Navigating the VMware certification path
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The new VMware certification policy is supposed to keep customers and partners up to date on the company's latest technologies, but some see it as a solution to a nonexistent problem.
Under the policy, all VMware Certified Professional (VCP) certificate holders must recertify every two years. Prior to this change, the certifications did not expire, but they did (and still do) align with specific versions of VMware Inc. products. So it's always been easy to see which VCP holders are up to date.
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"If we get up to vSphere 7, somebody who's a VCP3, they clearly haven't kept up," said Jonathan Frappier, a Boston-area IT administrator who runs the Virtxpert blog.
The goal of the new policy, which went into effect this week, is to maintain the VCP's value and the credibility of certification holders, VMware said. There are doubts, however, that the policy will do anything to help in that regard.
What the new VMware certification rules mean
The VCP is a set of entry-level VMware certifications that recognize competence in data center virtualization, desktop virtualization and cloud computing. More than 70,000 IT professionals in 167 countries hold a VCP, according to VMware.
Each certification's number matches the version number of one of VMware's flagship products. For example, the latest data center virtualization certification, the VCP5-DCV, recognizes skills in using the most recent server virtualization product, vSphere 5.x.
"If a guy comes to you and he's got a VCP3 on his resume, that's irrelevant, and you know it's irrelevant," said Patrick Kremer, a senior consulting engineer at Heartland Business Systems, a Little Chute, Wisc.-based IT solutions provider.
Under the new rules, thatVCP3 holder has to get a VCP5 or lose his certification. And it's unclear if he'd be allowed to hold on to his VCP3 upon recertification.
That's not a huge problem for the VCP3, which aligns with a product that was last updated in 2009. But it could be an issue for VCP4 holders, because vSphere 4 is still in use in many organizations, and employers may be looking for people certified on that specific version, Frappier said.
Christian Mohn, a senior virtualization consultant at EVRY ASA, an IT services provider in Norway, downplayed this concern. He noted that VMware will discontinue vSphere 4 hypervisor and management support in May. VMware will also stop offering the VCP4 exam in May.
"I'm not sure I quite understand why people are upset about it," Mohn said. "It's kind of an emotional thing for some people, that they might have their VCP revoked in some way."
How to comply with the VMware certification policy
Current VCP holders have two years from the date of their most recent VMware certification to re-up, via one of three methods:
- earn the more current version of the existing certification (i.e., a VCP4 holder earns a VCP5);
- earn a new VCP in a new technology area (i.e., a VCP5-DCV holder earns a VCP5-Cloud);
- earn a VMware Certified Advanced Professional (VCAP) certification, which recognizes a higher level of skills.
These rules could also cause some problems. Kremer said he is concerned that he'll have to pay for an exam he previously passed just to keep his existing certifications. He already holds all the VCPs and VCAPs relevant to his job, and there's no guarantee that vSphere 6 and the VCP6 exam will become available before his expiration date arrives.
VMware typically releases a major vSphere update every summer, but the launches of completely new versions are less predictable. For example, vSphere 4 came out in 2009, followed by vSphere 4.1 in 2010 and vSphere 5 in 2011. The last two years have seen point releases, with vSphere 5.1 in 2012 and vSphere 5.5 in 2013.
"I'll be pretty mad if I have to go retake the VCP5 just to retain certification," Kremer said. "I won't be a happy camper."
Existing VCP holders will not have to pay for or take the training courses required of new applicants, which can cost thousands of dollars, but they will have to pay $225 to take the certification exam.
VCPs suggest policy changes
Many other major IT vendors also have recertification policies. Cisco Systems Inc.'s timeframe is between two and five years, depending on the specific certification, and Microsoft's is two to three years. Extending VMware's period to three years would be a good step, Kremer said.
Frappier agreed and suggested VMware should allow VCP holders who don't re-up to retain their older certifications, but not grant them access to any new privileges of the VCP program.
"That seems like a reasonable trade-off," he said.
A VMware representative was not available for comment.