Beyond RHCE: Training and RHCA
It has been more than five years since Red Hat launched Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE) and changed the face of OS training and certification. RHCE has become the recognized standard certification for Linux server system and network administrators.
In January 2003, Red Hat introduced an entry-level certification, Red Hat Certified Technician (RHCT). Propelled by growing interest from techs with no prior UNIX experience, RHCT is growing three times as fast as RHCE. With more than 12,000 RHCEs and 5,500 RHCTs worldwide, these are now the largest and fastest-growing performance-based certifications in IT.
Supporting Linux Adoption
It’s no surprise that RHCEs have become a force for technical leadership on Linux in their organizations. RHCEs have proven they can set up and configure Linux servers, configure network services and security, and perform diagnostics and troubleshooting. RHCEs take responsibility for Linux servers and the services running on those servers.
RHCEs also support the larger group of Linux technicians in the front lines: RHCTs proficient at installing new systems, attaching them to the corporate network, providing help-desk and Level 1 and 2 support. RHCTs work under the guidance of RHCEs, to whom they escalate Level 3 technical issues. The combination of RHCEs and RHCTs has been structured to support wider Linux adoption inside organizations.
Top enterprise Linux customers boast that RHCEs managing Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL 3) servers using Red Hat Network (RHN) can “manage two times or even three times” the number of Linux servers, compared with UNIX or other operating systems. As corporate IT replaces older UNIX and Win32 systems, half or a third as many RHCEs can manage the same number of systems.
Such price-performance and manageability are part of the reason Linux adoption by corporate IT has gone from “experimental” to “initial adoption” to “wholesale replacement.” But there is more to the story.
‘Does IT Matter?’
Pointing to increasing commoditization of IT and the goal of making IT a more customer-centered, on-demand type of service, IT pundits have asked, “Does IT matter?” IT should not matter in that good IT should be transparent to the user. IT should just work, as we expect of electricity and other utilities. To take this from academic punditry to reality, savvy corporate IT leaders are embracing the virtues of secure, scalable, reliable infrastructure built on open systems and open-source architectures.
These new architectures enable centralized manageability with the same or even fewer IT staff, whether for complex back-end systems in the data center, for Internet transactions or for managing thousands of remotely administered desktops for end users. This is where IT is converging.
The new IT infrastructure requires higher levels of skill from comparatively fewer, better trained experts who can deploy and manage large infrastructures with enormous scalability. Increased stability and transparency for corporate IT and for end users yields productivity gains and competitive advantage.
This is fueling demand for Linux skills at both ends of the curriculum. RHCT expanded the options and market at the lower end of the curriculum and will expand further with the adoption of new Red Hat Corporate Desktop solutions.
But what about the top of the enterprise computing ladder? What are the Linux tasks and job roles at the most challenging levels of enterprise Linux deployment? What skills are required? Who provides training at that level? Will there be a certification at that level, beyond RHCE? Will it be (can it be) performance-based?
Beyond RHCE: Enterprise Architect and RHCA
The answer is a new series of advanced system administration courses at the RH400-level, completing the Red Hat Enterprise Architect curriculum and Red Hat Certified Architect (RHCA) certification. Two new courses, combined with the already popular RH401, RH423 and RHS333, build competencies at the level of a Linux “architect.” Becoming a Linux architect is all about managing many systems and being technically competent to plan, design, deploy and manage the top level of enterprise solutions on Linux for a large organization. The new curriculum includes:
- RH401 Red Hat Enterprise Deployment and Systems Management: Focuses on software deployment and management, including Red Hat cluster suite for failover and load balancing; RHN proxy and satellite solutions; and the Concurrent Versioning System (CVS) for enterprise software deployment and management.
- RH423 Red Hat Enterprise Directory Services and Authentication: Focuses on setup of LDAP and use of kerberos to achieve what is known as single schema authentication for secure access to authorized services, applications and file systems; and integration of Linux directory services with proprietary directory services such as Novell Directory Services (NDS) and Windows Active Directory Server.
- RH436 Red Hat Enterprise Storage Management: Focuses on developing and practicing storage management solutions with GFS, the Red Hat Global File System.
- RH442 Red Hat Enterprise System Monitoring and Performance Tuning: Focuses on analysis of system performance, methods of tweaking server performance for specific purposes; and monitoring system behavior and metrics.
- RHS333 Red Hat Enterprise Security: Network Services: An upper-level security course that completes the network services security requirements for RHCA; goes beyond the skills covered in RH253 as part of RHCE.
Enterprise companies and public-sector organizations will benefit from this top level of hands-on training. Some may need their staffs to take one or two of the RH400 courses to achieve targeted outcomes for specific migration or integration projects. Some enterprises will want their top-level engineers to take all the RH400 courses and track toward certification as RHCA.
The RH400 courses can be taken in any order. Some find taking RH401 gives them a good foundation for the other RH400 courses.
Each of the RH400 courses stands on its own and offers high-level training on focused areas of enterprise Linux integration, deployment and systems management. Collectively the courses develop top-level enterprise data-center skills for RHCEs who are building and integrating Linux and open-source architecture on RHEL 3, RHN and Red Hat layered products. The new curriculum can also be a key part of a corporate desktop strategy: RH401 and RH423 Directory Services in particular are made to order for learning to plan and deploy a large-scale Red Hat Corporate Desktop rollout.
A major value of the RH400 courses is flight time in a realistic yet safe enterprise computing environment that would be difficult or impossible to set up offline inside most companies. The required hardware usually isn’t available for learning these skills, and you don’t want to practice these skills in a production environment.
Each student gets access to two or more servers and a storage array or SAN running Red Hat Enterprise Linux and other open-source technologies. RH436 involves five servers and fibre-channel storage for each student. Participants are immersed in an equipment-intensive classroom to learn in-depth systems and software management skills that enable organizations to scale the deployment of Red Hat Enterprise Linux across the enterprise.