Last week I got an email from Julio Urquidi, one of my colleagues and editors at Tom’s IT Pro, informing me that he’d seen a press release about a new certification program from a company named Centrify. He went on to add that he’d become familiar with their products while working at UCLA in a previous job, and had always found their products to be solid and reliable. Intrigued, I started digging further and discovered that indeed Centrify offers an interesting and popular collection of unified identity management and directory services-based authentication tools that are widely used in industry, research, academic and government settings both here in the USA and worldwide.
Centrify hasn’t created a badge or logo for the CCSP yet, but the program gets a cool shield logo as a whole.
Yesterday afternoon, I caught up with Dean Thompson, VP of Technical Services, Sales, and Support at Centrify by phone to discuss the company’s initial certification credential and some surrounding information I wasn’t able to elicit from the Centrify Website. First, here are the basics that you will find there:
- Centrify Certification Program home page
- Certification Name: Centrify Certified Systems Administrator (CCSA)
- Certification Focus: Centrify Server Suite, Standard Edition
- Cost of CCSA Exam: $150 (exam is delivered online, 150 questions, 120 minutes, 80% passing score)
- CBT version of training class CTS-CSSE-1CBT available, $500; ILT version CTS-DCS-10S runs 3 days, $1,500 (taught on-site and at California and Georgia locations to the public, 10 student maximum for on-site classes)
- Pre-requisites: none, but three or more months of hands-on experience working with the Centrify Server Suite, Standard Edition for both deployment and administration is highly recommended
Given this information, I still had some questions for Mr. Thompson, all of which he was able to answer in a very short phone call between flights (I caught up with him at ORD, aka Chicago-O’Hare, getting ready to board a plane after a weather delay). His answers convinced me that the Centrify certification program is very much on the up-and-up, and worth digging into for those who work with its products and platforms, or who might be interested in developing additional competencies in Identity and Access Managements tools and technologies. Here’s a choice bit of Q&A from yesterday’s call:
- Q: Some stories about the CCSA and the program indicate it’s aimed primarily at partners. Do you certs also work for end-users or admins for the technology?
A: Our certifications are designed to validate skills, knowledge and experience with our products and platforms, no matter who takes them. Of course, we do want to vet our partners in this regard, but our certifications are open to the public, and to all interested parties who might want to demonstrate their skills and knowledge with Centrify solutions.
- Q: Will you be administering your exams through Pearson VUE, Prometric, or another testing company?
A: Our exams are all online, and are not proctored. We guard against fraud and impersonation by requiring identity checks for exam takers, and against cheating by requiring candidates to answer a large number of questions (150 of them) in a relatively short period of time (120 minutes, or 2 hours—a rate of 5 answers every 4 minutes, on average).
- Q: Can CCSA candidates challenge the exam directly, or must they take a course to qualify to take the exam?
A: Candidates are not required to take any training; it’s provided as a courtesy and as a convenience for the company’s partners and user base.
- Q: Do your credentials require periodic recertification? If so, how is this accomplished?
A: Centrify certifications must be renewed every three years. Currently, the only way to do this is to re-take the related certification exam. There is no continuing education or alternative activity (courses, publishing, teaching, research, and so forth) option at this time.
Finally, I asked Mr. Thompson what was next for the Centrify certification program. Given that the company’s product line-up includes Enterprise and Platinum editions of its flagship Identity and Authentication Management offerings, I wasn’t at all surprised to hear that next up in this sequence will be the Enterprise Edition, which incorporates all Standard Edition elements, plus DirectAudit elements for both Windows and UNIX/Linux environments. Somewhat to my surprise, he indicated this next certification would be available early next year, in either late Q1 or sometime in Q2. After that, the company plans to work its way through other key product offerings to further extend its collection of credentials, but those specifics are not yet available – though the Centrify team has promised to notify me as soon as their plans and timetables are more fully defined.
Obviously, as is the case with most vendor-specific IT certifications, the Centrify credentials are of greatest interest to those who work with the company’s platforms and products. I’m impressed with what they’ve put together and how they plan to deliver and maintain their credentials, and would definitely urge current or prospective administrators, installers, or consultants who work with the Centrify products to dig further into their cert program and its offerings. Their exams are inexpensive ($150), and their CBT and classroom training dirt-cheap by comparison with many other programs. Given that their products are highly regarded and widely used, investing in Centrify certification looks like a safe and smart bet for partners, companies that use these products, and individuals who work with them.