You're a networking engineer. You work for a great company with great benefits. You have a solid 10 to 15 years of experience behind you and you know you could get another position by making a few phone calls. Life is good.
So should you throw your work-life balance off kilter by spending the next year or two studying in your off hours to get VMware-certified so you can work on virtualized networks, servers, desktops and even networks?
To be sure, there are a slew of companies active in the virtualization space, including — to name a few — Citrix, RedHat, Oracle and Huawei. CMSWire spoke with two professionals for their take on why VMware certification is the route to take.
For many network engineers, though, that is not the first question to ask. There is a sizeable cohort of professionals who have not considered virtualization as a career path and who should be wondering if it is time to upgrade their skill set.
This may be surprising to some in the tech industry where the most exciting developments seem to focus around the cloud.
"Most of the professionals in the space have not made the effort to upgrade their skills," Ron Flax, vice president of August Schell, a reseller of VMware products and IT services company, told CMSWire. "They haven't had to as they have been operating in the data center world or in a siloed corporate environment."
"A lot of networking people are not in the virtual space, Chris Miller, principal architect for AdvizeX, agreed.
Sooner or later, though, the cloud will beckon -- and when it does, Flax and Miller say VMware certification is the route to take.
"More and more organizations are saying we need to put workloads in the cloud," Miller told CMSWire. "Understanding virtualization is the foundation of the cloud."
As for choosing VMware for certification, that is a no-brainer, Miller said. "There really aren't a lot of other choices. VMware is an obvious market leader and their certification is recognized."
VMware's vSphere product is a fixture in the server market and the introduction of VMware's network virtualization product, NSX, in 2013, was, according to Miller "a game changer."
There are other certifications for virtualization, he added, but "I am not aware of any that are network focused."
Now is the ideal for people to get the certification because the technology is still new and not a lot of people understand it, Miller said. "But demand for it is exploding."
But if you are going to pursue certification strictly to check off a box on your CV or to cash in on an exploding trend, you will be cheating yourself and your future employers, Miller continued.
"This is how I view education in general. If you pursue learning after your initial schooling and degree, it should be something outside of your comfort zone so you can learn from it."
Various Levels, Various Goals
There are numerous levels of certification, which allows students to match the course of study with their career goals.
A certificated associate, for example, is a low-level certification designed for someone who wants to be familiar with the technology. It is perfect, Flax said, for someone in sales who wants to be able to speak intelligently about the technology and issues in the space. "It's not a career changer."
The highest level is VMware Certified Design Expert (VCDX), which qualifies the student for enterprise-level design and implementation of a virtual network. There is VCDX certification for data center virtualization, cloud management and automation, the desktop and mobility and the network. This level "is not easy to reach," said Flax, who does have the VCDX certification.
It is rigorous course of study and the final project calls for the student to design and fully document a production-ready VMware solution and then defend that design before other VCDX-certified experts.
Of which there are only 190, according to VMware.
So who should pursue this difficult, if ultimately lucrative path? Not a college student graduating with a degree in computer science, although that certainly isn’t beyond the realm of possibility, Flax said.
"The ideal student is someone who already has an established career as networking engineer."
Without a doubt, to get VCDX certified, one needs that fundamental grounding about networks, he said. "Networking hasn’t changed in the last 25 years. It is all about boxes and wires for the most part. Virtualization doesn’t change how a network works, but it does change how you manage the network," he said.
"It is a huge disruptive change for the industry and the networking profession," Flax said. If professionals in the space don’t realize that now, they will soon enough.