Chewing Over Datamation's Top 10 Data Center Certs for 2022
If there’s one place where the development and evolution of IT is playing out with great force, it’s the modern data center. Such installations usually feature tens of thousands on up to hundreds of thousands of rack-mounted servers, along with the power, cooling, storage, and networking infrastructure to support them.
According to Statista, there are at least 6,300 such installations across the top 15 countries around the world. Notably, the United States accounts for 43 percent of that total, with 2,751 such installations recognized as of January 2022. (That's a lot of data, folks.)
Numbers Upon Numbers
According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a typical data center is responsible for lots of economic activity. While under construction "a typical data center employs 1,688 local workers, provides $77.7 million in wages for those workers, (and) produces $243.5 million in output along the local economy’s supply chain."
Once completed, a data center "supports 157 local jobs paying $7.8 million in wages, injecting $32.5 million into the local economy, and generating $1.1 million in revenue to state and local governments" (both citations are from Page 2 of the afore-linked document). Given 2,500 or so such installations currently active, that’s almost 400,000 jobs, most of which are IT-focused.
The growth rate for data centers is north of 10 percent, which means those numbers keep growing all the time. Indeed, based on that rate, those January numbers mean it’s likely that the total number of U.S. data centers is probably approaching 3,000, adding nearly 40,000 jobs to the preceding total.
Datamation’s Top 10 Data Center Certs, Revealed
Some of the certs discussed here fall in important areas that may not be immediately obvious. As I list them in their order of appearance in Datamation's top 10 story, please note that some fall under the heading of data center design and management.
Those certs reference the building and running such installations from the standpoint of power, cooling, cabling, physical security, and so forth, rather than more typical nuts-and-bolts IT specialties such as cloud computing, networking, storage, high-performance computing, and so forth.
1. Data Center Certified Associate (DCCA): This cert comes from power supply (UPS, power generation, power conditioning, and so forth) giant Schneider Electric. It teaches entry-level engineers what’s involved in "data center operations, data tier levels, cooling, cabling, electrical supply and fire suppression system[s]." At $250, this one’s a relative bargain.
2. Certified Data Center Design Professional (CDCDP): U.K.-based CNet Training offers a five-day training class/certification aimed at data center operations professionals seeking to work with “physical infrastructure, operations procedure, distribution systems, cabling, and structuring support systems.” At $5,750, this is a typical high-end online training and certification experience, usually company-funded.
3. Data Center Practitioner (DCP): An intensive 42-hour program offered online, this training comes from a digital infrastructure company (Digital Dynamics) that specializes in running events and producing focused content for the data center industry, and has done so since 1998.
The DCP’s focus is on data center management practices, emphasizing sustainability and energy efficiency. It also comes with a two-year renewal cycle and goes into deep detail on data center implementation, cooling and power, server density, construction and management, emissions and energy optimization, and more. At $3,950 it’s another typical training and certification experience, albeit instructor-led.
4. Cisco Certified Network Professional: Data Center (CCNP Data Center): Datamation actually references CCNA Data Center, a credential that no longer exists. So we've defaulted to CCNP Data Center, a well-known data center cert that focuses on networking, troubleshooting, addressing, switch configuration and VLANs, typical network services, virtualized servers and networks, and more. Various options include self-study ($1,000 or so) and a five-day class with exam prep and delivery included ($4,500 or thereabouts). As with many Cisco certs, this one has a three-year expiration date.
Cisco does offer a data center credential one level below its Associate tier. The Cisco Certified Technician (CCT) Data Center credential "focuses on the skills required for onsite support and maintenance of Cisco Unified Computing Systems and servers."
5. Registered Communications Distribution Designer (RCDD): This one comes from trade association BICSI which focuses on nuts-and-bolts engineering for all kinds of wired and wireless communications, including the heavy-duty networking, peering, colocation, and access typical in most data centers. RCDD candidates learn about designing, integrating, implementing, project managing, and building working infrastructures for modern data centers. The exam costs $495, with a variety of self-study and training options also available.
6. Juniper Networks Certified Professional: Data Center (JNCIP-DC): Much like Cisco, Juniper is a high-end networking technology company that has staked out a presence in data centers around the globe. Its certifications cover the ins and outs of data center routing, switching, and more, with a three-year expiration date on this credential. This is offered as a typical ILT or online training and exam combo, at prices that range from $2,500 to $4,750 depending on course type and location.
7. VCE Converted Infrastructure Administration Engineer (VCE-CIA): This is a Dell-sponsored credential, built around its data center oriented Vblock Systems, It’s part of a multi-tiered program that includes courses from basic to expert/master levels. Candidates for the foundation course learn about system concepts, security, management, troubleshooting and data center maintenance.
The cert exam costs $200, and is supported via live, instructor-led classroom training (pricing not disclosed). Depending on those numbers (or access to self-study materials), this might be another good starting point for interested IT pros.
8. VMware Certified Professional 6 - Data Center Virtualization (VCP6-DCV): An element of the VMware certification program, which includes 16 data center certs. This particular credential seeks to integrate cloud management and conventional data center networking, with an emphasis on VMware vSphere tools and technologies.
Exams cost $125 (Foundations) on up to $250 (VCP6 exams), and training runs from $4,125 to $6,000 depending on format and location. If memory serves, training is required except for those upgrading certs from one VMware generation to the next.
9. Certified Data Centre Expert (CDCE): A program offered by numerous training companies who obtain accreditation from U.K.-based data standards and procedures company EXIN, this credential seeks to educate IT managers and professionals about building, relocating, and managing critical IT infrastructures, including data centers. The credential focuses as much on choosing and assembling a proper mix of services and capabilities as it does on actual components, site selection, design and construction, and much, much more.
Courses are available in person and online, where pricing varies according to location and provider. My best guess is that it will run about a week and cost somewhere around $5,000 to get through this program.
10. Certified Data Center Sustainability Professional (CDCSP): A 20-hour intensive program focused on energy consumption optimization and management and sustainability. In-person and online versions of the training (which precedes a culminating and bundled exam) are available, and cost $6,990.
Verdict: Thumbs Up
In researching and writing about data center certs as recently as 2020, I had come across at least half of the aforementioned items. That said, Datamation has included some interesting and leading-edge U.K.-based programs I hadn’t run into before, particularly in the areas of energy management and sustainability.
Readers will no doubt gravitate to specific vendor-oriented items in the list — e.g. Cisco, Juniper, VMware, and so forth — based on current or prospective data center employers’ technology selections. I don’t see anything here to quibble with (or about), and believe that, as "top 10 cert" guides go, this is a pretty good one.