Since I’m working in the IT business for quite some time and especially have been focusing on the storage side of the fence I’d thought I’d put my knowledge to the test and try to get some personal satisfaction (if I’d succeeded that is). I’ve never been a huge fan of vendor certifications to be honest but that is most likely due to the fact that some vendor certifications used to be too over-rated. I can recall the Microsoft Certified System Engineer track which, back then in the late 90’s and early 2000, was a certificate that was on the “to-have” list of every engineer simply because you almost certainly got short-listed on every job-application out there but certainly not due to the level of knowledge you needed to have of pass these tests. I had quite a few of these guys who spent 2 weeks on a crash-course boot-camp and passed the MCSE exam who really fell from a cliff as soon as I let them administer a 500 server and 2000 client windows NT/2000/2003 environment (back then this was a fairly beefy environment, nowadays it’s pretty common to have this in SMB environments as well.) The MCSE “New Style” has completely replaced the old certification path and you need some deep knowledge and a fair couple of years with your feet on the data-centre floor before you’ll be able to pass the tests.
Let me make one thing very clear:
If you haven’t worked in an environment with equipment, software, procedures and policies your are trying to obtain a certificate for, your accreditation is useless.
My view is that the certification you obtain should be an acknowledgement of the knowledge you have and as such you should have the ability to apply it in the real world. There are not many (vendor) certification tracks in the world that can claim to require a fair amount of prerequisites. If you’ve never worked with, designed, implemented and administered a VMware environment the chances of obtaining a VCDX accreditation is next to nothing. The same can be said for Cisco environments which can steam you up for CCIE.
Brocade Distinguished Architect
One of the lesser known certification tracks is the one from Brocade. Mainly because there is not much hype outside the data-centre scene. There is however a fair chuck of knowledge needed to be able to obtain it highest accreditation which is Brocade Distinguished Architect. Tom’s IT Pro website describes the BDA as:
There is also one other certification positioned outside the four certification tracks and is awarded based on completion of all requirements for at least three of the four preceding tracks. Brocade Distinguished Architects are network ninjas, trained to the highest standards and backed by an extensive knowledge of Brocade products, technologies and techniques.
Brocade Certification tracks
Brocade have set up their certifications into 4 tracks covering topics like Ficon, Data Centre, InterNetworking and Converged Networking. Each track has an entry, medium and advanced level which collectively gives you the Certified Professional status for that track. If you complete 3 out of 4 of these tracks you can call yourself a BDA.
Level of knowledge
The BDA qualification is not easily obtained. Even if you’re a seasoned datacentre professional do NOT expect to download a couple of PDF’s and manuals and expect to pass these exams. A colleague who is a seasoned mainframe expert (and when I say expert I REALLY mean expert) failed the FICON Architect exam. The other way is also true. Even if you can re-write all training material backwards and dream it up to your wife you will also not pass the exams. You really need to know about storage environments and how hosts, SAN equipment and storage arrays interact. If you’ve never looked at a nameserver output in order to detect why a host is not able to see it’s disks, and cannot spot it has registered incorrect FC4 types you will not pass the test. If you’ve never looked at a z/OS RMF record or have never seen a HCD configuration and know what each of the entries mean you could be in the same boat. This is just an example but it shows you to what extent you are required to know stuff.
Even if you’ve sat through all the training and have a fairly good feeling about the Brocade stack from an equipment and software perspective you still might want to read up on other, vendor independent, information. I’ve listed a fair amount of books over here which will certainly help in many aspects from an FC protocol point of view but also how and why certain storage implementation decisions are made. I can recommend the books from Bob Kembel and Greg Shultz.I work in this industry for almost 20 years and it took me a little over year to obtain the BDA accreditation. Obviously if I could’ve dedicated all my time to learning and taking exams I could’ve done it a bit quicker but I think it should give you some guideline on what to expect.
As for the accreditation transcript from me have a look here: Brocade Distinguished Architect
The latest program overview can be obtained here.