Article

Why the key to cloud success is cloud certification

By David Davis

Anyone in an IT organization can tell you that whenever you change the physical location of applications and data, you're taking a risk—a risk that’s compounded when those applications are critical, and that dataset is large. 

When you include the potential for downtime, poor performance, unexpected costs and more, it’s no wonder many technology leaders are hesitant or nervous about cloud migration. But organizations that do have a successful cloud strategy are more nimble, scale easier and find themselves more prepared for the future.

The roadblocks to cloud success

According to the Unisys Cloud Success Barometer, 33 percent of all companies that adopted cloud saw little to no improvement in organizational effectiveness. It’s not that the cloud can’t bring operational effectiveness, but rather, these organizations didn’t properly understand what they were getting into, didn’t plan their migration, and didn’t have the trained experts to make these migrations a success. 

Even worse, many companies never even start or complete their cloud migration. According to Gartner, through 2022, half of enterprise IT organizations’ migration to the cloud will be delayed by two years because of insufficient cloud IaaS skills within the company.

It’s likely that these organizations did do some level of planning and testing, but without comprehensive training and understanding, it’s easy to check off these steps without fully realizing the depth or complexity of the public cloud. If you don’t fully understand the cloud, you can easily fall into a lack-of-knowledge trap—and the saying “you don’t know what you don’t know” will become extremely relevant and costly, fast.

Conquering the cloud starts with getting certified

No IT organization would willingingly risk the company's critical data and applications, the company's reputation and potentially millions of dollars—yet that’s what happens when companies attempt to tackle the cloud without a foundation of proper training, planning and testing.

Thankfully, it’s been shown that through proper training and validation with cloud certifications, your IT staff can better ensure that your cloud migrations are a success and that applications run securely and reliably in the cloud for the long term.  

There are three core reasons why cloud certifications correlate to cloud success, why you should care about cloud certifications no matter your role, and why you should make the case to comprehensively fund cloud certification at your company:

1. Certified cloud skills bring clarity to job roles and confidence in hiring

According to a 2020 iLand cloud survey, a surprising 83 percent of IT professionals said that they had either delayed or failed to migrate to the cloud. By fully understanding public architectures, processes and troubleshooting, many of these failed migrations could have turned into a success. 

For example, if you look at a common “solutions architect” type of certification from all the major cloud providers, the skillset is going to be very similar. The high-level skill that these exams expect you to demonstrate is problem solving. Thus, if 83 percent of migrations failed, it’s only logical to assume that someone who has spent a lot of time solving cloud-related problems would have been able to prevent a failed migration before it happens, or get the migration back on track when the unexpected happens.

Solutions architects are all tested on the best practices when designing and migrating applications and data to the cloud, estimating costs and using cost control mechanisms, and selecting the right cloud solutions for data, compute, networking and security. 

A company looking to succeed in cloud needs to be able to rely on these skills, and certification is the backbone and endorsement they can trust when hiring someone to meet their migration needs.

2. Industry-set standards allow you to validate and improve

Some might ask: What is the value in learning more through a certification compared to simply learning on your own? 

The answer is that cloud certifications provide a standardized way to validate and improve cloud skills. 

If a problem arose, a manager could technically just tell their admins, architects and developers to “read the documentation” and find the solution, and they might be able to. But practically, poring over thousands of pages of documentation is not an effective way to retain knowledge and solve cloud issues—and doesn’t allow you to implement best practices for cloud design or tackle common performance issues in a sustainable way.

On the other hand, certification exams are designed with input from product managers, support staff, cloud architects, technical content developers and veteran trainers. Those exams are then carefully scrutinized over time based on feedback and test results from test-takers. The skills coverage is thorough and tied to real-world risks and challenges. 

If you want to ensure your architects, admins and developers are skilled on the right things, cloud certification is the way to go.

3. Skills prevent problems and ensure rapid remediation

More and more critical company data is being attacked, encrypted and held for ransom. The global average cost of a data breach is $3.92 million, and cybercrime is expected to cost the world $6T this year. It’s a frightening time to be responsible for security, especially as the security of cloud-native applications is commonly being handed off to developers or other “non-cloud roles.”

As a majority of malicious attacks are caused by misconfigurations and the lack of following security best practices, it’s clear to see how security issues overlap with the need for certification. 

Security is one of the most important domains being measured on the blueprint of most cloud certifications, and is also one of the most popular areas of specialization when choosing a certification. For example, if you look at the Google Professional Cloud Architect certification, one domain specifically goes into identity and access management, data security, encryption, penetration testing, separation of duties, legislation, compliance, industry security certifications and audits. 

Leaders need architects, admins and developers to be security savvy before moving your data and applications to the cloud to ensure that they can prevent problems (especially security issues, like data breaches) before they happen, and be able to quickly remediate any issues that come up.

In short: If you’re touching your data or apps, you need validated skills

As apps and data migrate to the cloud, an interesting paradigm shift happens where traditional IT infrastructure staff, in many cases, hands over management to DevOps practitioners or application owners. This happens because cloud-native applications are more application focused, with the cloud layer seamlessly providing what used to be a multi-layer cake of network/storage/server/OS when the applications were running on-premises. 

Because of this shift in application design and infrastructure management, DevOps practitioners and application owners should also be required to invest time improving and validating their cloud skills. 

Developers haven’t historically been required to be knowledgeable in security, compliance, network configuration and cloud costing models; they also typically don’t have experience in architecting the right set of public cloud services to run critical company applications.

But times are changing. Cloud is here to stay, and as DevOps, DevSecOps and other methodologies become more entrenched as the standard way of building products, certified cloud skills across teams will become increasingly valuable for organizations that want to move quickly.

A recent IDC survey found that comprehensively trained organizations are 4.4 times more likely to overcome operational concerns, 3.8 times more likely to meet cloud ROI requirements and 80% faster at achieving cloud adoption. Certification is the key, so the only question is: Are you ready to invest?

About the author

David Davis has authored over 50 courses for Pluralsight around enterprise data center technologies such as cloud computing, virtualization, and (especially) VMware vSphere. He is a partner at ActualTechMedia.com where he creates compelling enterprise technology content, moderates online events, and helps to connect some of the best-known technology companies in the industry with the end user community. With over 20 years in enterprise technology, he has served as an IT Manager, administrator, and instructor. David is an 11x VMWare vExpert, VCP, VCAP, & CCIE# 9369.