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Apple Aims for the Enterprise with New Certifications

Sunday August 19, 2012

Apple has made some major inroads in recent years into corporate America, thanks to the BYOD movement and the emergence of wireless technology. iPhones and iPads are now found in many corporate environments, and as more and more apps become cloud-based (think 'Salesforce.com'), the adoption of those devices is only likely to increase.

But from the perspective of desktop computing, Apple has never enjoyed a major presence in corporate America, and the progress of the Mac into the enterprise has been a lot slower that the iPhone. And since Apple pulled out of the server market a long time ago, Macs will need to be integrated into Windows environments - if Apple is ever going to garner any significant share of the corporate dollar.

To that end, Apple has introduced the Apple Certified Associate - Mac Integration 10.8. The Certified Associate is an entry-level certification, aimed squarely at integrating Mac computers and the OS X operating system into corporate Windows-based environments, thereby making it easier for corporations to use Macs in the workplace, without having to change out their underlying infrastructure.

To get the certification, candidates need to pass a single test, the Mac Integration Basics Exam (9L0-408).  The focus of Integration Basics is designed specifically to test the knowledge and ability of candidates to integrate Mac OS X - based computers into Windows environments. A quick survey of the study guide shows topics such as the integration of a Mac-based machine into Active Directory/Open Directory/LDAP environments, data migration between Window and Mac machines, using CIFS or NFS (for example) to connect to Windows file servers, connecting Macs to MS Exchange servers, and so forth.

The Apple Certified Associate is just the first step in the Apple Certification matrix, but it's a good first step both for Apple and for IT admins who want to encourage the adoption of Macs in the enterprise.

Is a VMware Certified Architect in the Cards?

Monday August 6, 2012

Just recently, VMware released the VMware Certified Professional  - Infrastructure as a Service (VCP - IAAS) certification. The VCP-IAAS is the first VMware certification focused on design, implementation and support of VMware-based platforms specifically used to support public-cloud infrastructure offerings.

VMware is far from the first manufacturer to offer certifications designed specifically for service providers. And, really, VMware still has quite a ways to go before its training and certification program rivals that of other providers such as Cisco, Oracle, Microsoft, and quite a few others.

Which begs the question - since VMware appears to be attempting to gain parity with other leaders in the area of technical certification, it stands to reason that, at some point, they will likely introduce an Architect-level certification.

VMware already has an expert-level certification, the VMware Certified Design Expert, or VCDX. The VCDX is roughly equivalent, in terms of difficulty level and required candidate knowledge level, to the Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE). But both Cisco and Microsoft, for example, have now developed Architect-level certifications. In Cisco's case, the Cisco Certified Architect (CCA) is their highest level of certification. In the case of Microsoft, that certification is the Microsoft Certified Architect (MCA).

So where is VMware? Clearly, VMware is a major industry leader, with a very popular and widely implemented technology, and a very large share of the virtualization market. And if any technology needs architect-level certifications, it's virtualization. With so much riding on enterprise virtualization platforms today, the need for architect-level professionals - who can design those platforms on a corporate-wide basis - is more critical now than ever, and that's not likely to change.

So, while an announcement from VMware is still forthcoming, it sure seems like this is the next logical step in the training and certification program. And here's hoping that they take that step in the relatively near future.

Vmware launches their first True cloud-focused certification

Monday July 30, 2012

If you've been following the rumor mill and blog posts over the last year, you know that VMware has been preparing a new certification focused specifically on the use of VMware to provide cloud services. Specifically, the VMware Certified Professional (VCP) certification was going to be expanded to encompass those professionals that provide cloud services to their customers.

To that end, VMware recently launched the beta of the VCP Infrastructure as a Service (VCP-IAAS) certification, aimed squarely at those professionals who support the VMware-based infrastructure that supports public cloud offerings. Before, VMware certifications such as the VCP and the VMware Certified Design Expert (VCDX) were focused more on the use of VMware as a private virtualization platform. But, as the IT industry continues to move towards greater use of services, as opposed to internally-owned infrastructure, VMware recognized the need to place a greater focus on the skills required to support a public-cloud offering, with its own unique challenges and requirements.

Now, as of July 27th, that beta became a general release, and the VCP - IAAS is now being offered by VMware. The details are still a little scanty, but it can be assumed that the certification will follow the same general approach of the beta examination, which was comprised of 115 questions, with a maximum score of 300 on a scaled scoring system.

