What you need to know for the MCSE Web server design exam

Microsoft has released a new MCSE design exam called Designing Highly Available Web Solutions with Microsoft Windows 2000 (70-226). Here's a look at the intended audience, exam objectives, and some suggested study tools and methods.

Despite their recent challenges with viruses and worms, Microsoft’s IIS Web servers remain one of the leading e-commerce platforms on the Internet. Microsoft has recognized the importance of building these Web servers for a 24/7 environment by releasing a new MCSE design exam focused on this topic.

MCSE candidates are no doubt aware that one of the new requirements of the MCSE, since it was revamped for Windows 2000, has been the addition of passing one design exam (also called a Core+ exam). In previous articles, I have discussed the various Core+ exam choices necessary to obtain a Windows 2000 MCSE. This is the final installment in our little journey, and in this session, we will be looking at the 70-226 exam, Designing Highly Available Web Solutions with Microsoft Windows 2000 Server Technologies. As usual, I will be providing information about the intended audience, some details about the actual exam, a quick synopsis of what you need to know about this exam, and also a recommended study plan.

MCSE design exams
70-219—Designing a Microsoft Windows 2000 Directory Services Infrastructure 70-221—Designing a Microsoft Windows 2000 Network Infrastructure 70-220—Designing Security for a Microsoft Windows 2000 Network 70-226—Designing Highly Available Web Solutions with Microsoft Windows 2000 Server Technologies

Audience and prerequisites
According to Microsoft, candidates for this exam should be working in a medium to large Internet or corporate intranet environment, using Microsoft Windows 2000 operating systems and supporting multiserver, n-tier application environments that have the following characteristics:
  • Concurrent client connections that exceed 1,000
  • Transactional applications
  • User databases, such as LDAP server or another directory service
  • Internet security, such as firewalls, secure protocols, and/or proxy servers
  • High availability services, including Network Load Balancing (NLB), Component Load Balancing (CLB), Cluster service, and Microsoft Application Center 2000

Typically, a candidate taking this exam will have a minimum of two years' experience in planning and designing highly available Web site infrastructures and will be familiar with Microsoft’s Internet Information Server (IIS) and other major competitor products on the market today (such as Apache).

Exam details
Because this exam is so new at the time of this writing, information about it is fairly nebulous. However, one source from Microsoft stated that this exam was the hardest he had ever taken. He said that only those who are involved in implementing technologies similar to what is being tested should attempt this exam. If you are looking for a quick Core+ elective, I would look elsewhere—perhaps at the 70-219 exam.

Here are the specifics that we do know:

Time Limit: 240 Minutes
Number of questions: Unknown
Passing score: Unknown
Exam format: Form, with case studies

You'll find a detailed listing of the topics covered on this exam on Microsoft’s Web site.

Case-study format
Just a reminder: The exam format for the design (Core+) exams has changed quite a bit from the NT 4.0 MCSE. Core+ exams are designed as case studies involving a fictitious company. You’ll be presented with information such as interviews with the CEO/CIO of the company, IT goals, plans, needs, and infrastructure, and various other bits of information, not all of which you’ll need.

Each exam includes three to five scenarios. Your job will be to read through the case study, distill the important information, and answer between eight and 12 questions about each scenario. Be prepared to go through a lot of information.

Recommended study plan
Currently, there is no single Microsoft Official Curriculum course that truly prepares you for this exam. However, a number of other classes can be used in tandem to study for this test. These include the following:
  • 2072—Administering a Microsoft SQL Server 2000 Database
  • 2087—Implementing Microsoft Windows 2000 Clustering
  • 2203—Deploying and Managing Microsoft Application Center 2000
  • 1562—Designing a Microsoft Windows 2000 Networking Services Infrastructure
  • 2150—Designing a Secure Windows 2000 Network

According to Microsoft, there is a course currently in development, labeled #2088, which is supposed to be focused strictly on highly available Web solutions. However, not much information has been publicized about it at this point.

Summing up
In my opinion, this exam is certainly not an easy one and definitely should not be attempted by the faint of heart. Because of the numerous classes needed to take to prepare for this exam, I would recommend against taking it unless you really need to implement the technologies being tested. Microsoft Press has released a book (ISBN: 0735614253) focused strictly on this exam, and it would be worth your while to get a copy if you are interesting in taking the plunge.

Which Core+ exam are you going to take?
We look forward to getting your input and hearing about your experiences regarding this topic. Post a comment or a question about this article.


About Jeremy Smith

Jeremy L. Smith, CISSP, is a cybersecurity and public safety professional who has worked with a variety of agencies to improve the security of their call centers and execute their public safety initiatives more effectively, including 911 call taking,...

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