6 Virtualization Certs for Every Netadmin
Virtualization has been around since the 1960s, but it wasn't until VMware that it took off as an enterprise technology. It's now a standard feature in every enterprise IT strategy. From desktop to applications to the cloud, virtualization is everywhere. If you're a systems or network admin, virtualization skills are going to come in handy throughout your career.
Of course, nothing says skilled better than a certification. So, if virtualization is part of your career path, let's explore virtualization-based certs you should consider.
Virtualization is Everywhere
Every significant networking and datacenter vendor offers virtualization products. There's VMware vSphere and NSX Data Center, Microsoft Hyper-V, Cisco Network Virtualization, Oracle VM, Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops (formerly XenApp and XenDesktop), and Red Hat Virtualization. That's just to name a few.
Also, the major public cloud vendors have their own virtualization engines — and also support VMware and Hyper-V virtualized workloads. Microsoft Azure's hypervisor is based on Hyper-V (duh!), while both Google and AWS base their hypervisors on the open source Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM).
And to complete the circle, we recently heard that Google customers can now run the Google, AWS and Azure cloud stacks on their own premises datacenters!
All these virtualization deployment products and permutations have increased the demand for virtualization skills. And there's no better way for you to build your knowledge and validate your new skills, than to rack up some virtualization certifications.
Let's take a look at some of the leading virtualization certs that you should consider. Keep in mind you need to consider certain factors. For example, what virtualization platform does the organization use? If you're new to virtualization, take a look at virtualization-based job postings in your area? What are the skills or certs employers are looking for?
1. VMware Certified Professional 6.5 – DCV (VCP6.5 DCV)
VMware is the leading virtualization vendor and their VMware Certified Professional – Data Center Virtualization certifications is probably the most valuable.
In a November 2018 analysis of the hypervisors in use by 758 of their customers, ControlUp — a monitoring software company — reported that 68% of those organizations used VMware, 11% used Microsoft Hyper-V, and 18% used Citrix XenServer. There's no question that VMware is the 800-pound gorilla in this space and that there are lots of jobs for VMware-certified pros.
The VCP-DCV certification is aligned with vSphere versions VCP5 DCV, VCP6 DCV, and VCP6.5 DCV. With the release of vSphere 6.7, VMware changed gears and named its next certification VCP DCV 2019. It'll take time for a critical mass of customers to switch to 6.7, so your best certification bet in the short term is to go for VCP6.5 DCV.
The VCP6.5 DCV is aimed at experienced SysAdmins, NetAdmins, and Storage Admins who are involved in setting up, deploying and managing VMware-based server and storage farms. The certification is relevant for on-site data centers, as well as for public cloud deployment on AWS, Google, or Azure.
According to PayScale, the cloud compensation company, annual salaries for VCP-certified professionals average $88,000, with salary highs over $100k for senior positions.
Your Path to VCP-DCV
If you have no existing VCP certifications, you must pass a vSphere Foundation exam, before you take the VCP-DCV exam. Each exam is a 105-minute, 70-question test. The exam costs a total of $375 USD, $125 for the Foundation test, plus $250 for the main DCV test.
CBT Nuggets' VMware vSphere 6.5 (VCP6.5-DCV) with 6.7 Updates training prepares you for both the vSphere 6.5 Foundations and VMware Certified Professional 6.5 – Data Center Virtualization exams. You should also use VMware's preparation guide prior to sitting the exam.
2. MCSA: Windows Server 2016
Microsoft's Hyper-V virtualization technology was originally shipped as a component of Windows Server — the most recent being Windows Server 2016. Because of this, their virtualization certification is wrapped into MCSA: Windows Server 2016.
If you're a network or systems administrator in a Microsoft shop, then this cert is definitely for you. A quick search of job sites like Indeed.com/ and Monster.com/ shows high demand for Hyper-V skills for jobs such as SysAdmins, Windows server admins, NetAdmins, and network engineers. You'll often see jobs that require both Windows Server and VMware expertise.
Looking for career progression? This cert is a prerequisite for the expert-level Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE): Core Infrastructure exam. This exam covers all aspects of the data center: Identity management, systems management, virtualization, storage, and networking.
PayScale reports average annual salaries of $73,000 USD for MCSA-certified professionals, with salary highs topping $100,000.
Your Path to a MCSA: Windows Server 2016
This junior-level certification has no formal prerequisites, but knowledge of Windows OS fundamentals and basic networking is expected. You'll need to pass three exams to validate your knowledge of the following operations of Windows Server 2016: Installation, Storage, and Compute (Exam 70-740), Networking (Exam 70-741), and Identity (Exam 70-742). Each exam is allotted two hours and has between 40 and 60 questions of different types. Each costs $165 USD, for a total exam cost of $495.
To help you prepare, take a look at the three CBT Nuggets courses that are aligned with the exams: Installation, Storage, and Compute, Networking, and Identity. For an in-depth discussion on how to earn this cert, check out our blog post Roadmap to Success: MCSA: Windows Server 2016 Certification.
