Cisco recently announced its intention to kill off its 10-year old Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert Voice designation, and will reincarnate the voice certification as CCIE Collaboration.
Enterprise unified communications (UC) has evolved from simple voice calls to include real-time collaboration functionality, like instant messaging (IM), presence and video. Cisco will adjust its certification accordingly, helping voice engineers validate the skills they need to support applications for a highly mobile workforce.
CCIE Voice now CCIE Collaboration
The change from voice to collaboration is no surprise, and a reflection of a market in transition, said Rob Arnold, senior industry analyst at San Antonio-based Frost & Sullivan Inc. "Clearly, Cisco is trying to support its pervasive video mantra and want its partners to be prepared for it," he said.
The new CCIE Collaboration certification will include training and assessment for telecom, UC and video network engineers working with voice, video, instant messaging, presence and call centers, the company said. CCIE Collaboration candidates will be able to achieve certification in the same way the Cisco Voice certification was obtained -- via a written exam and a hands-on lab exam. The CCIE Collaboration written exam will be available to candidates beginning Nov. 21, 2013, with the lab exam available beginning Feb. 14, 2014.
Cisco will also be giving existing CCIE Voice certification holders a fast-track opportunity to update their voice certification to CCIE Collaboration.
"We are listening to the feedback … and will be adjusting the CCIE Collaboration requirements," said Fred Weiller, director of marketing for Learning@Cisco. "As a quick preview of the evolution of the CCIE Collaboration certification, a current holder of the CCIE Voice designation will now be able to migrate to a CCIE Collaboration credential by taking the CCIE Collaboration written exam only," he said.
Candidates currently in the process of working towards CCIE Voice certification will still be able to use the written CCIE Voice exam, along with the CCIE Collaboration lab as part of a CCIE Collaboration certification until Nov. 20, 2013. The Cisco Voice certification will be permanently retired as of Feb. 14, 2014, according to the company.
What the change means for the CCIE Voice community
While many IT professionals acknowledge that Cisco needed to update its certification to reflect the evolution of the UC industry, CCIE Voice certification holders may be frustrated by the change.
"CCIE certifications aren't something [an engineer] studies a couple of hours for -- it's not an easy qualification to prepare for," said Neal Morgan, sales manager at Team SOS, a Loomis, Calif.-based IT and IP communications managed service provider and Cisco partner.
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Engineers who have passed the notoriously-difficult CCIE Voice exam after spending a couple years preparing for both the written and lab exams may find it frustrating after learning their certification is going to expire, but the UC industry is changing rapidly. Updating the Cisco Voice certification to CCIE Collaboration makes sense, Morgan said.
"Just the name in itself sounds like a legacy certification," he said. "Calling a certification 'Voice' insinuates the engineer only has audio expertise. In the UC world today, we are dealing with so much more, like higher-bandwidth networks that support more data, video and even mobility.
Team SOS has had a CCIE Voice-certified engineer on its staff in the past, and has plans to help several of its in-house engineers achieve CCIE Collaboration certification status, Morgan said.
Despite some early opposition to Cisco's announcement, many engineers will be taking advantage of either being grandfathered into CCIE Collaboration during the company's limited-time offer or working towards the new certification from scratch, said Frost & Sullivan's Arnold.
The updated program will be a win for enterprises whose UC roadmap includes video, Arnold said. CCIE Collaboration-certified partners and engineers will give enterprises the reassurance that they'll be able to maintain their relationship with Cisco as their strategy evolves and includes more advanced applications.
"There is a certain confidence that grows over time between a partner and a customer because the partner learns the customers' business and the tendencies of its workforce," Arnold said. "It's really important for a partner to have more qualifications to support their customers' roadmaps."