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IoT certifications land on data center admins' to-do list

IoT is still an emerging field, but data center admins should at least consider certification options to make their resume stand out in the long haul.

The internet of things allows for data collection through various sensors placed into products, processes and environments. But mastery of the internet of things doesn't happen by accident -- it takes a keen comprehension of the devices, a solid knowledge of underlying protocols, networking and security, and the business sense to turn that ocean of data into actionable intelligence.

IT and data center professionals can establish and develop their internet of things (IoT) expertise with industry certifications. Although IoT is still immature, some organizations have made early strides in IoT certification.

Is it necessary to invest in IoT certifications now?

Just as today's successful IT professionals are expected to have a solid background in servers, storage, networks, security, management, cloud and other disciplines, tomorrow's IT professionals will need solid comprehension of IoT concepts.

An IoT training program would start with the basics of how IoT sensors work, such as the types of data to collect and how to deploy, maintain and replace sensors. But sensors are only the endpoints. IoT places enormous demands on infrastructure, and knowledgeable IoT professionals will need to understand IoT protocols, suitable network architectures, storage and data protection strategies, compute demands and more. Most of this architectural insight will focus on cloud services and deployment, and how to create effective infrastructures in the public cloud rather than local data centers. Training may expand into how IT can use analytical tools to query and visualize the collected data.

It makes sense to seek training that can jumpstart IT's ability to deploy the technology quickly and effectively.

What types of IoT certifications are there?

The scope, content, duration and cost of IoT certifications can vary. Carefully evaluate the content and suitability of any IoT training or certification before making an investment.

Cisco doesn't specifically provide an IoT certification, but it offers the Cisco Industrial Networking Specialist certification -- Exam 200-401 IMINS. This covers devices and equipment that organizations can network together in an industrial environment. It includes programmable logic controllers, sensors and actuators -- which are increasingly used as IoT devices -- as well as the networking concepts, equipment, standards and safety protocols that are necessary to build a suitable industrial network. Cisco's offering is broader than IoT, though the issues and considerations of industrial networking are applicable.

IT professionals will typically prepare for Cisco's 200-401 IMINS with underlying courses such as Managing Industrial Networks with Cisco Networking Technologies and Networking Fundamentals for Industrial Control Systems. The actual 200-401 IMINS exam is an adaptive, computer-based exam that consists of 55 to 65 questions in 75 minutes at an exam partner's facility. The cost is approximately $300.

A second example is the Certified Internet of Things Specialist program from Global Science and Technology Forum. This certification introduces IoT concepts, covers sensor operation and deployment considerations, architectural issues, along with database, mobility, privacy and security implications. Training is administered over 40 hours of classroom study. The exam involves a 40-question test administered over 60 minutes and a practical component that participants must complete successfully within two weeks from the course. Pricing for this course is not currently available.

Back to school

Some colleges and universities offer various programs. For example, the University of Washington's Professional and Continuing Education program includes a certificate in IoT. The program is spaced out over three quarters, and covers IoT basics, IoT protocols and networking, and cloud computing and analytics. You can pursue this eight-month program either online or at the Bellevue, Wash. campus. The complete course is currently listed for $4,050.

There are numerous independent training vendors with IoT offerings. For example, Coursera offers a six-course, Build Your Own Internet of Things specialization program with content developed by the University of California San Diego and Qualcomm. This course set explains devices for sensing, actuation, processing and communication -- each with theory and practical components. Coursera uses a subscription-based learning model and prices its specialization courses from $39 to $79 per month.

How can I apply an IoT certification to the data center?

IoT certifications can translate to better project design. A deep knowledge of IoT device requirements and capabilities can help IT planners predict network traffic impacts and other requirements. Such insights can help the business make architectural improvements to the enterprise infrastructure -- such as a cost-effective public cloud architecture -- before an IoT project starts.

Storage planning and performance is another place where IoT device knowledge is crucial. IT professionals must assess the total volume of data IoT devices produce and ensure enough online storage, data protection storage and long-term archival storage is available. Storage systems also need comprehensive retention and deletion policies.

IT professionals need to understand the installation requirements, power demands, connectivity concern and regular maintenance requirements of physical IoT devices. Some IoT sensors and actuators for industrial environments can be costly, but the business can save money with proficient deployment and support. IT professionals must also understand how to upgrade and retire IoT devices at the proper time.

IoT knowledge can translate into more effective troubleshooting. Knowledgeable IT professionals can identify and correct problems with device installation, configuration and operation, as well as infrastructure problems such as network bottlenecks, storage limitations and compute performance.

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