Alphabet, Inc. is the holding company that owns Google, along with a portfolio of other companies and assets. Among these many entities – including Calico, 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 more 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 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 for ranking 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
Credit: Google Cloud Certified
The preceding graphic itemizes the five elements currently resident in the Google Cloud Platform certification portfolio. The top three items are already available, while the bottom two are still in development (but may be released on or before the end of calendar year 2018). Of the top three, the Professional Cloud Architect has been around the longest, having been introduced in 2016. The Professional Data Engineer followed shortly thereafter that same year. The Associate Cloud Engineer is the newest Google Cloud Platform certification: it made its debut in June 2018.
The bottom two certifications both focus on Google's G Suite: its collection of productivity applications that include Google 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), and Slide (cloud-based presentation software). Both credentials are still in development and expected to be released before the end of 2018. The G Suite credential will focus on user skills and knowledge related to G Suite components, while the G Suite Administrator will focus on installing, configuring, managing and troubleshooting an organization's G Suite environment.
Market intelligence from job boards
We use a regular slate of online job boards to compile one-day collections of postings that mention specific certification credentials and related search strings. That slate consists of these four sites: SimplyHired, Indeed, LinkedIn and Linkup. When we visited them to look for information about the Google Platform certifications in August 2018, we discovered some pretty remarkable results. Those for the Associate Cloud Engineer are especially noteworthy, given that the credential's been available for around two months at the time of this writing.
Even the G Suite certifications – which aren't even available yet – show some considerable results. And for the Associate Cloud Engineer to climb from zero to the top of the heap in just two short months is truly remarkable. Its total mentions, at over 13,000, put it in the top tier for all the twenty-plus different certification niches and 200-plus certifications we follow.
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
Earning this credential requires passing a single, two-hour exam that costs $125. Testing is held at Kryterion-affiliated testing centers (locator). Google offers course in affiliation with Coursera for this curriculum, in both online and ILT form. Its Qwiklabs also offer 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
As with the ACE, the PCA requires passing a single exam. It costs $200, and can be taken at a Kryterion testing center (locator). A slate of related curriculum elements for the PCA is likewise 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
Earning a PDE requires passing a single, two-hour exam that costs $200. Once again, it can be taken at a Kryterion testing center (locator). 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.
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.
G Suite Credentials: G Suite and G Suite Administrator
Neither of the two credentials for G Suite is currently available, though both are expected to make their debut before the end of 2018. Each of these credentials requires passing a single, two-hour exam that costs $75. The G Suite and G Suite Administrator web pages do not say if those exams will come through Kryterion and its testing center network, but we'd be surprised if they ultimately came through a different testing channel.
As far as we can tell 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 G Suite Administrator, on the other hand, could be handy for entry-level IT professionals seeking work at some organization, especially in education, where G Suite is popular from Kindergarten through post-graduate, post-doc programs around the world.
Keep an eye on these credentials' web pages to find out more about them and to access exam outlines. Google will no doubt let the world know when either or both are ready for beta testing and public availability.
Google Cloud Platform Certifications
For those who work around or with the Google Cloud Platform, the current certifications available (ACE, PCA and PDE) 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.