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Wendell Odom Q&A

posted in Interviews
by on February 20th, 2012 tags: , , ,

In December, I posted a thread in the Announcement forum asking for you guys to submit any questions you may have for distinguished author and CCIE #1624, Wendell Odom. I sent your questions to Wendell in January and got a quick response but have been a bit slow getting this blog post together. Well, here it is. Enjoy!


Wendell, first off, thanks so very much for sitting down and taking time out of your busy schedule to answer our questions!

How do you feel about Cisco fragmenting their certification paths and seemingly making a certification discipline out of anything they can? Do you feel they’re playing a sort of “catch up” to quickly ratify the newest industry buzzwords in a certification?

Thank you!

Wendell Odom

You’re very welcome.

I think there are probably two factors that have the biggest impact on my personal view of the whole Cisco cert space. First, you have to look at Cisco certs from a Cisco channel perspective. Cisco moves most of their sales through channel partners, and Cisco uses certs to vet those partners. Those certs include many certs created just for channel partners on a very wide set of newish technologies.

So when I see lots of certs on lots of technology areas and wonder if it all makes sense, if I think about it with a Cisco channels mentality, then it seems more reasonable. You can argue whether using certs to monitor/enforce skills requirements on the channel works or not, but if that’s how Cisco chooses to do it, it’s going to be wide and somewhat fragmented.

As to your specific question about whether Cisco uses certs to ratify a certain way of thinking, I don’t think that happens. I think for an emerging technology, the cert has very little effect on driving some “ratification effect”. I think the partners that sell/install the stuff have a much larger impact, because they often have a choice of vendor to push. So I see the new certs on emerging technologies as something that’s just pulled along by Cisco’s motivation to prep the sales channel.

The other idea that keeps me from getting too emotional or negative about the myriad of Cisco cert offerings is to think about the sheer size of Cisco. They just have so many competing forces. Take the Cisco Certified Technician, for instance. That cert program was driven by Cisco’s service folks (the TAC), which is somewhat unusual for Cisco in the last decade plus (I believe).

For example, one somewhat-pure motivation for Cisco is to create a meaningful cert path for people to prove skills as a networker with route/switch; another for voice; another for security; and so on. I think Cisco at least attempts that with CCNA/CCNP/CCIE. However, many parts of Cisco end up influencing what gets into those certs. So in some ways, maybe I’m more amazed that Cisco’s cert space isn’t broader and more disjointed.


Wendell, have you heard any new word on Cisco releasing a educational license of IOS for students/teachers?

Wendell Odom

I have not heard any new word, but I haven’t asked anyone seriously since last summer. However, I did learn that maybe… May 2011 or so that the new IOS licensing changed so that the “right to use” license – don’t quote that term, my memory is a little fuzzy – but that the license that you can use while testing went to an infinite time frame. That is, if you get your hands on it, then it would run forever on your hardware. Maybe that translates to a reasonable Dynamips solution one day.

Every time I ask, I get real responses that tell me that the idea is not dead, but I certainly would still put it squarely in the unlikely category.


What technology are you currently researching/digging into at the moment. Also what is your favorate technology to write about/work with and why?

Wendell Odom

I’ve been focusing on learning, how people think, how people learn, and so on. I live half my work life thinking about things I’ve known for 10-20 years, but then I have to ask how a complete newbie thinks about it, someone who grew up in a completely different generation. Figuring out tools like mind maps can be a lot of fun, and finding whether they help or not is interesting.

Favorite technology to write/work with? I think if I look backwards in time, that’s easy: QoS. I had the opportunity to work on a very interesting SNA QoS study back in the late 1980s – a buddy of mine led the study – and from there I was hooked. Writing the QoS Exam Cert Guide was a blast. If you like puzzles, and how things work, QoS can be fun. MPLS may be the most fun to write something new about now, because of how it makes you think about age-old concepts that get used in new ways.


While writing a new book, do you copy and paste sections from your other books where the topic is the same?

Wendell Odom

It depends. Great answer, huh? If there’s a new book, and it has a similar audience as an existing book, then I might copy a section. More likely I would copy a table of reference info that would not change, or a figure, or photo, but write the text to match the style of the book. But every case is different, topic-by-topic, so it’s not a systematic choice one way or the other.