3. CCNA Data Center
Networks are the essential glue for the modern virtualized data center. Like VMware and Microsoft in their fields, Cisco is the 800-pound gorilla of data center networks. For that reason, it makes sense that a Cisco certification is the next on our list.
The CCNA Data Center is a cert for system and network admins who are early in their career. It's a natural step for admins who are going to work on virtualized data center networks. The cert covers management of the physical infrastructure, networking and storage in the data center. It also covers technologies such as unified computing, network virtualization, and automation and orchestration.
Given Cisco's dominant position in enterprise networking, there's a strong demand for Cisco-certified professionals. Adding this Cisco cert to a VMware VCP-DCV and an MCSA: Windows Server 2016 should make you a very compelling job candidate.
The cert also gives you a step to more senior job level, first with the Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) Data Center, and then the expert-level CCIE Data Center.
PayScale does not list salaries specifically for CCNA Data Center, but in general CCNA salaries average $75,000 USD, with highs around $108,000.
Your Path to a CCNA: Data Center
While there aren't any prerequisite certs, knowledge of Cisco networking is expected. If you have your CCNA Routing and Switching (R&S) cert, then you're all set. If you don't, then you can get up to speed with our CCENT/CCNA 100-105 ICND1 and Cisco CCNA Routing and Switching 200-105 ICND2 training courses.
There are two certification exams on the CCNA Data Center track: Introducing Cisco Data Center Networking (200-150 DCICN) and Introducing Cisco Data Center Technologies (200-155 DCICT). Each exam costs $300 USD, for a total cost of $600.
You can prepare for the tests by following CBT Nuggets trainers Jeremy Cioara and Anthony Sequeira on their CCNA Data Center training videos.
Beyond VMware, Microsoft & Cisco
Beyond VMware, Microsoft, and Cisco, we're talking about players with small market shares in the virtualization space. In each case, these are products based on open source hypervisors like Xen and KVM. Certifications in this space may promise higher salaries, but that's probably because with fewer installations, job candidates may be thinner on the ground.
4. Citrix Certified Associate (CCA) – Virtualization (CCA – V)
Citrix has quietly created a virtualization niche for itself. Its Xen-based solution is affordable and works well in the wide world of Microsoft, including the Azure cloud!
The Citrix Certified Associate (CCA) – Virtualization cert is targeted at desktop and systems admins who work with Citrix's virtual desktop and application products. PayScale reports an average CCA salary of $86,000 USD. Citrix also offers plenty of room for career progression. From the associate-level cert you can go on to professional- and expert-level certifications.
The 90-minute CCA-V certification exam costs $200 USD and is administered by Pearson Vue. Study for the exam with Jacob Moran's Citrix CCA-V XenApp and XenDesktop 7.1x Administration (1Y0-203) video course.
5. Oracle VM 3.0 for x86 Certified Implementation Specialist
Oracle VM is a Xen-based server virtualization product that runs on x86 and SPARC boxes. It's not the solution for everyone. It's got a tiny market share, and it will take a confident CIO to commit to implementing it. Perhaps for this reason, Oracle's VM certification approach is to build expertise within their channel partners. But you don't have to work for a channel partner to become an Oracle VM Certified Implementation Specialist. You can work for a customer organization. First, you'll need to pass the Oracle VM 3.0 for x86 Essentials 1Z0-590 exam with a score of 61% or more. This two-hour exam costs $245 USD and is proctored by Pearson Vue.
6. Red Hat Certified Specialist in Virtualization
Our final "best of the rest" virtualization certification is the Red Hat Certified Specialist (RHCS) Virtualization. This cert is for SysAdmins who implement and manage virtual infrastructures that run on Red Hat Linux. Red Hat Virtualization is based on the KVM hypervisor that both AWS and Google use in their cloud services.
Although there are no formal prerequisites, you'd better be proficient in Linux administration. Ideally, you'd be a Red Hat Certified System Administrator (RHCSA). At a minimum, you should know the material covered in our Linux Foundation Certified Sysadmin training. The RHCS Virtualization exam (EX318) is a three-hour classroom exam that costs $400 USD.
We'd expect salary levels for the virtualization cert to be in line with those for Red Hat Certified Engineers (RHCE). PayScale reports average salaries of $98,000 for RHCEs, with salary highs topping $120,000.
You Can't Go Wrong with Virtualization
Virtualization is a complex area and it's not getting any more simple. Premise-based technologies from companies like VMware, Microsoft, and Cisco are combining with cloud-based solutions from AWS, Azure and Google. One of the results is the demand for IT professionals with validated virtualization skills is not slowing down anytime soon.
Earning virtualization certification gives you skills to leverage in-demand technologies. It also gives you a way to carve out a rewarding career niche that will afford you job security. What are you waiting for? Start working toward one of these six virtualization certs today.