In a previous article, I mentioned that Linux’s lack of an effective certification program makes it difficult to know whether the person you want to hire is really qualified as a Linux administrator. What Linux lacks, I said, is the equivalent of an MCSE or CNE certification program.

There’s good news and bad news on the Linux certification front. The good news is that a number of companies and organizations are proposing Linux certification programs. The bad news is that since there is no single “controlling Linux authority” (to paraphrase the Vice President), we could end up with competing certifications and no clearly identified standards.

Let’s look at the major Linux certification players. Note: Most of these efforts are just getting started, so don’t think you can get all your people certified immediately.

Commercial certifications
Red Hat (
As you might expect, Red Hat’s certification is based on its own flavor of Linux. The RHCE (Red Hat Certified Engineer) program is five days long and concentrates on Red Hat Linux 5.2. You have to take the class—and the consequent exam—at Red Hat’s campus in Durham, North Carolina.

The five-day package of classes plus exam costs $2,498, which does not include travel, lodging, or meals other than lunch. If you just want to take the exam by itself, that will cost $749.

According to Red Hat this RH300 class and exam is just the first in a forthcoming series of certification classes.

Caldera (
Since Caldera is the main commercial rival to Red Hat in the Linux world, it isn’t surprising that it offers its own class. Called simply Linux System Administration, the five-day class is designed to provide an entry into Linux installation and administration. Like Red Hat, Caldera promises a number of additional classes in the future.

Taking a different tack than Red Hat, Caldera promises that its class doesn’t favor any particular version of Linux.

The classes cost $1,995. Again unlike Red Hat, Caldera is establishing partnerships with various training centers to offer the class.

Digital Metrics (
While a commercial enterprise, Digital Metrics isn’t affiliated with any particular flavor of Linux. Unlike most other certifications, the Digital Metrics certification exams are given over the Internet.

The good part is that individual exams are cheap—$15 each. The bad part is that Digital Metrics has no current way to prevent cheating. (However, in the future they plan to offer testing based on digital certificates for greater security.)

Digital Metrics is focused on creating and offering the certification exams. For the actual Linux training, you’ll have to look elsewhere, though several firms are developing training materials that correspond to Digital Metrics courses.

Non-commercial certification (
Describing itself as completely neutral in the battle between versions of Linux, this site features certification courses designed by Tobin Magginus of Sair, Inc. There will be three different levels of certification. Beginning July 12, the first classes will be available at Sylvan Prometric training centers.

To see what Sair calls the Level I Knowledge Array, click here . This is a large chart indicating what a person needs to know about Linux to pass the first certification exams.

Let some flowers bloom?
Unless your company already has made a firm commitment to standardize on Red Hat or Caldera Linux, it makes sense to get training and certification from a neutral party. Perhaps one certification standard will emerge from the pack. Even better, perhaps the competing efforts will start to collaborate on a common standard. At the very least, having a number of certification options is better than not having any.