I've recently blogged twice here (January, 2012) about cloud-related IT certifications, and an article of mine on leading cloud certifications has also appeared over on TomsITPro.com. This has forced several interesting parties out of the woodwork, and led them straight to my inbox. On Monday, I heard from Ben Kepes the "Curator of CloudU" (which means "Cloud University") at cloud-based hosting provider RackSpace.com.
It seems that RackSpace offers a free, vendor-neutral cloud education curriculum developed and delivered by Mr. Kepes, who's identified on the login page for the program as an "...industry analyst and all-around good guy..." He's also from New Zealand, and has a charming Kiwi accent to supplement his understanding and appreciation of cloud-based computing technology.
RackSpace plays host to Cloud University through its Knowledge Center
Cloud U delivers a series of 10 modules, each with its own quiz, to explain the ins, outs, and operations of cloud operations and cloud computing. The target audience is IT professionals, managers, and architects, developers and programmers, technical services and security specialists, plus varying levels of IT and exective management, or anyone else who wants to understand more about cloud computing, and make better use of this anywhere, anytime technology in their organizations and business efforts.
Earning the CloudU Certificate (see my thoughts on the subtle distinction between certificate and certification below) requires passing each of the 10 CloudU lesson quizzes, where each quiz presents 10 questions drawn from the training materials for one of the 10 modules that make up the curriculum. The minimum passing score is 80% (8 questions correct), but quizzes may be repeated as many times as necessary to achieve that score. Lesson quizzes prepare candidates for a CloudU "final exam."
The "final exam" consists of 50 questions drawn from all 10 modules, and again an 80% passing score is needed to obtain a CloudU certificate. As with the module quizzes, the final may be repeated until the score is achieved. The CloudU certificate is automatically conferred in digital form at that point.
Why a Certificate Is Different From a Certification
Where to begin? The CloudU materials are good, and the impetus to offer free, quality vendor-neutral training is fabulous. But a certificate like this one is not the same thing as a certification. Why not? There's no deliberate and powerful cert machinery at work (job task analysis, interaction with industry players, recruiting of SMEs to develop, test, and refine questions for possible inclusion, psychometrics and item analysis to accept or reject specific exam items) as far as I can tell. Also, neither vendor-neutral nor -specific certifications make materials and question banks freely available to the general public, nor permit candidates to take (and retake) exams until they attain a passing score.
Yes, the CloudU materials are worth digging into. Indeed, the CloudU certificate is probably worth earning. But you can't call it a certification for that reason, or put it on a par with the CompTIA Cloud Essentials certification either. It's just not designed, built, and run the same way as a certification program, and it doesn't work the same way (or enough alike) a certification program to be considered one.
Kepes asked me why I hadn't included the CloudU program in my review of available offerings in my recent TomsITPro story, "Top 5 Cloud-Related IT Certifications." At the time he asked, I wasn't sufficiently familiar with the program to provide any answer other than "I didn't know it produced actual certification credentials." Now that I've looked it over, my opinion has changed to "It does not produce such credentials" and thus can't be included in my story as a primary option or also-ran alternative. I do plan to mention it as a good place to start with cloud learning, however, and again, I don't mean to demean it unnecessarily or unfairly. But a certificate conferred does not a certification make!