The New Cloud Certifications!

One of the questions that came up during the Columbus Windows 8 Preview Roadshow last week involved the changes to Microsoft certifications for the Windows 8 release cycle.  At the time, all I was allowed to say was that Microsoft was working on some changes, and that development was underway.

Well, now a lot of the information is out there and public – and it’s big!

“MCSE” Returns, Sort Of, and MCSD Returns

Folks who have been working in IT for long enough remember the “old” certifications that existed before the Windows 2000 cycle.  The premier certifications were the MCSD (Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer) and MCSE (Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer).  I hold both of those from back then, for example.

Today, Microsoft announced the new Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert – MCSE.  Yes, same initials, but a completely different certification.  Or more accurately, set of certifications.  Meanwhile, MCSD is also back as a certification with the same definition.  Both of these are on a new “Cloud” track.

MCSE: Private Cloud

The MCSE: Private Cloud certification focuses on building a private cloud in your organization (or a customer’s organization as the case may be), and monitoring and maintaining that private cloud, using the System Center 2012 suite.  It builds on the existing Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA – that’s a new definition also, replacing the Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator definition for that acronym) on Windows Server 2008.

MCSE: Data Platform

The MCSE: Data Platform certification (exams not quite available yet) focuses on building on-premises SQL Server 2012 data processing solutions.  It is somewhat a replacement for the MCDBA certification.

MCSE: Business Intelligence

The MCSE: Business Intelligence certification covers SQL Server 2012 BI solutions (e. g. Analysis Services and Reporting Services).  These exams are also not quite available yet; more details will be coming later.

What about MCSD?

Although this is primarily an IT Pro blog, I did want to at least touch on the MCSD.  That certification has been reintroduced, but no public details are available at this time.

The Other Levels

Microsoft is effectively positioning the MCSE and MCSD as “flagship” “Expert” certifications but not the top level.  Let’s look at what the certification site shows:

Tracks

Notice we still have the entry-level “Associate” MCTS and MCSA, and the very top-level “Master” MCM and the new Cloud version, MCSM.  We also have the current MCITP and MCPD certifications, although not showing under the “Cloud” banner.

“Cloud-built”?

Yes, when Microsoft says they are “all-in on the cloud” they are not just saying that for the heck of it.  As a company, top to bottom, it’s the new world order.  The certification changes are just another reflection of that; previously on this blog and in some presentations we’ve touched on the new Hyper-V functionality that is clearly cloud-related, and the new functionality in System Center 2012 for managing the cloud.  Therefore, these changes are really just the Microsoft Learning reflection of this mindset.

Oh Yeah, Recertification!

When Microsoft announced their Windows Phone 7 development exam, one tidbit that was there but was not called much attention to was the fact that to maintain the certification a developer would need to recertify:

Recertification requirements for Windows Phone developers

Windows Phone technology is updated frequently. As a result, the skills required to be a successful Windows Phone developer will evolve rapidly. To ensure that developers who hold the MCPD: Windows Phone Developer certification keep pace with the evolution of Windows Phone skills, they will be required to recertify every two years. This recertification will help demonstrate the developers’ continued competence as the skills needed to develop applications for Windows Phone change. Through recertification, we can maintain the value of the certification as the technology changes. More information about this recertification requirement will be provided at a later date.

This could be seen as a “testing the waters” for the new paths announced today.  The press release for example says:

The MCSE certification — or its developer equivalent, MCSD — also demonstrates an individual’s commitment to staying up to date on cutting-edge technologies because it requires recertification.

The details of this are not really fleshed out publically yet, but there’s enough time for Microsoft to sort that out before it will start to matter.

Uh Oh, More Exams!

True, this will mean more exams.  However, the official Microsoft exam provider, Prometric, currently has a 2-for-1 offer available.  Essentially, this offer means you can take the current exam now, and take the next generation replacement when it is available for free:

image

You can find more details on this at the linked site.

So Now What?

For those of us at BA, this means we will be looking at more exams (across many of our employees).  For you, this means that you need to think about what your career path and goals are and start thinking about your certifications.  Perhaps you can talk to your manager/supervisor about a certification goal – “if I get my new ‘Cloud’ certification will you finally start paying for my cell phone?” for example Winking smile

Michael C. Bazarewsky, MCT, Old-School MCSE
Principal Consultant, Server and Security

Microsoft Certification, The Private Cloud, Windows 8, and You

In an earlier blog post, I discussed why we value certification at BA, and I mentioned the new Private Cloud Certification from Microsoft.

One thing that has come up for us recently that directly relates to this new certification is how Microsoft is moving very quickly to being “all in” on the cloud.  I was recently giving a presentation at the Microsoft office in Independence about the future technology roadmap for Microsoft, and the impending release of System Center 2012 fits in to that.  The vision is to use one set of tools to manage your applications across internal, private clouds, and external, public clouds.  The same tools can be used to quickly and easily adjust capacity as necessary, and even (with Windows Server 8) move virtual machines from your datacenter to a service provider datacenter with no server reconfiguration – no network changes, no account changes – just move the VM up to the public host or move it back as you see fit.

