It's more than an IT job -- it's a cloud career
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With cloud and mobility technologies in the IT mainstream, the vendor-agnostic certification provider, CompTIA, offers tracks that focus on these areas. But a lot changes from one cloud to another.
Concessions to the cloud-centric tech world are apparent in CompTIA certifications from the staple "big three" -- A+, Network+ and Security+ -- to a host of offshoots such as Cloud+, Mobility+ and Server+.
Jobs are shifting and IT pros are moving toward the cloud, according to Amy Hagerman, a Cloud+ certified standards and policies professional at a U.S.-based financial institution.
And this transition renders technical support more complex.
"You need to know things way beyond hardware: basic networking, support of mobile devices and a very strong understanding of troubleshooting," said James Stanger, senior director of product management at CompTIA.
The A+ certification exams focus more on security, mobility and cloud with each iteration.
An update to the Network+ certification adds more cloud elements in 2015. The fundamentals on network routers remain, but the certification now covers the interplay between routers, switches and cloud-based services, Stanger said. Network+ certified staff should know what the network topology looks like to troubleshoot an entire system, independent of the vendor-specific elements.
The influence of third-platform (cloud, big data and mobility) IT may also impact an IT pro's certification path, Stanger said. The traditional route was to take the big three CompTIA+ exams, but now, a mix of fundamentals with newer certifications can pay off.
For example, a certification path from Mobility+ through Network+ will serve cutting-edge jobs. Cloud+ certification will help IT technicians branch out into virtualization, storage and hardware in cloud architectures. It also teaches technicians about the business side of cloud, like service-level agreements, and when cloud deployments are justified. To move into a cloud job from another field, Stanger recommends starting at A+, obtaining Network+ and then going for Cloud+.
"You need an understanding of the amount of layers involved in the cloud environment," said Hagerman, who holds A+ and Network+ as well as Cloud+, and various other certifications. "Sometimes there's a database cloud atop a software cloud atop an infrastructure cloud."
Hagerman pursues vendor-agnostic certifications because they show a fundamental understanding of the technology.
But vendor-agnostic knowledge isn't as valuable in an immature field, according to John Treadway, senior vice president at Boston-based cloud consulting firm Cloud Technology Partners. Cloud security, automation and other technologies vary too much from one vendor to the next.
Treadway looks for Amazon-specific cloud certifications when hiring, and says that Google or Amazon Web Services cloud certifications will be more marketable than general certifications for job seekers for a while. OpenStack certifications focus more on the company or product that's based on OpenStack, not on the standard alone, he said.
Wait and see where your organization is going, vendor-wise, Treadway said, but do pursue certifications if you want to move up in the IT field. Whether it's Network+, Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate, Rackspace Certified Technician for OpenStack or another program, certifications demonstrate skill and depth of knowledge. And all of them will eventually be "cloud" certifications.
Meredith Courtemanche asks:
What cloud certifications do you have? Which will you pursue in the next 12 months?
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