The Value of Vendor-Neutral Database Certification

Feb 9, 2008 / By Sheeri Cabral

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A company has come up with a vendor-neutral database certification exam. Some are wondering how much use this will be, as it doesn’t go into vendor-specificities. Now, the specifics of how a query optimizer handles queries, how backups, restores and security are done and with MySQL specifically, how different storage engines act are very important.

Very important.

However, it’s also important to have the fundamentals. I know relational algebra and relational calculus, because I studied at Brandeis University under the tutelage of Mitch Cherniack. It was there that I grew to love databases; I blame Mitch for it all.

From CIW’s website:

This new vendor-neutral certification focuses on universal database design principles and SQL. Aimed at database programmers and administrators alike, the exam helps solve the problem of poorly designed databases and validates foundational knowledge of any database, regardless if it’s Oracle, IBM, DB2, MySQL or others.

And I can tell you that having not only gotten a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, but having gotten a Master’s degree and specialized in databases during that Master’s degree — universal database design principles *definitely* help solve the problem of poorly designed databases. Understanding relational algebra will help you understand the foundation of SQL, and just might give you an appreciation for a declarative language.

As with all theoretical education in computer science, it might not seem to help a junior or even mid-level DBA. As a Systems Administrator, bootstrapping had very little place in my every day life, but after over 3 years of being a sysadmin, a lot of the underlying “how computers work in general” helped. Yes, I also needed to know how a particular operating system worked.

For me, it will be interesting to see if companies value a vendor-neutral database certification as they would a degree. It seems to cover the same topics, at least from my standpoint. Honestly, I think it would help programmers a lot more than it would help DBAs; at least in the MySQL world, as so many people who call themselves DBAs have very little knowledge of basic concepts — vendor-neutral *or* MySQL specific. (The blogging community aside, of course….the various blogs I’ve read from links and posts on Planet MySQL (from MySQL) and The Log Buffer (from The Pythian Group) are usually excellent and well-informed).

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