[lpi-discuss] Vendor-neutral certification: pro v.s. con

Alan McKinnon alan.mckinnon at gmail.com
Tue Mar 11 17:19:56 EDT 2008

To my mind, this is a no-brainer question. Vendor-neutral Linux 
certifications are a necessity, vendor-specific certifications are a 

I hold current RHCE and LPI certs, I have authored and designed 
LPI-aligned courseware and courses, and delivered them. In my current 
day job I deliver RHCE courses as part of my duties.

I can attest that the vendor-specific courses and certification 
concentrates in large degree on *how* something is done on that 
vendor's system and the reason why the software works that way is a 
secondary item. The vendor is interested in checking if the candidate 
can do specific actions the way they were designed to be done.

LPI exams are different. Because they are not aligned to a specific 
vendor, what gets examined is the upstream defaults. There is an 
obvious focus on why a piece of software works the way it does, what is 
correct usage and what is incorrect. Thus, the candidate is tested n 
their understanding of how the system works as a whole.

This is not to say that vendor-specific certifications are without 
value, that is not true. They are indeed valuable. But if all current 
Linux vendors with certification programs were to disappear tomorrow, 
Linux itself would still exist, life would continue and the industry 
would still need to be able to measure the skills of administrators in 

I have heard the argument that Red Hat's certification for example does 
not tell you much about someone's prowess when confronted with SuSE, or 
Debian or Slackware. I do not agree with this viewpoint as a Linux 
administrator is daily called on to learn new things. Even when using 
only Red Hat Linux he/she will often need to pick up new skills that 
are not covered in the Red Hat exams. This is no different really from 
moving to SuSE from Red Hat - new software, new skills.

The real difference is as I have mentioned above - the type of testing 
that is done in each class of certification:

Vendor-specific certifications test the *how*. Vendor-neutral 
certifications test the *why* and are thus more fundamental.

Alan McKinnon
alan dot mckinnon at gmail dot com

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