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OpenStack certification: Taking the COA exam

Are you using OpenStack? Maybe not yet, but it may be in your future. According to the OpenStack Foundation Annual Survey, the number of full production OpenStack deployments rose from 49% in April 2015 to 65% in April 2017. And the trend shows no sign of significantly slowing down.

As the adoption of OpenStack increases, the need for management skills and tooling increases as well. Organizations will start looking for OpenStack expertise within their own organization. And those with OpenStack skills listed on their résumé are likely to be in high demand.

Unfortunately, the OpenStack infrastructure can still be a little complex for those new to it to jump into due to the variety of features and its sheer scale. However, by utilizing the right tooling and educational resources, becoming an OpenStack expert is within reach.

If you think OpenStack may be on your doorstep soon, it’s worth looking into taking the Certified OpenStack Administrator (COA) exam. Even if you’ve been using OpenStack for a while, this is a good opportunity to verify your expertise and add another in-demand skill to your résumé.

What is the Certified OpenStack Administrator exam?

The COA exam is a vendor-neutral test of an IT professional’s familiarity and competency with the core components of OpenStack. The exam avoids including the nuances found between the ever-changing versions of OpenStack, but rather seeks to determine if someone can use OpenStack at the most basic level.

How does it work?

The COA exam is a skills-based test. Takers are put into a miniature production environment and are required to perform tasks or solve problems using the command line interface and Horizon dashboard, based on OpenStack Liberty. Proctors monitor the exam by streaming audio, video and screen-sharing feeds. Candidates will not be graded on the specific commands they use, but rather on the final state of the environment.

The exam can be taken on SuSE or Ubuntu. Candidates are tested on 10 specific aspects of OpenStack:

  • Getting to know OpenStack
  • Identity management
  • Dashboard
  • Compute
  • Object storage
  • Block storage
  • Networking
  • Heat/Orchestration
  • Troubleshooting
  • Image management

Find more specifics about the requirements on the COA requirements page.

How to prepare

It’s recommended that candidates have six months of professional experience before they take the exam. However, there are plenty of trainings and classes available that can help get you prepared, perhaps sooner if need be.

For example, the OpenStack Foundation marketplace offers training resources, including courses from vendors like HP. If you are new to OpenStack, The Linux Foundation offers an OpenStack course that provides videos, downloadable study guides and hands-on lab training aimed at OpenStack certification.

Requirements and OpenStack certification time

Test takers will have to provide their own front-end hardware with Chrome or Chromium browser, internet access and a microphone. You do not need your own Linux installation or VM. Use the compatibility check tool to verify that you meet the requirements.

Right now the exam costs $300, but check the exam info page to verify the cost in case that changes. Once scheduled, you are given 12 months to complete the exam, with one free retake allowed during the 12-month period.

The OpenStack certification lasts for three years. After that, candidates will have to re-take the COA exam to remain certified.