Understanding the Protocol Analysis Certifications
Of the three companies or organizations that offer protocol analysis certification, only the program from Sniffer Technologies represents itself as vendor-specific. Both the Pine Mountain Group and WildPackets represent their offerings as vendor-neutral (but WildPackets training for their exams shows an unsurprising tendency to emphasize their protocol analysis products as they help candidates prepare for their exams).
All three programs have excellent reputations, and are worthy of further investigation. I recommend a visit to their Web sites, downloading additional information, and talking to program veterans if you have difficulty choosing any one program over another. In fact, when it comes to choosing one of these programs, if you or your employer use Sniffer products, go the Sniffer Technology route. Likewise, if you or your employer use WildPackets products, go the WildPackets route. Only if you seek a vendor-neutral certification from a truly vendor-neutral tool set will you have to choose between the Pine Mountain Group and WildPackets offerings. In that latter case, it may be that issues such as expense, location, and personal recommendations will steer you one way or the other.
The Importance of Currency
When it comes to any of these protocol analysis certifications, be aware that the knowledge base for this subject area changes continuously. While neither the Pine Mountain Group nor WildPackets impose any recertification or continuing education requirements (Sniffer certifications are tied to product versions, and require updates for new offerings), no one can rest forever on the laurels of these certifications. Be prepared to maintain your knowledge base, and to keep refreshing the key packet sequences and structures that you must be able to recognize and interpret to function as a qualifier professional in this area.
The Value of Certification
Even in a lagging economy, all three of these organizations or companies report strong demand for their credentials—and relatively high rates of pay for individuals with more senior-level certifications. It’s not unusual for experienced, senior-level network professionals with strong protocol analysis skills to command salaries in the low six figures. If that kind of action and demand interests you, you may want to look further into this fascinating technical specialty.