Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Cisco Training Bootcamps: Get the Scoop from Subject Matter Experts


Cisco Training Bootcamps have been on the scene for a couple years now. One of the things that makes them so popular is their intensity and real-world application. We sat down with Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) John Capobianco, Bootcamp Developer Advocate, Joe Rinehart, Engineering Leader, and Palmer Sample, Software Engineering Technical Leader, to find out what makes Cisco Training Bootcamps so special. 

Plus, we got a sneak peek at what they’ll cover in the upcoming Cisco Training Bootcamp webinar on December 13, 2023, at 10 a.m. Pacific Time. 

Why are Cisco Training Bootcamps so popular? 

John: I think it’s the way they align with market trends. Enterprises around the world are looking for ways to adopt network automation and get the maximum value out of their Cisco investments. A Cisco Training Bootcamp provides a direct path toward cultural changes, helping organizations adopt automation and programmability. 

Joe: They also address significant business and technical needs like automation and complex product competence. The teaching methodology is well-suited to rapid learning and developing skills that engineers can apply now, not only in the future. Having two learning events close together (the Instructor-led Training [ILT] classes and the deep dive labs) amplifies the learning at every level. It’s like the expression, ‘one-two punch.’

Palmer: I think people like our bootcamps because they answer the question, “Now what?” Today’s competitive business environment requires agile networks that can adapt to mission objectives without impacting stakeholders. As our customers deploy modern infrastructure, they find that the problem is not that the technology is too complex but that it’s different from what we’ve all worked with for so many decades.  

We’ve heard:  

  • “We have deployed Software-Defined Access…” 
  • “We are running ACI but have not moved to an application-centric model…” 
  • “Our team needs to embrace NetDevOps principles and learn automation…” 

Now what? 

Cisco Training Bootcamps remove complexity and focus on what is important. Whether it’s an Operations and Troubleshooting Bootcamp for Software-Defined Campus and Data Center Solutions, or an Automation Bootcamp, our customers leave with the confidence they need to transform network operations and contribute to their team’s success. 

You guys are in the perfect position to know what customers need. What are you hearing from the front lines? What automation needs do customers believe these Training Bootcamps might solve? 

Joe: Customers need to solve problems now, which is why the hands-on component of the experience is so vital. The Bootcamps not only encourage students to learn concepts and configuration, but they also provide the imperative for students to apply them immediately in their environments. 

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Palmer: While customers are eager to automate, they face common challenges, such as ensuring their teams can speak a common language, which automation technology they should choose, and perhaps most importantly, what they can actually do with automation. A Cisco Training Bootcamp addresses these challenges with a unique teaching format. The 5-day training covers a broad range of prerequisite knowledge to ensure students gain a common skillset. The real-world use cases and deep-dive labs show what customers can do with network automation. These labs are designed to progress from the basics, such as learning Git, to popular tools, including REST API Clients and Python. Finally, most learning tracks culminate with a CI/CD pipeline. After the Bootcamp, customers maintain access to code they can immediately use when they return to the office. The overall experience requires focus and teamwork, but the customer response has been overwhelmingly positive. 

John: Some of our former students stay in touch with us for over a year after their Automation Training Bootcamp! The scale and complexity of the modern network can no longer be operated manually. Automation is not just about speed and moving fast; it’s about security, repeatability, testing and validation, and developing CI/CD pipelines as complete solutions. Ultimately, most customers are looking for a place to start with confidence. Cisco Training Bootcamps provide them those initial stepping stones toward success. 

What are the elements of a Bootcamp that make it so intense? 

John: The labs! In the 4-day, deep-dive lab portion, 80 percent of the class is lab work based on real situations and scenarios. Students actually practice what they’ve learned during the 5-day ILT with actual equipment and real problems to solve. There are a variety of ‘spice levels’ (difficulty levels) to challenge even the most advanced student. For instance, they learn things like version and source control with Git and Ansible playbooks and how to automate solutions with Ansible, Python and Cisco pyATS, and CI/CD pipelines. 

Joe: The Deep Dive Labs (DDLs) are all about using the tools, writing code, and making things happen. The labs are action-oriented, and the ratio of lecture versus lab in the DDL is about 20 percent lecture, leaving 80 percent for labs. 

Palmer: I think the intensity lies in the amount of content we cover in such a short period of time. Coupled with the labs, which get progressively more challenging, it’s a lot to learn—especially for students who are relatively new to the technology track they’ve selected. The good news is they have a dedicated team of instructors to support their learning experience. In turn, we’ve noticed our classes often embrace a team mindset, helping each other succeed. Yes, the experience is intense, but it’s not impossible! At the end of the deep-dive lab week, students are exhausted but inspired to continue their journey. 

Between the two types of Cisco Training Bootcamps, automation and product (operations and troubleshooting), what are you finding most popular and useful?  

John: Both tracks are very popular and address different needs. Some customers find the Ops and Troubleshooting Bootcamps more practical for their current day-to-day needs, while others are forward-looking, trying to transform those operations into fully automated solutions.  

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Joe: Each has their niche, with automation and product Bootcamps often running around the same number of times. While we introduced the DevNet Automation Bootcamps first, the Operations & Troubleshooting tracks came along later and remain wildly popular. 

Palmer: It depends. Some customers have a dedicated team managing infrastructure, while another focuses on automation. Some customers are just deploying a technology such as Software-Defined Access. Meanwhile, others have realized that automation is here to stay, so they need to upskill. 

