Career / Career Progression

7 Best Certifications to Pair with Cisco CCNA Data Center

by Team Nuggets
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Published on September 12, 2018

On-premises data centers have undergone a major transformation over the past decade. They're on the decline. One Gartner analysis even forecasts that the number of data centers will decrease by 50 percent by 2021, and disappear by 2025.

Even if you're not concerned about data centers going away, it's a time of significant change in IT, and that's not a bad thing — as long as you're ready.

It's always wise to develop multiple competencies. That's why we're looking at the best certifications to complement your CCNA Data Center certification. (Just in case.)

CCNA Routing and Switching

Networking basics are universal to every IT position. For that reason, we're pretty confident that networking jobs aren't going anywhere. If you take a good look at the Cisco 200-150 DCICN exam, the first exam in the CCNA Data Center series, it's similar to the ICND1. Most vendor-neutral, entry-level exams require basic networking knowledge, too.

IT pros who earn the CCNA R&S work with a different class of switch than you'd find in data centers, but they operate under the same principles.

If routing and switching is the plan, you should start with the associate level CCNA Routing and Switching. Our Cisco CCENT/CCNA 100-105 ICND1 and Cisco CCNA Routing and Switching 200-105 ICND2 courses will help you prepare for the CCNA exams.

We're mindful that you have limited time and resources to spend on certifications, but you might want to go further to the professional level CCNP Routing and Switching certification.

Our CCNP R&S 300-115 SWITCH, 300-101 ROUTE, and 300-135 TSHOOT courses will teach you the switching, routing, and troubleshooting skills you need to prepare for the CCNP exams.

VMware Certified Professional – Network Virtualization

You'd be hard pressed to find a data center job that doesn't involve some virtualization.

Cisco does enjoy a commanding market position in networking hardware for the data center. However, it has struggled to extend that position for its ACI software-defined networking product. As an alternative to ACI, some companies are opting to use VMware's NSX virtual networking software.

Unlike ACI, NSX runs on commodity hardware over an IP network. VMware provides a VMware Certified Professional (VCP) option to complement your Cisco data center credentials—the VCP – Network Virtualization (VCP-NV), which covers VMware NSX software.

If you already hold a Cisco CCNA or CCNP certification, you can qualify for VCP-NV by passing either the vSphere 6 or vSphere 6.5 Foundations exam, and then the VMware Certified Professional 6 – Network Virtualization exam.

Prepare for the vSphere 6.5 Foundations exam by taking our VMware vSphere 6.5 (VCP6.5-DCV) with 6.7 Updates course, led by Keith Barker and Jacob Moran.

Any Cloud Certification

This category is less a backup as a seeming necessity — cloud certifications (any of them).

These are valuable in their own right, and they're a perfect pairing with the CCNA Data Center. Even entry-level certifications, like AWS Certified Solutions Architect, when paired with any CCNA, puts you in prime position for advancement, if data centers stick around. Otherwise, you're well positioned to jump into a cloud role.

Check out CBT Nuggets training courses designed to prepare you to take various cloud certification exams.

CompTIA Vendor-Neutral Certifications

If you'd rather pursue more general credentials, look at CompTIA's offerings. We've selected two, in particular, that will complement your CCNA certification.

First is CompTIA's Cloud+ certification, which is covered by the CBT Nuggets CompTIA Cloud+ (CV0-002) training course.

Finally, given the well-founded global furor around both system and network security, you would be well-advised to earn CompTIA's Cybersecurity Analyst (CySA+) certification. Although we have this last on our list, we could make the case it should be your first step in bolstering your CCNA Data Center skills.

CCNP Data Center

The final certification to pair with the CCNA Data Center is the CCNP Data Center. This certification is a step up from, rather than a complement to, the CCNA Data Center certification.

It may seem counter to the premise to double down on data center certification. It's also essential to keep timeframes in perspective. Seven years in a long time in IT. That's nearly a quarter of the typical career. IT changes quickly.

If you have the time and energy to invest in acquiring additional credentials, then you should consider pursuing the Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) Data Center badge.

How to make the right choice

In choosing certifications to build upon your Cisco data center skills, you have to consider your own personal and professional situations. These certifications represent good practical choices — balancing time, investment, and likely job opportunities in your field.

Career development is a personal journey that takes you deep or wide. In this article, we're making a case for both. Go deep into your current career field. But keep your options open with multiple competencies, notably the foundational networking skills — and as much as you can learn about emerging technologies.


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