Is the DevNet Associate Worth It?
| devops - Ross Heintzkill

Is the DevNet Associate Worth It?

For over 20 years, Cisco has been working to make it as easy as possible for companies to customize their equipment for their own unique needs. The reasons seem pretty obvious – after all, Cisco provides networking, Internet of Things, collaboration, open source, and data center solutions to more companies around the world than any other manufacturer. Making sure that developers and automation engineers can make changes to or automate the operations of all that hardware is just good business sense.

The DevNet program from Cisco is a training and education program that trains developers and IT professionals who want to make full use of Cisco's APIs. If it's a Cisco product or platform, with DevNet training, you can write applications or integrations that make the Cisco technology even more powerful for you or your team. The DevNet Associate is the first certification in that program, and if you're on the fence about spending the time to earn it, read on and learn if it's worth it for you.

What Is the DevNet Associate?

Cisco's DevNet Associate is an entry-level certification in Cisco's DevNet certification track. The DevNet Associate certifies an IT professional's (usually developers or automation and integration engineers) skills and knowledge in writing simple applications that extend Cisco equipment or in developing integrations that automate the behavior of Cisco technology. The entire DevNet certification program covers an IT professional's familiarity with extending, optimizing, automating and customizing Cisco products, platforms and APIs in software-defined networking, security, cloud, data center, Internet of Things, and open-source software development.

Someone who earns a Cisco DevNet Associate certification would know how to implement simple network applications on Cisco platforms. Perfect for software developers who want to make the most of the network equipment their applications will run on, someone who earns Cisco's DevNet Associate would know how to implement automation workflows across network, security, collaboration and computing infrastructure. The DevNet Associate certification also validates your problem-solving skills with Cisco APIs and modern development tools.

Cisco's DevNet Associate has no prerequisites and earning it only requires passing one exam, the 200-901 DEVASC.

What Does the DevNet Associate Exam Test?

The Cisco DevNet Associate certification has one exam, called 200-901 Developing Applications and Automating Workflows (DEVASC). The 200-901 DEVASC is a two-hour exam with six main exam objectives. They focus on an IT professional's familiarity with network fundamentals and access, IP connectivity and services, security fundamentals, and automation and programmability. The DevNet Associate exam's objectives are:

  • Software Development and Design
  • Understanding and Using APIs
  • Cisco Platforms and Development
  • Application Deployment and Security
  • Infrastructure and Automation
  • Network Fundamentals

Because it's the entry-level, associate exam, much of the DEVASC is focused on general skills and broad knowledge around software development, automation and APIs. For a software developer just getting started with network automation, that means it would be a good idea to focus on the basics – Cisco-specific development and APIs is only a portion of the DevNet associate exam.

How Much Does the DevNet Associate Exam Cost?

Cisco's DevNet Associate exam, 200-901 DEVASC, costs $300 to attempt. Since the DevNet Associate exam doesn't have any prerequisites and Cisco doesn't require any work experience or course attendance, $300 is all it should cost to earn the DevNet Associate certification.

Cisco recommends at least a year of hands-on experience with developing and maintaining applications built specifically for Cisco platforms before attempting the certification. If you don't have that experience, you might find the DevNet Associate exam particularly challenging. But there are courses designed to prepare you for the 200-901 DEVASC which can make up for that by providing hands-on labs in the course itself. If you decide to take training like that, be sure to add the cost of it when you're working out how much it'll cost to earn the DevNet Associate.

What Experience Do You Need for the DevNet Associate?

Officially, you don't need any experience to attempt the DevNet Associate. Because it's the entry-level certification on Cisco's DevNet track, Cisco designed it to be accessible to people with limited time and experience in an automation or integration role. Cisco's only recommendation is about a year of experience before attempting the exam. You should have experience with Cisco platforms and working with applications before you attempt the DevNet Associate exam. You should also understand the idea behind APIs and have some experience reading Cisco APIs.

Cisco's later DevNet certifications focus more on specializations – at the associate level, Cisco only expects you to be comfortable with writing applications and integrations that automate basic behaviors. Specifically, you should be familiar with writing code and with the applied practices of software development. You should understand Python data structures and how to use Git. You should know how to use common Git operations like commits and pushes or pulls, but you should also understand the advantages of version control and different software development methods like agile, lean or waterfall.

A lot of the content of the DevNet Associate exam deals with APIs generally, so you should be prepared for tasks like constructing a REST API request. You'll have to know enough about authentication methods, common constraints, and API styles to troubleshoot requests. And it'd be a bad idea to try the exam without knowing Cisco's SDK documentation or the APIs that apply to Cisco's various network management platforms, compute management platforms, and all the rest.

You should also have experience with deploying applications on the network and maintaining application security. The DevNet Associate exam will also rely on extensive experience with automating a network's operations, so you'll need experience with network infrastructure, infrastructure as code and network topologies.

