NT is dead; long live Windows 2000

If you're in the process of obtaining your Microsoft certification, you might want to stop and read this one! Check out Microsoft's recent claim to kill NT certification come 12/31/2001.

Windows 2000 is the operating system for the new millennium, or so we're told, and it's vastly different from its predecessor, NT 4. Like all technological advances, the W2K tide is lapping at the feet of more than just those directly involved with its implementation; don't get washed away.

The new OS
Questions abound concerning Windows 2000:
  • Who will adopt the new OS?
  • How soon will it be integrated, and in what numbers?
  • How long will support be available for NT 4.0?

You'd like to have the answers to all these questions before you decide on your W2K training strategy, I know. There may be no definitive answers to the first two questions, but the question of support for NT 4.0 may be a secondary issue in the somewhat near future. The current NT certification program will cease to exist, as of December 31, 2001, allowing you enough time to decide what to do.

Taken in the context of the new push for Windows 2000 certification, this could be bad news for NT administrators, trainers, and employers. What happens to companies that aren't migrating to W2K just yet, and to NT trainers and administrators who have yet to earn their certifications? Where does all this leave trainers and training developers?

Don’t throw in the towel yet
The good news is that, in addition to having two years to play catch-up, parts of the NT certification will be transferable to W2K. The MCP site has a page to tell you what's what and what's going away, which will explain a lot of the overlaps and help you focus your efforts where there is the most payback.

The new certification program is going to be much more skill-intensive than past efforts. I'm sure you all know someone who spent the weekend cramming with an MCSE Readiness review book for a particular test, then went in and aced the exam. Voila! You have a certified professional who can't do the job. That kind of thing did no one any favors. Microsoft, and most serious professionals, would like to eliminate that possibility in the new exams.

Changes again?
The Windows 2000 certification program hopes to accomplish just that by introducing more scenario and simulation exercises, which will require analysis, design, and troubleshooting skills. Donna Senko, Microsoft's Director of Certification and Skills Assessment, in an interview with MCP Magazine, said that one goal of the new program is to raise the bar of the MCSE. A way to do that is to strongly recommend at least a year's experience with the OS before taking the exam. Although this requirement is not enforceable, W2K is so much more complex and far-reaching than older NT systems that not having that experience will be a severe handicap to any candidate.

In training terms, most of the skills covered in the current NT exams will serve as enabling objectives for the new exams. In other words, a candidate must have networking skills like TCP/IP to perform the higher-level operations involved in W2K networking. However, those skills, which were sufficient for NT certification, are only critical building blocks for the new Networking Infrastructure exam; they aren't enough by themselves to pass it.

What does this mean to trainers or training developers?
This could be the time for a big push to help people finish up the certifications they've left hanging—especially if a company isn't moving to W2K, but it wants its people certified in NT. Can you accommodate that time pressure while ramping up for Windows 2000? Do you want to try? There's going to be a big training market out there, especially over the next year as NT's existence winds to a close and W2K comes into its own. Now, you just have to decide where to focus your efforts. Easier said than done, I agree.

Windows 2000 MCSE tracking
If you’re looking for FAQ on the Windows 2000 MCSE track, check out the following Web page:

If you want to keep abreast of the all the new developments, check out this Web site:
If you have any comments you’d like to make concerning NT vs. W2K certification, we’d like to hear from you. Please post your comments at the bottom of this page by clicking on “post a comment.”

Barbara Karst-Sabin is a Web designer and Web content developer specializing in Windows 2000.

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