January 16, 2013 7:44 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
This morning, Cisco Systems announced that four of its certification credentials have attained ANSI/ISO/IEC 17024 Accreditation, under the ANSI Personnel certification program. The 17024 standard ensures that certification programs meet a variety of best practices and transparency requirements for their content and coverage, and that these programs decouple training from certification (so that self-study is an option for earning any and all of these credentials), along with their various requirements for education, total years of work experience, and direct work-related tasks and duties performed as may sometimes be the case. The following Cisco certifications have earned this accreditation as of today:
CCNA Routing & Switching
CCNP Routing & Switching
What makes this a big deal is that as the ANSI Benefits of Accreditation page states: “ANSI accreditation is generally recognized as the highest standard in personnel certification accreditation.” ANSI’s involvement in this process, in fact, “…is important to facilitate government recognition” as that same page goes on to state further, because ANSI adheres rigorously the ISO/IEC 17011 Conformity Assessment standards, and because the organization “…has a historical track record of successfully coordinating accreditation of certification programs” from a variety of sponsoring organizations that include professional societies and institutes, large multinational corporations (like Cisco), and government agencies. Furthermore, the following US government agencies (along with numerous organizations from several of the 50 states and dozen-plus territories in the US) rely on “…ANSI accreditation for verification of quality of certification programs…” (US Govt Recognition page): FDA, DoD, and OSHA. Of these, the DoD (Department of Defense) is especially important because its FITSP regulations require agencies and contractors to meet specific information security certification requirements, where those credentials all comply with ISO/IEC 17024 accreditation.
That’s why, as you examine this table of IT cert-related organizations that have attained ANSI/ISO/IEC 17024 Accreditation, straight from the Accreditation Services Directory on the ANSI Website, you will see a strong and clear preponderance of information security credentials among these offerings (most of the non-infosec credentials, in fact, are also important to the DoD as well):
|ANSI/ISO/IEC Accredited IT Certifications
(click for links & full cert names)
||CPP, PSP, PCI
||CCNA R&S, CCNP R&S, CCNA Security,
||A+, CASP, Network+, Security+, Storage+
||GCFA, GCIH, GCIA, GSEC, GSLC
||CTS, CTS-D, CTS-I
||CGEIT, CISM, CISA
||CAP, CISSP, CSSLP, ISSAP, ISSEP, ISSMP, SSCP
January 14, 2013 5:20 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
In all of my own surveys of IT certification, and in others from many third parties, virtualization always shows up at or near the top of attempts to describe what’s hot, in high demand, interesting to both employers and employees, where the jobs are, what pays well, and so forth.
Virtualization is affecting the shape and dynamics for all aspects of IT.
Image credit: Shutterstock 93273742
To my way of thinking, this makes the virtualization cert landscape particularly compelling and appealing for IT professionals looking for new skills and knowledge worth acquisition and mastery. Last year, I wrote two survey stories for Tom’s IT Pro in the areas of Cloud Computing and Virtualization; because both areas depend heavily on virtualization I decided to revisit them and see if I could add anything to that mix. To my astonishment and delight the items I singled out for coverage at the top of their respective areas are still chugging away quite nicely (check out the full stories for more details on other offerings in both areas, please), as shown in the following table.
For anybody interested in virtualization, there’s something to dig into right away, and probably to plan for longer term, for those further interested in more senior and responsible positions in the field. At present, the VMware, Citrix, and Microsoft (Private Cloud) credentials seem to be generating the most traction, but there are plenty of other platforms and providers of virtualization tools and technology to choose from further up the food chain. Enjoy!
January 11, 2013 5:39 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
Here’s the rotating banner from the Microsoft Virtual Academy (MVA) home page, which nicely and concisely tells you pretty much everything you need to know. Here’s the registration link, should you wish to sign up immediately — and if you’re interested, you probably should, because virtual seats are limited and tend to fill up very quickly for this high-demand subject matter.
One on Hyper-V and another on general virtualization for January, and another on VMware integration/migration for February.
In case you can’t read the fine print on the screencap, here’s what Jump Starts are coming up (I’m paraphrasing the info copy from the afore-linked registration page in the bullets that follow):
- Introduction to Hyper-V: 1/24/2013 8am – 5pm PST (UCT -08:00). First part of three parts, designed for IT Pros experience in virtualization technologies like VMware, Virtual Box, and so forth, but who need to learn how to use Hyper-V to undertake various typical tasks on the Windows Server 2012 platform. Symon Perriman and Jeff Woolsey will be instructing.
- Microsoft Virtualization for VMware Professionals: 1/30/2013 8am – 5pm PST (UCT -08:00). Second part of three parts, tailored for VMware professionals who need to come up to speed on how Hyper-V v3 (the version included with Windows Server 2012) and System Center 2012 SP1 compare with VMware vSphere 5.1 and VMware Private Cloud, respectively.
