I have to admit to have been more than a little confused and bewildered by the changes in Microsoft's certification structures, and with the release of Exchange 2007 already upon us, and the release of Windows Longhorn looming on the horizon, I feel that it's time to try and reclaim a little sanity.
The old Windows 2003 certification track was relatively straight-forward and easy to understand even if it did require a lot of work to complete. You would sit your core requirements, your electives, and your design exams ... and presto! - with 7 exams, you could call yourself an MCSE on Windows 2003. If you wanted to certify on Exchange you had to do the entire Server certification track, and then add in the "Messaging" electives. Similarly, if you wanted to show your Security specialisation you had to do the full Server certification track, and then add in the extra Security specialisation exams. However, with Windows Longhorn, all of this is being changed.
Firstly - the MCSA and MCSE certification will not be carried over in that form to Windows Longhorn; you now need to certify as a Technical Specialist or IT Professional in a specified "Technology" (such as SQL 2005 or Exchange 2007) or "job role" (such as being a "Messaging Administrator"). This does not mean that the MCSE or MCSA has suddenly ceased to exist - you can still receive those certifications for Windows 2003 (and Windows 2000 - for the next few months), but there simply will not be an "MCSE" for Longhorn/Vista.
Secondly - all new certifications are linked to the life-cycle of the associated technology ... so when Microsoft eventually move Exchange 2007 to "End of Life", then anyone certified on Exchange 2007 will cease to be certified unless they have re-certified with a newer technology.
In this article, I hope to break down the some of the elements of the current 2000/2003 certification track, and endeavour to map those over to the new certification tracks that will becoming available over the next few months.
The Server Certifications
The Existing Certification Tracks
Before anything else is spoken about - what about existing certifications?
The MCSA/MCSE 2000 and 2003 certifications will never be retired or removed from your "certification transcript".
There will not be an MCSA/MCSE certification for Longhorn.
MCSA/MCSE 2000 exams will be retired in March 2008. As such you will not be able to sit these exams after this point.
The "upgrade" exams from MCSA/MCSE 2000 -> 2003 will ALSO be retired at that point.
There will also be no upgrade exams from the server 2000 certifications to the Windows Longhorn certifications.
There will be upgrade exams from Server 2003 certifications to the Windows Longhorn certifications.
Specifically - the following Windows 2000 Certification-track Exams will be retired during March and April 2008 ...
70-210: Installing, Configuring and Administering Windows 2000 Professional 70-214: Implementing and Managing Security in a Windows 2000 network Infrastructure 70-215: Installing, Configuring and Administering Windows 2000 Server 70-216: Implementing and Administering a Windows 2000 Network Infrastructure 70-217: Implementing and Administering a Windows 2000 Directory Services Infrastructure 70-218: Managing a Windows 2000 Network Environment 70-219: Designing a Windows 2000 Directory Services Infrastructure 70-220: Designing Security for a Windows 2000 Network 70-221: Designing a Windows 2000 Network Infrastructure 70-222: Migrating from Windows NT 4.0 to Windows 2000 70-223: Installing, Configuring & Administering Clustering Services with Windows 2000 Advanced Server 70-226: Designing Highly Available Web Solutions with Windows 2000 and Application Center 2000 70-292: Managing & Maintaining a 2003 Environment for an MCSA 2000 70-296: Planning, Implementing & Maintaining a 2003 Environment for an MCSE 2000
Again, it must be reiterated that the 2000->2003 upgrade exams (70-292 and 70-296) are also being retired in March/April 2008 ... so if you have been working on the Windows 2000 certification-track, you should finish it as quickly as possible, and start planning to do the Upgrade examsdo the upgrades soon !! - if you have not upgraded to 2003 by April 2008, you will have to do all of the MCSE 2003 exams!
The Windows 2003 certification track will not be going away for any foreseeable time; Microsoft have stated that they will not be retiring the exams for at least 5 years. Some interesting notes with relation to the Windows 2000 and Windows 2003 certification tracks:
The Vista TS exam (70-620) counts as either the core client elective or a general elective for both the Windows 2000 and Windows 2003 certification tracks, but cannot be used as both a client exam and general elective exam in the same track.
At the time of this writing, any TS exam will count as an Elective towards either the MCSA/MCSE 2003 certification track.
All Longhorn/Vista certifications will be in the TS/ITP structure - there will be no MCSA/MCSE structure. There will be 3 TS (Technology Specialist) certifications for the Longhorn Certification track (unnamed at this time), which will be pre-requisites for 2 ITP (IT Professional) certifications (also unnamed). Specific exam and credential names will be released in June (available to MCP's in May).
The three areas of the "Technology Expertise" have yet to be officially stated, although speculation is rife in certain quarters. microsoft have stated that these three domains are comprised of two domains that are already tested for in the current certification tracks, and one which is a "new" technology within Longhorn not present within previous Windows Operating Systems.
Note that (at time of this writing), Microsoft has no intention to produce a specific Virtualisation exam - but Virtualisation may appear in any exam where it can be leveraged to support the technical solutions and job roles.
There will be two upgrade exams, covering the upgrade from both the MCSA: Windows 2003 and MCSE: Windows 2003, but these upgrade exams will grant one or more TS certifications - they will not grant the IT Pro certifications, so these exams will have to be sat separately.
