Microsoft's ^@&^#&@ W2K MCSE Policy
Like over 800,000 other people, I spent an incredible amount
of time and effort studying to be an MCSE (Microsoft Certified
Systems Engineer). I took six classes, studied several books from
cover to cover, took practice tests and used the knowledge in
my job and on my own time. Why did I do all of this? Because I
wanted to have one of the most prestigious certifications in the
field - the MCSE!
For those of you who don't know, the MCSE consisted of six tests
designed to ensure that system administrators meet a minimum level
of experience and knowledge with Microsoft products. The concept
is this gives guidance to managers as to who they should and should
not hire, and ensures that those people know how to use Microsoft
In my experience, people who honestly pass the MCSE exams are
indeed better qualified for their positions than others with equivalent
experience and skills. Of course, boot camps, brain dumps and
similar methods of cheating the process tend to allow people to
dishonestly pass the exams. This, however, is true with all certifications
(and tests for that matter) and not unique to the MCSE series.
In their attempts to get people to upgrade from Windows NT 4.0
to Windows 2000, Microsoft has run into quite a bit of resistance
from the industry. While there are very significant reasons to
upgrade, Windows 2000 requires major changes in network configurations,
applications and user training, which has tended to slow acceptance.
In addition, since Windows 2000 was released around the time of
large expenditures on the Year 2000 bug, system managers found
themselves without funds or manpower to upgrade their networks.
In order to force people to upgrade more quickly, Microsoft has,
in it's infinite wisdom, decided to retire the Windows NT 4.0
certifications. Thus, on December 31, 2001 any and all MCSE certificate
holders who still have not upgraded will need to remove those
four letters from their resume and business cards.
It now appears that over half (at least 400,000) of these MCSE's
will be invalid in under five months! I know from experience that
the change from Windows NT to Windows 2000 is not an easy one,
and given that many people actually have to work for a living
it's not surprising that so many of them have not had a chance
to obtain the new certifications.
There is also a large amount of anger about the policy. It appears
that Microsoft is only interested in increasing it's bottom line,
which translates into selling an endless procession of upgrades
to the operating system and the office suite. It's plainly obvious
that Microsoft feels it's dollars come from these upgrades, and
thus those engineers who cannot or will not upgrade their certifications
have little or no value.
Even worse is that Microsoft has started the path towards Windows
XP certifications! A large number of MCSE's have not even started
(much less finished) their training for Windows 2000, and now
they have to figure out how to upgrade that to Windows XP! And,
of course, it's a sure bet that the next version of Windows will
follow very quickly after that.
Me and several of the people who work for me have obtained the
MCSE certification for Windows NT 4.0. Given that we all work
very long hours (a 60 hour week is a short one) and have lives,
it's a miracle that even some of is found time to pass these exams.
And now Microsoft is saying that we are no longer valuable. They
are directly implying that we are not worthy of their greatness
because, well, we are too busy actually putting their products
to work to take the time out to study and pass the exams.
We do want to pass the exams and we do want to become certified
on Windows 2000. Every single person that works for me strongly
desires to pass these tests. Our objection does not come from
the fact that the tests exist or that Microsoft is raising the
bar or improving their products.
Our objection is the underhanded, sneaky and downright unethical
way that Microsoft is forcing us to put pressure on our company
and our employers to needlessly upgrade over and over again. The
pressure comes from every aspect of Microsoft - from forced upgrades
via their licensing practices to their forced certification policies.
Let's play devil's advocate for a minute and see what we can
learn. Perhaps Microsoft has to do this because they are more
intelligent and have a wider vision than the rest of the world.
Microsoft knows they have a far superior product, and in order
to ensure that we lesser beings provide the best value for our
companies, they are requiring us to upgrade our knowledge.
Heaven forbid that companies (especially large ones) actually
keep Windows NT 4.0 installed on their networks (much less Windows
95 or 98). To allow that would be completely irresponsible of
Microsoft, wouldn't it?
Okay, enough of that! Now I'm getting sick to my stomach!
The problem that many of us are facing is that we are stuck with
what we've got. We have already invested so much in Microsoft
products that it would be extremely difficult to switch to something
else. In addition, Windows NT 4.0 SP6a is a reasonably reliable
operating system, and the Office 2000 suite is exceptional.
However, every once in a while I get a little whimsical thinking
back to the good old days, when I used to run our multi-billion
dollar company on two large VAX machines. That's ALL of our applications,
every single one of them. Plus hundreds of users, over fifty printers
and fax machines and numerous other things. In fact, we ran payroll,
accounting, order processing, delivery scheduling, human resources,
printing, communications and everything else on those two machines!
To top it all off, we ran for over ten years on these VAX machines
without a major operating system upgrade! Yes, there were problems,
but constant retraining, reinstalls, service packs, hot fixes
and weekly major security alerts were not among them. And compared
to the clustering in OpenVMS (the operating system for the VAX
and Alpha hardware), the "clustering" in Windows 2000
is a complete joke!
And now I need over 150 servers running Windows NT 4.0 and Windows
2000! The really sickening thing is I'll bet I could run everything
on a dozen or so Unix or Linux servers, or, again, two big Alpha
(the successor to the VAX) systems. (It's really too bad that
Digital Equipment Corporation, which made the best hardware and
operating systems on the planet, could not market their way out
of a paper bag).
I think that's what is annoying is and many of our peers the
most. The constant need to spend an outrageous amount of time
to keep up with the new releases from Microsoft.
I know it doesn't fit into Microsoft's hostile "do it our
way and pay us for the privilege" business model, but we
would much prefer a different approach to the MCSE certification
model. Instead of constantly rolling it forward constantly, invalidating
the certifications of those who cannot keep up, why not just append
the operating system to the certification?
Why not just make a "MCSE Win4.0" and an "MCSE
Win2000"? To me as a manager, it would be far more valuable
than the current catch-all scheme. Look at it this way, I could
scan a resume for "MCSE Win3.1", "MCSE Win4.0"
or "MCSE Win95". Wouldn't that make it easier for me
as a manager? You bet!
However, it wouldn't help Microsoft's bottom line, would it?
Fortunately, I am not in the business of helping Microsoft's
profit margin. In fact, on my list of worries, that wouldn't even
be in the top million! My job, and the job of each and every person
in our company, is to support our users by giving them tools which
enable them to do their jobs.
To do that, we will get certified on Windows 2000, and probably
Windows XP after that. However, we will do it on our schedule,
fitting the training and testing time around our jobs and personal
lives. In the meantime, we will take a closer look at other alternatives
to Windows and Office, because, well, well really don't like this
situation. We may, or we may not, change to those alternatives,
but before this we were not even looking ... now we are.
Copyright (C) Richard Lowe Jr. and Claudia Arevalo-Lowe, 1999-2001.
Article Title: Microsoft Product Activation Author: Richard Lowe,
Jr. Contact Author: email@example.com