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Dell Certification Guide: Overview and Career Paths

Dell Certification Guide: Overview and Career Paths
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In the 1980s, a 19-year-old pre-med student at the University of Texas just happened to like computers — a lot. Michael Dell never made it to graduation and dropped out at the end of his first year to pursue a different dream. Armed only with a $1,000 stake from his family and a love of PCs, no one could have predicted that Dell would turn his dorm room "business" into Dell, Inc., a globally recognized leader in computing.

Dell merged with EMC Corporation in late 2016, and the new company was rebranded as Dell Technologies. Dell Technologies includes Dell, Dell EMC, Pivotal, RSA, SecureWorks, Virtustream and VMware. According to Forbes, Dell Technologies (before completion of the merger with EMC) was the fourth largest privately held company in the United States and the world's largest privately held technology company. With offices in more than 180 countries worldwide, Dell boasts more than 145,000 employees, with 2016 sales exceeding $74 billion. According to Dell’s 2017 Annual Report to Customers, a whopping 98 percent of all Fortune 500 companies use Dell Technologies. Dell also took the number one 2017 spot for supplier diversity in Diversity, Inc.’s Top 50 Companies list and the number 13 space on the Gartner Magic Quadrant Leader list.

Computing products remain a staple in the Dell product portfolio. Consumers interested in laptops, workstations, tablets and desktops will find a variety of products available (along with peripherals such as monitors, printers and VDI appliances) to meet personal, workplace or gaming needs. Dell also offers solutions for networks, storage, servers, gateways and embedded computing, as well as a broad range of IT and business services.

Dell Technologies’ products and services currently focus on three key core business areas which represent a combination of the former Dell Client Solutions Group, EMC Information Infrastructure Group, Dell Enterprise Solutions Group, and Dell EMC Services:

  • Client Solutions Group: The Client Solutions group remains under the Dell brand and includes PCs, software (includes end-point security), 2-in-1s, thin clients, virtual desktop, notebooks, and peripherals (printers, monitors, and projectors).
  • Infrastructure Solutions Group: Branded as part of Dell EMC, the Infrastructure Solutions Group represents the merger of the former Dell Enterprise Solutions Group and the EMC Information Infrastructure Group. The Infrastructure Solutions Group includes storage, servers, Virtustream and RSA, along with technologies supporting cybersecurity, cloud and hybrid cloud, big data, and data center infrastructure (including converged infrastructure technologies).
  • Dell EMC Services: Dell EMC Services provides consulting, training, deployment, support and managed services for business partners and customers across a variety of solution areas including IT operations, software and hardware.

VMware, SecureWorks and Pivotal continue to be strategically aligned with Dell Technologies core business areas. VMware continues to operate as a separate company providing hybrid cloud, mobile computing and software-defined data center solutions. Pivotal offers analytic tools, next-generation software development methodology, and modern cloud-native platforms while SecureWorks solutions focus on incident response and threat intelligence security.

In response to its merger with EMC, Dell and Dell EMC's certification programs have been merged into a single unified Dell EMC Proven Professional certification portfolio. You’ll find that the website, along with the certifications, have a brand-new look and feel. Dell Education Services still covers various CompTIA and Microsoft certifications along with numerous Dell EMC certifications. If you’re not sure where to start on your certification journey, the new Dell EMC Proven Professional certification framework is a great starting point. Here, you’ll find certifications offered at four-skill levels:

  • Dell EMC Certified Associate (DECA): entry or foundational level knowledge
  • Dell EMC Certified Specialist (DECS): technology and role-specific skills required
  • Dell EMC Certified Expert (DECE): advanced experience and skills in multiple technologies
  • Dell EMC Certified Master (DECM): subject matter expert in complex scenarios and multiple technologies

The certification framework is hierarchical with the Specialist certification requiring the lower-level Associate credential as a prerequisite while the Expert level credentials take both the Associate and Specialist credentials as prereqs. Associate and Specialist certifications do not expire. Master and Expert certifications expire after two years.

In Dell’s new certification framework, you’ll find Dell EMC credentials across eight different certification tracks including: Technology Architect (TA), Cloud Architect (CA), Enterprise Architect (EA), Implementation Engineer (IE), Systems Administrator (SA), Platform Engineer (PE), Technical Support Engineer (TSE), and Data Scientist (DS). The certification framework also maps credentials back to specific technology areas (cloud, storage, data protection, server, networking, converged infrastructure and data science) as well as certification maps for role-based credentials.

