As cloud computing becomes more important within enterprises, the enterprises will seek more outside talent. They also want a means to determine if those outside hires have the required knowledge. There are two clear paths here: Obtain classroom training, perhaps with a certification process, or obtain on-the-job training. Which is best for you?
We seem to love certification programs when new technology emerges, and cloud computing is no exception. However, cloud computing is not database technology or networking management. It’s broadly defined and can be everything and anything.
Cloud certification programs have followed the same confusing pattern, and they vary greatly from certification to certification. It’s almost to the point that if you chose to take all of the popular certification programs, you would emerge confused and frustrated rather than ready to take on a large cloud computing project.
Most troubling? Consider the vast majority of cloud computing migration and development projects that are not yet complete. We have to leverage instructors who obviously don’t have hands-on experience. They follow PowerPoint presentations and other content that do not reflect best practices, because we don’t yet know what those best practices are. However, in many cases, people are getting the certification to get the job, and the valuable experience comes after you’re hired.
When you need a Piece of Paper
So, the cloud certification programs have arrived. These programs are typically offered by larger cloud computing technology providers and vendors, such as IBM and Microsoft, as well as independent training organizations such as Cloud School and Learning Tree.
The top certification programs include:
- IBM Certified Solution Advisor – Cloud Computing Architecture
- IBM Certified Solution Architect – Cloud Computing Infrastructure
- Microsoft Learning
- Google Apps Certified Deployment Specialist
- Vmware Certified Professional (VCP)
- Certified Cloud Professional (CCP)
As you may expect, the technology providers tend focus on their own products. However, they do provide the basics around cloud computing architectures. If you are one who learns through this type of training, and you need that piece of paper, then these programs are for you.
Keep in mind, you’re learning through the eyes of a single vendor, which means you won’t get an understanding of the complete cloud computing landscape. Vendor cloud training should not be your first course…get the basics first.
Those looking for cloud architecture skills in a certification program will be disappointed. The downside to these training programs is that they have a tendency to be at a very high level, and do not focus on the details. For instance, while they may tell you the difference between the various IaaS cloud providers, they won’t take you through the different architectural approaches to multitenancy, or the different ways that PaaS providers approach service governance and management, generally speaking.
However, those who hire cloud computing SMEs are looking for certification these days. Figure 1 represents the growth in job postings seeking “Certified Cloud Professional (CCP)” certification.
Figure 1: Number of job postings listing “Certified Cloud Professional” from 2009 to today (source Indeed.com).
When you need the Experience
The best path to becoming a cloud expert is to find a company that’s willing to provide you with the opportunity to get experience. The growth of cloud jobs seeking candidates has exploded in the last year, and commercial enterprises, government and government contractors, and consulting organizations are all seeking qualified candidates. Most will hire people who have very little cloud computing experience, largely because they have no choice.
Certainly, enterprises need cloud computing specialists to get their cloud programs underway, and those jobs are out there today. However, in many cases, those already in enterprise IT are moving into those positions, due in part to cloud computing being a good career move. But, perhaps they are hiring specific cloud computing skills such as Google App Engine developers, or AWS cloud managers.
If you’re seeking a years worth of experience within a month’s time, consulting organizations are for you. Many consulting firms provide formal and on-the-job cloud computing training, and are paying signing bonuses for the right candidates.
Of course, consulting firms make money by billing you out to others. So, the intensity that provides the ability to gain experience quickly also means travel and long hours.
The road to cloud computing skills is rather blurring at this point, as is the definition of cloud computing. Those seeking to enter this market should jump in feet first, and get that first job anyway you can. If that means sitting through a week-long class and 1,000 slides, that’s fine. If it means begging your way into a cloud computing project, that’s fine too. They both seem to work.