- Microsoft Tools for VMware Integration/Migration: late Feb 2013, final date/time TBD. Third of three parts, this series aims at VMware professionals seeking to leverage Windows Server 2012, Hyper-V v3, and System Center 2012 to integrate effectively with VMware.
All three courses are online only, and include no hands-on labs. Microsoft does offer more formal (for a fee) training classes that are instructor-led with a serious hands-on component. Looks like MS Course 20414A: Implementing an Advanced Server Infrastructure is designed to handle server virtualization and related topics, while classes 20415A: Implementing a Desktop Infrastructure, and 20416A: Implementing Desktop Application Environments do the same thing for desktop and application virtualization, respectively.
Unrelated PostScript: Check out the Windows Intune Jump Start if you’re interested in managing distributed Windows PCs, tablets (including Android and iOS), and other mobile devices remotely and securely. Sounds interesting!
January 9, 2013 3:50 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
Over the holidays, I got an email from a long-time IT professional who asked me for my opinion on whether or not he should jump back into the IT certification fray. Because his most recent credentials data back to the old Novell Certified Network Engineer (CNE) circa NetWare 4.0 and the old MCSE (back when it still meant Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer, rather than MS Certified Solutions Expert) for Windows NT 4.0, I presumed he hadn’t bothered to update his certifications since the mid-1990s. This was later confirmed in the subsequent email exchange that occurred between us.
What happens when credentials age to the point where no easy upgrade path exists any more between “there” (the time at which those certs were earned) and “here” (the prevailing slate of certs from the same vendor)? Why, you must start over, of course! But it needn’t be as daunting or off-putting as it might at first appear, and here’s why:
1. Yes indeed, you will have to start from scratch to get back on today’s bandwagon. But as I observed to my correspondent, there are still plenty of things about Windows that remain in force, even given the 16-17 years between the release date for NT 4.0 (7/29/1996) and today’s date (1/9/2013). The “start from scratch” part really applies to the exams involved (he’s interested in MCSE: Windows Server 2012 Infrastructure, which also means picking up MCSA: Windows Server 2012 along the way; 5 exams in all), and to 50-60% of the skills and knowledge (much of which represents new stuff or enhancements, rather than outright replacements for older concepts and technologies).
2. Having already earned a CNE and and MCSE, my correspondent — and others like him — has already learned how to study for and take IT certification exams. This means he can concentrate on learning the material, with only a modest amount of learning bandwidth necessary to tackle and master the tools and testing environment itself, and not much need to learn and develop study and test-taking skills (though a refresher will occur quite naturally as a consequence of using and taking practice exams in the run-up to the real thing). This is an area where prior experience and activity really helps.
3. Given his ongoing involvement in IT for nearly 20 years, and his day-to-day use of Windows Server, my correspondent already understands much of the context inside which the Microsoft curriculum resides. Also, his experience with Windows Server versions through Windows Server 2008 means that already “gets” why the collection of skills and knowledge that the MCSA and MCSE seek to verify is important, germane, and worth pursuing and acquiring. This informed perspective beats the pants off the kind of viewpoint and understanding that a freshly-minted college graduate, or anybody else who hasn’t yet put some time into an IT job, can bring to the party.
Sure, it’s tough to start over: there will be a lot of time and effort required, along with some expense. But because he’s already been down the certification road before, and has also been around the block in IT positions a few times, my correspondent should be able to pick up and run with the new material faster and more easily than others who lack his background and experience could do. Same thing goes for other “older hands” who can bring the same kinds of history and exposure to the table. He’s going to give it a shot, and plans to take 6-12 months to get from where he is now to an MCSE: Server Infrastructure. If you’re in a similar situation, I urge you to consider a similar course of action — and study!
January 7, 2013 3:07 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
When I read recently about a “Study/Learn Master Page” in the Cisco Learning Network’s recent learning news, at first I didn’t really get what was going on. So I decided to drill down into their information — which initially struck me as a simple re-organization of existing learning content, but is actually much more than that — to see what was up. So I took a look-see at the Study/Learn tab for the various CCNA exams (ICND1, ICND2, and the CCNA Composite exam. Here’s a partial snippet of what I found there, upon which I’ll base further discussion after its presentation:
Note the many types of media offered, some free, some for a fee.
