Things are hotting up in the Linux skills certification world. Red Hat says that it is to offer certification for its own distribution version of the operating system and courses start next month.
Caldera started the ball rolling earlier this year with the first stage in a training programme leading to a Certified Linux Engineer (CLE) qualification. Red Hat has followed suit with the Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE) initiative.
In addition, the Linux Professional Institute (LPI) is among several organisations working to produce a vendor-independent certification and testing programme.
The need for vendor-neutral certification programmes is not in dispute. But it is a measure of the immaturity of the Linux training and certification market that there are both vendor-specific and vendor-neutral initiatives under way.
Ian Cole, professional services and finance director of Red Hat UK, says there is a clear need for certification. "A lot of people built their skills independently or through a hotch-potch of courses," he says.
Cole states that with the Red Hat scheme, the company is trying to create a recognised level of competency and set a standard for quality.
Real world experience
Although the Red Hat course is tailored for its own Linux variation he says it is appropriate for other Linux packages because the kernel and many of the applications are generic. Similarly, the proposed LPI exams cover both generic and distribution specific areas.
There are still plenty of issues to be resolved as far as course methodology and standards are concerned, and this is where much of the work will be concentrated over the coming months.
The proposed LPI exams, which are due this quarter, are largely based on theory. The Red Hat course, in contrast, takes the real-world approach to testing, with two-thirds of the exam based on practical work.
This move to real-world testing is surging through the certification world and has been ? or is in the process of being ? adopted by Cisco and Microsoft for their own certification programmes.
Prospective Linux practitioners need to monitor certification developments carefully to ensure they invest in the right certification course. Red Hat is talking to groups such as the LPI to see if they can work together on Linux certification, but nothing has been settled as yet.
Jonathan Lindsell, UK and Ireland managing director for Global Knowledge, which will run the RHCE programme in the UK, believes that certification ? coupled with market moves by vendors such as Compaq, IBM and Dell ? is helping to make Linux accessible and acceptable to business users, opening up widespread opportunities for certified professionals.
'Where Red Hat has stolen a march is that it is packaging, adding value and establishing Linux as a stable product in the context of the business market,' he says.
As part of its goal to establish Linux as a serious player, Red Hat is using certification as much to enhance its own brand as to set a standard. From that perspective Red Hat has to be attractive to Linux practitioners, with the company investing in the sort of support, training and professional services businesses expect from a mission-critical, enterprise system.
It is also adding value through initiatives such as Red Hat Central, a web-based database of Red Hat certified individuals which employers worldwide can access to find certified practitioners.
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