An Overview of Linux Certifications
As an alternative to Windows and a technological phenomenon, Linux continues to gather interest and momentum in the marketplace. Likewise, Linux certifications now register on an increasing number of IT radars and show up more frequently in surveys that track certification interests, future plans and so on.
But just as there are lots of Linux distributions from which IT professionals can choose, there are numerous Linux certifications that they might pursue.
Here, I describe various options currently available and cover additional upcoming Linux certifications that may not just be worthy of interest, but also of pursuit.
The Linux Certification Landscape
Currently, the Linux certification landscape may be divided into three groups: primary, secondary and upcoming. Primaries are those certifications or programs that concentrate exclusively on Linux; by now all have achieved some degree of market penetration and success. Secondaries are those that cover Linux in the context of other certification programs. Upcomings include a couple of interesting offerings that have been announced but aren’t yet available.
I’ll provide information about all three groups, plus comments on a former primary that is no longer active. After that, I dig into details on the primaries (which provides a major focus for this story, and this entire StudyGuide).
Primary Linux certifications and programs include:
- Red Hat Certified Professional Program: numerous training courses and two certifications that focus on Red Hat Linux: Red Hat Certified Technician (RHCT) and Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE).
- Linux Professional Institute (LPI) Program: three levels of vendor-neutral certification with related exams (LPIC1, LPIC2 and LPIC3), of which the first two levels are currently available (and the third is under development).
- CompTIA’s Linux+: A single entry-level, vendor-neutral certification.
Those familiar with Linux certification may notice that a former primary player is missing—the SAIR-GNU Linux program. Like the LPI program, SAIR-GNU’s design included three tiers for credentials, including Administrator (LCA), Engineer (LCE) and Master Engineer (MLCE). According to reports, the program has been discontinued in the wake of mergers and management changes.
LPI supports orphaned LCAs in two ways (higher-level SAIR-GNU exams were never made available, so it’s the only credential that counts):
- They can attain LPIC1 certification by passing any single LPIC1 exam (instead of the customary two).
- They can take LPIC2 exams (instead of having to complete two Level 1 exams to meet normal prerequisites) and pursue LPIC2 certification directly.
Either way, this gives LCAs a path to more advanced certifications, with little or no loss of status or need for extra work.
Secondary Linux certifications include two elements, both of which incorporate Linux coverage into other, more general programs:
- HP offers Linux coverage in two credentials. HP Accredited Integration Specialists (AISs) can elect to follow AlphaServer + Linux or ProLiant + Linux tracks. Each of these tracks requires candidates to meet Linux prerequisites, including the SAIR-GNU LCA, LPIC1, RHCT or completion of Red Hat’s RH133 Linux System Administration and RHCT course. HP Accredited Systems Engineers (ASEs) can follow these tracks at a more technical level, provided they obtain more advanced certifications (the RHCE is the only prerequisite still available). Visit www.hp.com/go/certification for more information.
- IBM also offers two certifications with a Linux focus. The eServer Certified Systems Expert-iSeries program includes a Linux Solution Sales V5R2 credential. Although it has a technical component, this certification includes no additional Linux prerequisites. The eServer Certified Systems Expert-xSeries program also includes a Linux credential. To qualify, candidates must already hold a Linux certification, such as LPIC1 or RHCE, and take one additional exam. Visit www.ibm.com/certify, and scan the “Select a certification” pull-down menu for mentions of Linux for more information on these offerings.
My scans of other cert programs show no other vendors or organizations that currently incorporate Linux in their offerings or offer other Linux-oriented credentials or programs. Read on, however, for news about some upcoming programs that will add to the landscape once they launch.
Upcoming Linux programs include two items, one of which is delayed:
- UnitedLinux is a partnership that involves leading Linux and operating-system vendors Connectiva, The SCO Group, SuSE and Turbolinux. They’re building the UnitedLinux Certified Professional (ULCP) program with LPI. In fact, it’s essentially an add-on to LPI credentials, with an additional exam for LPIC1 and LPIC2 on the UnitedLinux distribution. (Add exam #103 to go from LPIC1 to United Linux Certified Professional, or ULCP; add exam #203 to go from LPIC2 to United Linux Certified Expert, or ULCE). Despite announcing the program’s launch in the first quarter of 2003, e-mail from General Manager Paula M. Hunter indicates that they expect the program to debut no later than September 2003, but that no firm release date is set. For information, see www.unitedlinux.com/en/press/pr012203c.html.
- Novell claims a December 2003 launch for its Certified Linux Engineer (CLE) credential. In addition to stressing Linux setup, management, maintenance and troubleshooting skills, it will also focus on various Novell services for Linux. The CLE service flyer mentions a practical exam, which means they’ll test hands-on skills and knowledge. It also recommends candidates obtain LPI Level 1 certification. Those who certify as Novell 6 Certified Novell Engineers (CNEs) (new or upgrade) can take the CLE exam for free. Details are sketchy, and the program is still under development. For information, visit www.novell.com/training/certinfo and follow links to CLE coverage and documents.
In the sections that follow, you’ll learn more about the details involved in the primary Linux certifications and programs. They’ll be discussed in their order of market penetration as measured by size estimates of the certified populations involved.
Red Hat’s RHCT and RHCE
As the biggest and oldest Linux professional certification, RHCE is arguably the premier Linux certification available today. Both RHCT and RHCE rely on performance-based testing. (The majority of each of these exams occurs in a laboratory setting, where candidates must demonstrate hands-on skills and knowledge of Red Hat Linux to pass, with only minor use of standard multiple-choice tests on the RHCE.) Much of their value derives from the levels of proficiency that exam candidates must possess to pass these lengthy and demanding exams. (See Table 1 for details.)
Table 1: RHCE and RHCT Certification