Looking ahead: XP exams and a new cert?

Certification expert Ed Tittel pontificates on how Windows XP and .Net will affect the MCSE.

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Last month at Microsoft's annual Tech Ed conclave in Atlanta, certified instructors, education providers and other tech weenies got the inside scoop on what will soon be coming out of Redmond. Although I didn?t attend, I've polled several good friends and gleaned some interesting tidbits about the shape of certifications to come.

To set the stage for this speculation, let me start by pointing you to Microsoft?s recently updated MCSE FAQs on the corporate Web site. The big news here is that details about the Windows XP Professional and Whistler Server exams will be announced in August 2001. But, according to my Tech Ed sources, there will be much more coming out of Redmond next month than that. Here are some other things to look out for:

A new mid-level Microsoft certification program

  • Apparently, large corporate users are indicating that many would be MCSEs are finding the new MCSE exams "too hard." They?re also finding the Designing exams are more or less unnecessary for the average network administrator whose duties are more operational and less involved in planning and launching of network, directory and security infrastructures. While I find these contentions entirely believable, it will be interesting to see if such a program unfolds and what exams it will require. My guess is that such a new certification will require the Windows 2000 Core Four exams (70-210 Windows 2000 Professional, 70-215 Windows 2000 Server, 70-216 Windows 2000 Network Infrastructure and 70-217 Windows 2000 Directory Services (or their Windows XP Professional/Whistler Server equivalents when available) and one other elective. This certification would represent a deliberate "halfway-point" between MCP and MCSE.

Objectives for the upcoming XP Professional and Whistler Server exams

  • Given that the XP Pro exam is supposed to appear at more or less the same time that the product ships this coming October 25 -- and that Microsoft still claims that Whistler server will be ready before the year?s end (with exams not far behind), this seems entirely necessary and quite believable.

More .Net component exams

  • Whether or not the product name Windows.Net server sticks, it?s clear that .Net components, services and technologies are going to move toward center stage in Microsoft?s grand scheme of things. Therefore, I expect to see more exams focusing on key .Net components, development tools and related services, above and beyond BizTalk and Commerce Server, which are currently covered by exams in their earlier incarnations.

A thorough revamp of the MCSD program

  • Despite the introduction of Windows 2000 and a raft of new development tools and technologies, MCSD has been unchanged and in limbo for over a year now. I firmly believe that?s because Microsoft is waiting for its next-generation, server platform-related BackOffice components, developer tools and standard components to gel. By August, they may be ready to announce a complete blueprint of changes for MCSD. I am more than hopeful (but less than certain) that they will start talking changed developer certifications at that time as well.

Please understand that I?m putting pieces of this puzzle together from multiple sources and that much of the interpretation is my own and by no means reflects any official position from Redmond. It?s interesting to play the guessing game with Microsoft. Although I?m sometimes wrong, I think this speculation is credible enough to share.

Ed Tittel is a principal at a small content development company based in Austin, Texas, and the creator of the Exam Cram series, and has worked on over 30 certification-related books on Microsoft, Novell and Sun related topics.


This was first published in July 2001

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