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The heavy hitter in the virtualization arena is VMware, with Microsoft and Citrix competing for market share. However, all three vendors have highly developed and focused cert programs.

VMware offers three certifications, based on the company’s vSphere and vCenter Server products: the VMware Certified Professional (VCP), the VMware Certified Advanced Professional (VCAP), and the VMware Certified Design Expert (VCDX). The VCP requires one exam, which costs $175. Many people consider the VCP exam to be more difficult than other entry-level virtualization cert exams because of the large number of technologies and concepts tested. The VCAP requires VCP certification plus one exam. The VCDX requires a VCAP and a detailed application, plus documented work experience.

Citrix virtualization certifications focus on Citrix XenServer, XenDesktop, and XenApp solutions. Candidates can earn the Citrix Certifed Enterprise Engineer (CCEE) for Virtualization, or the Citrix Certified Integration Architect (CCIA) for Virtualization. The CCEE is actually more of an administration cert, while the CCIA recognizes individuals who design high-end implementations and analyze operations. Both certs require high skill levels and serious experience, and require candidates to pass a single exam that costs $300.

The Microsoft certifications that include virtualization topics are the Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS) and Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP). Three MCTS certs focus on server and/or desktop virtualization and configuration, and require you to pass one exam each. (Microsoft exams cost $125 each.) MCTS certs build toward the MCITP, which also requires two to three years of experience. The MCITP Windows Server 2008, R2, Virtualization Administrator credential requires you to pass three exams: two virtualization-related MCTS exams and a virtualization administration exam.

Because virtualization is now embedded in so many IT infrastructures around the world, many certs that formerly focused on specific hardware or operating systems now include virtualization topics as well. For example, the latest Oracle Solaris 10 System Administrator Certified Professional exam includes a virtualization component. Red Hat currently offers one virtualization-related cert: the Red Hat Certified Virtualization Administrator (RHCVA). In addition, Cisco upgraded some of its certs in 2009 to include virtualization topics, mainly to coincide with the rollout of its Unified Computing System— Cisco’s “data center in a box” virtualization solution. Related certs include the Cisco Data Center Unified Computing Support Specialist and the Cisco Data Center Unified Computing Design Specialist. Look for Cisco to greatly expand its certification offerings once it rolls out its own servers specifically for virtualization.

In 2011 and later, we won’t be at all surprised to see more virtualization credentials make the scene, including the various vendors we’ve already mentioned who have existing programs. But we’re also sure that other certification sponsors will climb on this bandwagon, possibly even including some vendor-neutral offerings as well. One thing’s absolutely certain: as use of virtualization technology grows, so does the impetus to certify IT professionals to work with that technology.

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