Assessing the Need for Cloud Certifications
As the demand for cloud continues to grow, so does the demand for hiring the best engineers who understand how to manage and leverage public cloud services. Earlier this month, I was presented with a question by a financial analyst: Is there a future for public cloud certifications?
Although I am a technology leader always looking to hire the best engineers who understand how to manage and leverage cloud services, I continue to meet this question with some skepticism—particularly since the drive for public cloud certifications are coming from those who have a market interest. Before academia, companies, and IT professionals start investing in public cloud certification plans, I encourage us to take a step back and assess our IT infrastructure needs and demystify the connection between cloud operations and public cloud certifications.
As an engineer myself, I believe there is value in all certifications that ensure you have the proper training and understanding of technical tools and programs that can support a more efficient, secure, and modern IT operation. As a manager, I also believe certifications can be utilized as an excellent retention tool to ensure your team understands that you are continuing to invest in their growth and future. With that said, in today’s IT landscape, having an engineer who can manage and leverage a diverse and wide range of tools that they may have inherited or purchased is significantly more valuable than someone with only a specific public cloud certification. This is because many of the skills you need to properly manage cloud infrastructure, to help with scale and cost, come more from experiences than training associated with a public cloud certification.
As an example, a basic understanding someone needs to have in procuring cloud infrastructure is the fact that the piece of compute you procured sits on bare metal somewhere. As such, it is important to test every instance to ensure that it is not sitting on older, deprecated hardware from the cloud provider. Without this simple understanding, even a certified public cloud engineer would just assume that any compute you get from the cloud are all the same! From a public cloud certification perspective, it is more detrimental to include this type of training for the public cloud provider. Teaching all engineers how to get the best compute from the public cloud infrastructure farm would make it more expensive for the public cloud provider to host infrastructure.
According to a recent survey published by 451 Research, over half of the businesses surveyed indicated that they have no cloud-certified professionals on staff. This proves that early adoption of cloud does not require having a dedicated public cloud certified team. The same study also found that most businesses with less than 1,000 employees do not anticipate IT staffing changes regarding certification, even with increased cloud adoption. This leads me to believe that a need for maintaining a lean, versatile, and knowledgeable IT team will remain a priority for small and mid-size enterprises.
To fully understand the applicability of public cloud certifications, we must first demystify “cloud.” The reality is that today’s IT professionals are all faced with fast-growing demand for infrastructure. This demand requires businesses to employ IT staff who can both leverage established practices to manage on-prem and public cloud environments, while continuing to keep an eye on IT infrastructure services that are much more nascent and changing. At SolarWinds, we see this firsthand every day, as we support IT professionals in managing their networks, systems, and cloud infrastructure.
Most IT operations engineers and SREs in my organization attain established practices for on-prem and the public cloud through direct experience—and not through public cloud certification. This has led to better efficiency and infrastructure cost optimization through the utilization of all types of hosting environments—both on-prem and the public cloud. By excluding public cloud certifications as a requirement, the team was able to find better efficiencies by not binding themselves to just public cloud usage. Where we do utilize certifications is to help IT operations engineers and SREs become more knowledgeable on vendor-specific and/or nascent services.
As business and public sector leaders continue to evaluate public cloud certifications and how market trends will impact the demand for such certifications, I’d caution them to first evaluate the IT demands of the business and evaluate whether migrating to an all-public cloud environment is what you need and can afford. You may come to find that leveraging a hybrid IT infrastructure is your most reliable, safe, and affordable solution—making public cloud certifications, while nice to have, an unnecessary part of the equation.
 451 Research. With continued cloud adoption comes demand for skills and certification. July 27, 2018. https://clients.451research.com/reportaction/95374/Toc?SearchTerms=With%20continued%20cloud%20adoption%20comes%20demand%20for%20skills%20and%20certification
 IDC Research. Quarterly Cloud IT Infrastructure Tracker – Forecast, 2018Q1. August 15, 2018