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Dell EMC Proven Professional Certification Guide: Overview and Career Paths

Dell EMC Proven Professional Certification Guide: Overview and Career Paths
Credit: Gorodenkoff/Shutterstock

EMC, acquired by Dell in 2016, has been a market leader in the storage space for more than two decades. With such tenure comes a responsibility to train and certify storage engineers, developers, administrators and architects on the company's hardware and software.

Dell EMC accomplishes that goal through its Proven Professional certification program, and uses this program to maintain stringent training and certification requirements, as well as to provide a conduit for gathering valuable feedback from customers and IT professionals. Becoming a certified Proven Professional allows direct input into Dell EMC's product teams, so certification holders can affect the timing and feature sets for the company's products and services.

Since the Dell/EMC merger, the Proven Professional program has operated alongside two other programs – the Dell EMC Certification program and the VCE Certified Professional program. Dell EMC certifications focus mainly on Dell hardware technologies, whereas Dell EMC Proven Professional certifications are based on EMC storage products and services. The VCE Certified Professional program offers engineer-level certifications for converged infrastructures.

Various tracks exist within the Proven Professional program, allowing certificate holders to attain a depth of knowledge in specific areas of Dell EMC products and storage technologies. Proven Professional tracks include data scientist, cloud architect, cloud and storage administrator, technology architect, engineer (cloud, platform and implementation), and application developer. Dell EMC also offers product-specific certifications for customers who utilize ScaleIO, ViPR, Data Protection Advisor and VxRail storage solutions.

Most, but not all, Proven Professional tracks come in three levels: Associate, Specialist and Expert. Each certification track in the Proven Professional program aims toward a combination of target audiences – employees, partners, customers and industry-wide. Current tracks that are open to all interested parties (industry-wide) include the following:

  • Information Storage Associate (EMCISA)
  • Data Scientist Associate (EMCDSA)
  • Data Scientist (EMCDS)
  • Cloud Infrastructure and Services Associate Version 2 (EMCCIS)
  • Cloud Architect (EMCCA)
  • Data Protection and Management Associate (EMCDPM)

Tracks geared toward EMC employees, partners and customers include the following:

  • Cloud Administrator (EMCCAD)
  • Storage Administrator (EMCSA)
  • Product/technology specific (VxRail, ScaleIO, ViPR and Data Protection Advisor)

Tracks for employees and partners only include the following:

  • Technology Architect (EMCTA)
  • Cloud Engineer (EMCCE)
  • Platform Engineer (EMCPE)
  • Implementation Engineer (EMCIE)
  • Technical Support Engineer (EMCTSE)

Most certifications require passing a single exam along with any prerequisites. Specialist certifications require an Associate certification as a prereq, and Expert certifications require Associate and Specialist credentials. Pearson VUE administers Proven Professional certification exams, which cost $200 each. According to Dell EMC, the exams can be taken by anyone with no affiliation requirement. However, official training courses are available only to the noted audiences. Prerequisites, pertinent technologies covered, and additional specifics for each certification track and knowledge level are described in the Proven Professional Certification Framework.

Although Proven Professional certifications don't expire, Dell EMC recommends updating your certifications every three years to ensure they align with current technology. Updating a certification entails taking (and passing) the associated certification exam.

The following sections walk you through Dell EMC Proven Professional certifications available to all interested parties and that don't focus on a particular technology. You'll also learn more about the job roles associated with each certification.

The Dell EMC Information Storage Associate (EMCISA) is an entry-level certification for those who manage stored digital information in traditional, virtualized and software-defined environments. Candidates should be up to speed on concepts related to data center infrastructure, storage systems (intelligent storage systems and software-defined storage), storage networking technologies, backups and replication strategies.

The certification requires you to pass just one exam, and it fulfills a prerequisite for several higher-level certifications, like the Cloud Architect. Think about it: By passing a single storage exam, you can kick off your Proven Professional certification efforts and be well on your way to a better, more challenging job in storage technology.

With the lines continuing to blur between network, server and storage administrators, your first exposure to storage technology could well be in your current job. Software-defined networks and storage, cloud-based storage, and virtual network overlays represent a major technology shift into virtualized storage systems. While storage area network (SAN) administrators have traditionally held jobs with a laser focus on physical storage strategies, today's storage administrator must know and understand physical and virtual storage, network and server technologies.

Now that infrastructure virtualization has settled into proven, production-ready technologies and techniques, storage administration must also tackle storage/network/server administration rather than distinct disciplines for each area of expertise. As you proceed through the Dell EMC storage certification process, be sure to pay close attention anytime the topic of virtualization appears. Virtualization of all types is profoundly impacting IT infrastructure, and storage virtualization is a huge part of that change.

The Dell EMC Data Scientist Associate (EMCDSA) is a foundational certification that exposes you to the basics of big data and data analytics. Topics for this certification include an introduction to data analytics, characteristics of big data and the role of data scientists. Also covered are a variety of big data theories and methods, including linear regression, time-series analysis and decision trees. Various cutting-edge big data tools, such as Hadoop and MapReduce, feature as aids to data analytics efforts.

The next rung up on the certification ladder is the Dell EMC Data Scientist, Advanced Analytics Specialist (EMCDS). Professionals at this level employ advanced analytics to solve business issues. They use Hadoop, Pig, Hive and HBase; analyze social networks; and understand natural language processing.

