Why CCNA is a dying trade
I currently work for a telecommunications company and work on projects surrounding the upgrade of the mobile network infrastructure. The company like to make sure all their staff have the training they need for their job – all part of an employee engagement and empowerment plan. So, I was sent off on the CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate) course to attain the formal training for the role I currently hold.
As a relatively competent user of AWS (Amazon Web Services), I thought my networking knowledge was pretty good, after all, I define networks in AWS – it’s got to be similar, right?
Well, by the end of day 1, I was happy that my grounding in networking through AWS was pretty similar to that of the CCNA course. By the end of day three, that all changed.
This was the point at which I concluded that CCNA was a rapidly dying trade.
You see, more and more companies are shifting their services to utilize the cloud, how many more? Well, cloud adoption has tripled in the last 3 years, as more companies understand the security provisions in place & start to ‘trust’ the cloud providers to look after their data.
With this shift to the cloud, comes a new way to configure networks, a way that does not require a Cisco engineer.
You see, the way we configure a network in the cloud is abstracted from the detail of the command line script that Cisco engineers currently tap in – it’s now all software defined networking and can be done by a relatively inexperienced (and cheap) technical resource, removing the need for those expensive Cisco engineers.
Of course, the cloud providers themselves will need specialist networking engineers, but they will only need a handful, not the tens of thousands of engineers in today’s workplaces.
The thing is, a traditional engineer, taking days to configure switches, routers etc… has no place in the fast-paced cloud environment. If I can provision a new server in a couple of minutes, I want to be able to utilize it as soon as possible and don’t want to wait for my engineer to configure it.
How long is the CCNA wave going to continue? Well, consider this – more than half of all US businesses already use the cloud in some way or another (source) – granted, this may not be for their entire IT landscape, but it shows an appetite for a more agile, cost effective model for their IT environment.
My experience with cloud migrations is that it is phased, with around 25% of a company’s on-premise infrastructure shifting to the cloud each year (usually as each piece of kit reaches the end of its warranty or support contract), with an average project length of 5 years (inclusive of planning & cleaning up at the end of the project).
That’s just the established companies, almost all the start-up companies launching in recent times utilize the cloud and do not have on-premise infrastructure, so the proportion of America’s businesses utilizing the cloud is only going to increase, as startups flood to AWS or Azure.
With all of this in mind, I would expect to see a year-on-year reduction in CCNA certified engineers in each of the companies that have already adopted the cloud and would expect to see a noticeable, industry-wide reduction in the next 5 years – with the financial sector being the last to relinquish control of their on-premise networks. My guess is that in 10 years CCNA will be a virtually forgotten qualification.