ONF Announces SDN Certification Specifications

Wendell Odom
By Wendell Odom July 23, 2015 09:05

The Open Networking Foundation (ONF) announced their intent to create an SDN certification program back in September ‘14. The message since that time has been that they’re working on it. In June, at the ONS15 conference, the ONF showed a few more details, and now the ONF web site lists plenty of details about their new certification program. Today’s post kicks off what will likely be a few posts working through what the ONF has posted about their new certification exams.

Big Picture Overview

The official name of the program – ONF Certified Professional Program – begins its history with two certifications:

The two certifications separates the conceptual (the first certification) from the hands-on skills requirements (the second certification).

The Exams

Each certification requires that you pass a single exam, with the exam names being obvious as to which certification they apply.



The exams have a few key differences from what you may be used to seeing with vendor-focused exams. The big differences is that the exams will be offered online, with an honor system to prove that it’s you taking the exam. Obviously that’s a bit different from many of the other exam programs you may be familiar with, and I’m sure there are pros/cons. Here’s a quick laundry list of interesting facts:

  • CSDNA-110: 40 questions in 60 minutes
  • CSDNE-111: 50 questions in 90 minutes
  • Both: 70% to pass
  • Languages: English, Simplified Chinese
  • Timing: By Year End 2015

There were a few other points about which the web pages are currently silent. I imagine there will be some changes to the site over time. A few missing items that I noticed were:

  • The cost per exam
  • The types of questions


Other Interesting Items

The web page for each exam lists plenty of other details. The blueprint (the list of topics on each exam) provides plenty of information so you could begin filling in your knowledge gaps. Those same web pages give a long list of typical job roles that would benefit from the certification – that’s worth a read in itself. And the CSDNE page lists details about what you might want in your lab.


The CSDNA and CSDNE Exam Blueprints

I expect to break down the exam blueprints for both exams in some detail in later posts. In the mean time, let me hit the highlights as part of this overview.

The Blueprints are Drafts – Give Feedback Now!

Here in July ’15, when this post was published, the ONF labels their current exam blueprints as drafts. They’ve also asked for feedback with a survey. I’m not sure how long the surveys will be available, but feel free to add your opinions to the current blueprint for the CSDNA, CSDNE, or both.

Note that the links for the polls are on the pages linked in the previous paragraph, but I imagine those will go away soon enough. I’ll revisit the content once it looks like the blueprints are no longer in draft status.


The CSDNA Blueprint

The most important first step with thinking about CSDNA may be to unlearn the meaning of the word “Associate”. The CSDNA certification uses the same keyword “Associate” that Cisco uses in their very popular certification program. However, the Cisco Associate-level certs include both concepts and hands-on skills. The CSDNA certification appears to draw the line between concepts and implementation, leaving the hands-on skills to CSDNE.

The CSDNA blueprint maps concept-level knowledge for a range of SDN topics, with a percentage weighting based on major topics (domains). The following figure shows the domains and percentages (at least during the draft stage).


The CSDNE Blueprint

The CSDNE blueprint likewise gives percentages and domains for the exam. Those topics range widely, though, from implementation, to troubleshooting, as well as testing. It will be interesting to see how the exam assesses the variety of skills, particularly with no posted information yet about the types of questions. For example, will the exam show some kind of simulation that requires you to implement SDN?

The following figure shows the CSDNE domains per the posted draft information.



Next Steps

What’s next for you? Well, the exams are promised by year-end 2015. There have been a few mentions of a possible Beta program, and I’ll advertise that here and in social media if/when that happens.

As for this space, I’ll look at the blueprint details for each of the two exams in the coming weeks. Of course, you can read it for yourself in the mean time, but I’m sure I’ll have a few opinions on what’s there. Go ahead and add your own opinions here if you like!


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Wendell Odom
By Wendell Odom July 23, 2015 09:05
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  1. Rick Bauer, ONF July 24, 10:44

    Wendell, great article! Thanks for the time and effort to really dive deep into the materials we have posted thus far. The interest level in acquiring and validating SDN skills is growing, and I know your readers will be getting good information from your site. When the beta version of the exam is ready, I’d like to invite you (and your readers) to be the first to get a chance to take the exam online…for free!

    thanks again for getting it right for all of us.

    Best regards,

    Rick Bauer

    Reply to this comment
    • Wendell Odom Author July 24, 10:49

      Hey Rick,
      Thanks for popping in! I like the gist of what’s in the blueprint, so I’m looking forward to seeing what’s in the exams. I’d love to take you up on the Beta offer, and I’m sure the folks listening here would too. I’ll make sure and get the word out at the appropriate time.
      (For the rest of you… Rick works at the ONF and is leading the SDN cert effort. Thanks Rick!)

      Reply to this comment
  2. Surendran July 25, 23:34

    HI Wendell, do you have any plans with any instructors based exams? So that we would be able to deliver capable instructors on SDN and it’s courses. Thanks.

    Reply to this comment
    • Wendell Odom Author July 27, 09:30

      Hi Surendran,
      The ONF lists some general info about certifying both training/self-study material, as well as instructor to teach the classes. It’s in their FAQ (see link). But right now the FAQ basically says that they’ll release more info in the coming months.

      I agree with your fundamental premise – certifying the instructors will be an important part of the process as well.


      Reply to this comment
  3. Christopher Adigun August 4, 08:24

    Hi Wendell… Thanks for the info..

    Please how can I subscribe to the latest update on your website (esp the ONF certs)?

    Reply to this comment
    • Wendell Odom Author August 6, 06:00

      Hi Christopher,
      Thanks so much for the request. It’s on my proverbial list of todo’s… ironically, I’m headed to a meeting this AM, where I’ll get a little experienced advice on picking which email and RSS subscription option to add to the site. Simple to do. Should have something there within a week or so. It may be subtle – like the little orange RSS button, or some small text “Subscribe” in the corner of the screen (as is listed at my CCNA blog, blog.certskills.com/ccna ).

      Reply to this comment
  4. Felippe Magnago October 19, 11:34

    Hi Wendell,

    The OCSA was released in Layer123 SDN & OpenFlow® World Congress in October 2015, correct? Did you do the exam? Could you discuss about it? Do you have some news?

    Reply to this comment
  5. Wendell Odom Author October 19, 12:19

    Hy Felippe,
    I’d love to discuss it! However, they did the beta at the event, as you noted, and I wasn’t able to attend. So no hidden news here. I do intend to learn more as time permits, and take it when it’s out, etc. Sorry that I don’t have more to share yet!

    Reply to this comment
  6. Eric November 20, 16:18

    I believe 1st batch of Engineers recently got certified with ONF’s SDN exams if I read correctly.
    Where would one go to learn and prepare for certification? Are you planning on putting something together?

    Kind Regards

    Reply to this comment
    • Wendell Odom Author December 1, 10:14

      Hi Eric.
      I too saw a notice from ONF that they did have the classes in Europe, offered the exam at the show, and that some passed. So they’re off to the races – sort of. It’s still not something anyone can take from where you live.
      As to your question, there’s a link from this page at ONF that points to the training resources the ONF has approvedt:

      Haven’t really seen a lot about the approval process. Regardless, it’s a start, but I imagine you’ve already looked there.

      As a rule, I’m always working on something that will eventually be published, and I can’t talk about it till the publisher or test vendor announces something first, so I can’t really say. In a perfect world, I’d generate 3 times the number of products – I just love doing it. But if going for something today, I’d look at those classes, and maybe read the Goransson and Black SDN book referenced at the ONF page as well. It’s my favorite so far.

      Reply to this comment
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