back to article Linux Foundation says many Linux admins and engineers are certifiable

The Linux Foundation on Wednesday introduced two new certification programs aimed at connecting employers with qualified Linux administrators and engineers. "The supply of labor has been far outpaced by the demand for Linux," said Linux Foundation executive director Jim Zemlin, addressing the audience at the annual LinuxCon …

  1. Erik4872

    Good idea if they don't mess it up

    I'm sure the Linux community would sneer even harder than the Windows community at "paper MCSE" type Linux certifications. However, there is something to be said for an absolute minimum standard for candidates.

    The problem with doing this in "Linux" is how they get around the fact that every distribution does things slightly differently. Red Hat has its own certification, and so does SuSE. So, hopefully a certification like the one they're talking about transcends testing how to drive the admin GUI and modify the RH or SuSE tree of /etc files to make system changes.

    Any sort of vendor-agnostic qualification is a good thing. Skill sets vary so wildly that hiring someone means giving them ridiculous tests to see if they're lying about their experience. Being able to stop that might be a good thing.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Good idea if they don't mess it up

      Tricky not to mess up though.

      If it's exclusive and hard to get, nobody has heard of it, employers don't demand it, so nobody gets it.

      If it becomes too popular, people don't respect it, so good employees don't bother doing it.

  2. FrankAlphaXII

    >>At launch, enrollees can take the certification exams on their choice of three Linux distributions, including CoreOS, OpenSuse, and Ubuntu. Neither Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) nor derivatives like CentOS and Fedora are included in the program so far

    If they're going to differentiate between distribution, without Debian and RHEL/CentOS, what's the point? And why not have a single certification that covers topics common to every Linux distribution? Its a good start, but it needs work.

    1. iniudan

      The certification say centos 6.4, on both the sys admin and engineer cert page, along the handbook documentation.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I agree that it's odd that they left Debian out. I wonder why they did that.

  3. phil dude

    i call bs...

    We all know a non-Linux user by sight - open up a terminal and see if they reach for a mouse...

    But seriously, the problem with "certification" is that the whole point of Linux (or more generally FOSS) is that you can do *anything that works*.

    I would be less critical if this was "best practices" type material, but it will inevitably come down to a distribution specific way of clicking buttons or running scripts.

    That's how we ended up with systemd, that is becoming a replacement for init...

    The difference between apt-get and rpm is sufficient to put most non-techies off, but the ubuntu method of giving everyone sudo is really the lcd.

    I would make it required reading "how to run linux without root" which was an excellent article about users...!

    Seriously, it is a nice idea but I suspect it is a $$ mill...


    1. msknight

      Re: i call bs...

      I agree. I clicked through and saw some of the prices on the courses they're running. $2,000 for some of those courses and some of them require presence in the US. Sure, there are free alternatives in some cases, but ... that web site put me off even bothering to learn more about it ... so I don't even know if I'm doing it down! That's how easy the site quenched my interest in it.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: i call bs...

        Typical, Linux user complaining they have to pay for something....

        1. msknight

          Re: i call bs...

          Thanks for the laugh :-) I needed an uplift this morning!

    2. MyffyW

      Agree more widespread understanding of "how to run linux without root" would be a major step forward.

      I'm sure everyone will have an opinion on which distro should have been on their list. Can I be the first to register my outrage that Slackware wasn't included? If only for those fond memories I have of writing the X disk set to 3.5" disks.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: i call bs...

      > We all know a non-Linux user by sight

      They look like they've bathed that day, their skin looks like it has seen the sun in the past five years, and they don't look socially awkward?

      1. SineWave242

        Re: i call bs...

        "They look like they've bathed that day, their skin looks like it has seen the sun in the past five years, and they don't look socially awkward"

        In my case, I would rather attribute that kinda looks [style! :)] to the fact that I'm also a musician who makes Industrial music... ;) rather than to being a Linux user and a computer maintenance guy. [I also work with Windows btw.]

  4. itzman

    I am not sure if the author is american

    ..or whether he is having his little joke.

    'certifiable' has a certain nuance in the UK...;-)

    1. gerdesj Silver badge

      Re: I am not sure if the author is American

      Try clicking on Mr McAllister's link at the top of the article and read the headlines of his previous posts and make your own mind up.

