Fast Tracks and Shiny Plaques


HP has announced a new certification program called ExpertONE (http://h10120.www1.hp.com/certification/expert_one-networking.html).  This appears to be the culmination of the acquisition of 3COM/Huawei and the rebranding of Procurve as “HP Networking”.  In this new program, they have consolidated their existing tracks and certifications to fall into the familiar 3-tiered system of associate (Advanced Integration Specialist or AIS), Professional (Advanced System Engineer or ASE) and Expert (Master Advanced Systems Engineer or Master ASE).  The current tracks include networking, wireless, security, and voice.

What is of particular interest is the “Fast Track” program.  This program allows an individual certified in a competitor’s certification system to use these certifications to achieve an equivalent HP certification level.  For instance, if you hold a valid CCNA, you can take the HP2-Z04 Building HP Procurve Campus LANs exam and achieve the HP AIS: Networking certification.  Taking the same test and submitting a valid CCIE: R&S gives you the Master ASE: Networking certification.  While I can say that I like the approach that HP has taken by allowing existing vendor certifications to count towards their certification track, I do have a couple of problems with it.

1.  It’s a major modification from the existing track. My reasoning for this?  In the previous track, you could take one test that covered the convergence aspect of Procurve switches (basically multicast routing and QoS) and you could achieve the ASE: Convergence certification.  In order to become a Master ASE: Convergence all you needed to do was submit a valid CCVP certificate. (http://h10147.www1.hp.com/training/certifications/technical/convergence.htm)  That’s what I did.  And for the next 11 days, I am still a Master ASE: Convergence.  I even have the shirt to prove it.  But as of November 1st, that track will expire and there is no current projected replacement for it.  In an effort to realign their business tracks, HP has expired all previous certifications in favor of the new ExpertONE program.  No option to recertify in a track.  In fact, it appears the ONLY way to become a Master ASE is to hold a CCIE (or perhaps JNCIE) and take this one online test.  No other major vendor has ever expired all of their certification tracks at once, to my knowledge.  When Novell moved from Netware 5 to Netware 6, if you were certified on Netware 5 you could still claim to be a CNE, but Novell would inform those that asked that you were not certified on the current OS.  I’m still a MCNE on Netware 6.  I’m an MCSE on Windows 2000.  All expired tracks, yet the certification is still valid.  But with HP?  Nope.  No ASE for you unless you have the current certification.  But that’s not the most concerning thing about this.

2.  HP seems to be trying to attract Cisco talent out of spite. It’s no real secret that HP and Cisco in the last year have gone from friendly rivals to outright war with each other.  From the Cisco “California” UCS product line to the acquisition of 3COM/Huawei, the pitched battles keep getting fought over and over.  In fact, the announcement of the ExpertONE certification track was released at the same time Cisco announced changes to the CCIE Service Provider, CCNP: Voice, and CCNP: Security tracks.  HP has done everything in its power to pick as many fights with Cisco as it can.  And this new certification track is no different in my mind.  By claiming that anyone with a valid Cisco certification can now hold an equivalent HP Networking certification, HP is telling networking professionals they value the learning that those professionals have accomplished, even if they don’t care much for the logo on the certificate.  One test could certify me in 3 or 4 different tracks for HP due to my Cisco certifications.

This appears to me to be an effort by HP to win over a large portion of the networking professional community by giving them a head start in the HP certification program.  I can say that the idea of being able to gain some nice HP certifications because of my standing with Cisco is a nice idea.  But at the same time, I wonder what is going to happen in the future.  The Fast Track program won’t last forever.  HP is already prepping new tests and tracks for the November – January timeframe.  In my mind, that says that if you want to take advantage of the Fast Track program, you’d best do it now.  It may not be long before HP decides to ‘expire’ the Fast Track option in favor of new, developed coursework.  I’m also curious how long the CCIE will be a prerequisite for the Master ASE.  While you could be very certain that you are getting the cream of the crop by requiring a CCIE as a prerequisite for any certification, given HP’s previous actions of excising any trace of Cisco they can find makes me wonder how long it will last.  Perhaps until HP can implement their own lab program similar to the CCIE or JNCIE.  But those programs take time to develop and properly implement.  Until that time, I think HP is viewing the CCIE as a necessary evil.  And, quite possibly, HP will use the numbers of CCIEs gaining Master ASEs as a marketing tool to justify how advanced their certification program is becoming.

In the end, I think that HP has got the right idea.  While the prospect of losing my Master ASE due to reorganization does chafe somewhat, I think the program realignment was necessary to make the certification program have some prestige and level the playing field.  However, I’m couching my opinion until I see exactly how long the Fast Track program lasts.  And I hope that this isn’t just another example of the networking professional community being dragged into a vendor war.

