Data center network certifications emerge for partners

Channel partners may need to invest in new data center networking certifications that are now offered by every leading vendor to support emerging architectures.

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Partner takeaway:Channel partners may need to invest in new data center networking certifications from their vendors in order to offer new architectures that support converged networks and virtualization.

Networking certifications - the bane and the boon of channel partners - have had more faces than Eve over the years. Now they are shifting again to parallel the extraordinary changes taking place around data center technologies and virtualization. Vendors with new network architecture stories are rushing to add advanced data center certifications and training courses for their channel partners.

Cisco, Avaya, Arista, HP, Brocade and Juniper have all rolled out new data center certifications and training programs for channel partners – though these programs are in varying states of completion.

Cisco data center networking certifications and training

In early April, Cisco launched three new Architecture Specialist certifications for Borderless Networks, Collaboration and Data Center.

“The advanced certifications are designed to help our channel partners sell, design, install and support what has become more complex network-centric architectures,” says Tejas Vashi, senior manager responsible for product management at Learning@Cisco.

Before a channel partner can call itself a Data Center Architecture Specialized partner, they must meet the training requirements for five required roles: account manager, architecture systems engineer and three levels of field engineer.

Beginning August 2012, Cisco partners must attain specializations in Borderless Networks, Data Center and Collaboration in order to achieve Cisco Gold Certification. Cisco Silver Certified Partners will be required to have a minimum of one architecture specialization, and Cisco Premier Certified Partners can have either one of the architecture specializations or the Cisco Express Foundation Specialization.

Cisco also introduced additional advanced specializations in data center technology, including Unified Fabric, Unified Computing and Unified Network Services. With the addition of these new specializations, Cisco will  retire the Advanced Data Center Networking Infrastructure and Advanced Data Center Storage Networking specializations on October 31, 2011.

Brocade data center certifications: fabrics and virtualization

In January, Brocade made available three new partner specializations – Application Delivery, Virtualized Fabric, and, Ethernet Fabric Engineer – supporting the company’s Brocade One strategy, which extends data center capabilities to the rest of the network.

The Brocade Alliance Partner Network (APN) program and Global Education offerings are designed to help channel partners capitalize on Ethernet fabric-based technology opportunities, according to Raelyn Kritzer, director of channel marketing at Brocade.

“These new specialized certifications help elite partners drill down further into the technology, increasing their competitive advantage in the market,” she adds.

In keeping with its APN philosophy, Brocade will keep its trainings at either zero-cost or low-cost for its partners.

Brocade also partnered with distributor Avnet Technologies to launch the Avnet Accelerator program, which trains VARs in the U.S. and Canada to design and implement advanced data center solutions. “We hope to replicate this program worldwide by Q3,” says Kritzer.

Juniper data center networking certifications and training

For its new QFabric data center architecture, Juniper Networks requires VARs to add new business- and technology-oriented training, according to Frank Vitagliano, senior vice president, Americas partners at Juniper.

About a month ago, Juniper launched a comprehensive data center accreditation with a focus on sales and technology that requires a number of prescribed courses, says Steve Pataky, vice president worldwide channel development at Juniper.

In lieu of having comprehensive courseware that requires classroom training and takes several quarters to develop, Juniper is making the data center accreditation available through it’s Partner Learning Academy, an on-line education portal. The training and education material is offered at no cost to partners worldwide.

“This allows us to deliver trainings sooner,” says Pataky, adding that hands-on Data Center accreditation training will follow sometime in the future.

Avaya data networking certifications take shape

With the launch of partner program Avaya Connect in January 2010, the company also launched a new competency model that is solutions and architecture based. That includes two new data networking credentials – the Avaya Professional Sales Specialist and the Avaya Professional Design Specialist.

“These two credentials are comprehensive across Avaya data networking portfolio and solutions and are inclusive of the VENA (Virtual Enterprise Networking Architecture),” says Susan Beaver, director of worldwide enterprise channel development at Avaya.

“Channel partners who want to be authorized to sell our data center portfolio will be required to attain the data networking sales and design accreditation, according to Beaver.

The sales curriculum consists of seven on-line courses, takes about 16 hours and is offered at no cost. The design certification consists of eight courses, is comprehensive across the product line and takes about seven days to complete. It costs $500 per student.

Avaya is also in the process of rolling out implementation certifications and support certifications for VENA. An implementation certification for the Avaya Virtual Service Platform or VSP 9000 is available today. Implementation certifications for Avaya’s Ethernet Routing Switches (ERS) for VENA will be available before October 2011.

At the same time, the vendor promises to roll out support certifications in Ethernet Switching, Wireless LANs and the VSP 9000.

Arista takes its data center networking to the channel

Experiencing a growing interest in its data center switches, Arista Networks launched a new channel program on April 19th aimed at recruiting new channel partners. The company also added an Elite authorized channel partner level that requires partners to sign up for its two new certifications – the Arista Sales Expert and Arista Certified Engineer.

“Our Sales Expert certification provides training for resellers on how to position and sell Arista technology while the Certified Engineer training addresses design, data center implementation and support,” says Tushar Kothari, channel consultant at Arista.

The Sales Expert certification is offered via online coursework and is free. The Certified Engineer accreditation is a four-day on-site training and costs $2,500 per engineer.

HP data center networking certification pending

HP Networking is currently developing a new architecture certification track that focuses on network design for the data center with availability slated for Q1 2012. According to Wim Groeneveld, learning solution architect at HP, the architecture certification will likely target intermediate and advanced or master level candidates.

In October 2010, the vendor launched its ExpertOne, a converged infrastructure training and certification program that spans the enterprise landscape. The program offers foundational, intermediate and advanced certifications in network infrastructure, wireless networks and network security that were introduced between November 1 and January 2011.

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