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November 09, 2023

How IT Certifications Create Bias in Cloud Architects

The job of the cloud architect is to use technology to improve business performance. To do their job well, cloud architects must determine the unique needs of the business they are serving and design a unique solution that uses the best available technology.

One of the challenges that today’s cloud architects face as they develop business solutions is avoiding the biases that are created by modern IT certifications.

“Many of today’s IT certifications that are presented as cloud architect certifications don’t actually teach anything related to cloud architecture,” says Michael Gibbs, CEO of Go Cloud Careers. “The certifications are really about training cloud administrators who configure the technology, rather than architects who design the systems. Furthermore, the certifications focus on using proprietary services. Unfortunately, this combination of training not only does not teach cloud architecture, but promotes a bias towards proprietary services that will ultimately limit innovation.”

Go Cloud Careers prepares students for elite cloud computing careers by providing them with a deep understanding of cloud technology combined with training in executive skills, business acumen, leadership development, sales skills, and soft skills. Gibbs founded Go Cloud Careers in 2013 after spending decades helping businesses to leverage technology solutions for greater efficiency and productivity.

“In the past, someone who earned an IT certification would learn about how the technology worked and how to configure it,” Gibbs explains. “The certification process would present both open standards, which work with everyone's technologies, and proprietary standards, which would only work with a single vendor's technology. Today’s certifications often promote the things that the vendor providing the certification is most excited about selling.”

Preventing the development of multi-cloud solutions

Recent reports show that 90 percent of large organizations are utilizing multi-cloud architecture for their technology needs. With companies using public clouds, the percentage using multi-cloud is nearly 100 percent.

Optimizing architecture for multi-cloud settings often requires using components from a variety of vendors, which is something that is not supported by the latest trends in IT certifications.

“Today’s certifications are promoting what is known as vendor lock-in,” Gibbs says. “They focus on proprietary components, which means they fail to provide architects with the training that they need to design architecture that will work in a multi-cloud environment. Essentially they train architects to use the technology that is most profitable for the vendor and to lock the client into a particular vendor's technology.”

Disregarding the need for a deeper understanding

A second problem with the new generation of IT certifications is their failure to provide any training on the underlying technology that empowers the vendors’ products. Cloud architects must have a deep knowledge of technology, but that understanding is not focused on specific products. Their expertise is focused on how the technology works and, most importantly, how systems can be integrated when building or configuring cloud architecture.

“You can't design systems that you don't understand,” Gibbs argues. “Because today’s certifications no longer teach how the technologies actually work, they essentially ask architects to throw together components without allowing them to understand what is under the hood.”

Gibbs gives the example of an Amazon Web Services (News - Alert) (AWS) certification that promotes an Amazon EC2 instance without effectively explaining that it is a virtual machine.

“They obfuscate the information so deeply in order to keep people focused on marketing terms that those who get certified come away without knowing what the technology actually is,” Gibbs says. “They are given the name of a service, told how exciting it is, and instructed on how to configure it. What they aren’t given is an understanding of the underlying technology, which is what cloud architects, enterprise architects, or any other technology professional actually needs.”

Those who secure one of today’s IT certifications have increased their knowledge of a brand and what it offers, rather than developing their understanding of a technology tool. This limits their effectiveness to working only with that brand, effectively limiting their ability to provide technology solutions.

“Imagine a doctor trying to write a prescription without knowing how the medications actually work,” Gibbs says. “Even if they were able to get a proper diagnosis, they still wouldn’t have the information they need to write the most effective prescription. In the world of medicine, physicians don't use proprietary drug names like Lipitor. They refer to the drug as atorvastatin, which is the generic name that every doctor, nurse practitioner, physician’s assistant, and pharmacist actually understands. Physicians also learn how the drugs affect the systems in the body, so they can choose the right medication for the patient. They can do their job effectively because their understanding goes beyond the brand.”

In the short term, today’s IT certifications may help brands to sell more products. In the long term however, they will result in architecture that is unreliable and incapable of performing optimally in a multi-cloud setting.

“Cloud architecture certifications must move beyond promoting only what is good for the vendor,” Gibbs says. “By helping architects to understand the underlying technology, they equip them to provide better designs. In the end, that results in better business performance, which is the ultimate goal of cloud architecture.”

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