This feature first appeared in the Spring 2016 issue of Certification Magazine. Click here to get your own print or digital copy.
Venerable industry giant IBM turned 100 years old in 2011. Big Blue survived all those long decades by keeping an eye on trending industries where its products and services could find a neat fit.In 2016, that strategy has prompted the company to become one of the top players in the enterprise security and services space. And those efforts are bearing fruit — IBM Security was a $2 billion business in 2015, and research firm Gartner has the business unit pegged as the fastest growing vendor in the global security software market.This success is not a surprise for the company that essentially wrote the book on how to develop an ideal mix of products and services. "Clients need the right solutions," said Carola Cazenave, VP Sales and Ecosystem for the IBM Security business unit, "and the right people to safeguard their most critical data. IBM offers both."
The rapid growth of IBM Security has had an impact on the company's professional certification platform. IBM Security Certification, part of the larger IBM Professional Certification Program, is expanding to keep in step with the company's security business initiatives.
"Our objective is to grow the IBM Security Certification program by developing certifications for the most strategic and sought-after IBM Security products and solutions," said Helene Untch, who serves as the Certification Program Manager for IBM Security. "IBM Certified Professionals have proven credentials, which are an added assurance to security clients."
The growth of the IBM Security Certification program is evident in the impressive number of new certification exams that debuted in 2015, with more exams to come later this year.
IBM recognizes that information security remains a top priority for corporations, governments, and managers of public utilities. There is no shortage of news reports about security breaches compromising confidential data, generating millions of dollars in credit card fraud, and even potentially endangering lives.
Hospitals in the United States, Canada, and Germany have recently experienced attacks in which hackers used "ransomware" malware to lock administrators out of vital systems, in order to extort payments in return for unlocking the compromised systems.
"Data security breaches are becoming more common and expensive," said Junaid Siddique, IBM Security Worldwide Sales Leader, addressing the growing expenses related to cybercrimes. "Global studies show that the average total cost of a data breach is now $3.8 million."
IBM has stepped up its game to meet the challenges posed by today's cybercriminals. The IBM Security unit has 7,500 researchers, developers and SMEs, all dedicated to working on security products and services.
The IBM Security Certification program is fairly granular — many exams focus on specific enterprise security products. The program also features certifications built around certain job roles, however, like the IBM Security Intelligence Solution Advisor V1 credential.
"Currently, the job roles (associated with IBM Security certifications) range from analysts, administrators, integration professionals, deployment professionals, and solution advisors," said Untch. "IBM Security certifications are developed to measure technical skills for job roles at specified levels — entry, intermediate, and advanced.
"Each certification is developed by technical subject matter experts who are practitioners of the job role to which the certification is built."
By closely linking its certification program with its portfolio of security products and services, IBM has created an ideal situation for IT security professionals looking to specialize in one or more specific technologies. This specialized knowledge and skill set often gives job candidates an advantage in a highly competitive job market.
IBM Security Certification currently offers the following categories of credentials:
- IBM Certified Administrator
- IBM Certified Analyst
- IBM Certified Associate
- IBM Certified Associate Administrator
- IBM Certified Associate Analyst
- IBM Certified Deployment Professional
- IBM Certified Integration Professional
- IBM Certified Solution Advisor
- IBM Certified Specialist
Candidates can earn certain credentials multiple times for different IBM products. For example, the IBM Certified Associate certification is linked to over a half dozen unique products, with individual exams for each one.
Here is a drill-down into the data IBM Security provides for candidates looking at a certain credential. In this example, we'll look at the IBM Certified Deployment Professional — Endpoint Manager V9.2 certification. (IBM Endpoint Manager is a platform for security management and other core enterprise functions.)
The web page for the Endpoint Manager deployment certification gives candidates a comprehensive description of the related particulars, including the following:
- Job role description and target audience for the certification.
- Key areas of competency associated with the certification.
- Required and recommended prerequisite skills for exam candidates.
- Requirements for earning the certification.
The certification page provides a link to the exam home page, which contains the following information:
- Exam number and overview, including the number of questions, time limit, and passing score.
- A detailed description of the exam objectives, including a link to an associated free study guide.
- Recommended training resources, with links to related IBM training courses.
- A link to a downloadable PDF of sample exam questions, and information for a larger pay-for-play assessment exam.
The overall amount and detail of the information provided to exam candidates is excellent. It is a reflection of the evolution of the IBM Professional Certification Program as a global initiative that has been developed and refined over generations of the company's technology products.
IBM Security Certification is also preparing to award digital credentials for certain certifications, as part of the company's Open Badge Program. These digital badges, developed using the Mozilla Open Badges standard, contain metadata that describes the credential owner's professional qualifications and the requirements of the certification they were awarded. The badges can be used in e-mail signatures, as well as on social media and professional networking sites. It's a unique innovation that adds some extra value to IBM Security certifications.
IBM Security Certification exams are made available through Pearson VUE, which became the company's official exam partner in early 2014. The exam retake policy is similar to other vendors: Candidates who aren't successful on a first attempt can book the exam again without delay. Any subsequent attempts after this are subject to a 30-day waiting period.
Untch also shared some advance information with Certification Magazine concerning an upcoming promotion. During the third quarter of 2016 (July, August and September) the exam fees for a number of IBM Security's recent and new exams will be slashed in half. Candidates will be able to use the promo code IBMSECURITY when they register for their exam during this period to get the 50 percent discount.
The rapid growth of IBM Security as a global security solutions vendor has increased both the value and relevance of its professional certifications. With information security breaches becoming more common and more costly in terms of dollars and reputation, both private and public sector groups are looking for certified security professionals to counter the expanding threat of cybercrime.
As IBM Security's products continue to make headway into the enterprise, IBM Certified Professionals should expect to find greater demand for their knowledge and skills.