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The emerging influence of .Net on Microsoft certification

Why IT pros should care about .Net and what they will need to know about it.

By now, the world knows that Microsoft is up to its eyeballs in a new networking and software development initiative. Known as .Net, this buzzword basically defines a Web service that connects users to services and resources in a way that allows them to access common data and applications or services from any computer and from handheld devices like Web-enabled cell phones or PDAs.

The idea behind Microsoft's recently-announced Hailstorm .Net initiative is that users can obtain authentication and payment services, plus access their e-mail, calendars, schedules, and other personal information from anywhere on any kind of device that can communicate with the Internet.

Where and how does this impact Microsoft certification, you ask? Please allow me to explain: If you look carefully at the titles of Microsoft's service or software platform exams, you'll see that some include mention of the Enterprise Edition for such items. Thus, for example 70-227 covers the Internet Security and Acceleration Server, Enterprise Edition, while 70-228 and 229 cover SQL Server 2000, Enterprise Edition. When I hasten to add that .Net capabilities will also be part and parcel of those very same Enterprise Edition versions, perhaps you'll experience the same kind of "Aha!" that I did when this finally became clear to me. In fact, I'm guessing that the only reason the Exchange 2000 Server exams don't also include this key phrase is that they were introduced earlier, before even Microsoft itself had figured out all the implications that .Net would draw in its wake.

Likewise, I am now completely convinced that Microsoft has been holding off on updates to its MCSD program -- lately in need of an overhaul for Windows 2000 APIs, tools, and technologies -- simply because they wanted to wait until the broad outlines and requirements of the .Net initiative were released. I fully expect to start seeing a spate of announcements for curriculum changes to the MCSD curriculum in the near future. I also expect those announcements to accommodate and incorporate new .Net-savvy tools and languages such as Visual Studio.Net, C# (pronounced "C-sharp"), VB.Net, and C++.Net, among other items.

In short, I think that .Net will probably have as big an impact on Microsoft certifications as will the impending release of Windows XP -- if not a bigger impact, in fact. Given that XP implementations will come in .Net flavors, I take that as further evidence of the importance of .Net for all of Microsoft's future products and certifications. That's as much because .Net represents Microsoft's biggest outreach to developers in years, as because of the network-centric model for creating distributed applications and services that .Net enables.

Although a lot of smoke and mirrors still obscure the real details of the .Net initiative, I am now convinced that .Net is going to be a big deal for Microsoft. I also believe that it will ultimately have a major role to play in upcoming certifications, on both the design and operations side of the street (MCP, MCSE, and related certs) and on the development side as well (MCSD, MCDBA, and related certs). I hate going out this far on a limb that may be shaky, but that's how things look to me based on all the evidence and analysis I've been able to accumulate.

Here's a selected list of Microsoft .Net information online that you can use to draw your own conclusions:

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.

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