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Cloud computing certifications to strive for in 2016

As they kick off the new year, enterprises will have OpenStack, security and other cloud technologies on their minds. Be ready, and advance your career, with new cloud certifications.

The cloud computing market is growing fast and shows no signs of slowing down. In 2018, spending on public cloud services will account for more than half of worldwide software, server and storage spending growth, according to market research firm IDC. And along with that increase will come higher demand for certified cloud professionals.

In fact, the Cloud Credential Council, an international and vendor-neutral provider of cloud computing certifications, estimates that 1.7 million jobs worldwide are now unfilled because candidates lack the proper cloud certifications. Demand remains high for basic cloud computing skills, while new certifications, such as those for OpenStack, continue to emerge.

Certification generally includes two components: training classes and a test. Trade organizations often develop the tests and then work with third parties to deliver the courseware and administer them. While IT pros are not required to take training classes, they often do, since the training companies typically bundle the class along with the test. The courseware is delivered in various formats, such as live classes and online videos.

Whether you're a cloud expert hoping to advance your career or an IT pro just getting started with cloud, here are some certifications to consider in 2016.

Options for starting the cloud certification process

The Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) is a nonprofit trade association that plays a significant role in the IT certification process. The organization has approximately 3,000 academic and training partners and has issued more than two million IT certifications.

So, it's not surprising that the CompTIA Cloud+ certification continues to be in demand. This credential covers competency in cloud computing infrastructure, resource management, security and business continuity. The test consists of 100 multiple choice questions, takes about 90 minutes to complete and costs $277.

Since many businesses are Microsoft Windows shops, cloud skills related to Windows are in demand. Microsoft offers a number of cloud computing certifications, including the Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert for Private Cloud, which builds on IT pros' familiarity with Windows Server and System Center 2012 to help them build a private cloud. The process entails a total of five exams: three to earn a Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate Windows Server 2012 certification, plus two more that cover operating and deploying a private cloud with System Center 2012.

Cloud computing certifications for security, management also hot

More than ever before, data security is a major concern for the enterprise. One vendor-neutral certification option for cloud security is the Certified Specialist in Cloud Security from Learning Tree International, a provider of IT training to business and government organizations. The certification, which covers security best practices for both private and public clouds, consists of two courses: Cloud Computing Technologies Introduction and Essentials of Cloud Security Management. IT pros learn skills including how to assess patching and configuration vulnerabilities in cloud servers; use data encryption methods; and set up user authentication.

For cloud management, the Cloud Credential Council's Professional Cloud Service Manager focuses on maintaining quality levels of service in cloud deployments. The certification reviews industry standards for areas such as outsourcing, service management and security compliance, along with concepts such as service metrics, metering, reporting, provisioning and billing.

Learning the OpenStack way

OpenStack, an open source cloud computing platform, is also gaining interest among cloud users. Currently, most OpenStack certification programs are vendor-specific. Rackspace's Certified Technician for OpenStack-Icehouse, for example, costs $200 and focuses on how to use a command-line interface to operate an OpenStack cloud. IT pros learn how to create OpenStack instances from images; pause and resize instances; manage security groups; and other skills.

Mirantis offers an Associate OpenStack Administrator certification, aimed at IT pros who need to understand the basics of OpenStack architecture and troubleshoot common OpenStack issues. Additionally, it offers the Professional OpenStack Administrator certification, designed for IT pros who need to create, configure and manage OpenStack networks, instances, security and other aspects of the platform.

Cloud is becoming more popular and driving demand for certified professionals in 2016 and beyond. Fortunately, IT pros have a myriad of options for gaining skills, along with the cloud computing certifications.

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