Available role-based credentials include:

  • Plan and Design Roadmap: The Plan and Design roadmap offers four credentials at the associate level, seven at the specialist level, three expert exams and a single master level (architect) exam.
  • Deploy Roadmap: The Deploy certification path offers four associate level credentials, 13 specialist exams, and four expert exams. Currently, there are no exams at the master level. The roadmap also mentions CompTIA Server+, two product and technology exams, and networking and server associate and professional exams for networking, VxRail Appliance, and PowerEdge.
  • Manage Roadmap: The Manage path offers a single master exam, five expert exams, 15 specialist exams, and four associate exams. Other credentials included as a part of the Manage roadmap including CompTIA Server+, VMware VCP credentials, two product technology exams, as well as associate and professional exams in server and networking.
  • Support Roadmap: The Support Roadmap includes one associate exam, seven specialist exams, and one expert exam. The roadmap mentions CompTIA Server+ along with associate and professional networking and PowerEdge exams.

Certification candidates should register with Dell EMC TechDirect. From the TechDirect portal, candidates may access free exam prep materials, schedule exams, and view exam results and their certification transcripts. Candidates may also view their company's competency status through the TechDirect portal.

Dell Partners whose employees have earned the Certified Deployment Professional badge may be eligible to earn the Services Competency for Deployment or simply the Deployment Competency designation. To earn this competency, Partners must be at least at the Gold tier level and have two or more employees who've passed the associated exam. A formal application must be submitted to Dell requesting Deployment Competency designation. Deployment Competency designations are available for Server, Storage, Networking and Client Systems.

Because Dell’s certification portfolio has been updated, it’s well worth your time to spend a few minutes perusing the new Dell EMC Proven Professional Certification Framework to understand the new certification flow. All certification tracks begin by selecting a technology concentration with candidates choosing from Cloud, Storage, Data Protection, Server, Networking, Converged Infrastructure, and Data Science. Next, candidates earn the Associate (DECA) level credential recommended for their technology track. From there, candidates select the applicable role-based certification roadmap (Plan and Design, Deploy, Manage or Support) and follow the certification recommendations to earn Specialist, Expert and Master credentials available in that certification path.

Below, we’ve included some examples of the many certifications you’ll find in the new Dell EMC certification program. We’ve chosen to present these certification examples by the available technology tracks.

Here are more details on the Dell EMC certification tracks:

The Server technology roadmap is the only certification path where a third-party certification, the CompTIA Server+, serves as the associate-level credential.

  • Implementation Engineer, Power Edge Specialist (DECS-IE): Certification is focused on IT professionals working with Dell EMC Power Edge Server technology and products. To earn the credential, candidates must first obtain either the CompTIA Server+ or Dell Certified Associate-PowerEdge credential plus pass the specialist exam.  The exam targets PowerEdge Rack and Tower Services, installation, configuration (server storage, iDRAC,, and LifeCycle Controller), as well as maintenance and troubleshooting.
  • Information Storage and Management Associate(DECA-ISM): This credential validates a candidate’s knowledge of data center infrastructure, storage systems, security, replication management, backup, archive, replication, storage networking technologies (Fibre Channel SAN, Internet Protocol SAN and Fibre Channel over Ethernet SAN), plus Storage systems (file-based, object-based, software-defined, block-based and intelligent).
  • Implementation Engineer, SC Series Specialist (DECS-IE): This certification targets professionals working with Dell EMC SC Series storage products. Skills covered include Dell Storage Manager installation and configuration, SC Series hardware and cabling (including Fibre Channel and iSCSII), SC Series configuration, administration (Storage Manager and SC Series) and SAN HBA and switch configuration. To earn the cert, candidates must possess the Associate-Information Storage and Management Version 1.0, 2.0 or 3.0 credential plus pass the Specialist exam.
  • Expert – SC Series (DCEC): An expert level certification, candidates must possess the Specialist Implementation Engineer, SC Series certification plus pass the expert exam to earn this credential. The exam is focused on SC Series Storage product-related technologies including hardware installation, initializing storage arrays, array configuration, failover testing, host confirmation, and front-end storage networking configuration.
  • Certified Associate – Networking: This credential targets professionals working with Dell EMC networking switches. Candidates should possess at least one year of networking experience with six months focused on installing and managing EMC networking switches and be able to install, configure and troubleshoot networking switches.
  • Certified Professional – Networking: This credential targets experienced Dell hardware professionals. Candidates should possess one to three years of experience, plus at least one year of direct experience managing or deploying Dell hardware solutions. Successful candidates will also possess an understanding of deployment, cutover and integration planning, Dell tools used for deployment, and network configuration and troubleshooting.
  • Cloud Infrastructure and Services Associate (DECA-CIS): This cert focuses on using cloud computing reference architectures to build cloud infrastructures, cloud technologies and processes, cloud infrastructures, digital transformations, cloud services and applications, cloud security, business continuity, and cloud service management.
  • Cloud Infrastructure Specialist (DECS-CA): This credential is the specialist level of the Dell EMC Cloud Architect certification. Candidates must possess either the Associate level of the Information Storage Management (V2.0 or 3.0) or the Cloud Infrastructure and Services (V1.0, 2.0 or 3.0) credential plus pass the specialist exam. The exam focuses on cloud-related topics including design, management, available resources (includes network, storage and computing), monitoring, hybrid cloud and disaster recovery.
  • Cloud Architect, Cloud Services Expert (DECE-CA): This certification is the expert level of the Dell EMC Cloud Architect certification. As with the DECS-CA, candidates need to possess either the Associate-level Information Storage and Management (V2.0, or 3.0) or Cloud Infrastructure and Services (V1.0 or 2.0) credentials plus the DECS-CA and pass the expert level exam. The credential validates a candidate’s skill in planning and designing cloud infrastructures, business transformation, ITaaS environments, cloud services, security, governance, and financial and organizational planning.
  • Data Protection and Management – Associate (DECA-DPM): This credential validates a candidate’s understanding of the data protection technologies, components and processes.
  1. Converged Infrastructure: Converged Infrastructure targets professionals who maintain, backup, configure, upgrade, troubleshoot, monitor and administer VxBlock Systems. Two credentials are offered:
    • Converged Systems and Hybrid Cloud Version 1.0 – Associate (DECA-CSHC): This is a foundation-level certification that focuses on a candidate’s understanding of how to effect transformation using Dell EMC Converged Systems and Digital and IT Transformation.
    • Systems Administrator, Converged Infrastructure V1.0 – Specialist (DECS-SA): This credential validates a candidate’s knowledge of VxBlock Systems concepts, administration, security, resource management, maintenance and troubleshooting.
  • Data Science Associate (DECA-DS):  A foundation level credential for those just entering the realm of Data Science and big data analytics, this certification focuses on the tools and techniques commonly used in data analytics.
  • Advanced Analytics Specialty (DECS-DS): This certification focuses on using advanced analytic methods to identify and make solution recommendations for business problems. Methods include Visualization, Hadoop (including Hive, Hbase and Pig), Natural Language Processing and Social Network Analysis.

