Take Five With Tom Fenton
Certification is still relatively rare in the virtualization field. That can work to your advantage, if you don't put it off.
I'll admit it up front: I'm a fan of certification. I have MCSEs for both Windows NT and Windows 2000, and they helped me get my first IT job as a Windows NT application specialist at a major media company.
If you're thinking about getting certified in virtualization, this is a good time. There aren't many virt-certified folks out there right now, so having the piece of paper may help you get a better job, get that promotion or raise or even get back in the job market if you've been a victim of the recession.
Toward that end, here are five virtualization certifications that might interest you.
VMware Certified Professional (VCP). The VMware Certified Professional is the "MCP" of the virtualization world: It's the first certification that most folks get. The VCP is held in high regard, and it's the most immediately recognizable virtualization certification by a wide margin.
The VCP doesn't require experience, though VMware says it's very difficult to pass the test without it. VMware does require taking a company-authorized training class, however. Keep in mind that VCP also has value because most virtualization shops have ESX in place, giving you the broadest reach.
Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS): Windows Server Virtualization, Configuration. For some reason, Microsoft loves long, ungainly, almost unpronounceable names. This is no exception, but the certification looks strong.
This MCTS is aimed at admins working with Hyper-V. Microsoft recommends at least one-and-a-half years of experience managing Windows Server 2003 or 2008 before attempting this the exam. Given Microsoft's push into virtualization, this is something to consider; more and more shops are giving Hyper-V a place in the data center.
VMware Certified Design Expert (VCDX). This is the fairly new, top-level cert from VMware. It's several orders of magnitude harder than the VCP.
Not only do you need to be a VCP first, you need to take a qualification review. You also need to pass an administration exam, which has a live lab element, and a design exam. On top of that, you need to "Submit, present and defend a successful VMware Infrastructure design and implementation plan." Whew! Sounds a little bit like a dissertation, doesn't it?
Citrix Certified Administrator (CCA) for XenDesktop Enterprise. Citrix now offers a host of virtualization-related certifications, on both the server side (with XenServer) and the desktop side (with XenDesktop). The CCA for XenDesktop is intriguing because there are few certifications aimed at this virtual niche. And with Citrix being one of the leading desktop virtualization vendors, it's likely to have value in the field.
Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS): Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager (VMM) 2008, Configuration. Yes, another of those horribly long-winded Microsoft names. This exam, released last December, is the management part of Hyper-V. If you're working with Hyper-V, you're likely using VMM to manage it. VMM goes beyond Hyper-V, though; you can also manage ESX with it. The exam objectives don't list anything about administering ESX, of course. But if you're also a VCP, you can pretty much do it all.
Do you plan on obtaining any virtualization certifications? Tell me at email@example.com.
Keith Ward is the editor in chief of Virtualization & Cloud Review. Follow him on Twitter @VirtReviewKeith.