The Bootcamps also complement each other and provide a path for our customers to evolve as their requirements change. For example, a customer new to ACI would benefit from the Operations and Troubleshooting Bootcamp. Then, they can expand their knowledge by taking the Cisco DevNet Automation for ACI when they move to a NetDevOps model. 

Could you tell us more about the new Cisco Training Bootcamp for Enterprise Networking (EN)?  

John: I am really excited about this bootcamp! While we do have an SDA Bootcamp for those with Catalyst Center and a controller-based approach, the EN Bootcamp will enable those customers without SDN to fully embrace automation and programmability. We explore technologies like Ansible and Cisco pyATS, and build toward a full CI/CD pipeline solution that students build over the course of the DDL. And did I mention the lab is IPv6-based around OSPFv3?!  

Palmer: The Cisco DevNet Automation Bootcamp for Enterprise Networking, or as we call it, ‘EN-A,’ is in the final stages of testing. It’s based on Cisco IOS XE software, which is present in switches, routers, and wireless devices and is the backbone of our customers’ enterprise networks. 

After the 5-day instructor-led training, students begin the Deep-Dive Lab (DDL) with a topology consisting of Cisco Catalyst 8000V Edge devices, which are only configured with management interface connectivity. After being introduced to NetDevOps and Git, students will use a variety of modern methods to incrementally configure the simulated branch topology. They gain hands-on experience with test-driven automation, Ansible, Python, Cisco’s pyATS automation framework, REST API clients, YANG models, model-driven programmability, streaming telemetry, and CI/CD pipelines. At the end of the Bootcamp, the simulated branch will be fully configured and IPv6-enabled, with OSPFv3 and BGP in the mix for added excitement. We can’t wait to share the experience! 

What’s the most popular Training Bootcamp so far? Why? 

Joe: Cisco ACI has emerged as one of the most popular topic areas. First, the automation bootcamp, followed by the operations and troubleshooting bootcamp. Naturally, there are fluctuations about which track is the most popular, but these two are nearly always at the top. 

John: People are drawn to ACI and software-defined networking in general, mainly for simplicity, scale, and automation capabilities. ACI was built from the ground up with APIs and programmability in mind, but it is also a departure from classic enterprise networking. There is a bit of a learning curve as things are done differently. 

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What’s the advantage of Training Bootcamps for individuals? 

John: I think it’s the skills they will acquire with real-world examples and the new appreciation for how accessible and easy it is to get started with network automation. It’s also the Cisco Continuing Education (CE) credits they will receive upon successful completion. 

Joe: Many customers do not have 12 engineers dedicated to the technologies covered in Cisco bootcamps. The Training Bootcamps for individuals offers the flexibility of accommodating smaller numbers of students. In addition, we often hear that having the entire team out for training can impact business productivity, so sending the team in waves can mitigate that issue. 

And how is an individual Bootcamp different from the Cisco Training Bootcamps for teams? 

John: The team Bootcamps (aka closed enrollments) offer a private setting for team members from organizations to take the Bootcamp together. One of the natural side benefits of these enrollments is the team building that goes on over the course of the week. Teammates from organizations become closer as they learn these new skills and technologies. They learn, struggle, fail, and succeed together.

Individual Cisco Training Bootcamps have their own charm, as a wide range of individuals come together to achieve the same goals. People from around the world learn together and make friends. It’s quite remarkable. 

Joe: Bootcamps for Teams are structured on a per-class basis, from pricing to project management and tailoring. These Bootcamps can have the content and labs tailored specifically to a single customer, which we do not provide for the Bootcamps for Individuals, a.k.a. open enrollment. 

Where do you see Cisco Training Bootcamps going in the next year? 

John: I am very excited about the EN offering as well as the continued interest in ACI, NSO, SDA, and Meraki. I hope demand goes up. I hope our team grows. We are having a tangible impact on the industry, and I think our days as Cisco’s best-kept secret are numbered. 

Joe: We are releasing a new track called Cisco DevNet Automation for Enterprise Networks, which may be a mouthful, but it addresses the largest installed base of installed devices—namely, those that run the IOS-XE operating system. This has been quite the undertaking, but it hits a relevant area of focus that almost every customer needs. Beyond that, we are always looking at updates and improvements to existing content and labs and expanding into new content areas. 

Palmer: It’s going to be a busy year, for sure. I anticipate that the Enterprise Networking Automation Bootcamps will be very popular, and we have a number of returning customers looking to expand their skills and train new teams. We’ll also be reviewing our current Bootcamps to identify opportunities to add new content and showcase new technologies and capabilities. Nothing in this industry ever stands still, and we look for “force multipliers” to incorporate into the content so our customers stay competitive. Also, our team is frequently accepted to present at events such as Cisco Live! That’s a wonderful opportunity to meet former and future students in person. 

Tell us more about this upcoming webinar: What can customers expect during the event? 

John: We’ll cover all six Bootcamps. Customers will get to know us as instructors if they haven’t met us yet. They’ll get to know our distinct ‘Edutainer’ styles. We will be covering each Bootcamp for about five minutes each to give you a sense of the material covered. You’ll have a chance to ask us any questions along the way. 

Palmer: We’ll also cover the Enterprise Networking Automation Bootcamp, which is in the final stages of testing. We look forward to answering questions that come up. 

Cisco Training Bootcamp webinar  

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