IT pros with solid cloud computing skills continue to be in high demand as more companies adopt cloud technologies. With new credentials being added each year, how do you choose the cloud computing certification that's right for you? Here's an updated list of our five best cloud certs.
Over the past several years, no other area of IT has generated as much hype, interest andinvestment as cloud computing. Though the term can -- and often does -- have different meanings for different users, there's no doubt that the cloud is now a permanent fixture for end users, service providers, as well as companies and organizations of all sizes around the world.
As a result, cloud computing attracts considerable coverage and attention from certification providers and companies that offer cloud related products, such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft and VMware, among countless others.
An excellent Forbes article summarizes key statistics regarding the current cloud computing landscape along with a look to the future. Amazon Web Services (AWS) is the dominant cloud computing player, followed by Microsoft Azure, the Rackspace Public Cloud and VMware’s vCloud. The cloud infrastructure and platform market in general generates roughly $21 billion in revenues, and is expected to grow by nearly 20 percent year after year to $43 billion by 2018. And cloud services aren’t limited to large corporations and enterprises. An estimated 64 percent of small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) also use cloud-based applications, with 78 percent of businesses indicating that they are planning to buy new cloud-based solutions in the next few years.
These figures elevate cloud computing from a nice-to-have feature to an essential part of an organization's IT infrastructure. Suffice it to say that the cloud is here to stay, and we can expect to see a growing demand for qualified and certified cloud IT professionals.
For 2016, the best cloud computing certifications include both vendor-neutral and vendor-specific certification options from some of the top players in the cloud space.
1. CompTIA Cloud+
One significant event as far as cloud-related certifications are concerned occurred in November 2011 with the release of the CompTIA Cloud Essentials certification. TheCloud Essentials certification was the first wholly cloud-focused certification offered by the Computing Technology Industry Association and was developed with involvement from ITPreneurs and the Cloud Credential Council (CCC).
Cloud Essentials remained CompTIA's solecloud computing credential until October 2013, when CompTIA introduced the Cloud+ credential. We've chosen to feature the Cloud+ certification in this top 5 list because it's a bit more robust than the Cloud Essentials credential. You'll see that the Cloud+ cert specifically targets more experienced cloud IT professionals (two to three years of experience is recommended) and validates both cloud computing and virtualization skills.
Professionals seeking this credential should have an in-depth understanding of cloud terminology and methods,IT security and industry best practices in both cloud computing and virtualization, and possess the ability to implement, maintain and deliver a cloud infrastructure. In addition, candidates should be experienced in the areas of IT networking, data center administration or network storage. Valid for three years, the Cloud+ credential is the next logical step in the certification path for those who already possess credentials such as the CompTIA Server+, Storage+, Network+ or Security+.
2. MCSE: Private Cloud
Microsoft announced the Private Cloud credential in January 2012, as the first installment for its newly recast MCSE certification. The highly popular MCSE: Private Cloud Solutions Expert speaks to WindowsServer and System Center 2012, and requires the Microsoft Certified Solution Associate -- MCSA: Windows Server 2012 as a prerequisite. There are a total of five exams -- three for the MCSA plus two more on Private Cloud with System Center 2012 to finish up this MCSE concentration.
Microsoft Virtual Academy (MVA) offers freecoursesand training materials on many topics relevant to the MCSE: PrivateCloud. Microsoft also offers a free Second Shot for credential seekers who don't pass the exam on the first attempt but can retake the exam within 30 days. The program is offered intermittently, so check the Second Shot website for current details.
At present, MCSE:Private Cloudis the only cloud-labeled administrator cert from Microsoft. However, the MCSD (Microsoft Certified Solution Developer): Web Applications certification includes an exam devoted to Windows Azure and Web Services. We expect to see more cloud topics sprinkled into Microsoft certifications as more and more Microsoft technologies are delivered and consumed in the cloud rather than on-premises.
3. VMware VCP6 – Cloud
If there's a contributingtechnology that enables thecloud, it has to be virtualization, and nobody has done virtualization longer or from as many angles as VMware. The company's newest cloud credential is the VCP6 - Cloud Management and Automation (VCP6-CMA) certification, which is based on vSphere 6.0 and vRealize, and recognizes IT professionals who can extend data virtualization throughout the cloud.
To earn the VCP6-CMA, candidates need to follow one of these paths:
- Path 1 (for current VCP6-Cloud credential holders): Candidates who already possess a valid VCP6-Cloud certification are automatically granted the VCP6-CMA certification.
- Path 2 (for current VCP credential holders): Candidates who already possess a valid VCP credential need only pass Exam 2V0-631: VMware Certified Professional 6 – Cloud Management and Automation.
- Path 3 (for expired VCP credential holders): Candidates who hold any expired VCP certifications must take a training course, and pass Exam 2V0-620: vSphere 6 Foundations Exam and Exam 2V0-631: VMware Certified Professional 6 – Cloud Management and Automation.
- Path 4 (for non-VCP credential holders): Candidates who are just starting with VCP6-CMA must gain six months of experience with vSphere 6 and vRealize, take the required training course, and pass the required exams mentioned in Path 3 above.
VMware offers additional credentials with strong cloud connections, such as:
VMware is building an entire cert ladder aroundthe cloud. There are two other cloud certifications in the works for the Implementation Expert and Design Expert categories. Remember, VMware is updating and replacing certs in its program to reflectnew technologies, so check the VMware Cloud Management and Automation certification path siteand roadmap for the latest information.
4. AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Professional
Amazon Web Services launched its AWS certification program in May 2013 in response to a growing demand forcloud computing professionals with demonstrable skills to support AWS clients. The program offers three associate- and two professional-level certifications.
The AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Professional certification aims at networking professionals with two or more years of experience designing and deployingcloud environments on AWS. A person with this credential works with clients to assess needs, plan and design solutions that meet requirements, recommends an architecture to be used for implementing and provisioning AWSapplications, and provides guidance throughout the life of the projects.
A candidate for this certification should be highly familiar with topics such as high availability andbusiness continuity, costing, deployment management, network design, data storage, security, scalability and elasticity, cloud migration and hybrid architecture.
Other certifications in the AWS certification program include:
With Amazon continuing to hold the top spot in thecloudcomputing services market (Business Insider), the AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Professional credential is a feather in the cap of channel partners for whom AWS is a major part of their business. The credential also distinguishes partners from their competitors, perhaps giving them an advantage in the pursuit of new clients.
5. EMCCA: EMC Cloud Architect
EMC Corporation is well known for cloud computing, information technology as a service (ITaaS), virtualization and analytics. The EMC Proven Professional Certification program is highly developed, with 12 different certification tracks that offer multiple credentials.
EMC offers associate-level certifications in cloud infrastructure and services, data science, information storage and management, backup recovery and content management. Higher level certs include the Data Center Architect (EMCDCA), Cloud Architect (EMCCA), Storage Administrator (EMC SA) and several more geared toward engineers, developers and administrators. Although EMC certifications are good for life, the company recommends updating your certifications every three years to stay current on new technology.
The EMC Cloud Architect (EMCCA) track, which is the focus of this section, includes three certifications: Associate, Specialist and Expert. All of the certifications have recommended or required training courses, the cost of which range from $550 for instructor-led streaming) to $5,000 for instructor-led in-classroom delivery. Exam vouchers are included in the training cost.
Other cloud certifications from EMC include those in the Cloud Engineer (EMCEE) track, which has an Associate and Specialist level; however, you must be an EMC partner to achieve these certifications.