A few times recently I have been asked how I went about expanding my skill set to include software defined networking solutions after being a “traditional networker” for the past 20 years. So here is my story so far.
Three years or so ago, having achieved my 2nd CCIE, I was looking for my next challenge, Software Defined Networking (SDN) was already gaining momentum and so I looked at what I could do in that space. I already had a fairly good handle on Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) but at the time there were no certification tracks geared around Cisco ACI.
VMware NSX seemed the obvious choice, I was already familiar with the Nicira solution prior to the VMware acquisition, along with the fact that NSX being a Network Function Virtualisation (NFV) based solution, uses constructs that are very easy for “traditional networkers” to understand, i.e if you know what a physical router does and how to configure it, then it isn’t much of a departure to understand and configure a distributed logical router (dLR) in NSX, and the same thing goes for NSX logical switches and firewalls.
If you’re familiar with setting up emulators like GNS3 and Cisco VIRL then again you’re already adept at setting up virtual networks so the gap to understanding and configuring NSX really isn’t that much to bridge.
Like most people when trying to learn something new I started playing with NSX in a home lab environment, just a couple of low grade dual core servers with 64GB RAM in each was plenty to create a nested NSX environment, but I quickly found the VMware Hands on Labs (http://labs.hol.vmware.com/HOL/catalogs/catalog/681) were so available and functional that I pretty much just used them instead.
I Progressed to VCP-NV (VCP-Network Virtualisation) and then attended the “NSX Ninja” 2 week boot camp, on the back of which I took and passed (2nd time round) the VCIX-NV (Implementation Expert) an intense 3hr practical assessment on building and troubleshooting an NSX solution.
The NSX Ninja course was great! taught by Paul Mancuso @pmancuso and Chris McCain @hcmccain and gave a great insight into the process of submitting and defending a VCDX-NV (Design Expert) design. VCDX-NV being my main goal for this year which requires the submission of an NSX design and then you defend that design to a panel of experts. The NSX Ninja course was possibly one of the best courses I have ever attended, purely for the amount of interaction and constructive feedback.
Of course what also stood me in great stead was the invaluable experience I had picked up, having spent 3 years working with NSX day in and day out, and having now delivered 3 large production deployments in multi vCenter cross site topologies, as no matter how much training you do, nothing quite burns in that knowledge than working in the field delivering solutions meeting real customer’s business requirements.
As with most expert level certifications it is not reaching the destination that makes you an expert, it’s what you learn and the scars you pick up along the path.
This year I was very proud to be selected as a vExpert and am very much looking forward to participating in the program.
Good luck on your own journeys.