Solution providers also have access to certifications from PC and server systems' builders. These programs often encompass both the vendor's hardware and the operating systems, such as Linux.
Hewlett-Packard Co.'s Linux Elite program, for example, allows solution providers to benefit from project and marketing support to expand their Linux business and expertise.
The program gives partners access to confidential information on the company's Linux strategy, upcoming products and solutions, according to Palo Alto, Calif.-based HP. Members of HP's Developer and Solution Partner Program receive product and technology information as well as key equipment and development resources. Prospects may check out the program via HP's test-drive offering.
The menu of available certifications can be mind-boggling. One certification-preparation site includes offerings from server and PC developers such as Apple, Dell, HP, IBM and Sun, along with myriad operating system, network and specific application solutions. With the commoditization of PCs and notebooks, certification in these areas seems less valuable than others. But as AMD and Intel battle over the quad-server market, becoming certified in next-generation servers should result in an ROI for those solution providers interested in incorporating this expertise into their portfolio.
Whatever the technology, solution providers must ascertain the value they expect to reap from their investment of time and money – whether for up-front fees, travel costs or time away from revenue-generating opportunities, said industry executives.
"It is not a small investment," said Cisco's Brar. "They need to look at what certification has value to the end customer. I think they should be selective. At the end of the day, they need to differentiate themselves. They need to pick their market and go with the best."