Redhat and other vendor certification

I’ll note a disclaimer which is that I’m a RHCT. I’ve prepared for other certifications that I never sat for, from Sun, Checkpoint and others. So I have some idea how certification sorta works. I don’t so much have a problem with application-specific certifications like CheckPoint or SQL Server. I also don’t have a problem with a question regarding the dfstab or ticotsord files on a Sun exam, since these are files specific to the system, which must be understood to properly administer a Solaris box. Redhat, on the other hand…

Redhat seems to think that because you choose Redhat as your platform, you’re naturally going to run all of your services using the Redhat-supplied packages. So, the certification doesn’t go over things like how to optimize your kernel using sysctl, or how to get blazing NFS performance by altering the client settings. No, sir. They cover how to deal with their quirky implementations of various open source tools.

Well, in my environment, most of our production services are built from source! SSH, BIND, Apache, Samba, CUPS, Sendmail, IMAP, SSL, OpenLDAP — all built from scratch. Why? Because Redhat is slow to implement features we need, mostly. For example, their OpenLDAP implementation still uses gdbm or ldbm (I don’t remember which), while the entire OpenLDAP developer and user community has been recommending bdb since it was offered as a feature. Another example: their SSH implementation still doesn’t use the “UsePAM” or “UseDNS” configuration directives. For the record, I also don’t remember any SSH server configuration questions on the RHCE exam (which I failed), and OpenLDAP wasn’t covered in any of the material or the exam, in spite of the claims on their website.

So, to those looking to get certification in anything, I say “be careful”. Sure, these certifications look good on a resume. They can help you maintain an edge in the market. This is all good. But before you plunk down $2500+, be sure that you understand what’s going to happen when you get there. The RHCE, in my case, didn’t even come close to representing what I do on a daily basis. Of course, the RHCT is all about configuration of the local machine, and I scored 100%, because that’s one of the things I do every day. My $.02

  • Canadian Basso

    I’m looking at taking the RHCT “just exam” option, to save me some money. I have three years real world experience with RH server admin, but I get worried about exactly what you mentioned here… I compile my important packages from scratch, use non-standard daemons that offer the featureset I need, and in general am certain that I don’t do things the “by-the-book” Redhat Way. Will I get penalized for this on the exam? It’s a practical test, which also has me worried… do you have any advice on the RHCT you could share?