Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Linux Certifications Continued: SAIR or LPI? Oh, and Linux +

Yes, with my recent comparison with Red Hat and Novell, this comparison was bound to come about. One of the great strengths of Linux, or any open sourced OS, is the diversity that comes from using the same core but different methods for reaching the same goal. That diversity is both it's strength and it's weakness, as anyone that has been flamed by another Linux user for their choice of Distro can attest to. But that's a subject of another discussion all together. ^_^

For the purposes of training, it's important to give as broad a base as possible and not tie yourself to any one specific distribution. This means having a distro-neutral training ground that is well respected within the Linux and Corporate community. Of the advanced training options out there, I have found only two that seem to meet those requirements: SAIR and LPI. This entry will be a comparison of the two from a potential instructor's point of view.

In previous posts, I have outlined the role that LPI plays. This is because it was the one vendor neutral linux certification that I could find information on that was being offered. It is Internationally accepted by the Linux community, and even had a Linuxworld certification event in Koeln (Cologne) Germany. This indicated that the certifcation is alive and active in it's growth. The testing materials are currently only a year old in their current form, and they are very comprehensive. By all accounts, it's a definite certification to take seriously.

In addition to the certification, becoming a partnered learning center is also fairly easy. All you need are LPI certified materials (such as Guru Labs courseware materials) and a competent, trained staff that know how to teach. Most educational facilities can handle this, though the overall process is not geared to educational facilities. But that's the topic of another rant (i.e., the problem with business scaling to all entities). Regardless, LPI is a very viable option for any training facility that is looking to include vendor neutral Linux certification training. For more information on the LPI certification process and the topics covered in each section, check out their website here:

So there I was, thinking that I have finally found the one Linux certification that was very advanced, well designed, and covered a wide range of topics... until I found the SAIR Linux/GNU certification. SAIR was developed with the Linux Professional Group, and focuses on both Linux, and the GNU applications that enhance the Linux kernel. The really nice thing about their certification process is that it requires four training sessions and exams to qualify for one certification (with exception of their Master Linux Certified Engineer which only requires two). Each training session is 4 days long.

The first certification covers the OS itself, with emphasis on networking, administration, and security. Basically, it covers most of both the LPI certifications within it's one certification. That is the Linux Certified Administrator cert.

The second certification goes into applications that are used in conjunction with Linux, but can (and are) applied in other UNIX-like flavors. This includes basic concepts, the Apache Web Server, Samba, and Sendmail. While these applications are lightly covered in the second certification for LPI, whole sessions are dedicated to each application. Obviously, that would be more valuable to someone that spends a lot of time working in that field. Completion of these exams gives the Linux Certified Engineer cert.

Finally, the Master Linux Certified Engineer cert requires the completion of the Linux High Availability class, and the Postgres & MySQL Databases exams. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like these exams were ever given to Prometric for testing, and there is no indication on the SAIR website as to where these exams are offered.

And that's when I started to get concerned. Sure, this all sounds great. And on top of it all they have a very educational institution-friendly process of becoming a learning partner, but they don't seem to have very updated information on their website. So I checked various educational materials provided by bookstores out there... Most of the material is dated from 2001. There have been a lot of kernel changes since then, and even a shift in networking methods.

So, I checked Prometric to see if they still have the exams available for testing. They do, so that at least means something. Students can still test for the SAIR certifications and receive them. But can an instructor teach to the exam, and still remain on topic?

I sent an email off to SAIR to get more details, and have yet to hear back from them. Granted, it was 24 hours ago, but LPI replied to my inquiry within 12 hours. So, my concern is that the certification is no longer being updated, and therefore is about as useful as my A+ certification from 1998. For more information on the SAIR certification, please check out their website here:

Yes, I know I didn't make a big mention of this at the beginning, and that's because the certification is meant to indicate a basic working knowledge of Linux, much like the LPI 1 certification. But it's worth a mention, as CompTIA has quite a reputation in the industry for overall vendor neutral certifications. Needless to say, it is something that any Linux training center should encourage for their learners, specifically since it gives them one more certification without an additional class. This is because all the topics covered in the LPI certifications are more than enough to pass the Linux+ certification. For more information on the CompTIA Linux+ cert, check out their website:

So, I'm afraid I'll have to leave you with yet another quandry. Which certification should be focused on? If I had more confidence in it, it would be the SAIR certification, as it covers the LPI quite well and goes into more detail with it's second and third tier certifications. But without a sure knowledge of it's current status, the LPI may be the only advanced Linux certification out there that is worth teaching for. If anyone knows of the status of the SAIR certification, please let me know.

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