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Will exam strategy put MS in the big league?

Certification, Training and Career Tip: Will exam strategy put MS in the big league?

Will exam strategy put MS in the big league?
By Ed Tittel
LANWrights, Inc.

I'm starting to see a certain pattern in Microsoft's recent pairing of "Designing" and "Implementing and Maintaining" exams, among them the April-announced Exam 70-232: Implementing and Maintaining Highly Available Web Solutions with Microsoft Windows 2000 Server Technologies and Microsoft Application Center 2000.

I've observed the same combos for key server technologies such as Exchange Server Exams 70-224 and 70-225, where 225 is the "Designing" member; SQL Server 2000 Enterprise Edition 70-228 and 70-229, where 229 is the "Designing" member. In Exam 70-230 Designing and Implementing Solutions with Biztalk Server 2000, Enterprise Edition Microsoft uses both key words in the title.

What does it all mean? My guess is that the strategy behind Microsoft's 2000-generation exams underscores the company's determination to be taken seriously as an enterprise-level player. Just look at the prerequisites for the "Highly Available Web Solution" exam, which aims squarely at installations using two or more Microsoft Web servers and Application Center 2000 technology. This exam applies both core and elective requirements of 70-217 and 70-219 on Active Directory topics, with 70-216 and 70-221 Network Infrastructure topics and requires the following experience:

  • Two to 100 or more Web servers

  • Multi-tiered deployment environments including staging, version control, and rollback

  • N-tiered application architecture including a logical Web tier and business logic tier based on COM+ components

  • Internet security, such as firewalls, secure protocols, and proxy servers

  • Server technologies that include Internet Information Services (IIS), Network Load Balancing (NLB), and COM+

As for content, here are some 70-232 specifics (Click here for the official version.):

Application Server 2000: Planning deployments and installing Application Server 2000 in N-tiered and load-balanced environments, including database access, COM+ components, Web environments, staging, unattended installations and troubleshooting.

Creating, Managing and Troubleshooting Clusters: Creating and configuring clusters around Web services, COM+ routing and applications, staging, managing cluster members, plus related troubleshooting topics.

Configuring and Troubleshooting IP Load Balancing: Working with Microsoft's Network Load Balancing (NLB) environment, including set-up, configuration, management of interfaces and addressing, operational parameters, IIS bindings, and ASP sessions. Topic also touches on configuring Application Server 2000 to work with 3rd-party load-balancing solutions.

Deploying and Synchronizing N-Tier Applications: Server certificates, Application Server 2000 for COM+ components, troubleshooting application deployment and synchronization, creating, modifying, and deleting Application Center applications. Also, synchronizing applications within a cluster, deploying applications from a staging server, and using Application Server to implement version controls.

Configuring Component Load Balancing (CLB): Configuring and managing CLB within an N-tiered architecture configuring COM+ clusters, configuring COM+ components for CLB.

Monitoring and Managing Operations: Configuring and managing performance management for clusters, creating and configuring data collectors and monitors, and configuring Application Center 2000 to automate management of tiers and clusters.

Unless you're pretty tuned into the specialized vendor-neutral and Microsoft-specific vocabulary that surrounds high-volume, high-availability technologies, much of what appears above probably reads like complete gibberish. Nevertheless, the subject matter screams out just how much Redmond wants to be taken seriously in the enterprise environment. It remains to be seen whether the enterprise marketplace agrees or disagrees.

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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