Cloud Essentials is a new certification from CompTIA (CLO-001) focused on helping business and IT decision makers understand cloud IT services. The objectives for the exam are solid and the 2-day course fills a significant gap. These are actually topics I’ve been lecturing on for several years so I’m happy to see them put together in a certification exam. This review, however, is strictly on the textbook Cloud Essentials (ISBN 1424619416) published in 2012 by ElementK.
This book is, unfortunately, the only text published for this exam so far. ElementK hardly has a reputation among instructors for great teaching material. They are expensive, poorly written, lacking inspiration, and often full of errors. Cloud Essentials lives up to the ElementK standard. Typos and examples of poor grammar abound. Granted, all of us struggle grammatically with “the cloud” (or is it “the Cloud”) but, as a textbook publisher ElementK really needs to set, or adopt, some standards. In no estimation is a sentence like “…for all services and applications that will use cloud” correct (p. 129). There are cloud services, cloud infrastructure, cloud providers, and the cloud but not simply …cloud…”
Lesson 5 discusses successful steps to cloud adoption which aligns with domain 4.0 of the objectives. What I would love to see here is a checklist. Some type of guide that participants can take back to their organizations and start the process. The objectives discuss roles and capabilities of vendors, skills required in an organization, success factors, approaches for migrating applications, selection criteria for a pilot, etc. Lesson 5 presents anything but a checklist. After several readings I’m left wondering what the author was getting at and where they got their information. On page 121, discussing migrating applications to the cloud (domain 4.4), the author talks about “Patterns of Cloud Migration” including application re-hosting, service facade, re-host and optimize, and re-architect. Now I’ve been teaching IT a long time and I find the section unintelligible and struggled to place the concepts in context. In fact, it is the right terminology and it does cover domain 4.4 but the book just doesn’t explain how. For a little better explanation see Wilkes’ 2011 paper on “Application Migration Patterns for the Service Oriented Cloud“. Wilkes abstract places this domain in the context we need “As well as deploying new applications to the cloud, many organizations will also be considering the opportunities to migrate current applications to the cloud… The patterns can also be seen as a sequence of activities, through which the current application is gradually modernized” Not, as ElementK tries to explain “The cloud infrastructure can be hosted in four different patterns”
Like many ElementK texts this one is anonymous so we have no idea the credentials or skill-level of the author. Unlike textbooks on topics such as Word or Photoshop, this book talks about standards and practices. Not even ITIL in Lesson 6 is referenced further than a link to www.itil-officialsite.com. The objectives state that the audience is “consultants, business and IT management, analysts.” Now, are these folks supposed to return to their decision makers and defend their assertions with “well ElementK said so”? Of all the ElementK books this is the one that needs a bibliography. How about some footnotes as well. Unless, of course, this author invented the patterns of application migration as well as everything else in this book?
This book may, indeed, provide the bare minimum of terminology and rote memorization needed to pass the exam. Beyond that I can’t imagine it has any usefulness to a working professional. Students will not have any usable process to follow when they return to work, nor will they have any idea where to look for more information. As an instructor I absolutely hate having to apologize and compensate for a textbook. This one requires both in every chapter for a 2-day course. Perhaps the book’s exceptional ancillary materials will compensate. Oh, wait, I didn’t mention it comes with crossword puzzles?
Disclaimer: I am reading an electronic promo copy provided by ElementK.
Update: 16 October 2012
Since this review was published I have become a member of the review board for ITPreneurs working on their version of the curriculum. There have been several good books published since this article (look for reviews soon) that can be found on Amazon. STI will be carrying and teaching from the ITPreneurs materials. I believe they are of a very high quality with a scheduled review every 6 months conducted by a board of experts (including myself).