3Tera starts certifying cloud computing skills

ComputerWorld Canada –

Two cloud computing certification programs recently announced by 3Tera Inc. may signify the beginning of a cloud computing certification trend.

The new Certified Cloud Operator and Certified Cloud Architect certifications are tailored to 3Tera's AppLogic cloud computing platform.

The three-day programs consist of instructor-led classes with hands-on labs that typically take place in rented hotel suites or meeting rooms for eight hours each day. Each program costs US$2,000 to enrol.

Classes are kept fairly small with 20 to 25 students and three instructors, said Bert Armijo, senior vice-president of marketing and product management at 3Tera.

The programs are intended to "take general IT professionals and give them the confidence in themselves and in the system to start moving traditional IT workloads into the clouds," he said.

Many of the concepts taught in the programs will be similar to other clouds, but the specifics focus on 3Tera's AppLogic cloud computing platform for service providers and enterprises, he pointed out.

This includes giving the "next generation of cloud users an understanding of exactly how the technology functions, what it can and can't do and how to maintain control of their applications no matter which of our service providers they are using," said Armijo.

3Tera launched AppLogic in 2006. There are now roughly 40 service providers worldwide and a few thousand end users on the AppLogic system, said Armijo. The company is now moving to the part of the market where people expect to get training, he said.

"We've had demand both from the service providers, who are trying to get their products to market quickly, and also from end users, who are trying to bring up their applications that want to make sure they are in fact following best practices," he said.

Cloud computing certifications are very new, according to Igor Abramovitch, director of technology services for Robert Half Technology, owned by Robert Half International Inc.

"As more and more vendors move to cloud computing products or SaaS products or platform-as-a-service, there will be more certifications coming out," he said.

Tier 1 hardware and software vendors with SaaS versions of their products likely include cloud computing training in their existing certification programs, he noted.

"They may not specifically have cloud computing in the name of the certification, but if they do offer those products, then I'm sure that their current certifications actually include that in the material," he said.

Vendors "don't specifically say that yet, but they will. It's just that 3Tera beat them to the punch," said Abramovitch.

IT workers seeking cloud certification must decide which cloud computing product they want to tie themselves to and "make sure that whatever they are choosing is in demand at the companies they are targeting," he advised.

"I don't think that someone could be certified specifically in cloud computing. It typically has to be tied to a particular software or particular hardware that the cloud is running on," said Abramovitch.

Because cloud certifications are so new, experience is currently more valuable, according to Abramovitch. "If the person has the experience setting up a cloud or setting up software-as-a-service for a company or a vendor, that would count much more for hiring managers than a brand-new certification," he said.

Cloud certifications will become a trend, but it will be "one that is slow to develop," according to Kevin Brice, president and general manager of MeasureUp LLC and sister company MSEmploy North America.

"I think the business has to get there first before the requirements for the certification are there," he said. Brice hasn't noticed companies requiring individuals with cloud computing certification and believes certifications already available today can lend themselves to companies using SaaS models.

Barry Lynn, chairman and CEO of 3Tera, sees the certifications as a testimony to the company's success in the cloud computing space.

"You can't really have a certification program unless there is a critical mass of people using it who want to be certified and those skills become transferable because of that critical mass," said Lynn. Three courses, two in the U.S. and one in Europe, are scheduled for 2010. 3Tera can also arrange on-premise courses for large enterprises. There are no courses scheduled within Canada, but 3Tera can add one if the demand is there, said Essy Nickolova, vice-president of marketing communications at 3Tera.

Additional certifications are in the works. 3Tera is planning to offer at least two or three more certification programs, according to Armijo, and one will specifically target ISVs and appliance vendors.

Certified Cloud Operator

*Target: Service providers, enterprise operations professional and systems integrators responsible for the deployment and operation of cloud services

*Course content: the process of installing, configuring and maintaining the computing fabric used for building cloud computing services with an emphasis on hardware requirements, service configuration, hardware failure troubleshooting, provisioning of customers and configuration of virtual private data centre

There are no background requirements, but students need to be proficient Linux system administrators familiar with all the standard Linux tools and have a basic understanding of PCP/IP networking, switches and router configuration and firewall configuration, said Armijo. "It also helps if they are fairly proficient in Windows, although that isn't an absolute requirement," he said.

Certified Cloud Architect

*Target: System architects, IT operations professionals, application developers and systems engineers responsible for the design, integration, provisioning, deployment and management of distributed applications

*Course content: Architectural concepts of the AppLogic cloud computing platform, step-by-step procedures for deploying, operating and managing applications in the cloud, best practices for security, testing and scaling applications, and how to architect for business continuity Suggested background requirements include being adept at understanding common application architectures such as SOA, LAMP and .NET, familiarity with basic business continuity and security concepts, proficient in Linux and Windows at a deployment and software architecture level, said Armijo. *From 3Tera's course description page

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