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Getting ahead in the clouds: The certifications to know in 2022

IT pros have plenty of choices for both cloud services and cloud-specific certifications
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Francis Scialabba

· 5 min read

Major cloud players like Google and Amazon offer cyberbadges, including the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Certified Cloud Practitioner or Google Cloud Architect or Engineer. Other organizations have vendor-neutral options: International Information System Security Certification Consortium, aka (ISC)²’s, Certified Cloud Security Professional (CCSP) or Cloud Security Alliance’s Certificate of Cloud Security Knowledge, for example.

Some of the most recent certifications reflect emerging technologies, like the Kubernetes and Cloud Native Associate Exam, which tests knowledge of the open-source deployment of containerized applications. Other certs demonstrate an emerging need for expertise, like the FinOps Certified Professional designed for cloud financial management.

In a crowded, clouded field, which checkmarks do you seek first?

Tracy Woo, senior analyst of infrastructure operations at the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based consultancy Forrester, and John Burke, CTO and Principal Research Analyst from the Mokena, Illinois-based consulting firm Nemertes, shared tips with IT Brew on the certifications that can help you get ahead in the cloud.

Start with what you got

Burke told IT Brew via email that he advises IT personnel to gain expertise in their organization’s chosen cloud environments. “Training specific to the platforms is key to building appropriate processes and executing on them correctly,” he wrote. Burke recommends following the tiers for each platform, including operations/administration (like AWS Certified SysOps Administrator or Microsoft Azure Administrator, for example), solutions architecture, and security.

Look at vendor-specific certifications

Get to know the big cloud vendors: your Google Cloud, your Microsoft Azure, your AWS, Woo said. “They’re most important because they’re the most easily recognizable, and they’re probably the most universally used.”

After becoming, say, an architect or administrator, Woo recommends finding a more specific certification based on job function: security, operations, or storage, for example.

“It really becomes about, ‘Where’s the focus for you?’” Woo told IT Brew.

Or not?

IT pros may be asked to create portability between clouds for various apps, deploying different services from different providers. A company using AWS may also want to deploy Google Cloud Platform (GCP) for analytics. Apps in a portfolio may be scrapped due to capability or pricing concerns.

Vendor-free certifications like CCSP or the Certificate of Cloud Auditing Knowledge (CCAK) are potentially valuable for organizations deploying multiple clouds.

“Each environment does vary a little bit. And so having these ones that are a little bit more vendor-neutral have also been really helpful,” Woo said.

Know hybrid clouds

A “hybrid” environment has applications or workloads in the public cloud, with the remaining portfolio on premises and in the organization’s data centers.

Hybrid implementations are common among financial-services companies, because they are one of the industries that have been the slowest to migrate to public cloud, Woo said, and a lot of their legacy workloads are on-premise.

“[Financial services organizations] are really looking for someone that might be able to have certifications or have knowledge in terms of how to manage across…premises and public cloud, and understand perhaps all of the different regulatory compliances that have to do with where their specific banks or regions sit within,” Woo said.

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According to Woo, there are a few possible paths with hybrid certifications: You can get certified with a public cloud provider like AWS and certified with a private cloud provider, attaining credentials like Dell Cloud Architect or Red Hat Certified System Admin.

Security, too

Burke considers cloud security and cloud architecture to be of equal importance in 2022—with security maybe taking a bit of the lead.

“Expect security to get far more attention and funding as cybersecurity overall is top of mind for most IT leaders,” he told IT Brew. “Failures of architecture can be costly to live with and to fix, but failures of security can be too, as well as opening you up to civil and criminal penalties and inflicting some reputational damage.“

The security focus will shine a light on non-platform-specific cloud security certifications, such as the Cloud Security Alliance’s Certificate of Cloud Security Knowledge, said the Nemertes Analyst.

Get expertise in Kubernetes

The use of containers has increased steadily, Woo told us, and certified experts may be needed to run the Kubernetes container orchestrator. Containers package applications, and all of their libraries and configures files into one portable bundle.

“It’s a new hot topic within cloud. It’s synonymous with ‘digitally transformed,’” Woo said. “It’s a way that most people will try to modernize their applications.”

The Certified Kubernetes Application Developer exam verifies that users can design, build, and configure applications for Kubernetes. The nonprofit Linux Foundation also offers the Kubernetes and Cloud Native Associate (KCNA) knowledge exam.—BH

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