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Top vendor SDDC certification programs for admins

If you decide to grow your knowledge of software-defined data center technologies, VMware, Nuage Networks and Microsoft offer courses and certifications to get you up to speed.

As virtualization becomes more prevalent in data centers, it's important that you keep your technology knowledge bank up to date. Though you can do your own research, it can be tough to account for everything that's happening in the market, especially with the emergence and adoption of software-defined data center technology. This is where professional certifications can help.

To level up your skills, you can look at courses and exams from VMware, Microsoft, the Open Networking Foundation and Nuage Networks to get the best SDDC certifications. These training opportunities can grow your knowledge of software-defined infrastructure, types of deployments, troubleshooting tactics and software-based management.

VMware SDDC certification

VMware has revamped its certification programs, including the Data Center Virtualization certifications. Each one is designed to gauge your knowledge of VMware vSphere designs, installation and management.

Each certification has three variations with their specific workload, number of required exams and final cost. The certifications are categorized based on whether you have no vSphere certifications, if you have older or previous versions of certifications, or if you have different track VMware certification.

If you don't have any , pricing includes both a mandatory course and exam(s). The higher two certification levels include a recommended course and mandatory exam(s).

All VMware professional certifications are valid for two years from the passed exam date.

VMware Certified Professional -- Data Center Virtualization 2020
You'll learn how to implement, manage and troubleshoot vSphere v6.7 infrastructure to build a secure foundation for your organization to further cloud computing adoption.

Courses: Your choice of one self-directed, instructor-led or private course
Exams: Two exams
Cost: Between $350 and $500 for the exams (does not include any previous certifications or courses)

VMware Certified Advanced Professional -- Data Center Virtualization Design 2020
This design certification validates that you have advanced knowledge of and components. Upon completion, you can recommend and design VMware setups to meet specific goals and requirements in your organization.

Prerequisites: The VCP-DCV 2020 certificate
Courses: Your choice of one self-directed, instructor-led or private course
Exams: One exam
Cost: $450 for the exam

VMware Certified Advanced Professional -- Data Center Virtualization Deploy 2020
This advanced-level deployment certification verifies that you can deploy and optimize the latest VMware vSphere infrastructures. You can use the knowledge and skills to provide reliable and for your organization.

Prerequisites: The VCP-DCV 2020 certificate
Courses: Your choice of two self-directed, instructor-led or private courses
Exams: One exam
Cost: $450 for the exam

VMware Certified Design Expert -- Data Center Virtualization 2020
This certification structure is significantly different from the others and the experience depends on if you have previous VMware experience or VMware certifications.

It's the VMware equivalent to an independent study project, where you plan and design a full VMware enterprise virtualization deployment. You must defend your design before a panel of VMware experts before you gain this SDDC certification.

Prerequisites: The VCP-DCV 2020 certificate and VMware Certified Implementation Expert 2020 Badge
Pre-work: Review the Data Center Virtualization blueprint and handbook
Exams: Design application and Certification application form
Cost: The application and design review cost $99; final defense costs $3,000

Nuage Networks

The Virtuoso Certification Program (VCP) from Nuage Networks is another vendor-specific certification program. It is designed for engineers, operations, installation, technical sales and product support personnel involved with implementing with Nuage technology.

The Nuage Networks VCP certificates are valid three years from the passed exam date.

Nuage Networks Professional Software Defined Datacenter (NNP SD-DC)
This SDDC certification helps you develop the knowledge and skills to implement Nuage Networks solutions for software-defined data centers.

Courses: One course ($3,125)
Exams: One exam ($125)
Total cost: $3,250

Nuage Networks Expert Software Defined Datacenter (NNE SD-DC)
This certification lets you develop expert-level knowledge for the planning, installing and operating networks with Nuage Network products for software-defined data centers.

Courses: Three courses ($9,375)
Exams: Four exams ($500)
Total cost: $9,875

Open Networking Foundation

The Open Networking Foundation offers two different SDDC certification options: an overall product certification and a skills-based certification.

Courses and exams are done through authorized testing partners and labs. Each partner controls the price of the Conformance Certification exam, while each skill exam costs $150.

Each certification is valid for three years from the passed exam date.

OpenFlow Conformance Certification
The OpenFlow Conformance Certification helps you demonstrate compliance with , including OpenFlow Switch v1.3.4 and OpenFlow Switch v1.0.

SDN Associate Certification
This certification is ideal for product marketers, technical sales, support professionals and entry-level engineers in the software-defined networking (SDN) ecosystem. The course provides the conceptual knowledge of the major networking domains that support SDN theories and practices.

Microsoft

With Microsoft, you generally only pay for the exam. There are free, self-directed courses available through Microsoft and . These partners offer paid course assistance.

Microsoft certifications do not have an expiry date, though Microsoft advises you to continue to take courses and certifications to demonstrate you're current with technology.

Microsoft offers two certification types: one based on your career level and ones that address individual network types or technologies.

General Microsoft certifications
Fundamental.
These certifications are aimed at individuals just starting in technology or thinking about a career change. There are four exams available for $99 per exam.

Associate. This offering is ideal for intermediate-level data center and IT professionals with two to three years of industry experience. The Fundamental certifications are useful but not required. There are 21 exams available at $165 per exam.

Expert. If you have five or more years of industry experience, the Expert certifications deepen your knowledge in individual Microsoft technologies. You must have an Associate-level certification before you can take the Expert-level exam. Each Expert level exam is $165.

Specific Microsoft certifications
MCSA: Windows Server 2016 -- Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate
This training covers everything you must know to efficiently run Microsoft Windows Server 2016 to reduce IT costs and deliver business value.

Exams: Three exams
Total Cost: $495

MCSE: Core Infrastructure -- Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert
The MCSE: CI confirms you have the skills to run a data center, including identity management, systems management, virtualization, storage and networking.

Prerequisites: MCSA: Windows Server 2012 or MSCA: Windows Server 2016 ($495 each)
Courses: Your choice of one self-directed, instructor-led or private course
Exams: Five exams ($125 each; $825 total)
Total cost: $1,320 (for relevant exams and prerequisites)

Microsoft Certified: Azure Solutions Architect Expert
This certification helps you design, deploy, maintain and troubleshoot an Azure offering.

Exams: Two exams
Total cost: $330

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