Shuffling the deck of MySQL certifications
When Oracle acquired Sun in January of 2010, it inherited the MySQL database and the associated Sun certification program. The MySQL certification exams were immediately added to the Oracle Certifications Program. With the exception of altering the title (i.e. Sun Certified MySQL Associate became Oracle Certified Associate, MySQL 5), the certification exams have been left essentially unchanged from what Sun originally developed. That is about to change. Oracle University has announced the retirement of all six of the legacy MySQL certification exams:
- 1Z0-870: MySQL 5 Certified Associate Exam
- 1Z0-871: MySQL 5 Developer Certified Professional Exam, Part I
- 1Z0-872: MySQL 5 Developer Certified Professional Exam, Part II
- 1Z0-873: MySQL 5 Database Administrator Certified Professional Exam, Part I
- 1Z0-874: MySQL 5 Database Administrator Certified Professional Exam, Part II
- 1Z0-875: MySQL 5.1 Cluster Database Administrator Certified Expert Exam
The above list represents four separate certification tracks. In the transition process currently underway, two of them are being eliminated entirely: the Certified Associate track (1Z0-870) and the Cluster Database Administrator track (1Z0-875). While Oracle University does not generally provide explanations for their actions, it is likely that at least part of the rationale was to reduce the costs of maintaining multiple MySQL exams.
I have seen a number of people indicate on certification forums that the information covered by the 1Z0-870 exam is so basic as to make the certification of dubious value. I cannot confirm that assessment as this is not an exam that I have taken. However, if true, it would be a very good reason for Oracle University to discontinue it. I see a lot of people inquire about the easiest certification exams to pass. However, the reality is that certifications based on overly simple exams provide extremely limited value to your career.
It is less clear why there is no replacement for the Cluster Administrator exam. Offhand, my guess would be that the volume of people taking the exam was judged insufficient to rewrite it. Oracle University does not provide statistics like this, so there is no way to determine whether volume was a factor.
Oracle is further consolidating the MySQL certification venue by reducing the developer and administrator tracks to a single test each. After the retirements, the program will have only a pair of MySQL exams:
- 1Z1-882: MySQL 5.6 Developer
- 1Z1-883: MySQL 5.6 Database Administrator
Based on the announcements made by Oracle University, they have attempted to make the new exams more experience-based. These types of questions tend to be harder than those that require rote memorization. By the same token, they make for a certification that is a better indicator of knowledge that applies to the real world.
Comparing the topics on the Oracle University website between the legacy administrator track (1Z0-873/1Z0-874) and the new exam (1Z0-882) the differences are striking. The legacy tests had a total of eighty-four separate topics spread among nineteen sections. The new exam has only twenty-one topics in seven sections. This does not imply that the new test is easier or covers less material. The original exams broke out both the sections and the individual topics to a very granular level while the new exam is more consolidated. For example, 1Z0-873 had a section on “Client Programs for DBA Work” with six topics listing the specific clients and information covered on the exam. 1Z0-883 has that entire section in a single topic: “Use MySQL client programs to interface with the MySQL Server interactively and in batch.”
A more dramatic example of this consolidation is below. Four sections that existed in the original exams have been consolidated into a single section in the new MySQL administrator’s exam:
Section 5: Locking (10%)
- Locking Concepts
- Explicit Table Locking
- Advisory Locking
Section 5: Optimizing Queries (15%)
- Identifying Candidates for Query Analysis
- Using EXPLAIN to Analyze Queries
- Using SHOW WARNINGS for Optimization
- MyISAM Index Caching
Section 6: Optimizing Schemas (15%)
- General Table Optimizations
- MyISAM-Specific Optimizations
- InnoDB-Specific Optimizations
- MERGE-Specific Optimizations
- MEMORY-Specific Optimizations
Section 7: Optimizing the Server (10%)
- Interpreting mysqld Server Information
- Measuring Server Load
- Tuning Memory Parameters
- Using the Query Cache
Optimizing MySQL Performance
- Demonstrate ability to diagnose and optimize poorly-performing queries.
- Tune MySQL Server configuration for best performance.
- Create and utilize table partitioning
- Apply best practices in optimizing schema objects
- Demonstrate understanding of locking concepts as applied to MySQL Server and storage engines.
What these changes mean to MySQL exam candidates is that determining specifically what information to study is no longer quite as straightforward. Picking one example, the legacy exam gave four topics under ‘Optimizing the Server”. From this, candidates were made aware that they were required to know these four aspects of server optimization. The new exam has a much more open-ended directive: “Tune MySQL Server configuration for best performance”.
This opens up the potential questions on the exam considerably. While this may seem daunting to many exam candidates, it is more in keeping with the point of professional certifications. However, while topic lists created by the team at Oracle University do not provide a trail of breadcrumbs to everything you must study, they generally contain hints on where you can find the information. In the case of the above, after taking a quick look at the MySQL 5.6 documentation, I found chapter 8.11: Optimizing the MySQL Server. It contains six subsections on various options for tuning the server. They will almost certainly contain the information required to answer the server tuning questions on the exam.
I have never taken any of the certification exams created by Sun’s certification team, so I cannot speak to their quality. I have certainly taken enough exams from the Oracle Certification Program to voice an opinion. The exam development team at Oracle University consistently creates exams that are high quality. The questions and answers make sense and are applicable to the technology being tested. I am confident that the new MySQL offerings will prove to be not simply a change, but an improvement over the legacy exams.