      Also, are you sure that certifiable doesn't mean the same in the US as you are implying?



    2. Mike C.

      Re: I am not sure if the author is american

      It has the same nuance in the US - and really, can you argue the point? We're all a little mad here.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Way too simple.

    I took a look at the Certified Engineer exam out of curiosity. Under "Overview of Domains and Competencies".

    Wow. I can't believe you can call yourself an "engineer" just simply knowing how to setup Squid/Apache/Mail/SSH/Iptable properly, none of which, really involves any design, architectural, coding or compilation work and can be done by a chimp with an internet connection since all the steps required is either in their respective manuals/online docs/man pages or have been written 100 billion times over by technical professionals and hobbyist all around the world.

    IMO, you might as well call it the Certified Software User exam, I personally wouldn't call it engineering.

    The Certified Sysadmin looks better as it seems it covers the core of Linux systems, but really, I expect a sysadmin to know what's covered in BOTH their certification exams.

    1. Salts

      Re: Way too simple.

      The exam is proctored, with no access allowed to anything but the command line of the exam server instance, which means only the distros installed doc's, no web browsing, pen or paper(that seems odd) no text web browser, no emacs web browsing, no mobile no ear piece, clear desk etc.

      I agree not really engineer, but the proctoring at least means you can have a bit more confidence that the person waving the certificate has probably done the exam.

      1. Nate Amsden Silver badge

        Re: Way too simple.

        honestly I probably couldn't (quickly) do multiple of those things without referring to previous examples I have used in the past. I feel I am adept at Linux having used it for almost 18 years now and well I just know I'm very good. I also know where to draw the line, I'm not going to go out on a half baked expedition to try to get some obscure open source project to work when I can get a commercial solution that does the job just fine (I used to do this back in the 90s, then I learned that was a bad approach oh how I remember the struggles of configuring linux to be a PPP dialup server what a pain that was).

        But (like many I suppose) I don't have every little bit memorized (esp detailed configurations) if I'm not doing that every day (last time I really configured postfix was probably 3 years ago, it's just run since then). But I have all my docs, all my config examples. I also actively avoid doing things like rewrite rules in apache as well because they are PITA (prefer to do it at my real load balancers it's far easier).

        And don't get me started on squid, that thing is a PITA. Always has been, I've set it up maybe 3 times in the past 14 years. Even with docs and examples it's a major PITA.

        So I honestly, very honestly would probably not do so hot on this test, but I absolutely know that I am very good with Linux (having been tech lead on every project I've been involved with more or less since 2003) and have employers falling head over heels constantly trying to hire me (sorry, not interested I am happy where I am at now).

        I've never put any faith in certs, generally they are not worth a whole lot. When I look at candidates I generally rank them lower the more certs they have, especially if they have really stupid ones like A+ type stuff. To-date my intuition on that has been accurate, generally candidates that have a lot of certs don't tend to know a whole lot. Same goes for candidates that have long resumes, the longer the resume the less they seem to know.

        I never recall anyone ever asking me for a cert. I think it is more common if I was a dedicated network engineer. I do networking whether it's L2-L3 switching, or L4-L7 load balancing, (no dynamic routing), no certs though.

        I suppose the biggest reason I don't recall every nitty bitty configuration detail, is really I have more valuable things to store in my brain.

    2. Bob Dunlop

      Re: Way too simple.

      Yeah that's not engineering.

      Looks like low grade sysadmin stuff to me.

      "I started with Unix v6 on a pdp11" usually works for me. That and an old rather crufty driver in the kernel.

      I'd probably fail the "exam" as those are all tasks I havn't even thought about in years.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Way too simple.

      "Wow. I can't believe you can call yourself an "engineer" just simply knowing how to setup Squid/Apache/Mail/SSH/Iptable properly, none of which, really involves any design, architectural, coding or compilation work"

      The same can be said about anything IT, including programming, database design and what have you. The only "real" engineers are the ones with titles such as civil engineer. Anything else and it's just inflated self congratulatory patting on the back. The same way jobs such as receptionist (office manager) and customer service person (account manager) get inflated titles, not to mention the presidents and directors of this and that. Some companies appear to have more presidents and directors than they have regular staff, so there are few left over to be directed and bossed around.

