What certifications should I get?

As we mentioned in a post earlier this month, the old AWS slogan the “Cloud is the new normal” is indeed a reality today. The question we’ll be trying to answer in this blog is: ‘What certifications should I get?‘ Cloud components are going into everything from mobile computing to home games and email campaigns, according to a recent article from The New York Times. At the same time, there is still a large skills gap when it comes to finding the right competencies in the workforce. As companies embrace a multi-cloud environment, there is a growing demand for fluency across a variety of platforms.
If you are a professional who wants to add cloud experience to your resume or if you’re just starting out, you may be wondering: what certifications should I get? In this post, we’ll look at some of the most popular certifications across the three major platforms: Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform.

What certifications should I get? The major platforms

So, what certifications should I get? The answer depends on a range of factors, from your background and experience, to the sector you’re working in (or plan to work in), and your long-term goals.
While many companies have already committed to a platform, there is an increasing trend for a multi-platform approach. Choosing a platform will help you focus your training efforts in the beginning, however, it can’t hurt to have versatile cloud skills, especially if you look at how the cloud sector is growing.
As the most mature cloud platform, Amazon Web Services has a solid lead in the public cloud market and is continuing to grow. As the previously mentioned NYT article pointed out, Amazon Web Services is increasing its scope to the Internet of Things, which will only expand its reach in the market.
At the same time, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform are also ramping up and gaining market share. According to a report by Synergy Research Group for Q2 2016, AWS has a 31% market share, with 11% for Microsoft Azure, and 8% for Google. Google and Microsoft showed significant year over year growth of 162% and 100% respectively compared to 53% growth for AWS.
To know what certifications you need, let’s take a closer look at the cloud platforms and the certifications that they currently offer.  

Amazon Web Services

AWS started in 2006 and has grown to a leader with more than 70 services for everything from compute, storage, and databases, to analytics and IoT applications. Customers include Netflix, Intuit, Capital One, GE. CEO Jeff Bezos told shareholders that AWS would hit $10 billion in annual sales in 2016.
AWS certifications stand out for their thoroughness and rigor for critical cloud engineering positions. They emphasize solid conceptual knowledge of the entire platform and hands-on experience with the AWS infrastructure and its many unique and complex components and services.
Simply put, an AWS certification shows you have the skills and the knowledge to design, deploy, or manage applications on Amazon Web Services. If you’re AWS-certified, it tells potential employers that you have what it takes to build and manage AWS solutions for them.
And, because they are so widely recognized, AWS certifications can open the door to cloud opportunities, even if for other platforms. Also, the process of training and learning required to pass the exams allows you to strengthen your knowledge in a variety of areas and scenarios.
AWS introduced certifications in 2013 and currently offers three associate-level exams and two advanced, professional certifications. The certification tracks focus on three areas: Solutions Architects, Developers, and SysOps and include the following certifications:

  • AWS Certified Developer – Associate
  • AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate
  • AWS Certified DevOps Engineer – Professional
  • AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate
  • AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Professional

If you’re already considering the AWS platform and thinking about what certifications you need to get started, its Certified Solutions Architect – Associate wouldn’t be a bad choice. According to a survey of the 15 top-paying IT certifications for 2016 by Global Knowledge, the AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate offers the highest annual salary on their list:  $125,871. Also according to the survey, the other AWS certifications command an average $100,000 annual salary. Let’s take a closer look at this certification.
The AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate certification is for those who design and deploy distributed applications. It covers Network technologies, AWS-based applications and how client interfaces connect to the platform, building secure and reliable applications, and deploying hybrid systems (those with on-premise data centers as well as AWS components).
The exam domains include designing highly available and scalable systems, (requires familiarity with AWS infrastructure and concepts), AWS implementation and deployment, related data security practices, disaster recovery techniques, and troubleshooting.
AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate certification is a pre-requisite for the professional-level certification, AWS Solutions Architect—Professional. This certification requires two years of hands-on AWS experience and covers network design, storage, security, scalability and elasticity, cloud migration and hybrid architecture.
At Cloud Academy, we have a lot of great resources for learning everything you need to pass any of the AWS certification exams, as well as great study and preparation strategies on our blog.
Check out this post to learn more about the different AWS certifications and discover which one is right for you.

Microsoft Azure

According to Microsoft, “80% of the Fortune 500 is on the Microsoft Cloud.” Microsoft Azure is Microsoft’s cloud computing platform. Its growth in adoption and the strength of its end-to-end hybrid cloud offering are good indicators for continued growth for Microsoft Azure, especially inside the enterprise.  
When it comes to certification, Microsoft Azure’s path is a bit more complicated. In late September 2016, Microsoft Learning announced that it was streamlining its technical certifications with five new certification paths. Within the MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure path (which in itself is a certification), the MCSA: Cloud Platform Solutions Associate certification requires passing several specialist exams. Users can choose two out of five exams:

  • Developing Microsoft Azure Solutions exam 532
  • Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions exam 533
  • Architecting Microsoft Azure Solutions exam 534
  • Designing and Implementing Cloud Data Platform Solutions exam 473
  • Designing and Implementing Big Data Analytics Solutions (exam not yet available)

Google Cloud Platform

Although it’s third behind AWS in the overall cloud market, the cloud appears to be major area of emphasis for Google. On parent-company Alphabet’s October 2016 earnings call, Google CEO Sundar Pichai emphasized that more cloud-based functionality would be coming.
Recent customer wins have also helped raise the profile of the Google Cloud. In February 2016, Spotify announced that they were working with the Google Cloud Platform team to provide platform infrastructure. To scale with their huge volume of content, Spotify made numerous software architecture design changes to take full advantage of GCP. This includes replacing Apache Kafka with Cloud Pub/Sub for its more reliable persistent queue, and moving from batch processing to streaming with Dataflow to improve the end-to-end latency.
In March, Apple announced that it would be using the Google Cloud to provide some infrastructure services for iCloud and other cloud-based services, in addition to continuing to use AWS.
Google Cloud Platform currently offers three certifications:

  • Google Certified Professional – Cloud Architect (currently in beta)
  • Google Certified Professional – Data Engineer (currently in beta)
  • Google Certified Associate – G Suite Administrator

What’s next?

If you’re still wondering which platform or certification path is right for you, the Cloud Academy blog is a rich resource of insight from a variety of viewpoints, from new cloud users, to developers and instructors who have experience on each of the cloud platforms referenced here. Just search the blog for the platform of your choice and see what our contributors have to say.
In the meantime, we wish you the best on your cloud journey!

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