If you want to increase your skills and value as an employee, you may want to consider a virtualization certification.
There are generic certifications for some IT fields, such as the LPI certification for Linux and the Certified Wireless Network Administrator. But virtualization doesn’t have a major, independent, industry-wide certification yet. Instead, vendors offer their own virtualization certifications. If you work with a certain platform, go for that vendor’s virtualization certification. If you simply want to enhance your resume or branch out, there are lots of options.
There are several VMware certifications. The most basic is the VMware Certified Professional (VCP), which proves that you know how to handle VMware vSphere. To get this virtualization certification, you need to take a training course and pass the VCP exam. Unfortunately, VMware training tends to cost more than other IT courses. (This course on configuring and managing vSphere, for instance, is more expensive than a comparable class on configuring and managing Windows Server 2008 R2.)
VMware’s next level of virtualization certification is the VMware Certified Advanced Professional (VCAP), which comes in two different versions: Datacenter Administration and Datacenter Design. To earn the VCAP designation, you must have the VCP certification and pass an exam. There is no training course for this virtualization certification.
The highest possible VMware certification is the VMware Certified Design Expert (VCDX). To get this virtualization certification, you must first pass the VCP exam and both VCAP exams. Then you have to apply for VCDX and successfully defend a data center design project. If you meet all these requirements, you'll be one of only a happy few VCDX holders.
Microsoft virtualization certification
Microsoft virtualization certifications are part of the bigger Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) and Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP) tracks. You can earn these certifications by earning one or more specialization certifications, called the Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS).
The current virtualization specialization is MCTS 70-652, which you can earn by taking an exam without any obligation to attend a class. If you want to reach the highest MCITP certification, you need to pass two generic Windows Server exams in addition to your MCTS specialization.
Citrix certifications are similar to VMware’s approach. The entry-level virtualization certification is the Citrix Certified Administrator (CCA), which proves that you can install, maintain and administer Citrix XenServer 5.x. You can earn the CCA by passing an exam and without taking a course.
The next level of Citrix certifications is the Citrix Certified Enterprise Engineer (CCEE). The first step toward this virtualization certification is to get certified for Citrix XenApp, XenServer and XenDesktop. Then you need to pass two engineering exams and accept the virtualization certification agreement.
The top of the bill for Citrix certifications is the Citrix Certified Integration Architect (CCIA), which has a virtualization track for current CCEEs who have real-world experience designing dynamic virtual infrastructures. You have to take one test to earn the CCIA virtualization certification.
Which virtualization certification is right for you?
Your choice of virtualization certification depends on what your goals are. If you're looking for a fast way to get certified, the Microsoft virtualization certification may be best for you. If you want to become a data center expert, VMware's VCDX is the best way to go.
VMware and Citrix offer mature virtualization certifications that go beyond the administrator level. Citrix certifications are somewhat broad. The Citrix Certified Integration Architect, for instance, can create a virtual infrastructure completely integrated with Citrix applications, desktops and servers. VMware certifications, on the other hand, are more in-depth, bringing you from the level of a vSphere administrator to a data center architect.
This was first published in April 2011