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Speculating Where Microsoft Remains Mum

Given the importance of directory services to enabling more powerful and automatic use of networked data, we also expect Server.NET exams to up the already considerable attention that Active Directory gets in the Windows 2000 exams. The reliance of .NET technology on the Web Services Description Language (WDSL) and on Universal Description, Discovery, and Integration (UDDI) technology—both XML applications, and both key to future Microsoft directions—argues even more strongly for an increased emphasis on XML, public directory services, and service advertisements. Although these moves affect both developers and administrators, it's still hard to tell which of these communities will start climbing the learning curve here first. But because development precedes use, we expect the developers to bear the initial brunt of the climb.

As far as the MCDBA exam is concerned, the policy on mixing and matching Windows 2000 with Windows XP Professional and Server.NET exams without prejudice appears to indicate that those pursuing this and similar certifications (MCP+Site Building, for example) should be able to take whatever relevant exams are available without worrying unduly about exam retirement issues. Likewise, the notion that Windows 2000, Windows XP Professional, and Server.NET exams will continue to be offered concurrently argues for the same interpretation. Thus, our guess is that as long as candidates stick to Windows 2000 exams or newer ones as they pursue new certifications or update existing ones, they'll be relatively unaffected by whatever differences might exist among the exams involved. For that reason, we recommend that individuals take the exams that are most relevant to their day-to-day responsibilities. In most cases, this means that Windows 2000 exams are the best—and, in many cases, will remain the only—choice through the middle of 2002.

The big question mark in this puzzle is the Microsoft developer certification, the MCSD. From at least one perspective—the one that Bill Gates presented at TechEd in June, 2001, we hasten to add—the inclusion of .NET technology is a key element in the makeup of Server.NET. This argues strongly that big changes are underway for the MCSD program.

Those who read what Microsoft has to say about .NET will quickly understand that development tool sets such as Visual Studio.NET, .NET versions of existing programming languages, and all kinds of .NET-related components such as the Microsoft Passport all play an important role in this brave new world. When it comes to designing, implementing, deploying, and managing networks that incorporate the kinds of data and services that .NET purports to deliver, this means learning and mastering a broad range of new tools, technologies, and APIs. Because developers are at the heart of this announced revolution in computing, our contention is that the importance and immanence of .NET argues for a major overhaul of the MCSD program. We expect announcements to that effect to appear in August as well, when other MCP exams are announced (and their beta objectives are made available). As of July 19, 2001, Sunbelt Software released a Microsoft news item indicating that new Microsoft administrator and developer certifications will be announced in the near future.

Of course, another interpretation is also possible: In keeping with the +Internet (as in MCP+I and MCSE+I) phenomenon introduced with Windows NT 4.0 certifications, we might see an era of +.NET certifications as Microsoft proselytizes for its new vision of distributed applications, services, and data access. One thing's for sure: With Microsoft at the helm, some guessing will always be required to anticipate the details in the wake of its major market moves!

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