This redesign of their learning content is intended to help exam candidates find what they “…are looking for faster by reorganizing the content according to the exam blueprint topics.” For as long as I can remember, with my history of designing the Exam Cram series with this kind of mapping information as a major consideration, and having contributed to numerous Study Guides across a variety of operating system, networking, and information security topics, this has been a guiding principle on the aftermarket for cert prep materials. But making objectives crystal clear and illuminating them directly with training materials haven’t been as explicit as I would like them to be in the way certification sponsors have built their own certification pages and descriptions. Thus, until Cisco offered up this reworking of its own materials and training — some of which still requires payment to access (as shown in the final two elements in the preceding screen snippet) and for-a-fee content typically accounts for one-third to one-half of total materials linked — I can’t think of any other cert sponsors who’ve been so straightforward and explicit in the way that they organize cert prep materials for credential candidates.
This is one great development that I hope other sponsors will themselves adopt immediately. That said, hopes may not be enough, so I encourage candidates all over the certification landscape to speak up to other cert sponsors and ask them to do for their programs and credentials what Cisco is doing. This promises to make it much easier to understand what sometimes dodgy or unclear exam objectives really mean, simply by digging into the very materials, labs, and examples that the sponsor provides to illuminate those things. I approve wholeheartedly, and encourage everybody to take a quick look-see at this, too. If you like what you see as much as I think you will, do please pass the message along to other cert providers that they should do likewise. Here’s hoping this can make a difference, and set new expectations for what cert candidates routinely find at their disposal!
January 4, 2013 3:43 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
At the end of each calendar year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics revisits that year’s employment figures “using updated seasonal adjustment factors,” to quote from the text box at the top of this morning’s Employment Situation Summary for December, 2012. They also delivered a slight adjustment for November in Table A by raising the unemployment rate for that month from 7.7 to 7.8 percent, but that number remained unchanged for December of 2012 as well. Looking at the progression in Table A for the year (see following screen cap), we see a slow and careful downward progression from the 8.3 rate that applied last January to the current 7.8 level for the final month of last year (current report, archives).
No real motion from March to August, but a nice finish to 2012 after that.
A closer look at the information sector (a big source of IT jobs), professional and business services (the primary locus for outsourced IT services), and the self-employed (where my personal situation dictates some interest as well) shows that things haven’t really changed all that much over the past year, with increases in unemployment for information (7.7 percent for 2011 vs. 8.0 percent for 2012, though overall unemployment numbers are down from 235K to 229K over that period, reflecting an slight decrease in overall unemployed persons for the sector) and self-employment (from 5.5 percent for 2011 vs. 5.6 for 2012, but with an increase from 539K to 566K unemployed persons in the same period). Professional and business services show a larger decrease in unemployment numbers (from 1403K in 2011 to 1307K in 2012) echoed by a similar drop in unemployment rates (from 9.3 percent in 2011 to 8.7 percent in 2012).
Overall, us IT types would do well to remember my unchanged mantra since 2009 — namely “Hunker down. Stay put.” to which I’ll also add “Don’t panic.” and “Wait it out.” The overall trend does continue to improve ever so slowly and gradually, so sooner or later that’s got to start boosting the fortunes for IT workers, too. As to when that might happen, I really don’t know. I continue to hope that an uptick will come sooner rather than later, knowing all the while that it will come in its own good or bad time, if it comes at all.
January 2, 2013 5:49 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
I regularly visit the Microsoft Born to Learn blog to keep up with their training and certification activities. Occasionally, other bits and pieces of the learning apparatus surface through this channel, as was the case with Kerri Davis’ excellent “Why Brain Dumps Are Bad” post this morning. Of course, as a cert sponsor and provider, Microsoft has a huge axe to grind against brain dumps — which should be understood as various tools for obtaining verbatim access to exam content through illicit means, often in exchange for payment — but there are lots of good reasons why brain dumps are best avoided when prepping for any kind of cert exam. Here is my personal list of top reasons why you shouldn’t mess with brain dumps when chasing any kind of certification:
5. Because there is no quality control on brain dump content, you never know if what you’re getting is current, accurate, or correct.
4. Brain dumps stress memorization over learning, which may work to pass an exam, but is useless when it comes to developing real skills or knowledge.
3. Brain dumps claim to present actual or real exam content, which is expressly forbidden to anyone inside or outside the sponsor/vendor organization who really does have such access.
2. Brain dumps debase the value of the exams and credentials they cover, because they obscure legitimate attempts to measure test-taker’s skills, abilities, knowledge, and hands-on experience. Measuring what somebody can remember has little or nothing to do with what they actually know and can do.
1. If you use a brain dump and get caught, you will not only lose all of your certifications from that vendor or sponsor, you may also be barred from any future participation in their cert programs.
Given the potential consequences of resorting to such illicit means of gathering information, and the inherently questionable nature and value of the content involved, it’s not just a bad idea to use brain dumps: it could be a form of professional suicide for those whose jobs either strongly encourage or outright inquire certification credentials. Like driving under the influence, it’s clearly something anyone can do if they choose. But if they’re smart, they’ll make other choices and take other approaches to passing certification exams. So should you!
