The Hottest Cloud Certifications, Specializations For AWS, Google, Microsoft

Cloud certifications were among the top three intended exam categories for 29,000 IT professionals surveyed for the “Value of IT Certification Study” released last year by Pearson VUE, a computer-based testing company.

Getting Cloud Certified

Cloud computing specialties or competencies serve as a benchmark for channel partners’ skills, endorsed by cloud providers’ credentialed seals of approval in specific technologies ranging from the Internet of Things to machine learning to data and analytics.

In addition to special benefits from the cloud providers, IT workers with the certified expertise gain professional recognition in the industry and among customers.

Cloud certifications were among the top three intended exam categories for 29,000 IT professionals surveyed for the “Value of IT Certification Study” released last year by Pearson VUE, which administers more than 15 million certification and licensure exams annually in industries including IT and for companies including top public cloud providers Microsoft and, more recently, Amazon Web Services (AWS). Sixty-four percent of the IT pros surveyed said completing certifications positively impacted their professional image or reputation, and 17.7 percent said it helped them get a raise in pay.

AWS, Google Cloud and Microsoft each have their own certified specialties, specializations and competencies, respectively, as they call them. We asked the top three public cloud providers to disclose their most sought-after designations, and here’s what they told CRN.

AWS’ Most Popular Certified Specialty: Security

AWS’ most in-demand certification is its AWS Certified Security Specialty, which validates technical expertise in securing the AWS platform.

It’s no wonder: global cloud security solutions spending is expected to reach $12.7 billion by 2023, up from $5.6 billion last year, according to a report this month by Forrester Research.

“Public, private, and hybrid cloud all coexist, serving different needs and applications,” the Forrester report stated. “This complexity creates challenges for cloud security professionals, such as monitoring data, detecting anomalies and intercepting bad behaviors.”

The AWS security specialty is designed for people in security roles with at least two years of hands-on experience in securing AWS workloads and five years of IT experience in designing and implementing security solutions.

The exam validates test takers’ understanding of specialized data classifications and AWS data protection mechanisms, data encryption methods and secure Internet protocols and the AWS tools to implement them, and security operations and risk. Test-takers must demonstrate a working knowledge of AWS security services and features to provide a secure production environment and the ability to make tradeoff decisions regarding cost, security and deployment complexity given a set of application requirements.

Exam basics: The exam is given in a multiple-choice format over 170 minutes at a cost of $300, and it’s available in English, Japanese, Korean and simplified Chinese. Recommended prerequisites are the one-day AWS Security Fundamentals and three-day Security Engineering on AWS and Advanced Architecting on AWS courses.

AWS Certified Big Data Specialty

AWS Certified Big Data Specialty is the No. 1 cloud provider’s second most popular specialty and signifies holders’ technical expertise in designing and implementing AWS services to derive value from data. It’s aimed at individuals who perform complex Big Data analyses and have at least two years of experience using AWS technology.

The exam documents applicants’ abilities to implement core AWS Big Data services according to basic architecture best practices, design and maintain Big Data, and leverage tools to automate data analysis.

AWS recommends that candidates taking the exam also should be AWS Certified Cloud Practitioners or have associate-level AWS Certified Solutions Architect, Developer or SysOps Administrator certifications. It also recommends candidates have experience defining and architecting AWS Big Data services and the ability to explain how they fit in the data life cycle of collection, ingestion, storage, processing and visualization. A minimum of five years of hands-on experience in a data analytics field is suggested, along with experience in designing a scalable and cost-effective architecture to process data.

AWS Certification helps individuals build credibility and confidence with the AWS Cloud by validating their cloud expertise with an industry-recognized certification,” an AWS spokesperson said. “With (this month’s) launch of the AWS Certified Alexa Skill Builder – Specialty, we now offer…five specialty certifications to evaluate technical expertise.”

AWS’ Certified Advanced Networking Specialty

The AWS Certified Advanced Networking Specialty is for IT workers who perform complex networking tasks and have technical expertise in designing and implementing AWS and hybrid IT architectures at scale.

