Its official....the CCIE is dead.
Everyone knows that the CCIE is a grueling and difficult certification to pass. The certification consists of a $350 written test and a super expensive (and difficult) practical exam at one of Cisco's handful of test locations around the world. To make matters worse, the average candidate takes more than one attempt at the lab before they see a "PASS" score.
The VMware Certified Professional (VCP) is the hottest certification in the IT industry right now. The technology world has only begun to scratch the surface of what virtualization has to offer. Cloud computing and virtual desktops are the hottest themes in the data center today. The VCP requires the candidate to attend a week long hands on class in order to sit for the exam. There is no such thing as a paper VCP because the class requires each student to have actual experience installing, configuring, and optimizing a VMware environment.
In the 1990s, the CCIE was the road to riches and fame. There was only a single CCIE track and being a CCIE meant that you knew everything about Cisco's product line. The few who passed the exam were truly the best of the best and many went on to have great impacts still seen on the industry today. Being a CCIE was very coveted by the networking industry because it was assurance that the individual really understood the protocols (and in some cases even wrote the protocol). Networking, back then, was still a growth field and things looked great for the Cisco certified engineer.
Flash forward to 2011. Cisco is still around, but is no longer in a growth market. The data center has become king and every company is finding a way to tie their product offering into this new growth market. Cisco is clawing and scratching to gain entry into this market with their Unified Computing platform (UCS). Cisco is finding stiff competition in this new market and inroads are few and in between.
VMware has revolutionized how IT managers view the resources in their possession. A new breed of engineer is needed to man this data center. Engineers that are deeply skilled in servers, storage, and networking. Thus, Vmware released the VMware Certified Professional. This certification requires classroom training which puts an end to the "paper" cert. The data center is no longer a collection of Windows and Linux servers, but has become something bigger - a collection of resources which we can utilize efficiently in whatever manner we see fit.
GROWTH ADVANTAGE: VMWARE
VMware is as important to the data center today as Cisco was to networking in the 90s. The VMware Certified Professional (VCP) is instrumental in building the data centers of tomorrow. The knowledge required to become a VCP is nothing to sneeze at. It requires the individual to know and understand servers, storage, and networking.
At last count, there were only 53,000 VCPs in the world (2010). Conversely, there are only ??,??? number of CCIEs in the world. Cisco removed the link showing the actual number of certified CCIEs about a year ago as there was no VALUE any longer in showing the number. A CCIE today is not in an "exclusive" club, but rather a "popular" club similar to Microsoft's MCSE.
The truth is that there are too many CCIEs for any one to call it an "exclusive" club. Today, the CCIE is like earning your wings in the military or passing your bar exam. It will get you the interview and it may be your FIRST job in networking. No more does the CCIE mean that you are bringing years of hard experience to the table.
CREDIBILITY ADVANTAGE: TIE
How about salaries? CCIE salaries have been stagnant since the 1990s. Today the average CCIE commands a salary of $108,000.
In 2001, CCIEs commanded higher salaries between $112,000 and $124,000. Why the decline in salary? Are these CCIEs not getting pay raises? I think the answer is that Cisco skills have become a commodity in the marketplace today.
While a relatively new certification, the VCP commands a very respectable average of $102,000 for its holders.
SALARY ADVANTAGE: CCIE (arguable if you remove channel partners from the equation, though)
It is not fair to compare the VCP against the CCIE in terms of career prospects and return on investment if we don't consider the cost of obtaining the certification. The VCP requires the student to take a $2995 five day class from an authorized VMware training partner and then to pass a $175 test. The typical VCP candidate will spend 100-200 hours outside of the class room preparing for the VCP test. The CCIE, on the other hand, requires the candidate to take and pass a $350 written multiple choice"trivia" test then to take a grueling one day lab at a cost of $1400 per attempt (where few candidates pass on the first attempt). The typical CCIE candidate spends 500 hours preparing for the lab exam.
COST ADVANTAGE: VMWARE
Considering all the above criteria, it is quite obvious that the VCP is the better certification to pursue today. VCP holders make nearly as much money as CCIEs (and, who knows, in a couple years they may actually make more). In my opinion, the ONLY thing holding CCIE salaries above $100,000 are the Cisco channel partners. For most organizations, a router or switch is simply a device that sits in a closet collecting dust next to the retired Novell system. There is a reason why there are more systems engineers than network engineers. Virtualization experts are required to know server systems, storage arrays, and (yes) even network knowledge to about the CCNP level. Is it no wonder then that VCPs should be considered more valuable than CCIEs in 99% of all companies (again, I am discounting the channel partners who are the only ones paying six digits to CCIEs)?
My grand daddy once told me that it is better to work smarter than it is to work harder. In that same regard, the VCP proves the smarter choice for the IT worker today.
VCP vs CCIE FINAL WINNER: VMWARE