Alphabet Inc. is the holding company that owns Google, along with a portfolio of other companies and assets. Among these many entities – including Calico, Sidewalk Labs, Chronicle, Dandelion, DeepMind, Google Fiber, Waymo and numerous others – Google is certainly first and foremost. By itself, even Google is no simple beast, though. It acts as the umbrella company for all of Alphabet's business with an internet focus or connection, including the Android mobile OS, YouTube and Google Search, among many other elements.
Given Google's enormous market recognition and mindshare, it may come as something of a surprise to learn that it is not the market leader in cloud services and delivery. In fact, Google didn't make Forbes' 2017 list of The Top 5 Cloud Computing Vendors. That said, the Google Cloud Platform (GCP) is a member of the top five such platforms, along with Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services, which routinely swap between first and second place. Oracle and IBM also place in the top five as well, often ahead of the Google Cloud Platform, depending on the metrics used to rank them.
Given all this, Google has powerful incentives to create and get behind a potent and well-regarded certification program for the Google Cloud Platform. Its efforts over the past two or three years are starting to pay some dividends, as an upcoming chart of job board search results will illustrate. But first, let's take a look at the Google Cloud Platform certification portfolio as it currently stands.
The Google Cloud Platform certification portfolio
The Google certification program has experienced significant growth since our last update. At our last update, Google offered three certifications, one at the associate level and two at the professional level. Today, Google offers one associate-level credential, five professional level certifications, plus a certification aimed at G Suite productivity and collaboration tools. Current certifications include:
- Associate Cloud Engineer
- Professional Cloud Architect
- Professional Data Engineer
- Professional Cloud Developer
- Professional Cloud Network Engineer
- Professional Cloud Security Engineer
- G Suite certification
To earn a Google certification, candidates must pass a single exam. All exams are reasonably priced with professional-level exams costing $200, $125 for associate-level exams, and $75 for the G Suite exam.
Associate- and professional- exams must be taken at a Kryterion testing center. At present, the G Suite exam is remote. While there are no mandatory prerequisites for any certification, training is highly recommended, and Google maintains links to various training resources on the respective exam web page.
Google is also affiliated with Coursera, and candidates will find formal training available through Coursera as well. At least six months of experience working with Google Cloud Platform is recommended for associate-level credentials, and a minimum of three years of industry experience for professional-level certifications with at least one year in designing and managing GCP solutions.
Google Cloud Platform: Associate Cloud Engineer
The Associate Cloud Engineer (ACE) deploys applications, monitors operations and manages enterprise solutions. He or she can use Google Cloud Console and the command line to complete common platform-based tasks. An ACE also maintains one or more deployed solutions that use either Google- or self-managed services in the Google Cloud environment.
To qualify candidates, the ACE exams seek to assess these specific abilities regarding Google Cloud solutions:
- Set up a Google Cloud Platform environment
- Plan and configure a Google Cloud Platform environment
- Deploy and implement a Google Cloud Platform environment
- Ensure successful operation of a Google Cloud Platform environment
- Configure access and security controls for a Google Cloud Platform environment
Google recommends two training courses: Google Cloud Platform Fundamentals: Core Infrastructure and Architecting with Google Cloud Platform: Infrastructure and are available in ILT and online formats. Both courses are also offered in affiliation with Coursera. Qwiklabs also offers Google Platform Essentials labs and a Cloud Architect Quest to support hands-on learning and experience.
It's absolutely correct to treat the ACE as the entry-level credential for the Google Cloud Platform. It's most likely to appeal to early-stage or mid-career IT professionals interested in cloud computing, who work with (or want a job with an organization that uses) the Google Cloud Platform. The ACE represents a great way for such people to learn and acquire the skills and knowledge needed to set up, deploy and manage a runtime environment that incorporates the Google Cloud Platform.
Google Cloud Platform: Professional Cloud Architect
The Professional Cloud Architect (PCA) enables organizations to make effective and efficient use of Google Cloud technologies. PCAs must develop a thorough understanding of cloud architecture in general, and the Google Cloud Platform in particular. Those who hold this credential can design, develop and manage dynamic Google Cloud Platform solutions to meet business objectives that are robust, secure, scalable and highly available.
To qualify for the PCA, the exams seek to assess these specific abilities regarding Google Cloud Platform solutions:
- Design and plan a cloud solution architecture
- Manage and provision a cloud solution architecture
- Build cloud solutions that are secure and compliant
- Perform technical and business analyses to optimize processes, procedures and policies
- Manage cloud architecture implementations
- Ensure that cloud solutions and operations are reliable and remain available
A slate of related curriculum elements for the PCA is available online through Coursera, or in the classroom, as candidates' needs and budgets may dictate. The same labs and quests offered for the ACE also apply to the PCA as well.
The PCA represents a more senior credential that's most likely to appeal to mid- to late-career professionals interested in filling a cloud architect role in an organization of some size. Thus, the ACE makes a pretty good precursor to the PDE (even though it's not formally required as a pre-requisite).
