Get the scoop on Novell's updated CNE cert

Novell didn't invent certifications, but it did pioneer their value in the marketplace. Recent updates to the CNE program have reinvigorated the certification. But before charting your course toward the CNE, there are a few things to consider.

Novell created the CNE certification when its operating system was the de facto standard for the local area network (LAN). In fact, the cert's original name was Certified NetWare Engineer, but it has since been changed to Certified Novell Engineer.

Not only did Novell create a program that quickly gained acceptance at all levels of the market, but it also opened the doors for new technologies and innovations. The company was among the first to utilize adaptive testing and to ask questions that required students to access an application. (Sadly, you were at the mercy of the clunky machines that most testing centers set up.)

As the percentage of LANs running NetWare began to shrink—due to the acceptance of Microsoft's Windows NT—the CNE certification lost some of its distinction and the MCSE gained ground. Recently, however, Novell completely revamped the CNE program and created a certification that's once again worthy of your attention.

But before you spend your hard-earned money for training and testing, you should consider whether this certification is for you, what effect the changes have had on the cert and its exams, and where Novell's future cert tracks may lead you. Here's the scoop on all things CNE.

Weigh your options carefully
This certification will not help you at all if you're not using NetWare 6 at least at an administrator's level. If you're looking for an acronym to pad your resume, many are easier to obtain than this one.

Not only is this an engineer-level certification, but it requires a tremendous amount of knowledge and mastery of the product. Although general technology topics are included, this certification is specific to the NetWare 6 network operating system, and the odds of gaining a paper certification in it are incredibly slim.

When you walk into a Novell shop and mention the CNE, those in IT will know how difficult it is to attain it. Look elsewhere if you're not comfortable with NetWare 6 and are just looking for a quick certification.

The track has been simplified
From its beginning, there have been two exams in the CNE track that have exponentially added to its difficulty: Service and Support and Networking Technologies. With the major revamping of the program that arrived with the release of the NetWare 6 track, those two exams are now gone and components from them have been worked into other exams.

You must now take only five exams:
  • 50-677 Foundations of Novell Networking
  • 50-681 Novell Network Management: NetWare 6
  • 50-682 Advanced Novell Network Management: NetWare 6
  • 50-664 NDS design implementation
  • 50-683 Desktop Management with ZENworks for Desktops 4

Gone are the elective requirements and all the multiple areas of specialization that used to exist. There is now only one track toward engineer-level certification, and it offers a direct path toward obtaining it.

Think of it as a trail
Instead of offering many ways to become a CNE, Novell has modularized the certifications. By passing the first exam, Foundations of Novell Networking, you become a CNA (Certified Novell Administrator). If you pass all five exams, you become a CNE. You can stop there or continue toward becoming a Master CNE (MCNE).

To attain MCNE status, you must pass a TCP/IP exam, earn IT Project+ certification from CompTIA, and pass two electives. The current elective choices available are on GroupWise, ZENworks, and BorderManager.

A Certified Directory Engineer (CDE) certification is available to those who specialize in eDirectory. Unlike the MCNE, it does not require CNE certification as a prerequisite, but I would highly recommend it. To become a CDE, you must pass a hands-on, lab-style exam; a testing format not yet included with the other certifications.

Certification is also available as a Certified Novell Instructor (CNI) for those who want to become a teacher at the training sites. The "specialist" certifications Novell used to offer were discontinued as of Aug. 31, 2003.

Say goodbye to adaptive
With a few exceptions, most of the exams Novell now offers are form-based (traditional) exams instead of adaptive tests. This means that you have a limited amount of time to answer a fair number of questions, and each question is independent of the others. This is a major shift from the days when adaptive testing was predominantly used and you found out in a hurry whether you were going to pass.

Table A lists the number of questions currently on each of the CNE exams, the amount of time allotted for each one, and the passing score. As of this writing, all exams are priced at $125.
Figure A
Foundations of Novell Networking
Novell Network Management: NetWare 6
Advanced Novell Network Management: NetWare 6
NDS Design Implementation
Desktop Management w/ZENworks for Desktops 4

Study the right material
It may sound like common sense, but studying the correct material will make the difference between passing and failing. For every exam that is offered, Novell offers a corresponding training course. (The exams listed in Table A are linked to information on this training). If you take a training course, you will see Novell's official stance on topics that work their way into exam questions.

If, like a lot of administrators today, you don't have the time or monetary resources to attend the courses, don't let that shortchange your preparations. The first thing you need to do is get the list of objectives for each course. (Novell makes objectives available for courses rather than exams.) Then, try to find material specifically written from those objectives.

You can find course objective lists for each exam in Novell's Test Objectives Index. To get your hands on the material that corresponds to the objectives, you can often order the manuals used in the classes from Novell Training Partners. You can also purchase the study guides written by David James Clarke, IV and published by Novell Press. For years, Clarke has taken the course manuals and significantly enhanced them to create the study guides—superior test preparation products sold through many booksellers.

As an aside, many years ago I was the publishing manager for a company that published NetWare exam preparation books. Although our products were very good, I used the Novell Press Study Guide to become a CNA and then a CNE.

Be ready to recertify
One of the more recent changes to the CNE is that it now requires Continuing Certification Requirements (CCRs) to remain current. This prevents someone who became a CNE with NetWare 3, for example, from still claiming CNE certification when they haven't touched the network operating system in years.

In November 2002, Novell announced that all CNEs certified under previous versions had until the end of October 2003 to upgrade their credentials by passing an Upgrade exam to avoid losing their certification. You can expect this trend to continue. Know going into the certification that when the NOS updates, you'll need to keep your skills current within a certain time period or you'll lose the certification.

Look for changes
Novell has announced that there well be exams in a Novell Certified Linux Engineer track available by the end of the year, and it recently purchased Ximian, a Linux desktop company. Though no plans have been announced for mixing/intertwining the CNE and CLE certifications, it is certainly conceivable in the near future.

There will also likely be updates in content from NetWare 6 to NetWare 6.5. Although it is unlikely that the change from 6 to 6.5 will require recertification, it is highly likely that the existing courses/exams will be updated to include new material for the latest version of the NOS. Before signing up for any exam or beginning any earnest objective study, make certain that you have the latest copy of the material currently in use.

Emmett's recommendation
The CNE certification track has been greatly revamped in recent years. Once written off as a relic of days gone by, the new track is worth consideration if you are familiar with NetWare and looking to add an acronym to your resume.

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