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Making the Grade In SDN.

Jan 25, 2016

A college professor and three of his students get SDN certified. 

Marist College is a private, coeducational liberal arts college, located in Poughkeepsie, New York. When you think of a beautiful campus nestled in bucolic upstate New York, a perfect place for learning, Marist is the place. As a cadet who attended the United States Military Academy at West Point some years ago (Marist is about 30 miles away from West Point), I remember being impressed with its campus, students, and beautiful surroundings.

What’s even more amazing is their SDN connection.

Blog_making the grade
Three graduate students in networking and their professor in training for the ONF Certified SDN Associate exam, taken at the 2015 SDN & OpenFlow World Congress in Dusseldorf this past October. They are, in front to back order, Professor Robert Cannistra, Steve O’Meara, Charles Hill, and Daniel Martino.

One of the professors at Marist, Robert Cannistra, brings a rich experience with networking to his teaching at Marist. As Senior Professional Lecturer of Computer Science and Information Technology and Systems, Robert Cannistra brings real-world familiarity with networking (earned in his own startups, all Cisco partners), and the business of technology (earned not only in his own companies, but also in AT&T, IBM, Unisys, and Kodak). Given his interest in networking, Prof. Cannistra discovered SDN and NFV a few years ago, and is already integrating these new technologies into his teaching to undergrads and graduate students in networking. Prof. Cannistra also discovered ONF, and recently became a Research Associate, allowing him to connect further into the activities of our organization.

But the SDN connection goes even further.

Prof. Cannistra and three of his undergraduate students (Daniel Martino, a third-year computer science major; Charles Hill, another third-year computer science major, with a concentration in cybersecurity; and Stephen O’Meara, a senior receiving his Bachelor’s degree in computer science in spring 2016) decided to get more hands-on familiarity with SDN and NFV, and attended the 2015 SDN & OpenFlow World Congress last October in Düsseldorf. In addition to enjoying informative talks and viewing many of the informative demos in the ONF SDN Solutions Showcase, the professor and his students attended ONF’s Skills Certification Workshop. After one of the training sessions and having just taken the exam (no grades received at the time we sat down), we ate lunch at the event hotel and reflected a bit on ONF’s training and certification program.

In deciding why they would change their busy event schedule, take the exam training courses (delivered by ONF member company and SDN training expert SDN Essentials) as well as sit for the certification exam, all students were unanimous in their reasoning—the prime issue was cost. “The chance to be able to take a brand-new certification in SDN was attractive, something we really couldn’t pass up”, said Daniel Martino, “but the fact that we would be able to get free training from SDN Essentials, as well as take the exam for free—that was the real driver.”

The students reflected that this kind of certification might help them as they start looking for employment—a key concern for these undergrads, and one of the reasons that the ONF Certified SDN Professional (OCSP) Program was created in the first place. The combination of the training and the SDN & OpenFlow World Congress sessions was helpful. “Even though I may not have known every word or concept in a presentation,” Martino continued, “the training alone really helped me to understand those presentations much more clearly.” Marist undergrad Charles Hill added that the value of the training helped on the expo floor. “We were able to go up to one of the expo booths, or watch a demo, and really understand what they were talking about. You could hold a decent conversation about SDN or OpenFlow,” Hill summarized.

Training for the ONF Certified SDN exams, held last October in Düsseldorf.
Training for the ONF Certified SDN exams, held last October in Düsseldorf.

Prof. Cannistra had good suggestions for some of the questions on the exam (as a beta version, there is always a certain bit of “tweaking” that takes place to make sure the questions are neither too easy or too in-depth), and was helpful in pointing out where some of the exam could be improved. He also discussed with us how ONF’s certification exams could be useful in his own teaching at Marist. “If the students were to be able to take the exam at the end of the course (in addition or as a substitute for their final exam grade), it could be extremely helpful,” Cannistra observed. True to his professorial experience, Prof. Cannistra also offered comments on how the Mininet lab could have been set up earlier in the training. Prof. Cannistra is volunteering to evaluate the questions for the soon-to-be-released ONF Certified SDN Engineer exam.

Three undergraduate students, their motivated and focused professor, a world-class event, and now the opportunity to receive training and take a certification exam—all of these activities made for a successful, enjoyable, and professionally profitable trip to Germany (though I think some wonderful German beer was also enjoyed) by the Marist College group in Düsseldorf. They impressed us as young men who will make a contribution in the technology field, and a professor who cared enough to move out of the classroom and into the world of networking technology to insure his students had every opportunity to excel.

Oh yeah, we recently got their grades (the online grading system was not installed for the beta version of the tests) on the ONF Certified SDN Associate exam. All three of these undergrads passed the exam, and earned the certification. And as for their professor, he passed with flying colors. Nice job, team!

–          Rick Bauer, Director of Technical Programs