How to Become a Brocade Certified Engineer – with Joe Cannata

by Mirek Burnejko

Joe CannataThis is an interview with Joe Cannata. Joe is the Sr. Manager of Certification in Brocade Networks. He is an amazing and very helpful person. Today we talk about past, present and future of Brocade certifications.

In this interview you will find:

  • How to become Brocade Certified Network Engineer (BCNE) if you have a CCNP certification?
  • How many exams you must pass to become a Brocade Certified Distinguished Architect?
  • Will we see new SDN certifications from Brocade?

Mirek Burnejko: Hello Joe. It’s a big honor to speak with you. Please tell us something about you and your role in Brocade.

Joe Cannata: I started at Brocade in March of 2000. I was the fifth member of what was a brand new group, Education. I was hired to be an instructor, and open Brocade’s first remote classroom, in Atlanta, where I live. I taught, and ran the training center up to 2008. One of my first major projects, besides coming up to speed on Brocade products, was to get a certification program going. Now, I run the program, oversee all of our exam development, and handle the marketing of Brocade University and the Certification Program through our social media outlets on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and our large Communities of Practice on MyBrocade. I grew up in the New York area, and have lived in a few states on the east coast. My second move to Atlanta was in 1991, where I have been ever since.

MB: Before I ask you questions that can help our readers tell us something about the history of the Brocade certification program? When did you start and what was your first certification?

JC: We gave birth to the program in May of 2000, with the goal of becoming the industry’s first Fibre Channel certification. At that time, we wanted to build our brand, increase awareness for Fibre Channel, and raise the skill sets of all of the employees being hired in large numbers during that booming era. We also wanted to build skills in our OEMs. The more people learned about, and used our products, the better they became in deploying them properly, which helped us by decreasing calls to support, and also creating an army of SAN evangelists. Our first certification, Brocade Certified Fabric Professional launched in October of 2000.

MB: A few weeks ago I achieved the BCNE (Brocade Certified Network Professional) title and I love the experience. Please tell us, who is the perfect candidate for your certifications? Is it a client who work with Brocade technology every day, a Brocade partner or maybe everyone who wants to learn something about networking?

JC: We have four main target audiences, in no particular order, our employees, our OEMs, our channel partners and then all of our end users. We hope to train and certify anyone that needs to work with or manage networking equipment, be it SAN, IP and now Ethernet Fabrics. We also want to attract people who have networking background, that certifications from other vendors, who can translate their skill sets and achieve Brocade Certifications. That makes them more valuable to their employers or to the industry if they are seeking employment. Brocade also wants to reach those studying in school, as they will be the next generation of network engineers.

MB: Brocade offers several certification tracks. Can you briefly describe who should think about certifications from these tracks?

Brocade SwitchJC: The Brocade Certification Program has four tracks, each representing the main technologies we offer. Our Data Center Track would be for anyone in a SAN environment, using Gen 5 or earlier FC switches. Our Internetworking Track is aimed at those who work on IP networks. Our third track is Converged Networking, and this focuses on the newest technology, where Brocade has been a pioneer, Ethernet Fabrics. We have a fourth track, for those working in mainframe and FC environments, called FICON. Each track is designed to go from basic to advanced skills, covering the necessary disciplines and practices to work in each of those networking environments.

MB: You offer certification and accreditation programs. What are differences between these two programs?

JC: Our accreditation exams are typically, but not always, entry-level exams, used as starting points for the tracks. They are delivered online, unproctored, through our delivery partner Kryterion. They typically have fewer questions, and usually are 1 hour in length. Our certification exams follow a more involved development process, are legally defensible, and are offered in proctored testing centers from our exam delivery partner, Pearson VUE. These typically involve more complex concepts, and are 90 minutes in length, with a 30-minute time extension in those countries where English is not the primary language. We also run our certification exams through a beta process, so people have a chance to sample a new exam, and possibly get certified as a result. This process helps us select the best, and most statistically sound questions. All of our exams meet our high standards for question writing, and de not have a philosophy of trying to trick anyone, or ask people to memorize useless trivia.

MB: Do you offer some kind of fast track or promotions for people with other certifications (like CCNP)?

JC: We have a class called CNE 250 Preparing Cisco Certified Professionals for the BCNE Exam. This class is intended for people with a Cisco background, to leverage their networking knowledge to become Brocade certified. We cover our products, and the differences in the CLIs.

This is $100 web-based class, which also includes a free attempt at passing the Brocade Certified Network Engineer (BCNE) exam.

MB: How about the renewal process? Do I need to pass any kind of exams to maintain my Brocade certifications?

JC: Our philosophy from the beginning has been not to expire Brocade Credentials, and to let the market determine their value. For instance, I am an MCSE, but when I expand on that, and tell people it was on Windows NT 4.0, the value drops deeply. Different programs will have varied views on this topic. Our certification survey for the last two years, where this question was posed, ran at a 2:1 margin against recertification requirements, and the respondents didn’t think that this approach devalued the certifications. This helped reaffirm our present position on this matter.

MB: I was using your online learning materials and I love them. Can you share with my readers what is the best way to prepare for a Brocade exam?

BrocadeJC: Thank you for the kind words. The best place to start is by going to the certification page on, and selecting the desired exam from the drop down box. At that point, the candidate will be taken to a page with all of the details about the exam, such as the objectives, the pre-requisites, and all of the recommended classes and study material. The best preparation is to attend our training, get experience with the associated equipment, use our free knowledge assessment and Nutshell guide to study for the exam , when ready for testing. Unless someone is heavily experienced, the exams are not intended to be passed by someone trying to book-learn the material.

MB: The most interesting certification from your portfolio is Brocade Certified Distinguished Architect. Who can achieve this certification?

JC: The Brocade Distinguished Architect is a credential, earned when a candidate has successfully completed three of the four tracks we offer. That means having passed around 20 exams, covering multiple networking disciplines. We deeply value and respect those who have this achievement. We feature them on our Certification web page in our Honor Roll, and if they desire, they will be featured as the banner graphic on our Brocade Certified page on Facebook. They get a special certificate in plaque form, suitable for wall-mounting, a special BDA shirt, and their choice of a gift.

MB: Please tell us what are your plans for the future. Any new learning materials, new certification tracks?

JC: We update our exams as our technology changes, so that need is always in our plans. In this calendar year of 2013, we will be importing the two SDN certifications from the company we acquired, Vyatta. Those exams will cover the Brocade Vyatta vRouter. The training for those will be available initially from the Vyatta website. We expect to add more SDN-related exams in the future. We also will be adding some advanced troubleshooting exams, for IP and Ethernet Fabrics, and will update our SAN troubleshooting exam. We are exploring mobile options for training materials, with the explosion of portable devices such as smartphones and tablets.

MB: Thank you so much Joe for the interview. I know Brocade shares a lot of great information in social media. Can you tell us what is the best place to find out more about Brocade certifications?

JC: Start by visiting the certification page on and then take a look at the interactive pyramid, and download the Program Overview to get the big picture about the program. We also encourage people to follow us one of our social media sites to get the latest information and program events:

[This is part of the Interviews with Vendors Series]