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Admins with their eyes on the prize seek OpenStack certification

As OpenStack gains ground on Microsoft and VMware, many are looking to capitalize on this growth by pursuing either generic or vendor-specific OpenStack certification.

OpenStack is quickly catching up to Microsoft and VMware in the cloud operating system market. To accelerate that growth, the OpenStack Foundation launched an OpenStack certification program in 2015. In this article, we'll break down the elements of that program, from vendor-specific certifications to exams to training partners.

On the need for certification

To appreciate why certification is necessary, we must understand why it is important. You can, of course, teach yourself OpenStack, but being certified can help you land a job or change positions at your current place of employment. This is especially true when you consider just how complicated OpenStack can be. In total, there are 54 OpenStack components; you only need to know a handful of these to install and configure OpenStack, but even the most basic components, like Neutron networking, are complex. If you have the time and the funds to do so, sign up for training, and if you don't, study on your own and invest $300 to take the OpenStack Foundation certification exam. With a professional certification under your belt, you'll be well on your way to securing employment as an OpenStack administrator, engineer or architect.

Choosing the right OpenStack certification

OpenStack is open source software, meaning no single company is behind its development and sales. To generate revenue and distinguish themselves in the market, different OpenStack development partners have branded their product by diverging from the basic version of OpenStack and adding their own tools. This is possible because OpenStack modules do not have an overarching graphical interface. Instead, they only have a command line, an API interface and a very basic Horizon web interface.

This means that students have two options when it comes to training and OpenStack certification: either study generic OpenStack or vendor-specific OpenStack. Generic OpenStack training covers the most important components of OpenStack and is designed to prepare you for the Certified OpenStack Administrator (COA) exam. Offered by the OpenStack Foundation, the COA exam is a 2 ½ hour web-based test that requires you to configure items and run tasks in a VM using the Horizon dashboard and command line. It is presided over by a proctor who verifies your identity and monitors your progress via a microphone and webcam. This exam costs $300 and is only offered in English, though you can take training courses in different languages. The exam takes three days to score and, should you fail, you may retake it once for free.

An administrator doesn't need to know everything about all 54 OpenStack components, but a generic exam covers the following topics:

  • Basic architecture (3%)
  • Identity management (12%)
  • Dashboard (3%)
  • Compute (15%)
  • Object storage (10%)
  • Block storage (10%)
  • Networking (16%)
  • Heat (8%)
  • Troubleshooting (13%)
  • Image management (10%)

As implied by the name, vendor-specific training results in vendor-specific OpenStack certification, though some companies, like Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), offer both vendor-specific and vendor-agnostic OpenStack training. HPE's branded version of OpenStack is called HPE Helion OpenStack.

Red Hat also has its own branded version of OpenStack, called Red Hat OpenStack. Red Hat uses OpenStack as the cloud operating system for its public cloud customers and offers this vendor-specific OpenStack for private and hybrid clouds. Unlike the generic version of OpenStack, Red Hat's branded version is not free. Red Hat also offers two kinds of vendor-specific training and certification: Red Hat Certified System Administrator in Red Hat OpenStack and Red Hat Certified Engineer in Red Hat OpenStack.

Mirantis also offers two forms of branded OpenStack certification: Mirantis OpenStack Adminstrator Associate and Mirantis OpenStack Administrator Professional.

You can find these and other OpenStack training partners at the OpenStack Training Marketplace. Prepare for the future and ensure you have the job skills employers will be looking for by earning an OpenStack certification today.

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