. This ability to understand a problem and come up with solutions to solve it is never a skill that goes away. Those translate to any environment or new technology. So, it's an exciting time.