Google Cloud Platform: Professional Data Engineer
The Professional Data Engineer (PDE) focuses more on analyzing and using data stored in the Google Cloud Platform, rather than in designing, deploying or maintaining such environments as with the ACE and the PCA. As such, a PDE supports and facilitates data-driven decision-making based on collecting, transforming and visualizing data. Such professionals design, build, maintain and troubleshoot data processing systems. The PDE curriculum and exam puts particular emphasis on ensuring that such data processing systems are secure, reliable and fault-tolerant, as well as scalable, accurate, and efficient.
To qualify for the PDE, the exams seek to assess these specific abilities regarding Google Cloud Platform solutions:
- Build and maintain data structures and databases within the Google Cloud Platform
- Design data processing systems based on the Google Cloud Platform
- Analyze data to support machine learning within the Google Cloud Platform
- Model business processes for analysis and optimization within the Google Cloud Platform
- Design for reliability and robustness, security and compliance within the Google Cloud Platform
- Visualize data and advocate policy within the Google Cloud Platform
A different slate of courses is offered for the PDE, covered on the Data and Machine Learning page at Google Training. Candidates may choose among courses for three tracks for this credential: a data analyst track, a data engineering track and a data scientist track. In addition to a data engineering quest for hands-on PDE training, Google also offers an advanced, four-week machine learning advanced solutions lab at the main Google campus in Mountain View, California. A set of five practice exams may be purchased from Udemy.com for $24.99.
IT professionals interested in big data, data analysis, and/or machine learning are most likely to be attracted to the PDE. It's a great credential for those with strong data interests and proclivities anywhere in their IT careers, though a strong background and interest in mathematics and data modeling/analysis is strongly recommended.
Professional Cloud Developer
The Professional Cloud Developer (PCD) is ideal for candidates who use Google services, tools and recommended practices to design, build, test, and deploy highly available and scalable applications. Candidates should possess the skills necessary to successfully integrate GCP services and conduct application performance monitoring. While not covered on the exam, candidates need to be able to successfully use Stackdriver to debug, trace code, and produce metrics. Proficiency in at least one general programming language is also recommended.
The exam is focused on validating a candidate's ability and skill to use GCP services and practices in five key areas:
- Designing cloud-native applications
- Building and testing applications
- Deploying applications
- Integrating Google Cloud Platform Services
- Managing application performance testing
On the certification web page, candidates will find links to an exam outline and sample case studies to help prepare for the exam. Recommended training includes the Google Cloud Platform Fundamentals: Core Infrastructure course and the Developing Applications with Google's Cloud Platform. Quests on application development for Java or Python and core technologies, such as Stackdriver, Google Cloud Solutions: Scaling Your Infrastructure, and Kubernetes solutions, are also recommended.
Professional Cloud Network Engineer
A Google Professional Cloud Network Engineer (CNE) manages and implements network architectures using GCP. In addition to GCP, successful candidates should be skilled in working with technologies such as hybrid connectivity, network architecture security, VPCs, network services, and the GCP Console command line interface.
The exam is comprehensive and covers related topics:
- Designing, planning and prototyping a GCP network
- Implementing a GCP Virtual Private Cloud (VPC)
- Configuring network services
- Implementing hybrid connectivity
- Implementing network security
- Managing and monitoring network operations
- Optimizing network resources
Recommended training includes the Core Infrastructure course and Networking in Google Cloud Platform. If you're looking for hands-on practice, Qwiklabs offers labs for networking in the Google cloud and network performance and optimization.
Professional Cloud Security Engineer
Another newcomer to the Google certification portfolio is the Professional Cloud Security Engineer (CSE). An expert-level credential, CSEs are well-versed in industry security requirements, regulations, best practices, and security-related topics and technologies, such as identity and access management, data protection using GCP, configuring security at the network level, analyzing logs, managing incidents, and recommending organization-wide security policies. CSEs also possess the skills necessary to design, implement and manage secure infrastructures on GCP.
The exam validates a candidate's ability to:
- Configure access within a cloud solution environment
- Configure network security
- Ensure data protection
- Manage operations within a cloud solution environment
- Ensure regulatory compliance
As with other certifications, Google provides a free exam outline and overviews plus in-depth discussions. In addition to the Core Infrastructure course, Google recommends taking the Security in Google Cloud Platform training and the Security and Identity Fundamentals Qwiklabs.
G Suite Credential
The G Suite cert aims at end users of Google's productivity suite. As such, it's likely to have only limited appeal for IT professionals, most of whom learn a productivity suite (MS Office, most typically) before they graduate from high school. The exam targets a candidate's ability to communicate, work with, and manage tasks using the G Suite productivity and collaboration tools, including Drive (cloud-based storage), Gmail (cloud-based email and messaging), Hangouts Meet (online meetings), Docs (cloud-based document creation and editing), Sheets (cloud-based spreadsheets), Forms, and Slides (cloud-based presentation software).
The certification web page contains links to a number of training options including Qwiklabs, self-paced G Suite lessons, applied digital skills, and the G Suite Learning Center.
Google Cloud Platform Certifications
For those who work around or with the Google Cloud Platform, the current certifications seem like a very safe bet for career and personal development. Given high demand, relatively low cost and a single exam for these certifications, the risk-reward ratio looks quite favorable. Be sure to check them out, if you work (or would like to work) in an organization that uses this cloud platform.