VMware education gaining momentum

VMware Certified Professional (VCP) certification is valuable, but the course is costly. Fortunately, there are other options for those wanting hands-on experience, including new courses at two universities.

As virtualization technology continues to become a common fixture in enterprise data centers, the need for IT professionals with a strong background in VMware administration and management is growing as well. A VMware Certified Professional (VCP) title is in high demand from both employers and IT professionals alike. According to VMware.com, the title of VCP is "designed for any technical individual -- partners, end-users, resellers,...

and consultants - who wants to demonstrate their expertise in virtual infrastructure and increase his potential for career advancement."

VMware guru David Davis suggests that aspiring professionals should most certainly attempt to get the VCP. "I would recommend the VCP. The issue for someone new is that the class is going to run you about $5,000, and that is the only option to become one. That is a large barrier to entry for the 'regular guy' to become a VCP."

Unlike most certification education, for example any number of Microsoft interfaces, VMware education opportunities tend to be be costly and difficult to come by. Luckily though, that seems to be changing.

Learn VMware at a university, seminar near you
VMware currently offers classes in several applications including VMware Infrastructure 3 and VMware ESX Server 3.5/VirtualCenter. The classes themselves offer standalone instruction and are not part of a larger curriculum. The seminars are as short as two hours or as long as five days, and are intended to be stepping stones to the VCP certification exam. In these courses, students are given the opportunity to gain hands-on experience working with servers, SANs and networks. According to VMware, 400 such classes are offered each quarter in 60 cities worldwide.

In addition to these classes, VMware has begun to make inroads to having its educational courses offered in colleges and universities. VMware recently worked in conjunction with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Columbia University to have their virtualization technology taught in the classroom by providing computer science oriented courseware. The courses come at no extra cost to students, as courses are considered part of the normal course load, though they have yet to be streamlined into the required curricula of either school's computer science departments.

Dan Benamy, a computer science graduate student at Columbia University, recently completed the first VMware-sponsored virtualization course offered at the institution. According to Benamy, the course covered the basics of virtual machines and other essential virtualization material by using a combination of in-class discussion, laboratory work and guest lectures.

"We had a variety of guest lecturers," Benamy said. "We had speakers that were software developers, virtual machine researchers, KVM professionals and representatives from companies like IBM."

When asked if the course was more slanted toward VMware and its product line Benamy said, "Not really. It was more of an overview of the entire landscape of virtual machines and how to construct a virtual infrastructure."

According to Benamy the class itself was fairly small with only 15 or so students enrolled. "I think that had a lot to do with the fact this was the first semester the course has been offered," Benamy said. "People not knowing about it would probably explain why demand wasn't so high. But overall it was a very good experience for me and the small class size helped towards that."

VMware takes a page from IBM education playbook
Ultimately, when it comes to both taking the VCP exam and implementing knowledge in the workplace, aspiring VMware admins want to know how useful a VMware education really is.

Although VMware has certainly stepped up its educational initiatives as of late, they perhaps would be well served to study the model of SHARE's zNextGen. This program is geared toward aspiring young professionals, college students and established IT professionals seeking to break into the mainframe computing field. SHARE seeks to offer not only education but also a networking community for its members to communicate to one another about job opportunities and industry trends. In addition to its weblog, SHARE runs an annual convention for members and newcomers alike that offers a multitude of workshops that educate attendees in a variety of different subject matter related to mainframe computing.

Like VMware, zNextGen has infiltrated academia. With the help of IBM and SHARE, Neon Enterprise Software, Inc. of Houston, Texas, organized a mainframe certification course at Houston Community College that graduated its first class in December 2007. On top of that, Neonsoft then offered internships to each member of the graduating class that received certification.

There may not yet be a standardized model of virtualization technology education, but as virtualization becomes more common, things are improving. At the very least, programs such as SHARE's zNextGen provide a model for VMware as the company contemplates its next stepin terms of how it will offer VMware education to those looking to gain entrance to the virtual world.

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