Cloud Architect Certification, Part 1: Vendor-Specific Certs
An architect is somebody who designs and builds structures of all kinds. In the IT world, the architect's role is to do those things for all kinds of infrastructures and systems. Architects usually also act as the interface between IT, management, and business stakeholders to make sure their vision aligns with business goals and objectives.
The architect needs to make sure that IT people understand what users and stakeholders need. And the architect also ensures that money spent on building IT infrastructures provides the kinds of payoffs and competitive advantages that managers and stakeholders expect them to deliver.
Thus, there's a powerful political and business element in playing the architect role — the sort of thing that is often thought of as falling under the label of project management. Some would argue that this dimension of the job is as important, if not more important, than all the "technology stuff" that IT people hold both near and dear.
The Architect's Role, Responsibility and Compensation
An architect may or may not hold a management title (sometimes they do, and sometimes they don't). Architects usually rank pretty high, however, on most org charts. In fact, they usually weigh in somewhere around the same as a Director, Senior Director, or VP in terms of the roles they play in the organizations.
If people don't report to an architect directly, there will often be a "dotted-line" from dozens of people across multiple departments who have day-to-day interactions and relationships with such an individual. That means a typical architect usually has 10 or more years of work experience, often has an advanced degree (Master's, PhD or equivalent), and usually has plenty of technical certifications in his or her portfolio.
As you'd expect, such individuals also usually make pretty serious money, upwards of $150,000 per year in major U.S. metro areas, and upwards of $125,000 elsewhere across the United States. As you'd expect there are lots of architect certifications to be pursued and earned.
In this story, I focus on vendor-specific, cloud-related architect credentials. As is typical in IT, many cloud architects learn and work within the context of a single Cloud Provider platform. Thus, we find Cloud Architect credentials available from a number of major cloud platform players.
In addition, there are numerous industry and professional associations that take cloud computing as their focus. These, too, offer a variety of cloud architect credentials. I'll cover those in a follow-up GoCertify story next week. In the list that follows, I'll provide names, brief introductions and descriptions, and links to such vendor-specific programs as are available from the Top 10 global cloud platform providers.
If you see something I've missed, please use the GoCertify Contact Us link to let me know. I'll look it over and if I agree it's worthy of inclusion, I'll update the list accordingly.
Vendor-Specific Cloud Architecture Certs
According to ZDnet, as of April, Gartner's Top Cloud Platform Providers in 2021 are as follows (where any of them has one or more Cloud Architect credentials, I provide the info promised for each one):
Amazon Web Services (AWS): The company's extensive certification program includes a multi-tiered AWS Certified Solutions Architect track with both Associate and Professional levels. As you'd expect, the emphasis is on designing and developing scalable, highly available, fault-tolerate and reliable applications on AWS, including use of AWS services, complex, multi-tiered designs, enterprise-scale operations, and cost control strategies.
Microsoft Azure: Microsoft's cert program includes the Azure Solutions Architect Expert, which takes two exams to earn (MS Azure Architect Technologies and MS Azure Architect Design). It requires extensive knowledge of the Microsoft Azure environment, including computer, network, storage, and security topics, with "intermediate-level skills for administering Azure" already in hand. The focus is on working on "advising stakeholders and translating business requirements into secure, scalable, and reliable cloud solutions." The range of topics mentioned is large and includes networking, virtualization, identity management, business continuity and disaster recovery, data platform, budgeting and governance.
Google Cloud Platform (GCP): The Google Cloud certification program includes eight professional-level certifications, in which list Professional Cloud Architect appears in first position. The descriptive blurb for this credential reads succinctly: "A Professional Cloud Architect enables organizations to leverage Google Cloud technologies. With a thorough understanding of cloud architecture and Google Cloud Platform, this individual can design, develop, and manage robust, secure, scalable, highly available, and dynamic solutions to drive business objectives." Topics mentioned include design and plan, manage and provision, handle security and compliance, analyze and optimize technical and business processes, manage implementation, and ensure solution and operations reliability.
