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May 1, 2013

Amazon launches cloud certification program

By cert-gold

Amazon just announced the AWS Certification Program, which is aimed at testing the cloud-based skills of solutions architects, sysops admins and developers. This is kind of a surprise from Amazon, but it seems to make a lot of sense.

Why certify?

One of the main drivers for organizations to use cloud-based services is costs savings. But at the same time, these organizations should want some kind of assurance that their sites will be available, and better yet, that the people maintaining their sites have professional-level knowledge with Amazon’s hosting services and features.

I think a certification program can be a good tool to achieve this, especially for organizations that don’t have any in-house specialists. As organizations depend more and more on web-based services, they should want to be certain that the external person they’re depending on knows his or her stuff and might have gone through some kind of training program.

What kinds of certs?

Amazon hasn’t made many details available yet, although it did indicate the certs would be earned at three levels: associate, professional and master.  The first certificate it will offer is the AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate Level. According to the exam blueprint, the people pursuing the cert should have general IT knowledge, including “understanding of typical multi-tier architectures” and “network experience with route tables, access control lists, firewalls, NAT, HTTP, IP and OSI.” AWS skills that will be tested include a good understanding of deployment, management, security features and networking technologies, among others.

The associate level exam costs $150 and is offered now at Kryterion testing centers, which are located in 100+ countries. The higher level certs will be made available later this year, as it seems they’re still in development.

How attainable will they be?

I would expect experienced IT pros and developers to have a good lead on passing these certifications. I’m also hoping, though, that there is some difficulty in passing the exams. The certification industry as a whole is headed in the right direction with finding ways to properly test candidates. I hope Amazon is able to challenge test-takers in a way that will provide organizations with a level of comfort about people who hold the certs.

For people who don’t want to rely solely on first-hand experience, Amazon offers three instructor-led, three-day training courses: AWS Essentials, Architecting on AWS and Advanced Operations on AWS. These come with a $1,800 price tag though.

A step in the right direction?

I’m really interested in learning more about what the certification program will look like, and I can’t wait for more information. I think this will be a win-win-win situation for Amazon, organizations and IT pros/devs looking to set up services or improve existing ones with additional knowledge.

About the Author

is an IT consultant working in Canada. He has been working in the IT industry for over 12 years. He was awarded the Microsoft MVP award for his contributions to the Windows PowerShell community for 5 consecutive years (2007-2011). He has co-authored a book on Windows PowerShell, contributed to Microsoft Press and Microsoft TechNet magazine, and also contributed chapters for other books such as Microsoft System Center Operations Manager and Microsoft SQL Server. He has spoken at Microsoft TechDays in Canada and at TechMentor in the United States. He currently holds the GIAC GSEC and RHCE certifications, and is actively working on others.