Is it worthwhile to upgrade to a VMware vSphere 4 certification?

If you have years of virtualization experience or a VMware VCP 3 certification, is that enough? Or should you be upgrading to a vSphere 4 certification?

VMware is about to end its current certification upgrade program whereby current VMware Certified Professionals (VCPs) with VMware Infrastructure 3 (VI3) certifications can simply take the new VCP 4 exam, rather than being forced to sit through yet another training class.  But those interested in upgrading in this way need to act quickly, because the promotion is set to expire by year's end.  After that, you'll have to endure more classroom training, specifically a two-day "What's New" course that will run you about $1,500.

Those virtualization administrators without an existing certification who want to get certified on VMware vSphere 4 must take a four- or five-day training course prior to being allowed to sit for the exam.  And these classes start off around $3,000.

[ VMware releases SRM 4.0, which now supports vSphere 4, NFS, and vCenter Linked Mode | To learn more about vSphere 4.0, see InfoWorld's "The once and future virtualization king." ]

At that investment price, people will have to ask themselves if it is worth it or not.  Upgrading before the end of the year or before the upgrade program goes away seems like a no-brainer if you have a VCP3, have the time, and also have the latest vSphere 4 product knowledge.  Otherwise, you might question its importance and whether or not you really need it.

When asked about the certification's importance, Jase McCarty, a Sr. Systems Engineer for a Fortune 500 company, a VMware vExpert, and a VMware VCP himself, said, "It is important, provided the individual displays experience that goes along with the certification. Without experience, the certification does not hold the same weight."

VMware ESX Server had been around for years before this certification first popped up on the radar screen, and that didn't happen until the technology itself became more mainstream and less voodoo-like technology with organizations.  But along with the addition of the VCP came the age-old argument about certification versus practical experience and the problems associated with a "paper cert" -- where someone takes the training and passes the test but has no real hands-on knowledge or experience with the product.

McCarty says substance of the person far outweighs the certification.  Those holding a certification may be knowledgeable, but when push comes to shove and they are in a critical situation, oftentimes they don't have the proper troubleshooting skills needed that come with practical hands-on experience.

But that doesn't negate the value of the certification.  McCarty himself is VMware 2.5, VI3, and vSphere 4 certified, but he added, "if I had to pick between two candidates, one person with a VCP 3 and four years' experience and the other person with a VCP 4 and one year's experience, I'd probably pick the person with the VCP 3 and the four years' experience."

And I'm certain he isn't alone in that choice.

Rich Brambley, a VMware vExpert and a senior technical architect for Softchoice Optimus Solutions, said that he has a VMware VCP 3 certification but didn't have any strong opinions about the value of upgrading to the VCP 4.  He described the value of the cert by saying, "I think it's evolved to the point of where the MCSE is at.  That is, if you know you'll be looking for a job, it will be more valuable for you to be at the latest certification level."

As of today, Brambley said that he wasn't personally getting any pressure from his employer to update his current VMware certification status, but that could change.  He said, "VMware is pushing their partner channels to upgrade in order to maintain their partner standings."

You see, VMware partners are required to have a certain number of VCPs on staff in order to become a partner as well as to maintain an existing partnership relationship.

So even if you don't think you need the latest VMware certification for yourself as an individual, your current employer may require it just so they can maintain or grow their partnership status with VMware.  Which if you think about it, other than your time, it shouldn't cost you anything if your company picks up the dime for your classes.  In that case, this should be a no-brainer as well.  If you are on your own or your company isn't paying to get you certified, well, that's where the value question comes in, isn't it?

Whether you have a VCP 3, a VCP 4, or years of virtualization experience, let it be known that the market is hot right now looking for these types of candidates.  No government stimulus required!

So what's your company's hiring practice?  Would a VCP 4 candidate stand out above and beyond the rest with just experience?  Or would years of experience be more highly valued at this stage of the game?  Or looking at this a bit differently, would things vary based on whether or not your company already has experienced virtualization administrators or architects on staff?

This story, "Is it worthwhile to upgrade to a VMware vSphere 4 certification?," was originally published at InfoWorld.com.

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