That kind of new functionality fits in with the idea that as always, the IT industry continues to evolve and change.  In the recent presentation I talked about how we have moved physical to virtual servers, and now how we are again moving from disjointed, disconnected virtual servers to a unified collection of virtual servers that supply application services in an elastic, on-demand way.  This allows you to supply services on demand to your customers (internal or external) in a fast, efficient manner.

Another change in the industry is that technology cycles continue to compress.  Users expect more functionality in less time, and technology companies like Microsoft (and Google, and Oracle, and so on) have been forced to improve their offerings with shorter turnaround times as a result.  One result of this is that certification gains value coming and going.  That is due to the fact that certifications on “the new thing” gain value because they show the ability to keep up with the pace of change, while certifications on “last year’s thing” gain value because a lot of organizations are unable to update their infrastructures to match the pace of change in the industry.  This means that a certification offering needs to be able to change rapidly to meet the new technologies head on while still supporting you on current technology.

One of the reasons BA likes the Microsoft Certification offering is because it continually updates, to help you keep your skills up to date in this changing environment; meanwhile, they don’t drop certification on a short timeframe, but instead keep it available to reflect what’s happening in “real life,” not just what’s next.  The Private Cloud Certification I mentioned previously will be joined soon by a Windows 8 Certification, in time for or soon after that product’s release.  That certification is being developed as I type this (I can say that for a fact).  You can get prepared now for Windows 8 Certification by gaining or upgrading your certification to MCITP: Enterprise Desktop on Windows 7, which will be able to be upgraded to Windows 8 through the standard upgrade exam process.  I can tell you from experience that upgrade exams are generally more productive for a taker than the “from nothing” version, because they can focus on what’s new and not have to cover an entire product functionality set.  Thus, if you are able to obtain one of the MCITP: Enterprise Desktop certifications on Windows 7 now, and begin working with the Consumer Preview as blogged about by Jason, you will be in a good position when the upgrade exam becomes available (likely later this year).

Oh, one last closing note on this.  Bennett Adelson isn’t the only company that cares about certification.  I am aware of a local company that is offering a four-figure bonus at the moment for .NET Framework 4.0 certification to keep their developer skills up-to-date.  And beyond my personal experience, a 2011 CompTIA study found that IT professionals gain an average 9% salary increase immediately after receiving certification, and 29% over the long term, versus peers who are not certified (channelinsider.com, 2011-10-19). And in a in a 2010 survey of hiring managers, 91% said they consider employee certification as a criterion for hiring (Microsoft Learning, 2010).

We will be doing a roadshow on Windows 8 in early April (post coming in the next day or two), and that would be a great way to get your knowledge on the platform kick-started.  In the meantime, grab the Consumer Platform and give it a try!

Michael C. Bazarewsky, MCITP, MCT
Principal Consultant, Windows Server and Security

The Private Cloud and Microsoft Certifications

This is the first in a short, occasional series of posts related to Microsoft Certification and why we care about it at BA.

One way that BA works to ensure that the Advanced Infrastructure group – and indeed all of our consultants – stay relevant is through training and certification.  Technology changes quickly, and our customers expect us to not only know what they are using now, but what they will be using next.  One easy way to demonstrate that is through industry certifications around the products we work with.  In the case of Advanced Infrastructure at a Microsoft Gold Partner, this often means Microsoft Certifications.

As I’m writing this, much of the industry is moving to a “private cloud” model.  We will be talking about this more in future posts and at future events, and if you haven’t seen this as a topic yet, you soon will.  The ability to provision new resources for end-users on demand – indeed, even self-service those requests – and do it in a cost-effective, manageable way is at the front of many organizations’ short lists for IT projects in the next 0-24 months.  Quoting the Microsoft Server and Cloud Platform website:

A private cloud delivers fundamentally new capabilities that represent a generational paradigm shift in computing.

Of course, with this change in model, there is a need for new skills and the ability to demonstrate that we have these skills.  Luckily for us, Microsoft has recently announced a new Private Cloud Certification which covers this rapidly growing field.  It builds on the existing MCITP: Server Administrator and adds two new System Center exams to demonstrate knowledge of how to use System Center with Hyper-V on Windows Server 2008 R2 (and later, Windows Server 8) to deploy and manage a private cloud.

Of course, while we’re waiting for the April beta of the certification exams, we’d be more than happy to help you improve productivity and lower cost – do more with less – today with these technologies.

— Michael C. Bazarewsky (MCITP, MCPD, MCT)
Principal Consultant, Windows Server and Security