The Many Paths to Hyperconverged Infrastructure Certification
Hyperconverged Infrastructure (HCI) is a red-hot technology, and has been for a while. And, like any popular tech, there’s usually a training program offered by the vendor — accompanied by a certification exam or fifty!
It seems that every year there are new certs and new certification tracks that come out, attempting to keep up with the maddening pace of enterprise IT. With so many certs available, it’s hard to know which to obtain to either improve your skills as an admin, validate your skills or both. However, one hole I’ve seen in this is a lack of actual HCI certification tracks offered by vendors. Why is that?
It’s actually pretty simple: most aspects of HCI involve several different technologies all living under the same roof. You have the virtualization element, the storage element and the networking element, all shacked up together. This, of course is what makes HCI so attractive. But with the exception of a certification exam based on the proprietary elements of one particular vendor, there just aren’t a ton of certs that focus primarily on HCI.
In this post, I’m going to lay out the four types of certs I believe are the most valuable from an HCI perspective. Is it necessary to obtain all four types? No, but it wouldn’t be bad to have them all. Certification exams and training classes are expensive, and companies don’t always pay for them 100%, so I’ll leave it up to you to lay out your strategy for getting these certs.
Virtualization plays a vital role in HCI, so this is where you want to start. There are several big-name vendors out there, offering many virtualization certs. The certification tracks can include things like software-defined storage elements, software-defined networking and end user computing.
Your organization’s HCI implementation should drive your certification path. Of course, if you’re just delving into HCI, then go after the basic data center-level exam first and work your way through the others as needed. Understanding how the virtualization layer works within your chosen HCI deployment will help you manage it better, learn to scale better and troubleshoot any issue that may (will) arise.
Any cert based on storage that isn’t directly tied to a specific vendor is where you want to focus your efforts here. There are some companies that might not focus on storage directly, but some of their other products do, and you can find some related storage training and certification there. Many universities and community colleges offer classes that are traditionally less expensive than big-name vendors, and they’re usually more than just one week. Find a good course on storage, whether it’s software-defined, SAN, NAS or direct-attached. Anything you learn about storage you can apply in an HCI environment. In other words, storage is very important to the health of your deployment.
Networking is magic; I’ve always thought that and I always will. I mean, virtualization is amazing, but without networking you aren’t going anywhere. There are the obvious big names out there that have certification tracks which are the industry standard when it comes to networking.
But there are other certs that can complement your bread-and-butter networking certs. Look for certs that focus on specific aspects of networking. Software-defined networking has pushed its way to the forefront, it’s a great certification to have.
And beyond simply collecting certs, I’ll point again to the university and community college courses available. Take a class, gain some knowledge; it will still help, even if it isn’t accompanied by a certification.
Yes, security… very few people really love it, but it’s absolutely necessary. If you’re looking for certs focused on security, there’s too many to name. There are security certs that focus on cyber-security which could touch on a broad selection of topics, and there are certs focused specifically on certain types of hardware or software.
Which path is the best? The answer depends on your current environment, the type of hardware you’re dealing with and the mission of your organization. For example, if you’re working for the government, especially the Department of Defense, then DoD 8570 mandates that you have to have certain security certs depending on your position.
Don’t just get certs to get them, unless you work for a vendor, they’re paid for and you have nothing better to do. Embarking on a journey to obtain a certification can be a long and expensive path for most. Some have tons of experience and simply sit for the test and pass it. Others spend months studying, drop $300 on an exam and fail, only to do it again and again until they pass.
One warning here: Make sure the cert you put your effort into won’t be obsolete soon. There’s nothing worse than spending tons of time and money and finally obtaining a cert, only to find out from your boss that they’re moving to a different technology platform.
There are many good certs out there that are very much in line with HCI, and can give your career a big time return on your investment. Good luck!