In addition to its Certified Deployment Professional certifications, Dell Education Services has partnered with several third-party organizations and is authorized to provide certifications for CompTIA and Microsoft.

CompTIA is a well-known vendor-neutral certification provider. Dell offers several training courses for CompTIA certs, including A+, Network+, Security+, Linux+, Cloud+, Advanced Security Practitioner (CASP) and Server+. The cost for CompTIA training courses ranges from $300 to $575.

Dell offers numerous Microsoft certifications for Microsoft Server (Exchange Server, Lync Server and Windows Server), Desktop (SharePoint, SQL Server, System Center and Hyper-V) and Database (Windows Client, Server and Desktop Infrastructure). Candidates can expect to pay around $2,900 for most courses, although there are some Windows 10 training bundles available that cost between $7,395 and $9,495.

According to Dell, 78 percent of all companies utilize IT deployment services. With such a widespread need, IT professionals specializing in deployment find a demand for their skills across multiple industry sectors. Some of the sectors that Dell serves include education, energy, financial services, government (federal, state and local), healthcare, manufacturing, retail, telecommunications, media and entertainment, web development and more.

Popular job boards, such as TechCareers, SimplyHired and Glassdoor, reveal numerous jobs available for Dell-certified deployment professionals. Most of the positions listed focus on engineering roles for server, virtualization, networking, systems, integration and the like. Other available roles include consulting positions, account executives, system administrators, information technology managers and deployment managers.

Dell recommends and offers core training courses for each of its Dell EMC credentials. Interested candidates who register on DirectTech website will also be able to access free exam study guides. In addition, Dell offers many free e-Learning courses at the foundation level on various Dell products and technologies including networking, storage, data protection, big data, converged infrastructure and more.

Core recommended training for each solution track includes a basic, intermediate and advanced course. Prices vary but candidates can expect to pay between $2,500 to $5,000. Most training is a combination of eLearning activities that are completed prior to attending instructor-led training.

Dell also provides training for other certifications as well as training opportunities for end users and IT professionals in a variety of disciplines, including:

Fundamental or intro-level courses typically cost $100 to $200, whereas advanced-level training courses may cost thousands of dollars (we found one course with a price tag of $10,000). Dell also offers onsite training courses, with most prices running at least double that of public courses. The most expensive course we found topped $42,000 for an onsite course.

Check out everything Dell has to offer at its Education Services web page.

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.

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