Nutanix aims to create the equivalent of a Cisco CCIE certification for the hyperconverged world, that will establish its thought leadership, with a demanding certification program that tests the ability to design solutions on multiple hypervisors.
Today, Nutanix is unveiling the Nutanix Platform Expert (NPX) certification, in which the company intends to cement its role as a key thought leader in hyper-converged computing. The NPX is demanding in its requirements even by the standards of enterprise certifications. It is also free, however, as Nutanix wants to encourage as many top-drawer people as possible to take it.
“The NPX is an enterprise architect certification, where we are looking to vet people on multiple hypervisors for the Nutanix platform,” said Mark Brunstad, Manager of Nutanix’s nu.school, Nutanix’s education service for customers and partners. “We support multiple hypervisors, so we wanted to get a certification for this. Certification stacks are typically tied to a particular vendor, but we wanted a credential stack for those using multiple solution stacks on Nutanix, since we support multiple hypervisors.”
Customers had been asking for this, Brunstad said.
“With the NPX certification, when a partner comes in with a Nutanix solution, they will be able to give the customer what they most needed, free from being tied to a particular stack,” he noted.
The emulation of the Cisco CCIE and its prestige is a conscious one.
“That’s definitely a driver,” Brunstad said. “We want to have that kind of recognition for the skills our architects, and also our partners’ architects. We are very channel-driven and we rely on those partner skills.”
The comparison with Cisco also extends to how Cisco acquired thought leadership in networking.
“When Cisco launched CCIE in the early 90s, they weren’t yet in the positon where they owned the world,” Brunstad said. “But they had an iron-clad lock on the IP around packet switching and routing because they established an expertise in what at that time was a disruptive technology. One of the things that is really key to establishing thought leadership is not just having a leading solution, but having skilled people with this vision of the future who can use the technology to the customer’s advantage. ‘Not only do we have this winning technology, we back it with this super expert who can do all these things for the business.’ That’s what earns you that cachet, and that what the NPX program is designed to do.”
The NPX certification program requires extensive architectural capabilities validated through written exams, a web-scale solution design, hands-on lab and design exercises, and a live peer review. Graduates complete a two-stage examination progress – the NPX Program Application, followed by the NPX Design Review – that Brunstad compared to a PhD dissertation defense.
“There isn’t another certification that’s anywhere near as rigorous as this,” he said. “We have a brand new solution, but when we ask companies to make a migration to web-scale to enjoy the economic benefits, we want customers to know the architect understands all the legacy stuff that needs to be brought along. To give customers that confidence, we want to make sure the architects are thoroughly vetted, and that’s a big task. That’s why it is so rigorous. It’s not hard just to be hard.”
The program’s pedagogy is designed for very experienced people at the top of the game.
“People with enormous experience work best in peer-based mentoring programs, and the best way to help people of this calibre learn new technology is by mentoring with experts in it, followed by performance based exams that let them demonstrate those skills,” Brunstad said. “There is some paper testing, but the rest of it really is peer vetting and live performance-based testing. The board reviews their work, and if they pass that they sit before a group of their peers to demonstrate their skill set on multiple hypervisors. The last thing we do is have them sit down in a live environment and troubleshoot a box live.”
Brunstad emphasized that Nutanix is strongly encouraging partners to have their qualified people take the NPX certification.
“This is something we are really enabling our partners to pursue,” he said. “It will let them be a ‘go to’ player in any professional services capacity. This will give partners that skill set to pursue big infrastructure products with global 2000 customers.
“We are dedicated to finding talent in the partner community and getting them into the program, and are committed to as many partners doing this as we possibly can,” Brunstad continued. “Many high end certification programs are very expensive, but for people with the desire and the skills, we are offering this certification for free. We think the benefits for the ecosystem are so great that it justifies our investment. We are anxious to help our partners build their Nutanix bench and this is one of the ways we will do it.”