Microsoft's recent announcement at Comdex Fall 2002 that Windows .NET Server 2003 will ship next April has interesting implications for individuals pursuing Microsoft certification, either the current Windows 2000 track or the future .NET track. First of all, please notice that we don't yet have a definite day, but only a definite month. My eight years of close MS watching tells me that April 25 – the last Friday in the month -- is...
the most likely day for this much-anticipated ship event.
With April 25 as the point of reference, here's what else I presume to read in the tealeaves about Windows .NET Server certification requirements:
- Objectives for Microsoft exams are normally released about 45 days before the exam goes live. A presumptive release date of April 25 means the objectives should be released around March 7.
- Invitations to the beta exams should appear between late February and early March. Lately, beta exams run for a week about 60 to 75 days before the "go live" date for the exam. That falls some time around the last week of February. (Please e-mail me if you get an invite; anonymous e-mails bearing such info are also welcome.)
As for exactly what's coming when, here's a rundown that is as specific as I can get based on what is currently known:
- Updated core OS exams will go live within a week of product release. This includes the following: Exam 70-275 (updates 70-215, Windows 2000 Server for .NET), Exam 70-276 (updates 70-216, Windows 2000 Network Infrastructure), and Exam 70-277 (updates 70-276, Windows 2000 Directory Services). For grins, let's say these exams will go live in early April.
- Likewise, the core MCSA exam on managing Windows 2000 networks, Exam 70-218 is supposed to be updated for Windows Server .NET in the 70-278 exam. I expect it to hit at the same time as the preceding exams do.
- Rumors are rife and spreading fast that Exams 70-291, 70-292, and 70-293 will be the .NET successors to current designing core exams: Exams 70-219 (directory services), 70-220 (security), and 70-221 (network infrastructure). I've heard nothing about the other designing core exam 70-226 (highly available Web solutions) but the word is that nobody's taking this exam anyway, so it may not get the .NET treatment. If history is any guide, these exams will follow the first batch by about 60to 90 days, indicating releases in May or June.
- Other BackOffice component exams are sure to follow within 4to 6 months of .NET Server's release.
So now what? If you're reading about these upcoming exam tracks and wondering whether you should certify under the current track or wait for the new one, my recommendation is to stick with Windows 2000. Although Windows .NET Server will be out early next year, it won't be until 2004 until the corporate world starts taking it seriously. The 50% cut-over point -- the point at which 50% or more of new installations switch from an older to a newer version -- for Windows 2000 didn't hit until this summer, so it probably won't happen for .NET Server until late 2004 or some time in 2005. Only early adopters, developers, or companies with Microsoft partnerships that require them to "certify early and often" should tackle the new round of exams before then.
Ed Tittel runs a content development company in Austin, Texas, and is the series editor of the Que Exam Cram 2 and Training Guide series. He's worked on many books on Microsoft, CompTIA, CIW, Sun/Java, and security certifications.