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A Certification Blueprint for Linux on Microsoft

Now that Microsoft seems to have drunk the Linux kool-aid, IT pros find themselves confronted with an entirely new certification and training landscape. As IT pros work to figure out what skills and knowledge will best meet their needs in this era of Microsoft openness, we lay out the certs you should pursue.

Microsoft and Linux Certification Pathways – from the Trainers

We asked our trainers what certifications and training would be most effective for IT pros looking to advance their sysadmin careers as Microsoft and Linux learn to play nicely together. Trainers Shawn Powers and Garth Schulte weighed in on the paths that will lead you to success.

Perhaps not surprisingly, our trainers suggest that you start at the very beginning — which we hear is a very good place to start — and follow this path:

  1. Linux Essentials (made up of just one exam: 010-150)
    Shawn recommends Linux Essentials for those who are brand new to the Linux world because “it sort of eases the learning curve. It’s not a prerequisite, but it’s a great [way] to eliminate that ‘deer in the headlights’ look for folks who’ve never used Linux at all. I’m almost fanatic about Linux in the server room.”

    Shawn went on to say, “Historically, one of the sysadmin’s secrets was to use Linux in the server room and not tell anyone. It was quicker, easier, and far less complicated to set up a quick mail or web server using Linux.”

    But now that Microsoft is ushering in a new era of openness, sysadmins can come out of the server closet and let their Linux flag fly. So the first step is to dip your toes in the welcoming pool of Linux. If you’re already familiar with Linux at a foundational level, you can skip Linux Essentials and dive into the deep end with LPIC-1 or even LPIC-2.

    Learn more about the certification from our Roadmap to Success: Linux Essentials.
  2. Microsoft MCSA: Windows Server 2012 (made up of three exams: 70-410, 70-411, and 70-412); and/or
    Microsoft MCSA: Windows Server 2016 (made up of three exams: 70-740, 70-741, and 70-742)
    Garth offered a glowing endorsement of both Server 2012 and Server 2016. “Windows Server 2012 R2 is a very stable operating system that will be around for a long time to come. Professionals with these skills have been and will continue to be highly desired and well compensated in Microsoft shops.”

    Garth continued, “Meanwhile, Windows Server 2016 is Microsoft’s best server OS to date! It’s brimming with new features, while building on previous innovations across Compute, Storage, Security, Virtualization, and many more that will improve the efficiency of our infrastructure, workloads, and staff.”

    Both the Server 2012 and Server 2016 courses include virtual labs for CBT Nuggets learners. “We wanted to provide complete coverage of the exam objectives along with virtual labs containing a real network of machines to provide the ultimate learning experience,” Garth said.

    Learn more about the certifications from our Roadmap to Success: MCSA: Windows Server 2012 or Roadmap to Success: MCSA: Windows Server 2016.
  3. CompTIA Linux+/LPIC-1 (made up of two exams: LX0-103 and LX0-104)
    Shawn says, “Certifications from LPI are great because they cover a broad range of topics system administrators will encounter.”

    We asked Shawn why IT pros should go deeper with their Linux learning. “Because Linux users are generally better looking. And attractive office workers improve attendance, driving down sick-leave inefficiencies. Or, because Linux continues to dominate in the data center. Having advanced knowledge and problem-solving skills makes for better technology decisions. Plus, advanced troubleshooting skills reduce downtime.”

    Learn more about the certification from our Roadmap to Success: CompTIA Linux+/LPIC-1.
  4. Microsoft MCSA: Linux on Azure (made up of two exams: 70-533 and LFCS)
    Trainer Ben Finkel made a surprise appearance when we were talking with Garth and Shawn. He chimed in and made a pitch for Microsoft Azure.

    Ben gushed, “Microsoft Azure is a powerful, complex, and flexible product. It brings enterprise-level IT infrastructure and design into the hands of any organization, at any budget. Virtualized infrastructure takes nothing more than a few scripts or mouse-clicks, and it brings with it a truckload of advanced features.”

    Garth jumped on the bandwagon and is excited about Microsoft’s new Linux on Azure certification. “Microsoft now offers a slew of new MCSA/MCSE certs that fall under the open source category.”

