Eye on Certification: Linux

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The operating system launched in 1991 by then-unknown Linus Torvalds, Linux (or “Linus’ Minix,” a homage to a kernel for another UNIX-ish operating system invented by eventual rival Andrew Tanenbaum), is perhaps one of IT’s most unlikely success stories.


Torvalds was a student at the University of Helsinki when he unveiled his “hobby” to the world via a USENET newsgroup. Although Torvalds hasn’t capitalized on his open source creation nearly as much as he could have since then (the title of his autobiography, “Just For Fun: The Story of an Accidental Revolutionary,” epitomizes his view of the Linux phenomenon) he is well-aware of the extraordinary impact his operating system brought about.


It has hundreds of different distributions and has been adopted to some extent by companies such as IBM and Hewlett-Packard.


Torvalds also is conscious of the large cult following Linux has spawned. If you’re one of the parishioners in the Church of Linux, check out this overview of some of the top certifications in this field.


Linux Professional Institute (LPI)


The Linux Professional Institute (LPI) established its certification program to promote and assist professional adoption of the operating system, as well as certify the competency of professionals working with Linux and related tools and technologies. Its certifications are vendor- and distribution-neutral, and they adhere to the principles laid out in the Linux Standard Base and other generally accepted practices.


LPI’s Junior-Level Administration (LPIC-1) covers topics such as working on the Linux command line, supporting users, adding users, performing routine maintenance, and implementing and configuring a workstation. There are no prerequisites required to take the two exams for this certification.


Exam 101 deals with hardware and architecture; Linux installation and package management; GNU and Unix commands; devices, Linux file systems and file system hierarchy standard; and the X Window system.


Exam 102 focuses on the Linux kernel; boot, initialization, shutdown and runlevels; printing; documentation; shells, scripting, programming and compiling; administrative tasks; networking fundamentals and services; and security.


The organization also offers the Intermediate-Level Administration (LPIC-2) credential, which verifies certificants can administer a small- to medium-sized site; plan, implement, maintain, secure and troubleshoot a small network that might include a blend of Linux and Windows; and grasp certain soft skills such as supervising assistants and counseling management on automation and purchasing options. This certification also has two tests: Exam 201 includes topics such as the Linux kernel, system start-up and hardware, and Exam 202 addresses subjects such as networking, Web services and client management.


Most recently added was the LPIC-3, the highest level of LPI certification. This credential is aimed at the “enterprise-level” Linux professional. It was designed with contributions from hundreds of experts with this operating system from around the globe, as well as input from some of the world’s leading technology companies.


The LPIC-3 program consists of a single exam for “Core” designation, but many specialty areas have been proposed, including Security, High Availability and Virtualization, Web and Intranet, and Mail and Messaging. (LPI already has added one specialty: Mixed Environment.)


For more information, see http://www.lpi.org.




The Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) offers the Linux+ certification, which validates the equivalent of between six and 12 months of professional experience with basic installation, operation and troubleshooting the operating system.


Linux+ holders comprehend important issues such as open-source resources and licenses, user administration, file permissions and software configurations and management of local storage devices and network protocols.


The Linux+ exam has domains in security and documentation, additional content in the installation and configuration domains and diminished coverage of hardware subject matter.


Individuals with the CompTIA Linux+ certification will have the knowledge to implement security options on client systems, configure security-related files, grasp common security practices, determine installation methods and select appropriate settings, protocols, and software packages.


For more information, see http://www.comptia.org.




Novell, the company that effectively started IT certification, has three credentials in regard to its Linux offerings, one of which was just released. The first of these is the Certified Linux Professional (CLP), which is designed for SUSE Linux administrators who perform responsibilities such as installing Linux servers in a network, troubleshooting functions for the file system, assembling and managing the Linux kernel and handling network processes and services for SUSE Linux Enterprise 10.


For more advanced Linux administrators, Novell offers the Certified Linux Engineer (CLE). This credential deals with the deeper networking and security aspects of SUSE Linux Enterprise 10. Although they don’t have to hold the CLP to take on this certification, it certainly doesn’t hurt. And both the CLP and CLE require no coursework.


For more information, see http://www.novell.com.


Red Hat


Red Hat’s credentialing program employs performance-based testing on live systems to verify competency with its Linux solutions. The company has three levels of certification, and potential participants can use pre-assessment tests on the Red Hat Web site to gauge their skills and determine which is right for them.


Red Hat also offers a substantial number of in-depth courses for its credentials, which might be prerequisites for the exams if candidates don’t have the mandatory amount of professional experience.


The first rung on the organization’s ladder of credentials is the Red Hat Certified Technician (RHCT), which verifies knowledge of Linux installation and administration concepts on the part of the holder. The RHCT Certification Lab Exam comprises two components: a one-hour diagnostics and troubleshooting lab and a two-hour session that involves installation and configuration of a system, as well as its attachment to a network.


The next step is the Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE), which validates comprehension of setup and management principles in regard to Linux servers running production network services and security.


The RHCE certification exam, which is closed-book, includes a three-hour server install and network services configuration lab, as well as a troubleshooting and maintenance lab, which lasts 2.5 hours.


The Red Hat Certified Architect (RHCA) holder will possess all the skills the RHCE has but to a much deeper and broader degree. This certification’s curriculum involves four advanced enterprise architect courses and an upper-level security course, all of which last four days.


On the fifth day of each class, participants will take an endorsement exam, which can take anywhere from two to eight hours.


Red Hat’s newest certification is the Certified Security Specialist (RHCSS). An RHCSS has RHCE security knowledge, plus specialized skills in Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Red Hat Directory Server and Security-Enhance Linux to meet the security requirements of enterprise environments. Additional specialization in identity management is also available.


For more information, see www.redhat.com

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