Cloud Architect Certification, Part 2: Vendor-Neutral Certs
As the headline state, this is Part 2 of a two-part series on Cloud Architect Certifications. Last week, I offered my vendor-specific list of eight such credentials. This week, to my surprise and consternation, I could find only three vendor-neutral Cloud Architect certifications, only two of which are truly worthy of mention — the third is mostly a cipher.
I'm surprised because cloud computing is such a hot, high-demand and valuable subject matter. I'm nonplussed because recent stats show that most enterprises use an average of nearly five different clouds in their IT infrastructures, with at least two private clouds and a like number of public clouds already deployed. Thus, cloud architecture has to include hybrid and multi-cloud concerns.
Those topics come best from a vendor-neutral perspective, because it's inevitable that multiple clouds from multiple providers, public and private, will be on any cloud architect's radar.
I'm not going to repeat my overview of the cloud architect's role, responsibilities, and his or her necessary involvement with an organization's executives, stakeholders, and other important players. You'll find all that covered in the intro to last week's Part 1 item discussing vendor-specific certs.
Instead, I'll provide a brief explanation of what vendor-neutral certs are usually about, what kinds of sponsors typically back them, and how they keep up with constan change and evolution in the dynamic and innovative cloud realm. Then, I'll recite my top three vendor-neutral cloud architect certifications, followed by the top 3 certificate programs I found.
What It Means to Be Vendor-Neutral
For our area of concern in particular, it means that certifications focus on general topics, issues, concerns, and challenges involved in building robust and reliable architectures. It also means that issues related to interoperability and integration, which sometimes get ignored or glossed over in vendor-specific training and cert exams, are right up front and center.
For cloud architecture in particular, this is an important and vital area of skills and knowledge. It represents some of the biggest and most important challenges involved in creating and maintaining hybrid multi-cloud environments. A setting where, as typical jargon puts it, workloads can migrate seamlessly with minimal friction between on-premises, private, and public cloud platforms, and yada yada yada.
When it comes to sponsors of vendor-neutral certifications, they come in multiple shapes and sizes. The most reputable ones are usually professional associations or societies, trade or industry groups, and the like. Certain training companies also specialize in vendor-neutral training and certification.
All must be scrutinized to make sure their principles and processes are open and transparent, and that their so-called certification is more than just a draw to put people into training slots online, or seats in a classroom somewhere. I always try to vet the organizations behind the certs I write about and recommend.
All three sponsors for the certs I'll be writing about next have withstood my investigation and analysis.
Two Vendor Neutral Cloud Architect Certifications Worth Considering
I'll list them in alphabetical order here, then follow with a short section (including one or more links to additional information) about each one:
? 1) Arcitura Certified Cloud Architect
? 2) CCC Cloud Professional Cloud Solutions Architect
Arcitura Certified Cloud Architect
Sponsor Arcitura describes itself as "a leading global provider of progressive, vendor-neutral training and certification programs." The company offers 60-plus courses and 30 certifications across what they call "contemporary fields of practice." That is to say, "Cloud Computing, DevOps, Blockchain, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, Internet-of-Things, Big Data, Service-Oriented Architecture, and Containerization."
It's a big highly-professional global operation. Exams are delivered via Pearson VUE, with its own online and on-site proctoring services also available. The company's educational development philosophy is worth reading: It stresses vendor-neutrality, original and consistent content, currency, and validation, among other things.
This is a serious, well organized and effective training and certification organization that makes a point of enunciating and following best industry processes, practices, and standards.
The Arcitura Certified Cloud Architect credential is built around specific training modules in the company's Cloud Certified Professional (CCP) program (which has numerous other certs are also available). Five course modules, tested through a variety of different test vehicles and regimens (including online proctored exams or at Pearson VUE testing centers) are required to earn this certification.
Those modules are:
Module 1 — Fundamental Cloud Computing: basic cloud computing concepts, terminology, benefits, challenges, SLAs and business cost metrics and more.
Module 2 — Cloud Technology Concepts: containerization, cloud security threats and controls, and essential cloud technologies. Also covers testing, cloud storage, industry standards, emerging cloud technologies and related trends.
Module 3 — Fundamental Cloud Architecture: technology architecture of cloud platforms and cloud-based solutions and services. Course explores new cloud computing mechanisms, best uses and practices for deployment, design patterns and architectural models, design techniques, and proper use of containerization.
Module 4 — Advanced Cloud Architecture: focus on complex cloud-based solutions design, incorporation of hybrid cloud deployment models, compound design patterns, containerization, and solution architectures spanning in-cloud and on-premises environments.
Module 5 — Cloud Architecture Lab: offers hands-on exposure to and experience working with design patterns, models, concepts, techniques and mechanisms from other courses to assist skills and knowledge acquisition through completion of architectural and design exercises and labs.
A comprehensive training kit costs $476. Exam options vary; although those who've earned subsidiary certs need take only a partial exam, and a whole curriculum option is also available — the whole curriculum option is $399, so the partial is presumably less.
With overall pricing for this program under $1,000, this certification delivers extraordinary price-to-value. That said, candidates should be prepared to spend a year or more preparing for and completing the course modules that lead up to examination.
CCC Cloud Professional Cloud Solutions Architect
The sponsor here is the Cloud Certification Council, another specialty provider of vendor-neutral certification programs. It has been delivering professional development programs since 2013, with operations in more than 75 countries across multiple industries and government agencies.
