Cloud students, pay attention! Exam plans promise fresh skills

Going native

Anyone looking to deploy cloud in any meaningful way will struggle to find skilled practitioners. It's a situation faced by so many enterprises, no matter what cloud system is being deployed.

Microsoft recently bewailed the lack of cloud skills and it's been an issue long highlighted by the Cloud Industry Forum, which is why it's keen to develop its own training courses.

But this paucity of knowledge is being particularly felt when it comes to cloud-native deployments. Cloud native is one of those vague buzzwords that can mean what any vendor wants it to mean but the underlying principle is that it's about building cloud-specific applications and not moving existing applications to cloud service providers. It's an approach that's fundamental to digital transformation (to quote another popular buzzphrase) of businesses.

It's one thing wanting to go down this transformation path, it's another thing to have the means to do it. According to a report last year from the Cloud Foundry Foundation, the lack of cloud skills was having an impact on businesses' ability to adapt to cloud in a "truly transformative way". The report found that companies were struggling to hire new developers, meaning that key projects were being neglected.

The Cloud Foundry Foundation therefore recently introduced cloud-native developer certification – the Cloud Foundry Certified Developer programme – that will be delivered with the Linux Foundation.

Abby Kearns, executive director for the Cloud Foundry Foundation, reckons certification takes developers a major step forward.

"Strong adoption of CF in the enterprise with developers who understand cloud apps but don't understand cloud-native best practices," she said. "They need to truly understand what it means to be cloud native – understand all that goodness we're given – all the attributes like resilience, flexibility and applications that can iterated on and deployed quickly."

As well as architectural principles, the foundation's course covers applications troubleshooting and management, container management and ability to modify simple Java, Node.js and Ruby applications.

But the Cloud Foundry certification isn't the only game in town and the Linux Foundation has also partnered with the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) on a Kubernetes certification programme – a reflection on the growing interest in container technology.

The Kubernetes Certified Administrator (CKA) curriculum is billed as something that lets you brush up Kubernetes skills. Details of the certification are expected next month.

For CNCF, this a major step towards widespread adoption of cloud-native practices.

Dan Kohn, CNCF executive director, calls this another sign of Kubernetes' increasing maturity and adoption.

There is an underlying objective behind the work of both Cloud Foundry and Kubernetes' certification programmes: to expand the talent pool of developers.

CNCF will offer Kubernetes online courses via edX targeting devs and system administrators.

"We're interested in partnering with training organisations, nonprofits and others to help promote the MOOC and the CKA exam," Kohn said. Cloud Foundry Foundation is following a similar path – a four-day course but with a MOOC taster.

There's plenty of interest. "One of our customers is looking for 1,000 additional developers," Kearns said.

For Kearns, this is an opportunity to change the face of the industry. She wants to reach groups currently not deployed in software teams. "I'd love to see that training accessible to people such as unrepresented minorities and women to showcase the breadth of their capabilities," she said.

Early signs are encouraging. Kearns reckoned the foundation had been swamped with 300 applicants for just 30 beta testers.

The skills gap won't disappear without such initiatives.

The next stage, however, will be to encourage companies to train their staff. Training is often one of the first items to be cut if, and when, times get tough. But if businesses are truly determined to transform the way they operate, these certification programmes will be vital. ®

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