Linux Certification: Vendor-Specific or Vendor-Neutral?: Page 3

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Linux Professional Institute: Popular Global Choice

Linux Professional Institute (LPI), a non-profit organization based in Canada, is one of the world’s leading providers of Linux certification. Unlike Red Hat, LPI’s program is “vendor independent,” meaning it doesn’t focus on a specific distro.

LPI’s testing “applies to any vendor-specific technology,” says Jim Lacey, CEO of LPI. “The difference is that we test your skills at the command line. So there’s less testing on specific types of GUI tools that are different between SUSE Novell, Red Hat, Red Flag, etc.”

“What we truly test is your knowledge of Linux itself.”

The LPI cert is particularly valuable for those individuals who need to support many different Linux distros, he says. LPI “is a bit of a Switzerland,” in the world of Linux, in that it takes no stand for or against any specific platform.

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“If you’re in a Red Hat-specific shop, and maybe that’s all you’ll ever deal with, certainly the RHCE would be a good thing to obtain,” he says. “However, as Linux becomes more of a commodity, you’re starting to see many different skills that are necessary.”

In other words, “Even in you’re in an all Red Hat shop, you may see other technologies enter the fray as time goes on.”

The LPI tests are multiple choice and fill-in-the-blank. Lacey is well aware of the criticism of multiple choice tests, and how performance-based testing is seen as superior by some. However, “the truth of the matter is, we spend an inordinate amount of time [going through] performance-based exams ourselves,” to write the multiple-choice test.

“What it all comes down to is, whether or not your exam is based on a job task analysis (JTA), and ours is,” Lacey says. Input to this JTA comes from tech employers in major cities across the globe, he says. “So when we release an exam, it’s very specific to the needs of the industry, and it truly measures your skills – there’s no way you can study for our exams and ‘spec and dump’ the information. You truly have to know the technology.”

More people have taken the LPI Linux cert exams than other type of Linux cert, Lacey claims. By his count, some 35,000 people have earned LPI certs.

The tests are given in all Thomson Prometric and Pearson VUE centers worldwide, with more than 7,000 locations across the globe. LPI has established a global master affiliate network, so it gives the test everywhere from Delhi to Beijing to New York to Silicon Valley. The LPI program is sponsored – that is, approved and recognized – by companies like IBM, Novell, Turbolinux, HP, and Intel.

About 65% of test takers pass the LPI exams, Lacey says. The company strives to keep the pass rate between 60-70%. “As we rotate in new [test] items, we watch those items…and if an item does not do well, then we retire that item and replace it with a better, more specific item.”

The LPI certifications are as follows:

• LPI Level 1 (LPIC-1)
Requires proficiency at the Linux command line, ability to perform easy maintenance tasks, and knowledge of how to install and configure a workstation.

• LPI Level 2 (LPIC-2)
All the skill sets from Level 1, plus ability to administer a small to medium system; ability to plan, maintain and troubleshoot a small mixed network; and ability to advise management on automation and purchases.

• LPI Level 3 (LPIC-3)
Just added in January 2007, this includes all the skills from Level 1 and 2, plus: to pass Level 3, someone should have several years experience installing and maintaining Linux on a number of systems; have experience at the enterprise level; have knowledge of LDAP necessary to integrate Unix and Windows services; and be able to architect and build a full environment using Samba and LDAP.

The costs of getting certified at Level 1 is $300 (requiring two exams) and Level 2 certification is an additional $300 (also requiring two exams). Lacey expects the base cost of Level 3 certification, which is still brand new, to be $250, plus $150 each for a series of elective exams that would complement the core competencies of Level 3.

The cost of the study materials for LPI varies widely, because a student could theoretically use any number of study programs to develop the level of Linux proficiency needed to pass the tests.

Lacey stresses that the LPI exams incorporate feedback from many companies across the globe – 400 experts worldwide, he says. ‘We’re not telling the industry what to measure, we’re asking the industry what they need to measure.”

“Each geography [across the globe] has its own focus on a particular distribution,” he says. “As you travel around the globe, one of the big names may be prevalent, or they may not.” For example, “We’re seeing Asianux starting to take shape in the China-Japan-Korea triangle,” and he notes that the LPI cert is relevant for this distro. Similarly, SUSE is big in Germany, and, again, the LPI cert relates to this distro.

“And [LPI] is also applicable in North America, even though Red Hat is prevalent,” he says.

Take a look at these leading Linux certification programs:

Red Hat

Linux Professional Institute



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Tags: open source, Linux, IT certifications, Red Hat, Linux certification

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