VMware VCP5 certification upgrade deadline fast approaching

After Feb. 29, VMware professionals will be forced to shell out money for additional training classes in order to upgrade their certification

For many VMware administrators, having VMware certification is a badge of honor within the virtualization community. Being a VMware Certified Professional (VCP) says a lot about an individual's dedication to the technology and level of expertise. And as the demand for IT professionals with data center virtualization skills increases, it is essential to be able to distinguish yourself in the job market.

Certification requires completion of a VMware-authorized training course and hands-on experience with VMware technologies. Having a VCP confirms you have the training needed to successfully install, deploy, scale, and manage a VMware vSphere environment. It typically requires a minimum of six months' experience with VMware infrastructure technologies to be comfortable enough to pass the exam. This is no IT "paper cert."

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When VMware released vSphere 5 in August 2011, the clock started ticking for folks to learn about the new version and work on upgrading their current VCP status. Along with the platform release, a new VCP5 training course and certification track was established to help educate VMware administrators about the new platform and explain the more than 140 new features found in vSphere 5, including the ESXi hypervisor. Much like previous VCP exams, this one is designed to test administrators on their hands-on experience.

But be warned! Time is running out for VCP4-certified VMware professionals to upgrade their VCP credentials to version 5 without being forced to pay for and sit through another training course. According to VMware, that deadline for a "no course requirement" for VCP4 owners is the end of this month: Feb. 29.

But is that timeframe really doable? For the majority of people, I would venture to say probably not.

VMware community members are asking for more time, stating that the six-month grace period given by VMware just isn't long enough. They wonder why VMware is forcing them to rush, when it often takes an organization a full year before it upgrades to the next major release of VMware vSphere. Since these certifications have such a high expectation around hands-on experience, it makes sense to give administrators the time to get up to speed after migrating.

If you don't upgrade your certification before the deadline, what happens?

After Feb. 29, VCP4 owners will have to take a two-day course titled "VMware vSphere: What's New [V5.0]" that costs somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,500. The costs grow further for individuals who have a VCP3 certification. They will need to complete a five-day training course (either "VMware vSphere Install, Configure, Manage [V5.0]" or "VMware vSphere: Fast Track [V5.0]") which could cost upward of $5,500 for the training class in addition to travel expenses that may be incurred.

With the economy in the shape it is, more and more companies are cutting educational and certification items from the IT budget. For most administrators, additional course requirements just to upgrade from one VCP version to another will not only prove to be a major hassle, it may be a deal breaker.

VMware has been leading the way in virtualization innovation, as well as in virtualization certifications. While I applaud the company's efforts to maintain the integrity of its certification by requiring course work, perhaps it could do a better job by transitioning away from a multiple-choice exam to a more task-based, hands-on lab environment approach where appropriate. This would allow individuals with years of experience under their belts to take the exam without having to find the funds to pay for a training course.

What do you think? Should required courses be done away with? Should the exam become more lab-based? If you have an older VCP or no VCP at all, would removing the classroom obstacle entice you to upgrade or take the VCP5 exam?

This article, "VMware VCP5 certification upgrade deadline fast approaching," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in virtualization and cloud computing at InfoWorld.com.