How much wood could a woodchuck chuck, if a woodchuck could chuck wood ?

Wendell Odom

2w – 2, but I can’t recall when to subtract 2. ;-)


How come ‘CCNP ROUTE 642-902 Official Certification Guide’ has *eight pages* worth of errata?

Wendell Odom

If that’s simply a complaint, please accept my apologies for the number of errors. If it’s a sincere question, my apologies as well, and I’ll try and answer. I didn’t do a good job with keeping errors out of the book, plain and simple. The blame lies with me. I still think it has good use, and has many redeeming qualities, but the number of errors certainly does distract.


What do you think the next big change in routing/switching will be?

Wendell Odom

That’s a visionary question, and I’m more of an attentive observer than a visionary. But watching and waiting, I think the campus LAN will change dramatically, not in physical topology but in technology, performance, and convergence once one or a few technologies finally fully replace Spanning Tree. Something – a derivation on data center LANs (TRILL, FabricPath, etc), Open Flow, even layer 3 to the LAN edge – will kill Spanning Tree in the campus. We’ve been trying to design STP out of campus LAN designs for what – 15 years maybe?

And of course, for vision, I should just write the word cloud in here too, cause everyone else does. ;-)


One of Cisco’s biggest strengths has always been that it’s very innovative. Is Cisco being short sited in their firing of a large portion of their staff so their books show up with a larger profit margin? Will that effect their innovativeness and what is the likely hood that it could hurt them in the up-coming years.

Wendell Odom

I have a good friend who’s an Ivy League MBA, but that’s definitely out of my league to answer. I can speak culturally, though, just on my own observations. Cisco does appear to be willing to act, quickly and decisively. So if they are starting towards some long-term demise, I don’t think it’ll happen fast – more like a 2-step backwards, 1-step forward path. (I’m not predicting that would happen, just saying I think it’s not going to be a 10-steps back then 10 more back path.)


My understanding is that Juniper and other companies are starting to get some more of the market share, how is this going to effect us, and what are Cisco’s plans to smite them.

Networks are by most standards very difficult to configure and maintain, and very very in-tolerant of mistakes (1 mistake and your network and everything connected can die). Do you for-see this ever changing? for example typing “P2P vpn″ and having that negotiate a P2P VPN with Or name based ACLs that do the majority of the work in the back ground, for example permit COPS to CAMERAS.

How is “the cloud” going to effect IT staffing? For example thin-clients, you’ll need more high level people to manage the massive servers… but it will lower the number of entry level positions such as the computer tech who use to image/fix the PC will now just swap out the hardware, and what will be the long term effects of this?

Wendell Odom

Every technology shift has the chance to change the mix of jobs, the number of jobs, and where the person has to live to do the job. I’ve never in my life taken any serious measurable macro look at the numbers of jobs created/lost by those changes. So this is just opinion.

Cloud’s a wash for jobs. It moves them.

The desktop revolution, which I’d call thin desktop plus a migration towards tablets, may reduce networking jobs, but probably not IT. I think the integration of tablets into business, data management with all those apps, can be a nightmare/opportunity depending on your view of it.

The US Bureau of Labor and Stats says networking is looking good. See

I’ve also seen recent articles at Network World that college CS degree enrollments are way up.

However, once you make the big choice of a career field, I’d suggest that there are a couple of important things that ought to be permanent in your own plans for development, so that no matter how much the job market size changes, you’ll be better prepared:

1 – Read/do to expand your skills outside your current job. EG, join a volunteer organization and be in charge of getting a group to do something to build people management skills, particularly in cases where you have no positional power, only influence. Just 1 example.

2 – Work at your skills for your current job so that you’re better than at least 50% of the people that do the same job. You may not have a large enough IT group to make direct comparisons, so literally comparing may be difficult, but always look for ways to learn at work.

Just my $.02.

Thanks to you all, and to Steve, for the invite!

Thanks to all of the forum members who posted up great questions and a special thanks to Wendell Odom for taking time out of his busy schedule to reply! Keep up with Wendel on his website,, and on his Facebook page.


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