Most people considering vendor-specific certifications think of Microsoft and Cisco first. Both certifications are certainly valuable, and because Microsoft and Cisco are pervasive throughout the industry, knowledge of both vendors' products is a major asset. At one time, however, Novell dominated the network, and anybody with a Certified Novell Engineer (CNE) certificate was in high demand. Is this still the case? NetWare is no longer the number one network operating system. Windows NT, Unix, and, more recently, Linux have edged into this market.
But Novell is far from dead. The difference is that NetWare now often exists in an enterprise alongside other operating systems. In a corporate environment that is increasingly multivendor, the job-seeker who shows up at the door with a CNE and an MCSE will be the one who is most valued. "I think even Novell began to realize that it's multivendor," said Ernie Baker, director of education services at AlphaNet, a full- service IT company providing vendor-authorized training (see the Resources section below for more info). "The value of the Novell certification is in conjunction with a whole lot of others, simply because Novell has such a large installed base. No one throws out the baby with the bathwater on a conversion."
Companies that hire CNEs tend to be larger and more complex, both in terms of scope and mix of operating environments, according to a recent IDC report entitled "Evaluating the Benefits and Market Perceptions of Novell Certification." The report states that organizations with Novell-certified staff support a greater number of operating system environments. Further, companies with Novell certified staff have more employees on average and approximately twice the number of sites, LANs, and dedicated servers than organizations with no Novell people on board. For example, most organizations running NetWare also have Windows NT Server installed, and half also run Unix. The report, which is based on a survey of 200 organizations, showed 135 of the 200 having at least one employee with a Novell certification.
The report indicates that respondents view a Novell certification not as mandatory, but "as a preferred characteristic in their employees." Two-thirds of respondents said that certification plays a role in selection of outside service firms or subcontractors, and one-third said they would only work with firms that have Novell- certified staff.
Life in a multivendor shop
"Single-vendor solutions, while always held as an ideal by the largest vendors, have never been a reality in IT," said Jim Greene, director of certification and business development for Novell Education. Towards that end, Novell has introduced the Certified Directory Engineer (CDE) certification, which Greene describes as both cross-platform and cross-industry. As a prerequisite, you must have either a CNE or an MCSE.
In a diverse network, particularly one running multiple network operating systems, the directory plays a key role. "With the directory-enabled network infrastructure model, we see the ability to bring together one network, and reduce the complexity of bringing it together -- making it much more secure and easier to administer, and faster as well. In that environment, the directory becomes a key technology of bringing it all together," said Greene. "Companies large and small are seeing that as a way of taking their diverse networks and managing them as a single entity. And that's really the beauty of the directory, because it provides that single, secure access."
So does a CNE get you more money? Absolutely, says the report, which shows that over half of the companies that had Novell certified employees paid an average of 14 percent more to those employees. And if you don't have the certificate, most companies are willing to pay for it -- nearly 90 percent, according to the survey.
Greene says that the most popular certification is the CNA (Certified Novell Administrator). The CNA involves one five-day course and a test. The CNE involves six courses with a test at the end of each course. Besides taking courses at authorized classroom training centers, you can also take them online, or purchase a self-study kit from one of the authorized training centers or directly from Novell.