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2 thoughts on “Fast Tracks and Shiny Plaques

  1. Dear networkingnerd,

    Thanks for saying HP has got the right idea; we’ve put a great deal of time and effort into redesigning our program to be inclusive of both existing HP certification holders as well as IT professionals who have achieved certifications elsewhere. And since we’re talking about certification, there are a few inaccuracies in your post that I would like to help clarify:

    First, while it is true that HP is launching a new portfolio of networking certifications, we are not expiring the old certifications as of Nov. 1st. As someone who achieved the Master ASE Convergence, you will continue to hold that credential. You are correct that we have not announced a new versioning for the Master ASE Convergence; therefore your certification remains current and will continue to be current until a new version is released. As with any new certification, currently certified individuals are invited to learn new skills and upgrade to the next certification revision; however, their existing credentials are never “expired.” An Accredited Integration Specialist (AIS) 2006 is still at liberty to include that certification on his/her resume,etc.. Likewise, someone with a 2008 Accredited Systems Engineer (ASE) certification can do the same, as can a 2009 Master Accredited Systems Engineer (MASE). (Note the “A” in the HP naming convention stands for Accredited, not Advanced.) The only thing HP is doing is saying that there are now 2011 versions of our networking certifications. Individuals may choose to upgrade their certification, or not, on their own timetable. HP does not dictate when or if an individual must update a certification. We do make it easier for people who are upgrading say from a 2009 to a 2010 credential by providing delta exams and clear upgrade path options. For someone who possesses a 2004 credential, as an example, the recommended training path and exams will be longer.

    Second, it appears that you may be mistaking the 2009 Campus LAN certification with the new certification fast-tracks. The 2009 Campus LAN certification program was specifically focused on allowing a Cisco-certified engineer (CCIE or CCNP) to quickly become cross-trained on HP’s ProCurve products. The new fast-tracks announced last week allow Cisco-certified engineers the opportunity to move more quickly through the certification structure. There are actually ten Cisco certifications that are mapped to the new HP Networking program. Depending on level, the time savings is as much as 77%. It’s also inaccurate to say that “One test could certify me in 3 or 4 different tracks for HP due to my Cisco certifications.” Depending on the specialization and which Cisco certifications you hold, there will likely be multiple recommended courses and required exams. Full program upgrade path and fast-track details may be found on the HP Networking Certification Site. http://h17007.www1.hp.com/us/en/training/networking-portfolio.aspx

    HP ExpertONE is not a Cisco certification “trade-in” program so much as one that respects –and takes in to account — the experience and knowledge many networking pros already have, but becoming HP Networking-certified will require some additional learning.

    Third, as part of our announcement last week, we also announced that fast-tracks would be forthcoming for other third-party certifications. This will be consistent across the entire HP ExpertONE portfolio and is not an “attack aimed at Cisco.” There is a gap in the training and certification industry today whereby people with certified skills in a particular area are forced to retest and take training for skills they already possess. This is a gap that HP is committed to closing—at least for our part. Fast-tracks are not a limited time offering and will continue as a key part of the HP ExpertONE strategy for the foreseeable future.

    Thanks for the opportunity to clarify the above points.

    • Thanks for the clarification Rebekah. When I originally authored that post, the information about ExpertONE was a little sparse, so I wasn’t for sure how the Campus LAN 2009 cert fit into everything. It had the most information available, so I assumed that some of your new offerings were going to be patterned on it.

      I am happy to hear that the ‘expiration’ of credentials is not something that is going to happen. In fact, leaving out the Convergence track would have left a gap in your portfolio and I’m glad to see it will be retained for a while. Knowing that I can use my Procurve knowledge and still show my customers that I am a Master Accredited (that sounds better than Advanced ;)) Systems Engineer instills a sense of confidence that can’t be bought or sold. And that helps me do my job and win bids for my company.

      My comments directed at the “attack on Cisco” don’t stem so much from this particular program, but the general attitude across the board that I’ve seen. It’s not to say that a little conflict now and then isn’t a good thing. It tends to encourage innovation in both participants and drive the market as a whole. But, let’s be honest, HP’s relationship with Cisco at this point can at best be characterized as a few degrees south of frosty. I’m very interested to see how this is all going to play out in the coming months.

      The inclusion of other vendors for upgrade paths was something I was looking for and it does help quite a bit for those people that may not have had exposure to Cisco.

      Thanks for taking the time to drop by and clarify those points. I’m always willing to stand corrected when someone is willing to point out errors in my logic or reasoning. And the link was very helpful in showing me the upgrade paths and options available. Carry on the good work, and good luck!

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