Some corporate information technology executives are grumbling that Microsoft has revamped its certification program to force companies to migrate to Windows 2000.
Under the new rules, people who hold Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) certification must pass exams on Windows 2000 by Dec. 31, 2001, or lose their certification.
What's more, Microsoft is "retiring" all Windows NT 4.0 exams at the end of this year. This means that, seven months from now, it will be impossible to obtain MCSE certification without training on Windows 2000.
That's too soon, said Deb Mukherjee, CIO at Farmers Group in Los Angeles. He said there simply is no time for companies to start rolling out Windows 2000, gain enough experience with it and then have staff pass the new tests before the end of next year.
And what happens when a client insists that an IT staffing firm supply an engineer certified in NT 4.0? Bill Pfannenstiel, a vice president at Manpower Professional, a unit of Manpower in Milwaukee, said that in such a situation he would have to explain that there is no way the individual can be certified because Microsoft has retired the exam.
"Microsoft should provide an easier transition from NT 4.0 to Win 2k than just chopping NT 4.0 training off altogether," said David Lichtenhan, a managing director at Charles Schwab & Co.
NT 4.0 training still available
Donna Senko, certification and skills and assessment director at Microsoft, points out that NT 4.0 courses will still be offered by training companies as long as there is demand - they just won't lead to a Microsoft-backed certificate anymore. Senko said Microsoft is simply trying to increase the value of MCSEs - a goal that executives like Mukherjee say they applaud.
Senko also denied that Microsoft is trying to force customers to migrate.
If a company is just migrating to Win 2k on desktops, recertification is "probably more of a nuisance rather than useful," said Barbara Gomolski, research director at Gartner Institute in Minnesota. She said she doesn't think NT 4.0 will be antiquated knowledge. "A lot of companies that don't deploy server-based features of Windows 2000 will still be running [these platforms] for a while," she said.
Mike Vaughn, an information systems specialist at KASA TV in New Mexico, said he suspected that the early expiration of the NT 4.0 MCSE program "has a lot to do with marketing."
"I think [the MCSE program] is a push for companies to upgrade, but I and my company will go into [Windows 2000] when we are ready," said Vaughn.
"As long as Microsoft is making money [selling] a product," it shouldn't be considered 'retired,' said Doug Chick, an MCSE who obtained his certification in 1997. He said the market - not Microsoft's marketing department - should dictate when certain technical skills are outmoded.