Alibaba Cloud: Through the Alibaba Cloud Academy, the company offers a range of certifications. Most of them include "architect" in identifying the job roles for which they are suitable. The credentials of greatest interest will be the Alibaba Cloud Computing Associate (ACA), Alibaba Cloud Computing Professional (ACP), and Alibaba Cloud Computing Expert certifications. Navigating their courses and information is, in a word, rough. You can gain more insight about this program from its page at Pearson VUE. I can't help but perceive some maturity and sophistication issues here, so be warned.
Oracle Cloud: Oracle University offers a major collection of Oracle certifications to employees, partners, customers and consultants. Oracle offers a multi-tiered Cloud certification program that includes the Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) Architect Associate- and Professional-level credentials. The OCI Architect Professional takes the Associate certification as a prerequisite; both come with multi-year experience requirements across a range of cloud workload and database tasks and activities.
IBM Cloud: IBM Training offers a huge, multi-layered collection of hundreds of certifications (over 700, the last time I counted). Among this myriad, you'll find the IBM Cloud Professional Architect, a credential that includes 20 training assets across seven categories (intro, compute, storage and resiliency, application solution platforms, hands-on labs, cloud paks and service management and reporting). It works as an interactive learning path to build the skills and knowledge needed to occupy an Architect's role using IBM Cloud. The emphasis is on designing "secure, cloud-native microservices architectures and phased approaches to migrating monolithic applications to IBM cloud."
Tencent Cloud: I don't see much evidence of a certification program right now at Tencent, let alone one that includes an architect-level credential. I found a press release that announced "TCCE certification" courses which are described as "open to universities and enterprise users, and are open to the outside world in the form of Tencent Cloud Workshop, University Cloud Leadership Training Camp, and CTO Special Training Class. Tencent Cloud Workshop cultivates the practical ability and professional skills of college students through online teaching platform and teaching experiment platform." Not much else comes up when searching into these terms or on the English-language Tencent site.
Allcode.com adds the following companies to this mix:
Salesforce (after Alibaba in their list): Widely recognized as the number one Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform globally, the company's SalesForce Certified Application Architect credential comes close to covering a cloud focus (they also offer System Architect and Technical Architect Credentials as well). This cert requires five or more years of relevant, hands-on experience and includes four prerequisites: Data Architecture and Management Designer, Sharing and Visibility Designer, Platform App Builder and Platform Developer 1. This is a serious, heavy duty, and well designed credential (and program). Numerous other architect level certs are available, as documented in the Architect track (nearly a dozen, in fact) available in the company's Certification Guide (PDF format).
Digital Ocean (after IBM in their list): As with Tencent, Digital Ocean does not seem to offer a mature or elaborate certification program, with nothing I can find at the Architect level. It does offer an online "Introduction to the Cloud" class. At the moment that seems to be all there is to find. There are many third-party traninng offerings (e.g. Udemy) but that covers the vast majority of current available training on the platform. I imagine this will change in the next year or two.
Dell Technologies (after Digital Ocean in their list): Dell offers a Cloud Architect - Cloud Infrastructure and Services track in its certification offerings. This includes Associate, Specialist, and Expert level courses and credentials. To pursue an Expert level credential, one must first earn both associate and specialist credentials. Candidates must then a training class (online or ILT versions are available) and take exam DEE-2T13 (as described on the Expert Level tab of the afore-linked page).
These vendors comprise a reasonable "Cloud Platform Provider Top 10" list so that's where I'll stop my investigation. You needn't draw your lines there, though: There are hundreds of other, smaller-scale cloud platform providers. If they run in your workplace (or in one where you'd like to work) it makes sense to investigate further and see if they offer cloud certifications in general and architect certifications in particular.
That said, given that eight of 10 of these players already offers a Cloud Architect cert of some kind, and a ninth may either have one already or have one in the works, it shows that Cloud Architect is an important role when working with any major provider's platform. I expect to see lots of action and ferment in this arena for the foreseeable future.
If ever I saw an evergreen cert, "cloud architect" (of whatever variety) looks like a good one these days. And with cloud uptake, migration, investment, and focus all on a continuing rise, this niche has no place to go but up.
Stay tuned to the GoCertify site: I'll be posting the vendor-neutral cloud architect cert survey to follow this vendor-specific survey up next week!