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CKA vs. CKAD and Do you Really Need Them?

Certification, in general, is more like a legal tender to show that a person is knowledgeable in something of a particular aspect, particularly in Kubernetes for CKA and CKAD.

A certification is, in many cases, a booster when applying for jobs. It is pretty logical that a candidate applying for a Kubernetes role with a Kubernetes certification will be considered before the candidate without one. The same principle applies to many other cloud-native technologies too, Kubernetes being the focus here.

Getting certified in Kubernetes both as a Kubernetes Administrator or a Kubernetes Application Developer is essential, but taking it that you only need one, which of these certifications do you really need with respect to how you use Kubernetes or how Kubernetes is of an advantage to your field. Let’s go into details of both the CKA and CKAD certifications to help you know which certification is best suited for you.

What is CKA certification?

Certified Kubernetes Administrator (CKA) certification is a certification program offered by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) in collaboration with The Linux Foundation (TLF) to ensure any Kubernetes administrator has what it takes to be a Kubernetes administrator.

Being a Kubernetes administrator means you know how to tend to Kubernetes responsibilities like troubleshooting, workloads and scheduling, networking, etc., during usage. It also includes installing and maintaining a cluster.

What is CKAD certification?

Certified Kubernetes Application Developer (CKAD) certification is a certification program by CNCF and TLF to ensure Kubernetes application developers know how to use Kubernetes to handle cloud-native applications properly and how to use the essential orchestration tools and features.

The candidates of this program will get tested on knowledge of application deployment, application environment, configuration and security, application design and build, etc.

Why CKA? Which job/role needs this certification?

Becoming certified as a Kubernetes administrator is not important because you only use Kubernetes. It’s only important if you handle Kubernetes instances.

A CKA’s role tends towards having the necessary administrative skills to run Kubernetes, know the clusters architecture, know what a cluster administrator would do like configuring a cluster, setting up services and networking, troubleshooting clusters, and setting up storage and workloads and scheduling.

In general, a Kubernetes administrator has to be able to do the basic installation and configuring and managing production-grade Kubernetes clusters.

Why CKAD? Which job/role needs this certification?

A CKADs role is mainly knowing about building, designing, and deploying cloud-native applications that are using containers and deployed to Kubernetes clusters.

A CKAD must be able to use Kubernetes core primitive for scalable applications and define its resources. To get certified as a CKAD, you need to be knowledgeable in application maintenance and observability, application design and build, application deployments, application environment, configuration, security, and also some concepts related to services and networking.

CKA vs. CKAD: What you should know

CKA and CKAD are two different certification programs. They have little things in common and many differences. Being CKA certified means, you can handle Kubernetes itself, while being CKAD certified means you can use Kubernetes to run applications – two totally different knowledge requirements with many intersections.

CKAs need to be Kubernetes administrators and be familiar with Kubernetes internals like etc, TLS bootstrap, and kubelet. In contrast, CKADs need to know how to use Kubernetes objects and tools for scalable applications.

When taking a CKA exam, you need to understand all of the Kubernetes key concepts. There’s no guessing your way through this kind of exam because CKA is a 24 questions exam consisting of 30% troubleshooting, storage 10%, workloads and scheduling 15%, cluster architecture, installation, configuration 25%, services, and networking 20%.

The CKA exam/test is expected to be completed within a 3hrs time range, and you are allowed to open only one additional tab for notepad. The exam is an online and performance-based one that is done with the presence of a proctor and from a command line running a fixed Kubernetes version that you should know by reading the exam details before taking it.

The exam can be retaken once more if you didn’t get your desired score the first time of taking it or if you don’t get up to the required 74% to be certified. Its environment is always aligned with the most recent Kubernetes minor version within 4-8 weeks of its release.

CKAD tests on 20% application design and build, 20% application deployment, 15% application observability, and maintenance, 25% application environment, configuration and security, and 20% services and networking.

Some of the details for CKA, like the exam environment, being online and performance-based, having an extra tab for a notepad, an opportunity for a retake per registration, and a proctor presence, are the same. CKA is a stricter exam than CKAD and has more questions, but that doesn’t make a CKAD exam any less valuable.

CKAD consists of 19 performance-based questions that will be done in a command line.

Do you really need to be certified?

Absolutely not, but it really depends on many factors, including how you’re going to use Kubernetes and your goals from getting the certification done.

If your job is mainly installing, managing, and securing Kubernetes clusters or if 100% of your job is about managing releases deployed to Kubernetes clusters, you will most likely need certification in case you don’t have enough experience to get hired. That’s a good use case where certification will not be wasted.

I’m not going to focus on when you need this certification here, but we’re going to discover why you don’t need it in many cases.

Let’s take the example of Linux. Many of you are knowledgeable about Linux whether from an administration or a development point of view. Many developers use Linux and containers to develop and deploy without any Linux certification.

Many Linux administrators manage tens, hundreds, sometimes thousands of Linux servers without having a Linux certification. The same applies to Kubernetes. There are a lot of competitive people who never passed a single certification, they usually have an excellent experience.

Same if we take the example of the predecessor of containers and Kubernetes, we’re talking about VMs here. As a developer, you may have worked with VMs locally to develop and test or remotely, deploy your applications using the old days’ bash scripts.

Most of the developers reading these lines will remember that they didn’t need to be certified in Xen, VMWare, KVM, ESXI, or any other virtualization technology. You just use them as a tool like you use your laptop or desktop machine.

With the evolution of infrastructure towards everything as code and managed services, managing your infrastructure is becoming less and less tedious.

Today, you have just to write some lines of codes or some commands to build and deploy your applications to the cloud. The rise of managed services like Google Kubernetes Engine or Elastic Kubernetes Service is actually outsourcing many complex responsibilities (like installing and configuring clusters) to the cloud provider.

The rise of low-code, no-code, and no-ops solutions has even lightened the burden and made Kubernetes as easy as pie. For startups, by using these platforms, the time and finances your team may spend to learn the deep internals of Kubernetes can be spent on your core product.

The platform we developed, Wildcard, is a no-code platform that makes creating clusters and deploying services to K8s easy, straightforward and secure without the need to understand complex concepts and architecture.

Technologies make our life easier not harder

We are all using operating systems without understanding assembly, and we are all supposed to use Kubernetes without understanding its internals. The role of technologies is to make human life easy and that is, exactly, our mission.

Our platform allows you to build, test, and deploy your cloud-native applications using the latest technologies like Docker and Kubernetes without writing a single line of code. It allows you to set up and run CI/CD pipelines for your applications while providing advanced security, for example, by storing secrets and sensitive information in a secure vault.

You just need to write your application code, deploy it to a Git then connect it with Wildcard. Wildcard integrates with GitHub and Gitlab to sync your application code and keep its version in a repository.

It supports various web languages and frameworks including JavaScript (Angular, React, and Vue.js), Node.js, Python, .NET, Golang, and Rust.

It’s a no-code platform that provides a solution to help organizations, and developers, even those without DevOps experience or coding knowledge, to successfully implement and manage versioned infrastructure using no-code CI/CD pipelines. It enables collaboration, auditing, automation, and the necessary security in a continuous, straightforward way.

You can use Wildcard to build, deploy, manage and secure applications on Kubernetes without writing a single line of code. Start for free by singing using Github or GitLab.

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