Microsoft will be making the Upgrade exams available to the MCP community prior to the release of the Longhorn Server OS to enable existing MCSA and MCSE-certified individuals to get a head-start on the technology. The Beta upgrade exams will be available initially in June - any MCP's attending TechEd will have a chance to do the Beta exams, and the public beta will then be rolled out over the following month. The full upgrade exams will be going live in September/October (e.g. before the products are released), and anyone holding an MCSA or MCSE: Windows 2003 who has registered their interest in doing the upgrade will be provided a 40% discount on the cost of the exams. Register for this deal here. You must have completed the MCSA or MCSE track by mid-june to qualify - the Microsoft website has more details. There will probably be a lot of offers for Windows 2000 and Windows 2003 exams over the next few months (particularly June/July).
The expected release date for the Technology Specialist exams will be approximately 30 days after the "Release to Manufacturing" date for Windows Longhorn; while the ITP exams should be available approximately a month later. Since the provisional RTM for Longhorn is October/November 2007 at this time, this means that the TS exams should become available in December 2007, and the ITP exams should become available in January 2008.
As with all TS exam, the Windows Longhorn TS exams will retire when the associated technology (Windows Longhorn) reaches End-of-Life (moves out of active support). This will typically give TS certifications a lifespan of 5-7 years. Expired TS certifications will be removed from your transcript, but the fact that you passed the exam(s) will still appear.
The IT Professional Exams require re-certification every 3 years (from the date you recieve the certification), and typically, recertification will simply require sitting the most up-to-date TS exam(s). Expired IT Pro certifications will be removed from your transcript, but the fact that you passed the exam(s) will still appear.
Until now, if you wanted to certify on Exchange you had to do the entire Server certification track, and then add in the "Messaging" electives. This led to Exchange administrators having to take up to 7 exams that were not directly related to their desired credentials. The new certification track is essentially the replacement for the existing MCSA: Messaging and MCSE: Messaging certifications. However, the MCSA/MCSE tracks are no longer going to be associated with Exchange, and Exchange certification will now be covered by three exams - one TS (Technical Specialist) and two ITP (IT Professional) exams.
To become a Technical Specialist on Exchange will require the single TS exam.
To become an IT Professional on Exchange, you will require both IT Professional exams in addition to holding the TS exam.
70-237: Designing Messaging Solutions with Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 70-238: Deploying Messaging Solutions with Microsoft Exchange Server 2007
Note that the Microsoft documentation listed above (at the time of this writing) does not indicate that both IT Pro exams are required to achieve the IT Pro certification. Microsoft Learning "promised" to fix that on the 15th of February. Unfortunately their documentation has not been updated yet. These three exams are finishing up their Beta at this time, and should go live by June of 2007.
The official certification title once all three exams have been achieved is "Enterprise Messaging Administrator". It is recommended that you sit the three exams in numeric order (the various concepts build upon one another).
There will not be an upgrade path from Exchange 2003 -> Exchange 2007 - it was determined that the differences between 2003 and 2007 were so dramatic that a single upgrade exam would last 4-5 hours and would be excessively difficult.
The TS exam (70-236) can be used as a general elective for both the MCSA and MCSE on Windows 2003 but will not count as a "Messaging" Specialisation. The IT Pro exams (70-237, 70-238) cannot be used as electives for the existing MCSA and MCSE certification tracks.
Exam Availability 70-236: February 26th, 2007 (Training Kit available 25th July 2007). 70-237: May 14th, 2007 (Training Kit available 3rd October 2007). 70-238: June 28th, 2007 (Training Kit available 12th September 2007).
As with all TS exams, the Exchange 2007 TS exam will retire when the associated technology (Exchange 2007) reaches End-of-Life. This will typically give TS certifications a lifespan of 5-7 years.
The IT Professional Exams require re-certification every 3 years, and typically, recertification will simply require sitting the most up-to-date TS exam(s).
There are a variety of Vista exams and certifications coming down the line, however, from the point of view of the Server certification tracks, it should be noted that the Vista exams will not be a necessary pre-requisite or component of the Server certification.
The first thing to note is that the main TS exam (70-620: Configuring the Windows Vista Client) can be used as either a client exam for the MCSA/MCSE client requirement (instead of 70-210 or 70-270) or as a general elective exam, but obviously it cannot be used as both in the same certification track.
Technology Specialist Exams (at time of writing) 70-620: Configuring Microsoft® Windows® Vista Client 70-624: Deploying and Maintaining Vista Client and Office System 2007 Desktops
IT Professional Exams (at time of Writing) 70-621: Upgrading your MCDST Certification to MCITP Enterprise Support 70-622: Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Support 70-623: Microsoft Consumer Desktop Support
The upgrade exam will upgrade anyone holding the MCDST certification (Windows XP exams: 70-271 and 70-272) and will convey both the TS (Configuring Vista) and IT Pro (Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Support) certifications.
Note that there is no upgrade path from the MCSA or MCSE certification track, as the Vista track is no longer considered to be part of the Server Certification track.
The differentiation between the two TS exams is indicative of the new certification tracks, where specific technical Certifications will be available to support very specific technologies. Probably from the point of view of a Systems Administrator, the new 70-624 beta exam may actually be more applicable to their planning and deployment requirements when compared to the 70-620 exam which is more suited to someone who may be actively administering and maintaining in-place client systems.