CCC's cert portfolio covers topic areas that include foundation programs for Cloud, Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data and blockchain, plus professional role-based certs for those who work with cloud platforms and computing technologies.
CCC has partnered with 200-plus professional training providers around the globe, who deliver in-class or virtual training programs. CCC also offers direct access to self-study and online learning programs.
CCC exams are delivered in online proctored form, or through EXIN testing or test delivery locations. EXIN is the organization that handles ITIL and PRINCE2 training and testing, among other topic areas.
CCC publishes a comprehensive overview of the CCC Cloud Solutions Architect certification. It includes direct links to objectives, course details, and exam details. While there are no formal pre-requisites, the CCC recommends candidates earn either a CCC Cloud Technology Associate and/or hold the Open Group's TOGAF certification.
CCC asserts that its Cloud Solutions Architect credential "is based on the Cloud standards developed by NIST and aims to empower you to design the future generation of technology solutions. A great understanding of the most important technologies, platforms, and Cloud standards is provided via hands-on, practical exercises, and case studies. The purpose is to ensure you're capable of implementing the knowledge gained to help your organization gain value."
It identifies IT pros from operations, R&D, and other technology roles as ideal candidates for the cert. Those who earn this credential can go onto occupy jobs as technology, application, system, or enterprise architects. Other relevant job roles include cloud strategy consultant and senior developer.
Candidates who complete the curriculum and pass the exam will understand the history of cloud computing, and understand its impact on business and IT architectures. They will also understand and be able to demonstrate the key engineering concepts involved in operating "as a Service," and be able to explain the impact of cloud computing on service management.
They will grasp key perspectives both as clients/consumers and providers involved in setting up and operating cloud environments. Candidates will be equipped to understand and evaluate cloud solution architectures, and learn to plan for, manage, and transition into cloud-based environments.
CCC's training partner handles scheduling and delivery of the exam. Direct access to the course materials from CCC costs $495; the first take of the exam costs $595 (retakes are $300). Here again, this appears to be a great price-to-value ratio. My only concern is that the online training encompasses just 16 hours of video material (an eBook is, however, also included).
Number Three Is a Cipher: Cloud-Institute Cloud Architect
This certification comes from an organization identified only as "Cloud-Institute" with a copyright from "CloudCert Ltd." According to company information, the business was incorporated in 2013 in the United Kingdom. The exam includes 50 questions, runs 60 minutes and costs $95 (U.S.).
Objectives are a bit sketchy and seem to involve mostly catchphrases and vague generalities. There's mention of the NIST conceptual reference model, a call-out to understanding orchestration and "the major actors, activities, and functions in Cloud Computing."
Frameworks get a brief nod, as do the technologies and architecture that underlie cloud computing platforms. Migration paths and virtualization are likewise invoked. Four books are recommended to help preparation, as is the aforementioned NIST document.
But gosh, there's not much there when it comes to this credential. Not enough for me to tell whether I can recommend for or against it, even. Thus all I can do is observe that it exists, and invite readers to check it out for themselves. Caveat emptor!
Cloud Computing Certificates, Some with an Architect Focus
When golden opportunities to deliver high-value training present, many colleges and universities often join into the rush to mine them with certificate programs. These often lack the rigor of formal certification programs, but can also deliver useful information and great training content.
Perhaps more to the point, university and college-based programs generally offer access to a network of qualified professionals and job placement services through the institution's supporting infrastructure. I found three interesting offerings in searching on "cloud architect certificate" that I present here.
There are many other options, which interested parties can investigate for themselves with modest amount of effort. My top three recommendations are:
1) University of Texas at Arlington — Cloud Computing Bootcamp (the identical offering is also available from Florida Atlantic University, James Madison University, Hofstra University, and Northeastern Illinois University). Sixteen weeks with two hours of mentor-led sessions twice weekly, plus an online curriculum, certification exam prep, capstone projects, and more.
Underlying sponsor/developer is identified as QuickStart in the overview materials. The cloud certs mentioned are mostly foundational and fundamental: Network+, A+, Cloud+, Azure Fundamentals, and AWS Fundamentals.
2) Edureka Cloud Architect Masters Program: 11 courses, 200-plus hours of interactive learning, and a concluding capstone project. Course topics include Python scripting, cloud computing fundamentals, AWS Solutions Architect Cert training, Migrating applications to AWS, DevOps cert training, and AWS Certified DevOps training.
Upon closer inspection, then, this looks rather more vendor-specific and rather less vendor-neutral than one might want. At $1,300 it's not a bad bargain, though. Simplilearn and other training companies have the same general offering at the same general price (theirs is $1500).
Here again, this appears to be a bundled form of vendor-specific materials gathered together, rather than a strictly vendor-neutral program.
3) MIT's program in Cloud & DevOps looks pretty promising. As you'd expect, it's more expensive ($2,700) and includes eight weeks of material with a time commitment of 8-to-10 hours a week. It's not tied to any certs, and you really must download the brochure to understand what's on offer.
MIT offers the closest thing to a general purpose vendor-neutral look at cloud computing in this batch, but it is more foundational and less architect-oriented than one could hope.
If anything, this search exercise shows how hard it is to tell what's in a certificate offering just from its name and designation. One must really dig in, look around, and see what's involved before such programs make sense and their potential value and significance can be understood and evaluated.
That's what makes my job so interesting, but also what makes finding and finishing a quality, useful certificate program a real challenge (and a difficult slog, from time to time). Best of luck, whichever direction you go in!