    Ben continued, “The entire IT industry is undergoing a massive shift onto public cloud services like Microsoft Azure, so Microsoft’s new cert is well timed. Every organization in every industry needs to be staffed and prepared for this change. While there are a lot of cloud providers out there, Azure represents a service that offers broad enterprise-capable products and tools.”

    Learn more about the certification from our Roadmap to Success: MCSA: Linux on Azure.
  5. Microsoft MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure (choose one exam from a pool of ten elective exam options, recommended specialization in Server Infrastructure {exams 70-413 or 70-414}, Securing Windows Server 2016 {exam 70-744}, or Azure {exams 70-532, 70-533, or 70-534})
    Microsoft’s new certification structure gives you the opportunity to advance your MCSA certification to the next level, the MCSE, by taking only one more exam of your choosing. You can choose your specialization from a pool of elective exam options, and we humbly suggest that you opt for Server Infrastructure, Windows Server 2016, or Azure — whichever path best meets your needs.
  6. LPI LPIC-2 (made up of two exams: 201-400* and 202-400*)
    Shawn pointed out that “even seasoned sysadmins can learn ways to do their jobs faster, better, and/or more efficiently with the LPIC-2.” He went on to say, “Being a system administrator is more than knowing the tools and systems. It really requires the ability to think outside the box. While it’s always nice to have the certification, ultimately it prepares [you] to be a solid sysadmin, which makes you far more valuable as an employee (or potential employee).”

    Learn more about the certification from our Roadmap to Success: LPIC-2.
    *Please note that LPI recently released v4.5 of the LPIC-2 certification. The updated certification is made up of the 201-405 and 202-405 exams, but v4.0 exams (201-400 and 202-400) will be available until August 2017.

Supplemental Training

Earning the certifications as Shawn and Garth mapped them out will set you up for long-term success in your Microsoft/Linux career. However, to really excel, we suggest you include some additional training:

  • CompTIA Network+
    Basic networking is an absolute must as a sysadmin. Even if you choose not to chase certification in networking, the Network+ is a fantastic way to earn vendor-neutral skills and knowledge that you can apply to any production environment.
  • PowerShell 4 Foundations
    We asked Garth why PowerShell was such an important skill set for sysadmins.  “PowerShell is huge! It’s quickly becoming the most desired skill set employers are looking for in IT professionals as it brings so much value to teams in terms of efficiency through infrastructure management and automation. Plus, Microsoft has been baking PowerShell into everything, operating systems, server software, client software, the cloud, and even their certification exams.” Garth went on to say, “Microsoft is serious about making PowerShell the only tool you’ll need to manage and automate everything in your environments, and how incredibly easy it is to learn. You don’t need to be a programming wizard to master PowerShell, but you’ll certainly feel like a wizard once you have.”
  • Docker
    Docker would be a fun supplement to the certification pathway we laid out. It certainly isn’t a required knowledge base for sysadmins, but it can do so much for your systems!

    Shawn has some strong opinions about Docker. “Docker is far more than just [an] IT buzzword, and any server infrastructure big or small will likely benefit from Docker. It is efficient, scalable, and by its design, lends itself to best practice when it comes to data manipulation and storage. Training on Docker makes [it] understandable, usable, and [it] will help sysadmins learn the best way to implement it into their environment.”

    Docker is a popular technology for those who have gone over to the dark side of DevOps. So if you’re interested in the dark arts, give Docker a chance.

A Special Note for New SysAdmin Professionals

As a new sysadmin, you have the chance to build a career pathway that intentionally includes both Microsoft and open source skill sets — a combination that until now was almost heresy.

The best sysadmins develop a wide range of knowledge, across a variety of products and vendors. A breadth of knowledge and skills will serve you well as you look to advance your career.

Arguably, the single most important thing to develop is a passion for learning and training. Be committed to continuously learning, and you’ll have a long and successful sysadmin career. Learn more about building good IT training habits from Keith Barker’s webinar.

Wrapping It Up

It’s a whole new world now that Microsoft has opened the proverbial doors and embraced open source. Pursue your sysadmin training and certifications strategically to set yourself up for long-term success, with just a dash of short-term wins.

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