  6. gerdesj Silver badge

    CLP here

    Years ago I took a Novell Cert. Lin. Pro. exam (freebie at a conference). I think these are pretty similar.

    The "practicum" was a proper job and a bit of a doddle once I'd pointed Apache at /usr/share/doc - but that meant I was working in a similar way to the real world, where man and docs are available. I had to set up users and quotas, Apache, BIND (including zones), Samba, cron and other stuff on two VM SLES servers and a script went through and tested my solutions to the scenarios given.

    It's not just a memory test, it genuinely tested whether I could perform basic admin tasks and hence I passed without having to do any revision - I am a Linux sysadmin after all.

    I've also done a VMWare VCP - it's a memory test and nothing more. My eight years experience with the products is the useful bit, not the naff exam and quali. I generally park MSCE in the same box - bloody useless in and of itself.

    I have nearly got over the use of the term "Engineer" in IT, used for non chartered practitioners but I'm not happy about it. Once upon a time I was headed towards MICE until the building industry in the UK collapsed in the early 1990s recession, just as I graduated ...



  7. Anonymous Coward

    Some thoughts...

    Had a good read through the Linux Foundation website and while the idea looks very interesting and somewhat promising... is it sufficient? Obviously while it's key to know your way around the OS I do find that it's the configuration of various key services which are not always up to par.

    Which really brings us to the big question; should the certification go beyond the core OS and also test against default and in addition commonly used services? sshd? snmp? mrtg? iptables? logrotate? To name a few. Go a little further even and set up and optimize httpd for specific requirements. Or even a Mail Exchange with POP3/IMAP services along with database et al.

    Additionally, while it's definitely important to know your way around the CLI and the local man pages I have never believed in setting up systems fully without documentation. I actually spend more time reading documentations than actually configuring my Linux boxes because I am insanely OCD when it comes to at the very least reviewing every single configurable parameter there is for a service which I am required to set up. For Apache for instance every single module is reviewed and if I do not deem it as being necessary it gets commented out. But it's hard to do without being in front of the Apache Wiki since I cannot always remember what each one of the hundred or so Apache modules do.

    So it really isn't just about memorization... but also about having good habits. I actually spend very little time in front of the terminal because I simply find it more effective to download the required config files onto my workstation and edit them there where more often than not I have a browser running in the background with the documentation open for the service in question. When all is said and done save the files, upload them back onto the server, quickly terminal in to restart the service. And done.

    The side-effect of that is that I'm not necessarily the fastest in getting the job done. Far from it. But I pride myself in getting the job done well. Having said that I do have a keen interest in acquiring this certification because studying for it will most certainly fill in a few small gaps here in and there.

    I've never touched RAID on Linux, for instance. Because I'm spoilt and always have the privilege of working with hardware RAID controllers on my servers. So yeah. Stuff like this which I have never thought of bothering with in the past I'm now interested in playing with because who knows, it might come in handy in the future. And while I will still be reading my documentations as per normal if I am ever required to commit to a live installation, at least I'll have some prior experience.

    1. frank ly

      Re: Some thoughts...

      As a Linux noob (1 year with MINT), I used mdadm to set up a RAID-0 array using two partitions from the two SSDs in my desktop PC. The documentation and advice is readily available online in tech notes and forums. You have to remember to update the initialisation files (there's a command for that) so it incorporates the RAID array into the filesystem at boot.

    2. SineWave242

      Re: Some thoughts...

      Entrope, your way of handling "things" reminds me of... myself. ;) Same here, mate. However, I'm very fond of virtualisation and software RAIDs... probably because I've never been involved with huge networks [1000+], except for one time that I worked for one of the not-so-small banks. I like to keep low-profile otherwise and work for small businesses, but I'm mainly involved with small multimedia businesses. It's a rather undemanding work and I love it. I'd never take up a big business again - it's too stressful.

  8. FuzzyTheBear

    For a good cert

    I'm no part of IBM .

    For years ( a decade ) at the DeveloperWorks site there's Linux courses and tests and roads to certificates . These are not only basic skills but also advanced skills and trust me some of them are super usefull for anyone interested in the OS . IBM is serious business . Dont know about Red Hat etc .. but i can only recommend you guys put a nose in that site if you haven't already done so.