More details can be found at the VMware education blog, at http://blogs.vmware.com/education/2012/06/www.vmware.com/go/vcpiaas/

Austin Free-Net offers discounted CompTIA Certification Training

Monday July 30, 2012

For a lot of prospective IT professionals, the biggest challenge is usually just getting a foot in the door, and finding that first IT job. And for people from disadvantaged backgrounds and areas, the challenge is much greater. For those people, the first step is the hardest one to take.

Enter Austin Free-Net, or AFN. AFN is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization located in Austin Texas, which provides technology education and support for people who want to begin careers in the information technology field, but lack the resources and knowledge required to get started. Along with other services, AFN essentially provides free access to the technology and training needed for people to gain a toe-hold in the information technology industry, and build their careers from there.

Now, AFN has begun offering IT certification courses, to enable aspiring IT pros to add specific IT certifications to their resume, to aid their job-hunting efforts and help them move up the IT career ladder. To start, the program is centered on three industry certifications from CompTIA - the A+, Network +, and Strata IT Fundamentals.

The courses themselves are instructor-led, and are offered in the Austin area only. And, unlike some of the other training offered by AFN, the classes aren't free. But they are significantly discounted. At a 40% discount from the rates typically offered by traditional training companies, the classes run $3,000. However, for students with a demonstrated financial need, AFN offers scholarships up to $2,700 - nearly the entire cost of the course.

Right now, the offering is limited to 12 students per class, and the classes run for 10 weeks. As mentioned above, the classes are only offered in the Austin area. But for aspiring IT professionals in the area who want to enter the IT field or enhance their careers, it's worth checking out. You can find more information at www.austinfree.net. Choose 'Continuing Education' from the top navigation bar.

Aruba Launches a New Set of Certifications for the Mobile Enterprise

Thursday July 5, 2012

BYOD (bring your own device) is much more than a fad in IT these days, as enterprises all over the world move to embrace a new, wireless world. Increasingly, workers in all kinds of companies are using their own tablets and phones to get business done, and IT is having to move fast to implement the wireless and mobility platforms to support those workers.

To that end - earlier this month, Aruba Networks launched a new set of certifications geared toward the management of wireless networks and mobility platforms. The new certifications are centered exclusively on wireless and mobility technologies, and focus on the design, implementation, support and management of wireless networks and mobility management using Aruba Networks hardware and software.

To their credit, Aruba has done more with this program than simply launch a single cert. They've put together a layered, multi-certification program that allows IT professionals to go as deep as they want into Aruba's technology, and become certified across several different technology platforms. The certifications begin with associate-level certifications such as the Aruba Certified Mobility Associate (ACMA), progress through professional-level certifications like the Aruba Certified Mobility Professional (ACMP), and finally end up at expert-level certifications, such as the Aruba Certified Mobility Expert (ACMX).

Training for the program begins with fundamental technologies such as RF technologies and general networking. From that foundation, it then goes on to focus on Aruba products and technologies such as wireless mesh networks and Aruba WLAN technology, and Aruba's AirWave and AirMesh product suites, among others. More information on Aruba Training can be found here.

Cisco Announces a New Data Center Expert Certification

Saturday June 30, 2012

For some time, Cisco has been honing its data center strategy, and the company has now announced a new expert-level certification aimed at data center professionals and network administrators who implement data center networks. This certification, the CCIE Data Center, is centered on Cisco's evolving line of data center-focused products, and will be another variation of the <a href="http://compnetworking.about.com/od/cisconetworking/g/ccie-certification-cisco.htm" zT="1/1UH">Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE)</a>, like the CCIE Security and CCIE Service Provider.

Exam topics will cover the design, implementation, configuration, monitoring and troubleshooting of products such as the Nexus line of switches (1000v, 2232, 5548, and 7009) the Catalyst 3750, MDS 9222i, the Unified Computing System (UCS) line, and the Cisco Application Control Engine Appliance.

A beta version of the exam was available as a beta, until June 15 2012, and the general release of the certification is expected to come in September of 2012. There won't be any pre-requisites for the exam, but from the description provided by Cisco, anyone who doesn't possess significant experience and knowledge of Cisco data center product is unlikely to pass the exam.

Like the other CCIE certification, this certification has both a written and lab component. Once achieved, the certification is valid for 3 years.

