Over the last decade or so, it is difficult to think of another technology that has garnered as much attention as the cloud has. Investors have rushed to profit from companies moving large portions of their infrastructure to cloud services. Companies such as Amazon, Microsoft, and Google have invested billions building out large-scale data centers. The term, “the cloud” has become ubiquitous even to those outside the technology industry.
IDC predicts that spending on cloud services and infrastructure will hit $210 billion this year and $370 billion by 2021. What felt like irrational hype a few years ago has turned into many feeling that we have underestimated the investment and growth of the cloud. And where there is substantial year-over-year growth, there is an opportunity for people with the skills and credentials to help build and integrate the myriad services offered by the cloud.
Savvy IT professionals can take advantage of this opportunity by earning both vendor-neutral and vendor-specific certifications. Each vendor has different requirements, but the template for earning a certification does not change all that much. It includes:
- Select a Skill – This could be a specific product such as VMware or a skill such as wireless networking.
- Take a Course – Both self-pace and instructor-led courses are available for most topics. These can range from a few hundred dollars into the thousands.
- Pass the Exam – Take the exam at an approved testing center. Costs vary, but most exams are in the $150 to $300 range.
- Continuing Education – Some certifications require additional annual coursework or re-certification in the future.
Let’s look at some of the best cloud certifications you can earn today.
Microsoft Certified: Azure Solutions Architect Expert
Microsoft has proven they have no qualms about retiring courses that no longer meet the market’s needs. In early 2019, Microsoft retired its MCSE: Cloud Platform & Infrastructure certification (its replacement, MCSE Core Infrastructure, doesn’t require cloud-specific courses) and overhauled its certification process for Azure to focus on job roles. Microsoft’s new role-based certifications include Azure Administrator, Azure Developer, and Azure Solutions Architect. The goal with this revamp is training that should help you develop skills more relevant to your day-to-day work.
The person who completes the Azure Solutions Architect Expert certification should be able to manage data centers, configure virtual networks, and comfortably work with identity management and cloud storage technology. Microsoft has intentionally built Azure from the ground up to support Linux, and you will need to show competence with it in order to pass many exams.
With the growth of Azure and the importance of cloud technologies to Microsoft’s bottom line, we can expect to see more training and certifications around their cloud services. Details about Microsoft certification, courses, and training are available on Microsoft’s Learn site.
AWS Certified Solutions Architect
AWS Certified DevOps Engineer
Amazon has been offering AWS certification for over 5 years now. Its dominant position in the market has meant that individuals with deep knowledge of AWS command some of the highest salaries in technology today.
Amazon offers several certifications: three associate- and two professional-level credentials, as well as five specialty certifications. An optional foundational credential is a recommended step toward getting an associate-level or specialty certification. The associate-level certifications are aimed at those who are new to AWS or have worked with it for less than two years. The professional-level certifications are geared toward those with at least two years of experience with AWS.
The Certified Solutions Architect primarily designs and deploys cloud environments on AWS. This person works with companies to design and implement a plan around their business needs. The DevOps engineer focuses more on established systems that are already running on AWS but need consulting in the areas of security, compliance, and monitoring.
Amazon provides exam preparation materials, practice tests, and research about each of its certifications on the AWS certification site. You will need an AWS account to gain access, but the material is well organized by topic.
CCNA Cloud: Cisco Certified Network Administrator Cloud
Cisco has been around since the early ’70s. A lot of that early internet infrastructure was and is still built on Cisco products. Businesses have relied on skilled Cisco engineers to keep things running smoothly for a long time, and today is no different. Cisco has a lot more competition today, but its training and certifications programs are the envy of the industry. Cisco training has a reputation for being challenging and its exams are considered to be among the most difficult in IT.
Cisco credentials still stand out today. Their certifications offer six paths of mastery that include entry, associate, specialist, professional, expert, and architect. Training is recommended even for the first couple of levels if you plan to pass the certification exams.
The CCNA Cloud requires a wide range of cloud technology knowledge with the focus on Cisco products. These skills include a knowledge of cloud infrastructure and deployment models, cloud networking and storage models, and admin tasks such as monitoring and reporting. This is a solid certification for the person who is early in his or her career.
Cisco provides more details about its certifications and training programs on the training and certifications page.
The cloud is growing and changing at a rapid pace. Whether you are starting a career or looking to polish your skills, proving your knowledge by earning a certification can help advance your career. With the cloud showing few signs of slowing growth, we can expect more certifications and training offerings in the future.
Microsoft, Amazon, and Cisco understand the success of their cloud services require highly skilled individuals to train, consult, and sell their products. Cloud skills are in demand today and should be for a long time.