The job role and description for data scientists is a fairly new development in the world of storage technology. Previously, storage analysts might have also been called business analysts or data analysts, with distinct differences between the focus for each such role. IT business analysts are responsible for maintaining a business perspective on IT functions and operations, combining IT priorities with the business priorities of a company. Data analysts have traditionally focused on the technical aspects of storage and data management.

The data scientist role is a conglomeration of these two analyst roles: It combines a strong technical background and understanding of data analytics with the acumen to recognize the impact of IT decisions on business operations. As you can see, a data scientist builds a bridge between the IT world and the business world so that each side can appreciate concerns and input from the other. Think of data scientists as big-picture business leaders with strong technical backgrounds in data analytics and management. In other words, they represent (and create) the best of both storage worlds.

The Dell EMC Cloud Infrastructure and Services Associate (EMCCIS) certification recognizes professionals who have the skills to build a cloud infrastructure. They have a solid foundation in cloud computing and the cloud reference model, physical and virtual layers of a cloud environment, controls, cloud services and management, and security and business continuity.

The Dell EMC Cloud Architect (EMCCA) certification is your steppingstone from a storage administration or engineer role to becoming a full-fledged member of the storage elite. The EMCCA certification recognizes storage specialists who migrate storage technology and applications to virtualized data centers or the cloud. Data centers based purely on physical servers and infrastructure are quickly giving way to virtualization technology, which transforms data centers into beehives of virtualization activity. EMCCAs help design virtual storage services and migration strategies as companies move from physical storage to virtual storage, or some mixture of the two.

EMCCAs learn generalized design consideration for virtualization of storage capabilities. The EMCCA certification is offered at two levels:

  • Specialist: Cloud Infrastructure Planning and Design
  • Expert: Cloud Services Planning and Design

Cloud architects belong to the vanguard of storage architects who are leveraging their talents to virtualize storage infrastructure, as well as the underlying networks that support it. With the cloud as one of the hottest topics in the recent past, storage architects with an EMCCA certification are likely to find a multitude of employment options available. From companies looking to migrate to a cloud storage design in their data centers, to cloud-based innovators such as Amazon Web Services, the cloud is doing more to automate IT infrastructure management and reduce costs than any other single technology development over the last 20 years.

Many pundits worry that the software automation intrinsic to cloud environments will put various types of infrastructure administrators and engineers out of work. We believe there are clear skies ahead for those who take the initiative to enhance their training and expertise with cloud technologies. In fact, those who successfully make the transition from storage administrator or engineer to cloud architect can anticipate high demand for the foreseeable future. The reason that "cloud" has become such a buzzword is that cloud computing promises more resiliency at lower cost, with enhanced online data protection and disaster recovery capabilities thrown in for good measure. A strong business case for cloud technology makes the cloud architect a critical role for companies looking to move to a virtualized infrastructure.

A person with the Data Protection and Management Associate (EMCDPM) certification manages all kinds of data protection measures in a data center environment. An EMCDPM not only understands the big picture for data protection architecture, but can pick solutions to resolve issues and keep big data and mobile device data safe. These solutions may involve backup and recovery, data deduplication, replication and fault tolerance, and data migration. An EMCDPM also knows how to secure the data protection environment.

You won't often find data protection management positions except in large organizations or those whose core business revolves around large databases. In fact, data protection is often a part of a related role, such as data steward, administrator or architect.

Regardless, the data protection management role ensures the highest level of data protection in complex environments, using current and emerging technologies. This usually means overseeing the automation of backups, replication, archiving, migration and the like. A person in this position must have strong problem-solving abilities and deep knowledge of data protection products and implementation methods, as well as the ability to adopt and integrate new technologies.

There are many moving parts to a company's data and storage strategy, and Dell EMC's Proven Professional certifications are an excellent way to work your way into a great job. Dell EMC's certifications are continuously updated and revised with the state-of-the-art storage management content, future-proofing your job skills and knowledge so that, regardless of what new technologies become popular in the future, you'll always be on the cutting edge and in demand.

From completing your first storage certification to achieving a data scientist or architect expert certification, each step in the Proven Professional program increases your knowledge, value and employment options in a competitive job market. The need for data and storage expertise will never recede. The sooner you start your certifications, the sooner you can start to accrue the experience and expertise to put yourself on the fast track to success in storage management.

Although Dell EMC recommends various instructor-led training (ILT) and self-paced e-learning courses to help you pass certification exams, there's no training or experiential prerequisites that must be completed first. For those interested in official training, see the suggested courses listed on the webpage for your desired certification, or browse the list on the Certification Exams and Training page. Dell EMC occasionally offers bundles of video ILT courses and an exam voucher at a significant discount, so be sure to check the EMC Proven Professional website before embarking on a new certification track.

Dell EMC also provides free practice tests so that you can evaluate your readiness for each certification exam in advance. Of course, scoring a passing grade on the practice exam doesn't guarantee that you will pass the real exam, but relevant practice exams can indicate knowledge areas where you need more work prior to taking the real thing.

Ed Tittel

Ed is a 30-year-plus veteran of the computing industry, who has worked as a programmer, a technical manager, a classroom instructor, a network consultant and a technical evangelist for companies that include Burroughs, Schlumberger, Novell, IBM/Tivoli and NetQoS. He has written for numerous publications, including Tom's IT Pro, and is the author of more than 140 computing books on information security, web markup languages and development tools, and Windows operating systems.