Certified Linux Professional, SUSE and Novell

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In the wake of its acquisition of German-based SuSE Linux, Novell has announced that it will be folding that company’s certification into its overall offerings. In fact, Novell calls that company SUSE, so that’s how you’ll see it in this story. In June, Novell clarified its future directions for the SUSE Certified Linux Professional (SCLP), so I’ll begin with an overview of this credential. Then, I’ll explain how you can pursue it now and what will happen to it over time.

Two Paths, One Cert
Although Novell will support two paths to obtaining a Certified Linux Professional (CLP) credential until the end of 2004, the underlying content for the certification remains the same for both paths. That said, exam requirements (and probably costs) will differ to some extent. Each of the two paths provides its own distinct flavor, SUSE (SCLP) or Novell (NCLP). But first, let’s explore what the CLP is and what it certifies. (This information is adapted from www.novell.com/training/certinfo/clp and www.suse.com/us/business/services/training/certification/sclp.html).

The CLP is an entry-level certification, aimed at individuals who wish to demonstrate basic skills and knowledge involved in working as a Linux system and network administrator. Novell specifically cites a number of related skills and abilities required, including:



  • Installing Linux servers into a network environment.
  • Managing users and groups.
  • Troubleshooting the SUSE Linux file system.
  • Managing and compiling the Linux kernel.
  • Troubleshooting network processes and services.


Individuals who earn a CLP can be effective and productive in positions where day-to-day Linux desktop and server administration is involved.

The two current pathways to obtaining CLP provide additional detail that prospective candidates will find helpful for preparation, no matter which path they decide to follow. On the SCLP side, requirements to earn the certification include:



  • Obtaining Linux Professional Institute (LPI) Level 1 Linux (LPIC-1) certification, which in turn requires passing two LPI exams: #LPI 101 (www.lpi.org/en/obj_101.html) and #LPI 102 (www.lpi.org/en/obj_102.html). The sites that detail LPI’s objectives for these two exams are worth detailed perusal for anyone considering CLP certification. Pricing for both LPI exams is $100 (U.S.).
  • Passing the SUSE SL 103 exam (www.suse.com/us/business/services/training/certification/sl103.html), which builds on the foundation defined in the two LPI exams to cover more advanced topics related to file systems, printing, system administration, system configuration and networking topics. Pricing for the SUSE SL 103 exam is $125 (U.S.).


Although Novell characterizes the CLP as an “entry-level” administrator credential, its inclusion of another exam beyond the LPIC-1 makes it more challenging. (I believe that an examination of the objectives for all three exams in the SUSE path bear out the contention that CLP is, in fact, an intermediate credential.)

On the NCLP side, only a single exam is required to earn the credential, but it is a practicum exam. These performance-based exams are reputedly both challenging and demanding. The practicum exam for the now-defunct Certified Directory Engineer (CDE) was regarded the toughest Novell exam ever by many, and it looks like the Certified Linux Engineer (CLE) practicum carries on that tradition. Detailed information about the CLP practicum exam (#050-689) is not yet available on the Novell Test Data page at www.novell.com/training/testinfo/testdata.html (though it may be by the time you read this story, so check the site), but Novell does indicate that those who prepare to pass all three of the exams for the SCLP will also be adequately prepared to pass the practicum exam. Although the #050-689 practicum exam is not yet available for registration, sources inside Novell indicate that it should be available in late August or early September, and that it will probably cost the same as the $195 (U.S.) fee charged for the CLE practicum exam.

In 2005, One Path Goes Away
Novell will allow candidates for the CLP to pursue whichever path they choose to earn the credential until Dec. 31, 2004. Starting on Jan. 1, 2005, however, the SUSE path will no longer be open, because the SL 103 exam will no longer be available, and thus, it will no longer be possible to earn the SCLP credential. Starting next year, Novell will honor the SCLP credential, but will require holders who wish to meet recertification requirements to follow the Novell track starting in 2005.

I see pros and cons for both paths, depending on where candidates already stand. Certainly, for those who already hold the LPIC-1 certification, taking only one more SUSE exam will provide the quickest (and probably the easiest) path to earning CLP certification as an SCLP. It’s only marginally cheaper for those already LPIC-1 certified, but it will save $70. For those just getting started on SUSE Linux certification, the Novell path may make more sense, simply because $195 for the #050-689 exam is $140 cheaper than taking both LPI exams and the SUSE exam ($325 total). But because practicum exams take more work to prepare, and are more demanding for candidates, the possibility of a retake means that the financial balance shifts the other way if a second try is needed to pass. Certainly, those preparing for the practicum exam are well advised to put in time on extra preparation, drills and practice.

Either way, this looks like a solid Linux credential. At year’s end, when the SUSE path comes to an end, the CLP should give the Red Hat Certified Technician (RHCT) cert strong competition.

Ed Tittel is technology editor for Certification Magazine. E-mail Ed with your questions and comments at etittel@certmag.com.


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