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22 essential learning resources for cloud developers and admins

David Linthicum Chief Cloud Strategy Officer, Deloitte Consulting
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Finding the cloud computing resources you need should be easy on the web. Unfortunately, there's so much out there that it’s difficult to find pearls of wisdom in an ocean of weak and inaccurate content. Or worse, you might start reading advertising masquerading as unbiased, authoritative material. It's not until you get into it that you realize you've been had. So how do you sort it all out?

Whether you’re a private or hybrid cloud architect, administrator or developer, you need a practitioner's shortlist list of authoritative resources, from blogs to books, conferences, certifications, and training programs. 

Here's my curated list of top-shelf technical-oriented cloud resources, based on my own experiences with my cloud consulting practice. To keep it short and sweet, I've included resources for developers and administrators, while skipping the more general information that you can come across easily. The list is arranged by category so you can quickly cherry pick the resources that are the best fit for your situation. 


Best certifications for cloud

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is the 800-pound gorilla in the hybrid and public cloud space. The first and most critical certifications that translate directly into highly paid jobs are AWS credentials. That is, unless you're working with Microsoft Azure. Here are my recommendations.

AWS Certified Solutions Architect: This is an AWS “professional” certification for people who are already up to speed on networking and the AWS cloud.  It covers the basics of working from business needs to requirements, to an ultimate solution using the AWS public cloud.  This certification provides an AWS-focused architectural path that will enable you to guide cloud migration projects.AWS-focused architectural path that will enable you to guide cloud migration projects.

AWS Certified Developer: This certification shows that you know how to design, develop and implement cloud-based solutions using AWS. This works up from the developer angle of things, including how to programmatically leverage AWS cloud-native features.

AWS Certified SysOps Administrator: This proves that you understand the provisioning of systems and services on AWS, including automated deployments, as well as best practices and monitoring metrics on AWS.

AWS Certified DevOps Engineer: To achieve this you'll need to learn how to provision, operate and manage distributed applications using AWS.  The certification focuses on the DevOps end of things, including continuous delivery, continuous testing and continuous deployment. Also covered are security controls, governance, and compliance validation. On the ops side, it’s about monitoring, metrics, and logging systems, as well as maintaining operational systems.

CompTIA Cloud+:  CompTIA's Cloud+ certifies your in-depth understanding of cloud terminology and methods for adopting the cloud. If this sounds more basic than the AWS training, well, it is. But if you’re looking for technology-agnostic training, this is a good place to start. I recommend it for cloud developers and administrators who are just getting started on their cloud computing journey, and who want to cover the basics to move beyond their specific technology skills.

MCSE: Private Cloud: This is Windows Server- and System Center-focused certification that's open only to people who already have a Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) certification. If Microsoft technology (including Azure) is in your career path, this is a good place to start. It’s interesting to note that this is the only cloud-labeled certification from Microsoft. But you should also check into Microsoft Certified Solution Developer (MCSD), which also focuses on Azure Web Services.

Training resources for cloud

You don't need classroom training or a boot camp to train for these certifications:  All of the learning materials you need for these certifications are available online. Two of the most popular online-only course providers include:

Cloud Academy: This online-only learning site offers both AWS- and non-AWS-oriented online training.  This includes training for all of the AWS certifications outlined above, as well as basic cloud courses on subjects ranging from from Docker, to OpenStack, to DevOps.  Cloud Academy is a good resource both for cloud basics and technology-specific learning.

Lynda.com: This popular courseware site provides training for pretty much anything.  The cloud computing content is relatively new, but Lynda.com makes complex topics of cloud computing, including containers, DevOps, admin, and development easy to learn. 

Good books for cloud pros

Architecting the Cloud: Design Decisions for Cloud Computing Service Models (SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS):  Mike Kavis provides a good foundation for how to build cloud-based architectures and systems.  This book is geared toward those who are more technical, and is developer-oriented.

