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The Linux Foundation just announced new linux certification, here's why this is a big deal

Submitted by Walter Heck on August 25, 2014

Disclaimer: Obviously I'm not entirely unbiased as we're one of 4 worldwide linux foundation training partners, and if you want to get trained up for this certification we're one of the places you can go.

This week at LinuxCon in Chicago, the linux foundation introduced their new Linux certifications. I was personally quite closely involved with the effort of determining what was going to be in the certification requirements and I have also already taken one of the test exams. I am impressed and also excited at what this means for Linux certifications moving forward. Here's 5 reasons I'm excited:

1. The preparation was done thoroughly by real-world linux admins worldwide

Together with a whole team of other experts who use Linux in their daily job, I was part of the committee that prepared the topics for the exam (not the actual questions, so sending me bars of chocolate as a bribe for getting them is appreciated, but won't yield much result ;) ). We spent a number of evenings in heated debate what should and should not be part of this certification and I think the resulting set of topics is a very good reflection of what System Administrators and Engineers respectively need to know about Linux in order to be quality people these days.

2. The examination can be taken from anywhere in the world

I have taken a fair share of examinations for certifications, and I think that this one beat all of them. I took a beta-version that closely resembles the real exam. You are monitored by webcam and microphone by a real person, who can also see all of your desktop. You are required to present a legal photo ID before starting. You are then presented with a chrome/chromium plugin which shows you the questions and gives you a terminal to a live vm of your choice where you are supposed to do your thing. No google allowed, no other browser tabs open, nothing. The resulting score of your exam depends on what you do in the terminal, not on a set of multiple choice answers or anything. If you can't handle a terminal, you will not pass this exam.

In addition to (and I guess as a result of) the way the examination works, this exam can be taken by anyone, anywhere in the world. No need to find a center close to you with an uncomfortable desk to take a test anymore. Just schedule and take the exam from a quiet room in your house on a computer with internet access and a webcam and mic.

3. The exam is hard, and very practical

It's been a while since I have had to do things completely at the command line without any google access. Besides running OlinData I'm a Puppet trainer and consultant, so a lot (>75% of my operations related work) is done in Puppet these days. Let's just say that you will be appreciative of your man pages to tell you which flags do exactly what. When was the last time you did things like "Assembling partitions as RAID devices" and "Creating LVM devices from scratch" (some topics from the list of domains ) by hand, without any help from outside your terminal? Daily? Then you're going to be fine. Every once in a while? Make sure you practice. Have done it at some point a few years back? Study!

As an employer, this makes the certification stand out, and I'll happily shortlist candidates who have this certification. I have done too many job interviews with candidates with a stellar resume who completely fumble the moment they are presented with a terminal.

4. It doesn't focus on a single distribution and comes straight from a Non-profit organisation

The Linux foundation certification program doesn't require you to use a specific distribution, as opposed to some vendor-based linux certification (most well known is probably Red Hat's certification). In addition, the Linux Foundation is a 501(c)(6) non Profit and these certifications are not it's primary source of income nor do they have heavy commercial gains from having many people certified. This gives me a much better feeling then the commercial certifications currently available. 

The Linux Foundation is also made up of very technical people and the training materials are always kept very up to date. This gives me great hope for keeping the certification exams relevant as well.

5. There are just two levels, clearly distinguishable: LFCS for sysadmins and LFCE for engineers

Some certifications have very complicated schemes with multiple levels and such. Not in the case of the LFC, which has 2 different certifications: there's Linux Foundation Certified Sysadmin, mostly targeted for system administrators and there's Linux Foundation Certified Engineer, mostly targeted for system engineers. Simplicity creates clarity, and that's a good thing in my book.


All of this makes me genuinely excited: LPI certification is nice, but multiple choice questions are not very practical. RHCE is nice, but very limited in scope. I really hope that in the resumes of people applying to work with use we'll see more and more linux foundation certification, in addition to the LPI and various Red Hat certifications that currently dominate.

If you want to take training to prepare for the exams, you can find the official courses here, and the schedule for all Linux Foundation courses we have planned is here.