Successful candidates must demonstrate they can design, develop and deploy cloud-based solutions using AWS, implement core AWS services according to basic architecture best practices, design and maintain network architecture for all AWS services, and leverage tools to automate AWS networking tasks.

The exam is recommended for candidates who are AWS Certified Cloud Practitioners or hold current associate-level AWS Certified Solutions Architect, Developer or SysOps Administrator certifications. Prospective exam takers must have a minimum of five years of hands-on experience architecting and implementing network solutions. They also must have advanced knowledge of AWS networking concepts and technologies, advanced networking architectures and interconnectivity options, networking technologies within the Open Systems Interconnection model and how they affect implementation decisions, the development of automation scripts and tools, classless inter-domain routing and sub-netting (Internet Protocol versions 4 and 6), IPv6 transition challenges and generic solutions for network security features, including web application firewall, intrusion detection system, intrusion prevention system, distributed denial-of-service protection, and economic denial of service/sustainability.

The basics: This exam also has a multiple-choice format and runs 170 minutes at a cost of $300. It’s available in English, Japanese, Korean and simplified Chinese.

Google Cloud’s Top Three Specializations

Infrastructure, data analytics and application development are the three most popular specializations for Google Cloud.

The No. 3 cloud provider in the last year has seen a triple-digit increase in specialization applications and a double-digit increase in achieved specializations that highlight competency in those focus solutions areas, according to Nina Harding, Google Cloud’s global chief of partner strategy and programs.

Google Cloud initially launched specializations in the fall of 2017 and has since increased to 12 areas, including three announced at Next ’19 in San Francisco this month.

“We have been very thoughtful about our approach to introduce areas that align with our strategy, fueled primarily by where we see customer demand,” Harding said.

Partners with infrastructure specializations have proven success in helping customers architect and build their Google Cloud Platform (GCP) infrastructure and workflows, and helping them migrate to GCP. Data analytics specialization partners must show they can turn large amounts of data into insights that drive a business forward, demonstrating success from ingestion to data preparation, store and analysis. To earn an application development specialization, partners must show they can build and manage cloud-native business applications using GCP in both web and mobile environments.

Google Cloud’s Specialization Criteria

Google Cloud’s criteria for achieving a specialization include a minimum of four technical credentials earned by employees in the specified discipline, three customer success stories acknowledging that Google technology and the partner’s services have addressed a business need, and two customer engagements with the partner’s documented approach to their design, build and implementation methodologies. Partners also must pass a technical capability assessment and have a proven methodology and validated business plan to invest in the specialization area.

Achieving specializations accelerates partners’ inclusion in marketing, sales deals and lead distribution, according to Google Cloud. The partners also are branded on Google’s Partner Directory and prioritized in search capabilities.

Microsoft’s Most Popular Cloud Competencies

Microsoft’s top three cloud competencies include its cloud platform, cloud productivity and enterprise mobility management competencies.

The cloud platform competency is for partners that provide cloud services for Microsoft Azure, including helping customers modernize their infrastructure, migrate applications and data to the cloud, and build analytics solutions on data platforms in the cloud. Partners earning the competency can also deliver services and build products using software-as-a-service and platform-as-a-service solutions available through the Azure Marketplace.

Microsoft’s cloud productivity competency centers on cloud services for Microsoft Office 365, which has more than 100 million monthly commercial users. It allows partners to demonstrate their technical capability in delivering Office 365 solutions across multiple or single productivity practice areas under Microsoft’s largest commercial cloud business.

The enterprise mobility management competency allows partners to stand out as experts in secure mobility management solutions for large businesses concerned with data management regulatory compliance, including the General Data Protection Regulation governing data protection and privacy for individuals in the European Union and the European Economic Area.

“We have seen partner interest in all our cloud competencies increase as the market continues to move toward cloud computing,” a Microsoft spokesperson said.