Cloud computing: coming to a certification test near you (part 1)

April 16, 2012 at 1:21 pm | Posted in Vendor news | 2 Comments

The latest overused buzzword in our industry is “cloud”. Microsoft has a Cloud. HP has a Cloud. Amazon has one. Apple has one, but they call it the iCloud (how i-riginal?).

The fundamental purpose of the cloud is to provide on-demand data and services via your network connection instead of providing (or sourcing) it locally via physical hardware. The cloud service provider determines what types of resources are available to you based on your user account type, permissions, and fees. You may be a cloud end user that’s focused on data storage, a business cloud user focused on providing services and data storage to employees, or a cloud engineer who needs to know the infrastructure behind building and maintaining a cloud.

Major cloud players

Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) allows you to launch instances on varieties of Linux or Windows operating systems loaded with your custom application environment for a specific fee structure. (In case you are wondering, it’s cheaper to use Linux than Windows in the EC2 cloud.)

Apple’s iCloud is your “magic hard drive”. It can store all your music, photos and other content from your PC, iPad, iPhone, iPod,or whatever iOS-based device you may have. Apple will keep all your email, contacts and calendars for all your devices without forced synchronization. According to Apple, they will store 20,000 of your songs for a year for only $25.00 so you don’t have to keep all those Widespread Panic or Black Crowes vinyl LPs in your basement. (Vinyl may sound a whole lot better than digital, but it’s tough to store without a cool dry place.)

Microsoft is not too interested in storing your vacation photos from Myrtle Beach or mp3s. Microsoft’s cloud strategy is to offer services like Exchange, Office, SharePoint, and Lync to integrate in a cloud environment. With Office 365, a user can have access to Office applications, like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, that are not installed locally on the user’s PC, but are downloaded and licensed from the cloud. Exchange Online is a hosted messaging solution based on Microsoft Exchange. SharePoint online centrally stores and allows you to share documents and information with your colleagues and customers. Lync is the next generation of Office Communications Server, which provides an infrastructure for enterprise instant messaging, presence, file transfer, peer-to-peer and multiparty voice and video calling, web conferencing and PSTN connectivity.

VMware, of course, was practically in the cloud already with its virtualization solutions. Instead of focusing on the end consumer, VMware products are aimed at the IT cloud architect who manages cloud infrastructure, public cloud services, hybrid cloud services, and private cloud services for organizations.

Certifying that your head is in the cloud(s)

So far, major cloud certification plans have been announced by CompTIA, Microsoft, VMware, and various smaller players. Some heavyweights, like Cisco and VMware, have incorporated strong cloud-based skills into new and existing certifications.

Here’s a quick overview of certifications from major vendors. Look for more information in the coming months as tests are rolled out.

Cloud Part One: Microsoft

These new Microsoft Cloud services will require new skills. According to the IDC, over 33% of software purchases will be delivered through the cloud. To survive in this new world, you will need to have cloud skills. Microsoft’s Cloud Services: Training and Certification Overview page covers exams in four functional areas:

  • Infrastructure management – MCSE Private Cloud
  • Software development – Microsoft Exchange Server 2010, Microsoft SharePoint 2010, and Microsoft Lync Server 2010
  • Database management – Azure Developer
  • Services management – MCSE: Data Platform

If you are a developing or building cloud-based applications using Windows Azure,  you can achieve your MCPD: Windows Azure Developer certification by passing three tests:

  • Exam 70-513 TS: Windows Communication Foundation Development with Microsoft .NET Framework 4
  • Exam 70-516 TS: Accessing Data with Microsoft .NET Framework 4
  • Exam 70-583 PRO: Designing and Developing Windows Azure Applications

If you are prepping for the MCITP: SharePoint Administrator 2010 certification, it consists of the following tests:

  • Exam 70-667 TS: Microsoft SharePoint 2010, Configuring
  • Exam 70-668 PRO: Microsoft SharePoint 2010, Administrator

The 70-667 and 70-668 SharePoint exams are being updated to include cloud-related skills. As per Microsoft, 70-667 and 70-667 was updated to cover SharePoint 2010 SP1 and Office 365 as of January, 2012.

If you are prepping for any of the Exchange 2010 certifications that include exams 70-662 or 70-663, we expect those exams will be updated to include cloud-related skills.

The problem with adding cloud-related skills to an existing exam is that a lot of the exam prep materials listed on the Preparation Materials tab of the prep guide for these exams have not been updated to include cloud related skills. A lot of the Microsoft Press and third-party materials have not been updated either. If you are prepping for an exam that you know or suspect might be impacted by Microsoft’s Cloud Services make sure that you thoroughly research your topics. Do not rely solely on the materials that you received from a training class or the prep guide that you bought from your book retailer. Look at the Skills Measured tab on the prep guide for the exam and use the Internet to research the latest on the topics that are being covered on the exam. TechNet is a great resource for the latest info that may be on an exam. If you are not familiar with the Skills Measured tab of the prep guide for a particular exam, it’s a smart place to start! Here is where you find what the heck is on the test. The manual you got from the Microsoft Official Curriculum training class or the 700-page book you bought from Amazon may or may not include this information.

Look for an overview of cloud-focused certifications from VMware, Cisco, and CompTIA part 2 of this post. Until then, happy cloud computing!

–George Monsalvatge


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  1. Hey George, great information. Thanks for providing examples of the various ways we might interface with a vendor’s cloud offering. Do you think all the publicity surrounding the cloud is here to stay, or is this another “New Coke”?

  2. I think cloud certification will stick around for a few years. As along as the vendors continue to provide cloud services, there will be certifications on the services. When technology changes in the future there may be something that may replace cloud services and there will be a whole new certification track.

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