Given the rapid rate of change and the addition of new players in the cloud market, it's rare that organizations will understand the entire scope of knowledge that they need to cut through the sales pitches and successfully deploy the cloud solution that is right for them. In-house cloud solution knowledge and skills still vary greatly by organization.
"At this point in time, people are unconsciously incompetent," said Dave Nelson, VMware IT Academy Program director with VMware Global Education. "They don't know that they don't know."
To address this problem, CompTIA worked with cloud subject matter experts to develop the CompTIA Cloud+ certification exam. Subject matter experts invested hours into defining cloud concepts, specifying cloud technologies and articulating ways to quantify cloud skills.
The certification exam, available now, "creates a standard industry definition of the core concepts and skills involved with cloud computing solutions," said Craig Cardinet, director of information technology at EMW Inc.; one of the subject matter experts who helped develop the exam.
The Cloud Rush
The need for common definitions and clarity in the cloud market is critical given cloud's rapid evolution as a game-changer for business.
Ninety percent of companies say they use some form of cloud computing, according to the CompTIA Fourth Annual Trends in Cloud Computing report, released in August 2013. That's up from 80 percent in 2012.
And Gartner estimates that the global public cloud services market will account for $131 billion in revenue in 2013, an 18.5 percent increase from 2012.
Benefits cited by cloud users include ability to cut costs, modernization of legacy IT systems, ability to add new capabilities or features and predictable pricing, according to the CompTIA report. The most common business uses of cloud are storage, business continuity and disaster recovery and security.
The Need for Standards
But as with any newer technology, cloud computing still creates confusion in the workplace. According to the CompTIA study, only 46 percent of IT channel firms with cloud offerings described their cloud business as completely mature — an established, strategic part of business plans.
Contributing factors to this confusion include "cloudwashing," or the labeling of varying products and services as "cloud" to capture part of the growing market; downplaying of the cloud trend that overlooks unique aspects of the new technology; and hype or fatigue of the concept that leads businesses to mislabel their technologies as cloud-based.
Organizations and their employees need to have a common understanding about the cloud technology and service frameworks "if they are going to get the bang for the buck," said Nelson, a CompTIA certification advisory board member.
In these early stages of cloud computing adoption, Nelson says, there is an acute need for standards in all respects including knowledge, skills and terminology. "This will help reduce the 'Tower of Babel' that exists whenever you are introducing a completely new technology," he said.
A Vendor-Neutral Solution
The CompTIA Cloud+ certification exam was developed to cover the knowledge and skills needed to securely implement and maintain the right cloud solution to meet each customer's unique business needs from a vendor-neutral perspective.
"Having your experienced systems and network engineers get certified in CompTIA Cloud+ will ensure that they know how to apply solid engineering principles to develop cloud solutions specific to company or customer needs without getting locked into a vendor-specific product line," says Nathan Savolskis, a system engineer for MacAulay-Brown Inc., who helped develop the exam.
Cardinet said the exam will benefit employees and employers alike.
"For IT professionals, earning Cloud+ proves to employers that that you truly understand cloud computing," he said. "For employers, CompTIA Cloud+ will help to identify job candidates with the cloud-related skills your company needs."
Nelson personally praised the new CompTIA Cloud+ certification. "This is indeed what I think is necessary - take a holistic approach to understanding the cloud computing paradigm. Some people confuse cloud computing with being 'one thing' but it is the collection of many things," he said. "Therefore, the understanding has to be of the many things."
The CompTIA Cloud+ exam is available now. Download the CompTIA Cloud+ exam objectives to learn what's on the exam.
Katherine Hunt is director of member communities at CompTIA.