Can you master multi-cloud with certifications? Cloud network architects say maybe

Mastering a single-cloud network architecture is a challenge in and of itself but when it comes to a multi-cloud network architecture, it's doubly so — and finding a comprehensive, agnostic multi-cloud certification program is nearly impossible. Public cloud vendors have their own certification programs but they don't go outside their own little cloud box.

"Public cloud vendor certifications are fine as far as they go, but they don't provide a comprehensive understanding of multi-cloud environments,” Iu Ayala, founder and CEO of Gradient Insight, a data science consultancy, and a cloud network architect, told Silverlinings.

Strategy vs. reality

While having a "comprehensive understanding of multi-cloud environments" is key for enterprises today, that strategy is far from reality. In fact, 89% of companies have a multi-cloud strategy but that doesn't mean that users are integrating them and many aren't, according to a State of the Cloud Report 2022 from Flexera, a software-as-a-service (SaaS)-based IT management company.

By Flexera's count, the most common multi-cloud implementation (45%) is siloing applications on different clouds.

This is an easy task, according to David Zhao, managing director of Coda Strategy, a cloud consulting firm. “When companies purchase SaaS solutions that are hosted on different platforms, they don't care so much about the underlying infrastructure as they do about the software service,” he noted, adding, "Multi-cloud is not an issue."

However, many organizations are doing "true" multi-cloud computing which is much more difficult: 44% are utilizing disaster recovery and failover between clouds; 41% are avoiding data siloing by integrating data between clouds; 36% have workload mobility between clouds, and 32% work with Individual apps that span public and private clouds. In addition, 27% are using cloud bursting when the workload is too much for their private cloud.

In these cases, in addition to the challenge of integrating different cloud architectures and APIs, architects and developers are also coping with managing and displaying data across clouds, organizing analytics between platforms, avoiding data duplication and securing everything.

Making the task even harder is that "vendors incorporate certification of hybrid and multi-cloud skills according to how they define and sell these types of products and services,” said Craig Lowery, Gartner vice president and cloud analyst. As a result, most certification programs are aligned with a specific provider ecosystem. That's not surprising, but it's not helpful, either.

What about Kubernetes?

Not all certification programs are like that. Just most of them. One major exception is the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF)’s Certified Kubernetes Administrator (CKA) certification and associated classes.

While the Linux Foundation's executive director Jim Zemlin has called "Kubernetes the Linux of the cloud,” not everyone has embraced it.

Andrei Maksimov, a highly experienced cloud infrastructure architect with Hands-On Cloud, told Silverlinings that while "you can rely on Kubernetes networking solutions with Submariner to provide applications with transparent connectivity between different cloud providers, there's no magic here. Someone must still administer Kubernetes clusters and know how each cluster uses the underlying cloud network."

Other general-purpose cloud certifications that cross the gap between clouds are the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA)'s Certificate of Cloud Security Knowledge and Certificate of Cloud Auditing Knowledge. But these are specific to security and auditing.

Daniel Chan, CTO for Marketplace Fairness, a financial analysis company, also recommended a certification company, Cloud Institute's Certified Cloud Architect (CCA). Chan, who is wary of vendor lock-in, likes it because it's "vendor-neutral and covers a range of topics related to cloud architecture, including design, security and governance."

For multi-cloud users, Gradient's Ayala recommended the Cisco CCNP [Cisco Certified Network Professional] Cloud, “because it focuses on multi-cloud strategies."

In addition, Ayala said network architects would be best served, "by staying informed on the latest developments and trends in the industry. This includes attending conferences, staying up to date with vendor roadmaps, and participating in online communities and forums. Additionally, you should develop a strong understanding of cloud-agnostic technologies, such as Kubernetes.”

Driven by the cloud providers

The Head of Solution Architects for cloud consulting firm Rapyder Cloud Solutions, Chetan Malhotra, told Silverlinings, he isn't so sure of the value of any cloud vendor certification for multi-cloud architects because they're all "driven by their respective cloud providers."

Instead, Malhorta advised looking at certifications that address "specific challenges associated with multi-cloud — Scalar, Nutanix Cost Governance, Openstack, etc., to name a few. Such solutions avoid vendor lock-ins."

But all these certifications are, in some ways, side issues. If you want to know how to integrate, say, Amazon Web Services with Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform (GCP), is there an answer? Maksimov from Hands on Cloud says, no.

“The primary purpose of professional certification is to demonstrate specific knowledge in a knowledge domain. While cloud providers innovate independently, there will be no such certification,” he said.

There is one class of exceptions, Maksimov admitted, "The multi-cloud networking vendor certifications willing to take the networking heavy lifting and simplify its management with specific solutions, e.g., F5 Multi-Cloud Networking or Aviatrix Certified Engineer Multicloud Network Professional." But, of course, “in that case, we're discussing F5 general and Aviatrix-specific certifications."

That won't change. When an organization “decides to use multiple cloud providers, it must accept that all cloud providers are different. The organization must invest in educating employees to use every cloud platform,” he said.

In short, Maksimov recommended that a "cloud professional must invest continuously in the education process." Ultimately, there's no shortcut or certification for multi-cloud. Sorry, folks.

How are you tackling multi-cloud certification challenges? Let us know by sending a Letter to the Editors here.