CompTIA, perhaps the largest association serving VARs and channel partners, is making progress with its open source education strategy. The latest example: CompTIA and the Linux Professional Institute (LPI) are expected to announce an international certification partnership on April 7. Here's the scoop.

Under terms of the agreement, CompTIA is expected to adopt LPI's Level One certification exams (know as LPIC-1) for the CompTIA Linux+ certification. The move, sources say, will allow VARs and IT support specialists to earn a so-called "CompTIA Linux+ Powered by LPI" certification and the existing LPIC-1 certification.

Short term, the move represents a potential win-win of sorts for CompTIA and LPI. It also offers clarity to professionals who were trying to decide between the CompTIA and LPI certifications.

But longer term, The VAR Guy believes both firms will need to continue adding more value to the open source certification market -- perhaps through a potential certification involving LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP, etc.).

The Upside

Still, let's focus on the apparent April 7 news.

By partnering up with LPI, CompTIA gains instant credibility in the open source market.

Sure, CompTIA offered the Linux+ certification, but The VAR Guy believes it was a secondary market option -- trailing LPI certification as well as vendor-centric Linux certifications from Red Hat and Novell. Going forward, the LPI relationship potentially helps CompTIA to strengthen its brand within open source circles.

Meanwhile, the CompTIA relationship potentially allows LPI to pull more VARs and solutions providers into the Linux market. No doubt, Linux itself is a popular platform. But many VARs remain Microsoft-centric in their business practices.

Recent Moves

CompTIA has been mulling its open source strategy for quite some time. The association has been speaking more regularly with Red Hat and open source application providers, and Red Hat North America Channel Chief Roger Egan was a guest speaker at CompTIA Breakaway 2009, a channel-centric event that attracted more than 1,000 attendees (including The VAR Guy...).

Also of note: Robert Stegner, senior VP of North America marketing at Synnex, joined CompTIA's board in January 2010. Stegner plays a key role in the Open Source Channel Alliance -- a Synnex- and Red Hat-led effort to train 15,000 Synnex partners on open source opportunities.

Lingering Challenges

Despite the CompTIA-LPI partnership, the open source industry continues to face challenges in the IT channel.

For starters,  it's sometimes difficult for Linux solutions providers to differentiate in basic areas like file, print and web server deployments. Also, a serious disconnect between the Linux industry and small business owners remains unsolved.

Also, the real open source action, going forward, involves virtualization, middleware, cloud computing and so-called application appliances. Some prime examples:

Moving Upstream?

For CompTIA and LPI, there continues to be a market opportunity to train the masses on Linux. But The VAR Guy expects higher-margin open source opportunities to shift to the application and middleware levels. That's where potential certifications involving LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP, etc.) enter the picture.

Still, The VAR Guy is getting ahead of himself. The latest news apparently involves a simple, well-intentioned Linux certification partnership between CompTIA and LPI. On paper it makes perfect sense. But The VAR Guy will be watching to see how CompTIA and LPI execute on their anticipated partnership.

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