December 28, 2012 4:39 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
Just before Christmas (12/17/2012), the W3C published complete definitions for HTML5 and Canvas 2D specifications. Officially, these are not yet final standards — the W3C designations for them read “W3C Candidate Recommendation” — which means that while these standards may be tweaked further to correct mistakes or bugs, there won’t be any more major changes as they are fully tested across multiple Web browsers for interoperability, and in browsers and numerous other applications to permit their runtime performance characteristics to be measured, tweaked, and tuned. Here’s what the W3 Press Release says about their current status:
“Though not yet W3C standards, these specifications are now feature complete, meaning businesses and developers have a stable target for implementation and planning. HTML5 is the cornerstone of the Open Web Platform, a full programming environment for cross-platform applications with access to device capabilities; video and animations; graphics; style, typography, and other tools for digital publishing; extensive network capabilities; and more.”
What this means is that web designers, web tool developers, and web services delivery organizations now have a stable, predictable target to use for building new Web sites and pages, Web-based applications and services, and tools to take advantage of HTML5′s amazing capabilities. As a case in point, if you’ve not spent much time on the Microsoft Web pages lately (check out MS Learning, for example). The following snazzy image translates into some very interesting HTML (if you View Source on the preceding page, the rotating block of offers at left begins as follows
If you parse your way through this markup, you’ll see it sets up a “carousel” that rotates the left hand area from messages about the MS Learning Second Shot campaign, to the Free HTML 5 training shown above, to a Windows 8 tech showcase, to a promo for the Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA) cert just made available to the general public. After that, the markup lays out the three right-hand boxes for finding certs, finding training, and an exam registration. Earlier versions of HTML would have had to do most of this work with graphics (and had to turn the text inside the boxes into part of a graphic); HTML5 lets you leave the text as text, and color and format the nice little boxes it comes in to your heart’s content. Among other things, this capability shows a profound influence over what MS calls the “Windows Store UI” (formerly known as Metro). Looks like HTML5 is an essential ingredient in creating and managing the new Windows 8/Windows Server 2012 GUI, no matter what you call it!
But while HTML5 has been in considerable change and ferment over the past few years, there’s now a solid base for design and development for Web professionals. That means: It’s highest time to start learning more about HTML5 and how to use it! That’s why Jeff Noble and I are feverishly redoing the 14th edition of HTML For Dummies to focus on HTML5 and to explore and explain what this radical reworking of the markup language (and extensions to its sister style language CSS3, as well as the 2D canvas that supports active drawing/rendering inside Web pages) makes possible on modern Web pages. We think it will open your eyes, and create amazing new ways to interact with the Web. While you’are at it, you may even want to sign up for the free HTML5 exam voucher that MS is so generously offering to the public, along with free online training.
The W3C is shooting for broad HTML5 interoperability by mid-2014, at which time the organization plans to publish the final HTML5 recommendation. To keep the technology ball rolling forward, the group has also announced initial drafts of HTML5.1 and Canvas 2D, Level 2, both aiming to kick off the next round of standardization as the current round settles down for finalization.
December 26, 2012 4:06 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
Like so many other successful trade associations, the former Information Systems Audit and Control Association is now known only by its acronym, ISACA. This is a trade group that offers a number of successful and well-respected IT certifications, including the Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) and Certified Information Security Manager (CISM), among others (including the CGEIT and CRISC; see the ISACA Certification page for a complete list).
The ISACA also takes a somewhat old-fashioned approach to cert exam delivery: much as the (ISC)2 (home to the CISSP and numerour other infosec certifications) did until last year, ISACA still books its own exam locations, hires its own proctors, and delivers its certification exams on a periodic basis. Why? Because they haven’t yet concluded that forming a relationship with a company like Prometric or VUE for exam delivery is worth the potential loss of complete control over exam delivery and security that they currently maintain.
Until next year, ISACA exams have usually been delivered on a twice-a-year basis. For 2013, the number of exam dates goes up to three. Thus, instead of dates in June and December, 2013 ISACA adds dates in September for that year. A complete list of locations is available online (June/December, September). While I understand why ISACA still does things this way, I hope they’re investigating a relationship with either or both of Prometric and VUE. As a major purveyor of infosec, risk management, and IT governance credentials, ISACA should start emulating other major programs — like those from Apple, Cisco, CompTIA, and Microsoft, among many others — and make their exams available in testing centers worldwide. That would have to a win for cert candidates, employers, and ISACA alike.
[A shout-out to Anne Martinez at GoCertify.com whose tweet and PR post alerted me to this added exam date from ISACA.]