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How to advance your cloud skills and get ahead of the gap

There may be a growing shortage of IT pros with cloud skills, but you can take action now and become a valuable asset with the right skills.

Microsoft recently posted an interesting item in its Born to Learn blog that highlights a survey about the current skills gap in cloud technology. The article notes the results of a recent IDC cloud computing survey that projected 26% annual growth for cloud-related IT positions but a shortage of cloud-savvy IT professionals. Cloud is a high priority for IT -- and it will only get higher.

Why Microsoft wants in on fixing the cloud skills gap

Microsoft wants IT pros to achieve cloud-related certifications. The Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA) course is available through many IT academy programs such as high schools, community colleges, technical schools and four-year undergraduate programs. It is also available to the general public through Pearson VUE testing.

The elements of the MTA IT infrastructure track -- which includes OS, server administration, networking and security fundamentals -- help lay the foundation for cloud-related skills and knowledge in IT.

The real traction in the cloud for Microsoft comes from its MCSE program, especially from the MCSE: Server Infrastructure and MCSE: Private Cloud certifications. These emphasize the infrastructure elements that support cloud computing. The latter private cloud certification puts emphasis on the Microsoft System Center 2012 platform and its abilities for configuring, deploying, monitoring and operating a private cloud using its capabilities, consoles, tools and utilities. Microsoft believes it's in its best interest to tout the emerging level of high demand for IT professionals with cloud skills to steer them toward its training, certification and technology courses.

How IT professionals can get certified in the cloud

Those who need Microsoft certification should look into the MCSE: Private Cloud, which is the best cloud-relevant certification in the Microsoft collection. But there are other great cloud-related IT certifications in today's marketplace that are above, beyond and outside of the Microsoft umbrella.

Some certifications claim synergy with Microsoft tools and platforms, such as credentials from EMC and VMware. Others are more competitive, including the AppLogic offerings from CA and the combination of Red Hat Certified Virtualization Administrator and DataCenter Specialist (RHCVA and RHCDS) credentials. There are also courses from Citrix (primarily this means CCA for XenServer 6, but there will be more options in the cloud arena from Citrix soon), along with offerings from EMC, CA, HP, IBM, Oracle and others.

There are also numerous vendor-specific cloud solution certifications available, such as those from HP, Oracle, and IBM. You will also find good vendor-neutral credentials in programs from companies such as Arcitura, CompTIA and Exin. Check out Mirek Burnejko's excellent list of cloud certifications, which catalogs 52 credentials from 13 different sponsors for a complete rundown on the options available.

For those just getting started in the cloud, I'd particularly recommend one or more of the following certifications:

The platforms you know now will guide your choices of what you wish to learn and use in the future. But no matter how you slice it, there are many options to choose from as you start honing your cloud skills.

Why do cloud-related positions go unfilled? Managers point to a few factors:

  • 57% are concerned about lack of cloud skills among current staff members
  • 61% are concerned about the availability of cloud skilled professionals in the marketplace
  • 53% cite a lack of appropriate training
  • 54% cite a lack of sufficient or appropriate experience with cloud technologies and platforms
  • 53% cite a lack of relevant IT certification credentials

About the author
Ed Tittel is a long-time computing industry guy who's been in and around the trenches for more than 30 years. He's also the author of HTML For Dummies, which first appeared in 1995, and for which a 14th edition is scheduled for 2013 release. In addition, Ed blogs on IT careers and certifications for TechTarget, Tom's IT Pro and, and on Windows topics for TechTarget as well.

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If going for MS Certs, first get the MCSE, 2012 Server Infrastructure. This proves you know 2012 Server forwards and backwards, plus VMM 2012. Then shoot for MCSE Private Cloud. This extends the first into Azure, etc.