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Red Hat announced a new learning services and master-level certification, the RHCA (Red Hat Certified Architect), to complement its Linux offerings.

The new enterprise architect courses and RHCA certification are designed for experienced Linux system administrators who already have skills at the level of Red Hat Inc.’s RHCE (Red Hat Certified Engineer) certification.

The RHCA is designed to “develop top-level Linux expertise, for architects who design and manage multiple types of systems in complex infrastructures,” Peter Childers, vice president of Learning Services at Red Hat, said in a statement.

“An RHCA has proven the skills required to plan, design, deploy and manage application servers running operations, back-end databases in the data center and corporate applications on the desktop.”

The new certification, which hasn’t yet been released, has already found enemies. “The new Red Hat Certified Architect further locks Linux professionals in to working with proprietary Red Hat tools,” said Ross Brunson, director of Unix and Linux Education at The Training Camp, the technology training and certification branch of Knowledge Key Associates Inc.

The Training Camp, which offers class work and certification help for Microsoft Corp., Cisco Systems Inc. and several other vendors, has no relationship with Red Hat.

Which program provides a better deal when it comes to added software goodness: MS Software Assurance or Red Hat Network? Click here for a column comparing them.

Brunson advised Linux engineers to “keep their options open with vendor-neutral certifications like the LPI [Linux Professional Institute]. This way, if you have studied for one certification, you can tune up easily enough for the next without being locked in to a single distribution.” The LPI has the support of many Linux vendors such as IBM, Novell Inc. and Turbolinux Inc., but not Red Hat.

Red Hat spokeswoman Leigh Day dismissed the idea that the certification locks in professionals, saying, “RHCA is based on RHEL [Red Hat Enterprise Linux], but RHEL is based on code that’s completely open source and available to the community via the GPL [GNU General Public License].”

“Any tools that we include in the RHEL are open source,” Day added. “We don’t ship tools that aren’t open source.

“We’re not trying to lock in customers to Red Hat,” she said. “This new course is meant to increase the skills of any Linux professional and since RHEL is based on the 2.4 kernel, with some improvements from Linux 2.6, the skills you learn in getting the RHCA are likely to be transferable.”

The new courses and certification will be available later this year. Day was unable to give an exact date. Further details on the RHCA can be found at the RHCA Web site.

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