Black Hat 2012 Launches July 21 - 26, In Las Vegas

Monday June 4, 2012

Black Hat 2012, one of the premier security conferences in the security industry, is coming to Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas, running from July 21-26. Black Hat Briefings, as the organization calls the conferences, are vendor-neutral gatherings focused on security education and the sharing of real-time, real-world information security issues, trends and bleeding-edge security technologies.

Black Hat has been producing technical security conferences since 1997, and today produces shows in North America, Europe, and the Middle East. Black Hat also produces a specific event for the Federal Government, which is held annually in Washington, DC. The conferences are targeted primarily

Like most conferences of its kind, Black Hat Briefings are divided into a combination of events comprised of shorter presentations and workshops, and longer, more in-depth multi-day trainings. Security education is a strength of the Black Hat Briefings (which is why I'm writing about it here), with a breadth of training options range across a number of security topics, covering everything from Forensics to less well-known topics like Steganography. Presentations likewise cover a number of topics, from large keynote addresses to smaller product demos and technology presentations.

Rates at the conference, after June 1, rise by $500 to USD $2195. That rate is valid until the conference begins on July 21st. After that, registration is performed on-site at the conference, for USD $2595. Also, judging from a quick scan of the list of topics on their site, many classes are already sold out. So, if you're interested in attending this year's conference, it's probably a good idea to go ahead and register.

The MCSE Makes a Comeback

Friday May 4, 2012
Photo © Red Hat, Inc.

It's not exactly the most controversial statement to say that cloud computing has generated some buzz over the last few years, and with good reason - according to a recent IDC study, the cloud computing industry is expected to generate upwards of US$1.5 trillion in revenues and 14 million jobs, all by 2015. Even if those estimates are optimistic, all signs point to a growing adoption of cloud services on a massive scale, over the course of the next few years.

Because of that, Microsoft has recently announced a significant re-vamp of its certifications, to reflect the changing emphasis on cloud computing. Several certifications are being changed and/or introduced, including:

Introducing the Cybersecurity Credentials Collaborative (C3)

Friday May 4, 2012

The 2012 RSA Conference in San Francisco was the setting for a number of interesting announcements, not the least of which was the formation of a new joint venture among security certification authorities, in an effort to both standardize the criteria for achieving various security certifications, and define the focus and relationships between different security specializations and their associated certifications.

This is a very positive step forward in the field, because one of the chief criticisms of IT security certifications in the past has been that no one certification can be clearly delineated from another, so that individuals with one certification often have difficulty differentiating their skills or specialties from other individuals with different certifications. And because the field of security is so vast, it can be difficult for companies to understand exactly what area of security is covered by what certification, and where gaps in the knowledge-base of their security staff might exist. Before now, there wasn't any one unifying effort to coordinate and define the boundaries and synergies between different security certifications.

The list of participating organizations is pretty impressive, with CompTIA, the EC-Council, and (ISC)2 all represented, among others. Those organizations are responsible for the Security+, Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH), and Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) certifications, respectively.

So far, there haven't been any announcements as to how this new initiative might affect current and future security certifications, but this is a step in the right direction, and hopefully will have the added benefit on enhancing the value of security certifications and credentials even more.

Cert-holders Need Soft Skills

Wednesday October 14, 2009

Are certifications outdated? That's the conclusion from an analyst who studies the industry. An article on the tech job search site Dice.com quotes David Foote as saying the following:

"We've reached a point in our evolutionary rung that has outdistanced the value of certifications," says David Foote, chief executive and chief research officer for Foote Partners. "It is not that technology is not important, but other skills - especially in customer-facing jobs - are more important."

Although I disagree with the thrust of that quote -- in fact, there are several other folks quoted in the story who affirm the value of certifications -- Foote does make a valuable point. Soft skills, like communication, are becoming increasingly important.

Knowing how to write clear, concise emails, for example, can go a long way toward helping your career. Talking to non-tech-savvy folks in a way that doesn't make them feel stupid is another way. Sending out plenty of warning -- at least two emails -- before making a major computer system change that will affect the way your end-users go about doing their jobs is another.

Do you get my point here? Knowing the technology is only half the battle. You have to remember the other people in your organization, and make things as easy for them as possible with good communication. You might be surprised -- it could be those skills, not your wizardy with Group Policy -- that gets you that promotion and raise.

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