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Much is made about certifications in the channel. Yet, for the most part, certifications are used to winnow out solution providers that don’t want to make the necessary investment to succeed with a particular product or technology.

Unfortunately, certifications are fairly blunt instruments that often do more to discourage some solution providers from engaging with a technology. From their perspective, they are already committing time and effort on behalf of a vendor. A certification is really just another tax on top on those costs—especially when all that’s involved in attaining that certification is an online exam. To add further insult to that injury, few vendors adequately promote partners in the marketplace that have made the effort to be certified.

One of the latest vendors trying to get the certification equation right is Zend, a provider of tools for building Web applications in PHP. Zend executives believe a lot of developers claim to be proficient in PHP when they are really not.

The purpose of a new PHP certification effort is to make it easier for customers to identify developers with world-class PHP skills, said Joshua Solomin, director of product marketing for Zend. As a programming language that has been used to develop hundreds of thousands of Web apps, there’s no real shortage of developers with PHP skills. Yet not all developers are equally skilled; for that reason, Zend is launching a certification program.

Developed in conjunction with Pearson, the certification test has about 70 questions that should take 90 minutes to answer, Solomin said. Some of the questions require developers to write a small amount of code. But for the most part, because the certification was created by an independent review board, it serves the purpose of identifying developers with the greatest amount of PHP knowledge, Solomin said.

There may never be the perfect certification. At best, certifications help identify people, rather than organizations, with a basic set of necessary skills. However, because the certification process is often inherently flawed, many vendors don’t spend much time promoting the certifications of their partners even though many vendors charge for the privilege of attaining the certification.

When that’s the case, maybe they shouldn’t charge their channel partners for the privilege of getting the certification. If partners are willing to do the work to become skilled enough to sell the vendors’ products, they shouldn’t make certifications into profit centers.

Michael Vizard has been covering IT issues in the enterprise for 25 years as an editor and columnist for publications such as InfoWorld, eWEEK, Baseline, CRN, ComputerWorld and Digital Review.