Amazon Web Services in Action: Andreas Wittig and Michael Wittig offer a detailed introduction to moving your infrastructure to AWS, and show developers and admins how to get started down the path to AWS.  The book provides both graphical and terminology walkthroughs.

Cloud Computing and SOA Convergence in Your Enterprise: A Step-by-Step Guide: I authored this title, which covers the use of service-based architectures as they relate to cloud computing, and gives developers, admins, and architects a method for moving existing or new applications into public, private, and hybrid clouds. 

Cloud-focused blogs

Lori MacVittie's blog posts on F5's DevCentral blog:  While this is a vendor-sponsored blog, MacVittie has extensive development and technical architecture experience in both high-tech and enterprise organizations, and in network and systems administration.  She focuses on cloud, DevOps, and the emerging use of architecture patterns.  This is a great read for developers and admins, as MacVittie goes deep into the technology, with lots of practical, how-to advice.

Jeff Barr's AWS blog: Jeff is Chief Evangelist for AWS. The depth of the content here will be valuable to both cloud developers and admins. It’s important to understand where AWS is moving if you’re in the cloud. This blog provides a good learning experience, even for those who are on other private, public, and hybrid cloud platforms. I also recommend following Jeff Barr on Twitter.

Cloud Computing BlogMy blog on InfoWorld.com covers cloud news and opinions, as well as examining what's coming.  I use my experience in my consulting practice to take a stand on issues around the state of cloud computing technology, as well as DevOps, IoT, and other issues  shaping the technology world.

CloudPundit blogLydia Leong is a distinguished analyst at Gartner who covers cloud computing, among other subjects. Drawing on her access to Gartner's vast resources, she offers incisive analysis and commentary, and many people follow her on Twitter.  The value for developers and admin is that she goes into technical detail, including guiding enterprises on the right development paths to the cloud. 

Conferences on the cloud

IBM InterConnect: This cloud- and mobile-focused conference is IBM-centric, but it's very well attended, and there is much you can learn from the speakers and attendees. Content is very good overall, due in part to the fact that IBM is a bit more open about allowing its employees to look holistically at the cloud computing world than are some other vendors in this space.

RSA Conference: RSA's event is the gold standard of security conferences, and securing cloud platforms a major theme each year. Developers and admins who deal with cloud security should go to update their skills yearly, and this is a good place to get caught up.

Google Cloud Next: Much like InterConnect, this is a cloud-focused conference from a big vendor in the space. But you’ll find information on much more than just Google's cloud technology, including storage, processing, cloud development, containers, and such. Google conferences have a tendency to be developer-focused, and this one is no exception.

OpenStack Summit: The OpenStack community's conferences run every six months, just after the latest version of its open source IaaS software is released. OpenStack focuses more on private cloud, and is a great place to meet vendors offering the latest distribution. Developers plan the next major release at this conference so you'll be fully up to date on what's coming.

Interop Cloud Connect: This conference may be networking-focused, but check out the cloud computing track. Here you'll hear user implementation stories, see presentations by vendors and practitioners. The level of technical content here gets deep fast. Admins, in particular, will find this event informative.

DreamForce: Salesforce.com's huge confab offers cloud-focused developer and admin tracks, so much so that many developers and admin may get lost in the size and amount of content. However, if you’re an SFDC developer or admin, this is a must-attend event.

Amazon re:Invent: This conference is considered by most to be the major public cloud conference, and is typically sold out.  This is a very technical conference that focuses many of the presentations on things that are valuable to developers and admins. AWS usually reveals a couple of big products at the event, most of which are development-focused.

Next steps: Apply what you learn

There you have it, my shortlist of some of the best learning resources for cloud. But the path to learning in the cloud space isn't limited to just the items I've listed above, of course. And on-the-job training is the best way to solidify the concepts you'll learn along the way.  

What are your favorite resources for cloud developers and admins? Post your thoughts and suggestions below.


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