Who Should Take the DevNet Associate?

Software developers, network automation engineers and system integration programmers who work with Cisco equipment or tech should consider earning the DevNet Associate. If you work in one of those positions – or you're thinking about moving into a role like that – the DevNet Associate exam could be the way to get your foot in the door with automating Cisco equipment.

DevNet Associate Worth for a Software Developer

Obviously not every software developer will find the DevNet Associate worth it. But software developers who need to deal with network operations or who are supporting teams of network administrators will likely find the DevNet Associate worth it. Sometimes a software developer should earn the DevNet Associate because they're writing applications that they need to know will run efficiently on their network. But more often, it's software developers who get tasked with improving network operations that find the DevNet Associate worth it.

Of course if you and your company don't rely on Cisco equipment, that part of the certification won't be particularly helpful. But since it's an entry-level certification, the DevNet Associate does focus more on understanding APIs broadly. Only about 15% of the DevNet Associate exam is specifically focused on developing for Cisco platforms. The rest of the exam covers material that's true of most networks – understanding network design and topologies, reading automation protocols, using API calls are all universal skills.

If you're a software developer and you really need to learn network automation but don't work with Cisco equipment, you could do worse than the DevNet Associate. For developers who do need to automate Cisco technology, the DevNet Associate is maybe the best place to start your integration and automation career.

DevNet Associate Worth for a Network Automation Engineer

Yes, the DevNet Associate is worth it for network automation engineers. More so than software developers, it might be worth earning the DevNet Associate even if you don't work on Cisco equipment. The knowledge of how to understand and use APIs, how to deploy a network application that's safe and secure, how to automate network traffic and hardware is universally useful for a network automation engineer.

And if you do work with Cisco equipment, the DevNet Associate is a necessary first step to the more advanced certifications that you'll want to eventually earn. After earning the DevNet Associate, you can specialize your network automation skills in application development, operations, security, or infrastructure. But before you do that, the DevNet Associate doesn't just lay the groundwork of your knowledge, it also documents and validates the knowledge and experience you have. Cisco's certification program is well-respected and for automation engineers, the DevNet Associate is a crucial early step to promotion and advancement.

DevNet Associate for a System Integration Programmer

The DevNet Associate is specifically aimed at writing programs and integrations for Cisco platforms – the certification is definitely worth it for system integration programmers. The DevNet Associate focuses on the skills and abilities needed for good systems integration, it also covers the concepts behind maintaining good integration practices.

The reason for a system integration programmer to earn the DevNet Associate is it validates your comfort with Ansible, Puppet or Chef – for example – and proves you're familiar with best practices for automating network behaviors with them. If you work as a system integration programmer, you should plan on earning the DevNet Associate simply because there aren't many other credentials that are so perfectly aligned with your career path.

Is the DevNet Associate Worth It?

The DevNet Associate is definitely worth it for anyone who deals with network automation in one form or another. Even if you write programs that only touch network operations in a small way, studying to pass the DevNet Associate could reveal better methods you'd never considered. On the other hand, if your primary job responsibilities include writing integrations for Cisco hardware or technologies, the DevNet Associate is the first step of many to documenting your comfort with harnessing their APIs and optimizing their behavior to your unique needs. If you don't work with Cisco equipment or network automation, it's probably not worth it. Otherwise, it's a certification that's well worth the time and energy it costs for the specific people it applies to.

Using DevNet Associate to Learn Skills

Cisco's DevNet Associate is an entry-level certification that covers many topics. That makes it perfect for learning skills about writing programs that automate network operations. It doesn't matter how comfortable and familiar you are with network automation, the DevNet Associate is a great place to start because it covers all the bases.

Maybe you just got tasked with new responsibilities and you're not sure where to start, or maybe you realized that systems integration is the next job you want to move into. Learning skills by preparing for the DevNet Associate means you'll get a strong foundation in everything from good software development and design principles to recognizing network hardware functionality and relationships.

The DevNet Associate isn't just for beginners – experienced software developers could go their entire career and never need to deploy their application across a network just like experienced network administrators might not know how to write in Python. Courses that prepare you for the DevNet Associate will teach you skills that bridge the software parts of network automation with the hardware.

Using DevNet Associate to Validate Skills

The skills that go with the DevNet Associate are hard to come by. Plenty of software developers know they'll never need to know anything about network traffic, and lots of network administrators think that apps and software just come pre-loaded on their equipment. But earning Cisco's DevNet Associate can prove to your employer and managers that you've got skills that straddle both sides.

Taking courses to prepare and taking the DevNet Associate exam validates skills in software development, API usage, application deployment, network infrastructure, and network automation. If you're eyeing a promotion to a job that combines the hardware and software skillsets a network automation engineer needs to have, the DevNet Associate can help you prove your knowledge and abilities.

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