IT isn't what it used to be. Gone are the days of worrying solely about your specific silo -- be it networks, storage, or servers -- and sending related issues to another team. Today's IT professionals must be masters of convergence. They need to understand and manage and virtualization, cloud computing, and the wide range of emerging technologies that feed into them.
They also need to be fluent in open source, comfortable with advanced network design, and ready to embrace software-defined everything. In other words, they need to be able to demonstrate that they know a lot, and there's no more powerful way to do so than by holding a cadre of infrastructure certifications.
To help navigate these increasingly complex waters, we've put together a list of certifications that can help infrastructure professionals deepen their skills in several areas that will make themselves especially valuable in the coming few years.
VMware Certified Design Expert (VCDX)
No infrastructure professional can do much of anything these days without having to manage virtualized assets. With the growth of cloud computing and software-defined data center technologies, virtualization's footprint continues to expand, and many organizations are using VMware's technology. VCDX builds on vSphere and datacenter virtualization skills to focus on the software-defined-data center and delivering Infrastructure-as-a-Service with comprehensive management and security. According to IT Career Finder, IT pros with the VCDX cert command annual salaries starting at $99,000.
Citrix Certified Professional
While VMware technology is dominant in the data center, Citrix technology is virtualizing the applications and desktops that rely on the back end. Increasingly, that means infrastructure folks need to extend their capabilities closer to the user. IT pros who pursue the newly revamped levels of Citrix certification have demonstrated their ability to design and manage solutions using application and desktop virtualization technologies as well as NetScaler from Citrix. It's worth the effort, as the average Citrix-certified salaries rate very high, at more than $100,000 per year, according to Global Knowledge.
SNIA Certified Storage Network Expert (SCSN-E)
Storage is hotter than ever. With the constant mushrooming of data quantities and the accelerating rise of big data technologies, enterprises are storing -- and accessing -- more data than ever. What's more, storage environments are increasingly heterogeneous, connecting a variety of storage technologies, from SAN to NAS to cloud-based file sharing. By attaining this designation from the vendor-neutral Storage Networking Industry Association, infrastructure pros can ready themselves for what figures to be a fast-changing future on the storage front. Even better, they can expect an immediate 5 to 11 percent bump in pay, as well as a 30 to 40 percent increase in their market value when it comes time to consider making a career move, according to SNIA.
Red Hat Certified Architect (RHCA)
The fast-growing infrastructure needs of today's enterprises demand a more budget-friendly approach to technology investments, hence the growing interest in commodity hardware and open-source software. And that means infrastructure pros are well advised to pursue the highest level of certifications from Red Hat, the predominant provider of open-source cloud, virtualization, storage, and middleware technologies. RHCAs have pocketed Red Hat certifications in everything from deployment and systems management to clustering and storage management, which is why they can command an average annual salary of $81,000. (Salary data via Simply Hired.)
Certified Wireless Network Administrator (CWNA)
Having made the transition from luxury to necessity, wireless networks have become as much a part of the enterprise landscape as servers, ERP systems and organizational charts. The same can be said, naturally, of the skills required to design, build, and maintain those wireless networks, making this certification from the vendor-neutral Certified Wireless Network Professional standards organization one of growing importance. CWNP calls the cert a "must have" for network pros. It's also valuable: IT pros with a CWNA can earn an average of $83,000 per year, according to the CWNP.
Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
Security has long been a critical component of any organization's IT environment, but it's safe to say its importance has been ramped up of late. From Target to Experian, enterprises have been reminded that a network is only as good as its security. The growing focus on preventing breaches, not to mention securing cloud and mobile infrastructures, is translating to increased opportunity for information security professionals -- as well as competition for those opportunities. The CISSP, issued by the non-profit International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium, prepares recipients for security roles ranging from consultants and auditors to architects and analysts, or even chief information security officers. Not surprisingly, it's also accompanied by an average annual salary as high as $135,000, according to The Labor Academy.
Cisco Certified Design Professional/Network Professional (CCDP/CCNP)
It's a safe bet for most networking professionals to pursue some level of Cisco certification. With five levels of completion, ranging from entry to architect, there are numerous opportunities to increase earning power and knowledge. CCDP and CCNP credentials, in particular, validate recipients as capable of designing a Cisco converged network. The CCDP focuses on building scalable internetworks and multilayer-switched networks, and the CCNP emphasized the ability to plan, implement, verify and troubleshoot local and wide-area enterprise networks in the areas of security, voice, wireless, and video.