Service provider takeaway: Systems service providers have a long list of certifications to pursue. We lay out the three most important technology certifications.
While the value of technology certification has long been debated, the fact is that you can't afford to ignore certifications. In fact, determining the most important credentials for your engineers is a big factor in the success of your business. But choosing the right certifications is not as simple as you might think. For one thing, there are more technology certifications now than ever. While the drive toward consolidation and virtualization may be reducing the complexity of the data center, it has actually made the certification decision more complex.
So, how should you go about determining which technology certifications will most help you and your staff? First, you need to consider these two critical factors:
- Core competency: What is the focus of your business? If your focus is Linux, you should make sure your engineers are certified for Linux. This may seem obvious, but it does deserve to be pointed out. And if you predominantly work with Red Hat Linux, you should make Red Hat certification a higher priority than a vendor-neutral one.
- Customer needs: What are your customers looking for? What are their pain points? Do they value technology certifications? While some customers I support are not big on certifications, others will not allow me to even bring in staff without certifications.
So let's cut to the chase. What exactly are the three most importance technology certifications for systems service providers?
- Project management: Project Management Professional (PMP). This certification -- given by the Project Management Institute (PMI) -- is one of the most impressive technology certifications in the world. Most successful service providers understand that in today's IT world, project management skills can be more important than technical skills -- and that having quality PMPs on your staff can mean the difference between getting that new contract and sitting around talking about network latency with staff members on unbillable time.
- Honorable mention: Six Sigma Black Belt (SSBB). Someone with this certification understands the Six Sigma business management strategy and can discuss systems and tools used to support that strategy.
- Operating systems: Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE). Choosing just one OS certification is hard because there are so many operating systems out there. A service provider that specializes in Windows won't need to be certified in Unix or Linux, and a service provider that focuses on Unix/Linux won't need to be certified for Windows. That said, the MCSE should in general be the most desirable technology certification for systems service providers because of the predominance of Windows.
- Honorable mention: Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE) and IBM's Certified Advanced Technical Expert (CATE) for the IBM System p (Unix and Linux). The Red Hat certification is much harder to attain than the MCSE and is one of the more prestigious certifications around. IBM's certification is important for IBM channel partners.
- Databases: Oracle Certified Professional (OCP). This choice was easy. Service providers that want to demonstrate database knowledge should have someone on staff certified with the OCP. Like most vendors, Oracle offers many types of database certifications, including Oracle Certified Associate (OCA), Oracle Certified Professional (OCP) and Oracle Certified Master (OCM). Of these three, the OCP will meet the requirements of most customers. The OCA is relatively easy to get and hence not incredibly valuable, and most customers won't need the harder-to-acquire skills certified by the OCM. I strongly discourage you from vendor-neutral certification in this category; it's critical that you have staff certified in products that you service and support.
- Honorable mention: The Microsoft Certified Database Administrator (MCDBA) credential is key for service providers whose clients use SQL Server.
The bottom line is that you should never stop educating your staff. Most technical folks love technology certifications and will work that much harder for you if you provide the necessary tools so that they can perform their jobs better.
About the author
Ken Milberg heads a consulting firm, Unix-Linux Solutions. He has more than 20 years of experience with Unix and Linux systems, as well as broad technical and functional experience with AIX, HP, SCO and Solaris.