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Advice to navigate the growing NSX certification track

The growth of the NSX certification track is just one example of how VMware's network virtualization offering is turning into a core component for the company.

VMware's expansion of the NSX certification track and education reflects the product's growth, but the challenges...

reflect how complex the product is. NSX is a complex product to use, even for the some of the most talented IT pros. With NSX quickly becoming one of VMware's flagship products, it makes sense for VMware to create a robust certification program around it.

VMware offers four primary certification tracks focused on the data center, networking, cloud and mobility. While the data center track typically garners most of the attention, NSX has come to the forefront and is on track to become a top-tier networking certification.

NSX certification comes in all flavors

The NSX certification comes in several flavors for all technology levels. All certifications end in NV for network virtualization. The first, the VMware Certified Associate (VCA6-NV) is the fundamental starting point for those new to NSX. Training consists of free online material from VMware based on introduction to virtual networking, NSX and the business challenges that NSX addresses. The certification exam is not supervised and can be taken online. While this certification might not get you a networking job, it is a great way to get an introduction to software-defined networking and NSX.

Traditionally, VMware reps don't have relationships with network teams, but you could argue these certs and classes are even more important for them. Virtualization engineers will not suddenly become network engineers because networking is virtual.
Jason Stahlsystem infrastructure architect at U.S. Bank and VCIX6-NV

The second certification, VMware Certified Professional (VCP6-NV), is the first professional certification level for NSX. Like other VMware professional certifications, this certification level requires a candidate take a certified NSX training class to qualify. The exam consists of both the vSphere 6 Foundation Exam that is shared with the other VCP professional certifications and the VMware Certified Professional 6 Network Virtualization Exam. The exam focuses on many technical details, including the ability to install, configure and administer NSX along a varied range of network topologies.

The VMware Certified Advanced Professional (VCAP6-NV) Design and Deploy certifications are two advanced NSX certifications that focus on the design, deployment and optimization of NSX in a production environment. Training isn't required to take these exams, but you need to have a valid VCP-NV certification, which does require training. Once you've completed both VCAP6-NV exams, you achieve VMware Certified Implementation Expert (VCIX6-NV) status. There is no separate test for VCIX6-NV certification.

Finally, at the top of the list is the VMware Certified Design Expert (VCDX-NV) certification. As with other VMware VCDX certifications, this certification requires you to submit and defend a design.

Roadblocks to NSX certification

In addition to its complexity challenges, NSX also bridges multiple disciplines, making things difficult for those pursuing certification.

"I would like to see continued efforts [from VMware] to advertise the training and certifications to network professionals," said Jason Stahl, system infrastructure architect at U.S. Bank and VCIX6-NV. "Traditionally, VMware reps don't have relationships with network teams, but you could argue these certs and classes are even more important for them. Virtualization engineers will not suddenly become network engineers because networking is virtual."

NSX is very different from products or technologies you can simply configure with a few clicks. NSX starts with the network design, and affects multiple aspects of your environment, including infrastructure, networking and security.

VMware took the same approach with its NSX training and certification programs as it did with vSphere, offering users a gradual approach so that they can determine which level of certification is right for them. Of course, with any certification program there's bound to be a little controversy. In this case the controversy stems from NSX certification educational requirements.

In order to achieve professional-level certification you must first take at least one official VMware training class, regardless of which area you intend to specialize. This educational requirement has a significant impact on VMware certification. The cost and time requirements associated with these courses are prohibitive to some would-be experts, lowering the total number of certified VMware professionals.

Though some argue making these courses mandatory is a tactic to increase profits, it actually acts as a bottleneck to exam dumps and the people that use them. Shortcuts and exam prep sites have existed for as long as the exams themselves. These exam dumps provide easy access to exam answers and an easier path to certification. However, they tarnish many certifications to the point of rendering them useless to employers. Although VMware's educational requirements come at a cost, they serve the purpose of legitimizing the company's certifications.

Just as VMware intends to make NSX technology a cornerstone of the modern data center, so, too, is it making a push for NSX certification by bringing premier network certifications to the virtualized world.

Next Steps

VMware makes changes to its certification program

How to choose the right VMware certification

Navigating the VMware certification roadmap

This was last published in January 2017

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