  9. Paddy

    No googling?

    To some degree, it's not what you know, but what you can search for and apply. That what docs and google are for. If you are restricted in what data you can access then the certification is devoid from real life.

    A lot of times I find problems are resolved by accurately noting symptoms and causes then searching for like problems and there solutions as well as being able to accurately convey to others the problem you have.

    Such problem solving skills are a large part of what keeps systems up, as opposed to their initial setup.

    Maybe you should not be allowed to ask a question on a support site for certification, but maybe you should be allowed to google?*

    *Is "to google" generic yet ;-)

    1. Lusty

      Re: No googling?

      Thankfully, that's why we have exams to separate the people who don't know anything but can google and try things until it works from those who actually know what they are doing. The vast majority of Linux how to's on the Internet are incorrect from a good system admin perspective. For instance almost every article about joining a Windows domain tells you to put the IP address of one or more domain controllers in the config rather than using DNS to look up the domain (and that's just the first massive mistake in these guides). Other guides I have seen have all had similar bad practice in them because at the end of the day, most people looking for the info are after a get it working guide rather than a do it properly guide. Doing it properly requires a much deeper level of understanding than Google will ever provide.

      Of course, this all means that interview is the only way to see if someone knows their stuff, and exams are still irrelevant. The RHCE, like the MCSE, at least counts towards partnership requirements, and therefore is actually valuable (in money terms) to many employers...

      1. Jay 2

        Re: No googling?

        I'm a (lapsed) RHCE and the good thing about RedHat certification is that you have to sit an all-day practical test to prove you can actually do stuff. Also you have to sign an NDA to say that you won't tell other people what's in the test.

        From what I know of MCSE (not much admittedly), it's all still a multichoice memory test without having to prove you can actually do stuff. I seem to recal the Sun Solaris exams from several years back were also similar. They would sometimes ask some rather obscure questions which only seemed to test if you could recall various command options.

        1. Stoneshop Silver badge

          Re: No googling?

          the good thing about RedHat certification is that you have to sit an all-day practical test to prove you can actually do stuff.

          The bad thing is that they won't even tell you what you did wrong, even just globally, like "Questions i, j, k - OK, questions m, n - NOK, questions o, p - partially OK". I failed an RHCSA by an utterly surprising 50 points, given that I had all questions but one (and another one partially) answered and working correctly, unless I'd misinterpreted those questions and the required end situation.

          That total lack of feedback didn't exactly spur me on to retake that exam.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: No googling?

            But they do tell you about the exam rpm on the course which you can install at home and practice :)

        2. Lusty

          Re: No googling?

          "From what I know of MCSE (not much admittedly), it's all still a multichoice memory test "

          Not so much any more, there are quite a few simulations these days which require you to navigate the interface. There are also design questions which easily catch out those who don't know their stuff. Although you'll find a lot of techies knocking the MCSE, you won't find that many of them actually hold one...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: No googling?

      "To some degree, it's not what you know, but what you can search for and apply."


      I totally agree. Being able to accurately and effectively find a solution to your problem, through search engines, is a big and important part of most IT work. And it is not a skill to frown upon or think less of. It's not easy at all to do effective searches. If you want proof, just look at 99% of your users. Whether they are phd material or blue collar, they are all equally unable to find out even the simplest of things except by asking you. I undefrstand some are just being lazy or think that's your job, but most are just actually incapable of doing that.

      In many cases you just become their search engine by proxy.

      But, if you're good at it it makes your job so much easier, user asks question, you clickety click away for a bit, 5 minutes later you provide the answer, user is impressed and you can go back reading theregister, it's a good life. :-)

      1. Flip
  10. batfastad


    "At launch, enrollees can take the certification exams on their choice of three Linux distributions, including CentOS, OpenSuse, and Ubuntu. Neither Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) nor derivatives like Fedora are included in the program so far."

    Erm, isn't CentOS built from RHEL sources bro? With all the RedHat trademarks/logos swapped out, it's basically bug-for-bug identical. So a RHEL derivative is in fact available?

  11. CaptainBanjax

    CVs are for Microsoft people...

    I thought only Microsoft engineers had to get jobs...I am a Linux engineer and I have clients.

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