I’ve been thinking about education lately.

Perhaps I’m being influenced by the commencement (and pseudo-commencement) speeches uploaded to LinkedIn recently. Perhaps it’s because I turn 40 in a week and I’ve been reflecting on my time at college. Or perhaps it’s because I see a gap in practical IT education.

Once upon a time, colleges taught basic skills, concepts and abstractions. To some extent they still do. But over the past thirty years or so, there’s been a shift toward practical education. Now, at almost any college or university, you can take certification courses for becoming a teacher, or certificate courses in marketing, or even programs to help you become a nurse. These are essentially professional or vocational tracks that enable folks to get, and keep jobs. They enable, and foster, career development.

So I ask you — where are the certification courses for becoming a data center architect or implementer?

For the most part, the answer is…the vendors. If you want to learn the latest and greatest ideas about data center design, for the most part you’ll be taking courses from folks that sell hardware, software, and services. Outside of companies like HP and Cisco, there are just a few places that offer certifications in data center design and implementation.

I have never met someone who has taken one of these non-vendor courses, so I can’t judge them. But I’ve met thousands of people who take vendor led courses.

On one hand, a vendor-led course or certification can be a good thing. If you’re taking courses from HP, you’ll learn an immense amount about HP. And you’ll end up with a certification that appeals to employers who run HP hardware. You can build a career on those certifications, like MCSE, VCP, CCNA, etc etc.

But a vendor-led education automatically creates three gaps.

1. You cannot get an independent, agnostic view of the landscape. The vendor will, to some degree or another, be selling you on what they make, even if someone else has better hardware or software. Imagine a course from VMware on Hyper-V…not good.

2. Innovation gets obscured. I remember, at one time, a major IT storage vendor spent years training IT architects to believe that SAS drives were unsafe, unstable, dangerous in production environments — simply because they made a design choice to avoid SAS drives for the time being.

3. Your education only appeals to companies who like that vendor. If you’re applying to a Dell shop and you have Cisco certifications, you’ll likely at a disadvantage.

There are bodies out there that test and certify nearly any kind of professional you can think of — except data center architects. I think there’s a gap out there for agnostic data center design/implementation training and certification. Imagine how much fun it would be, and how profitable, to spend time working on HP, Dell, IBM, and Cisco servers — side by side, learning the advantages and disadvantages of each. Imagine how valuable that would be for career development — and success.

Anyone have such a course? Anyone want to launch such a course?