Users grumble about NT's looming retirement

Some corporate information technology executives are grumbling that Microsoft has revamped its certification program to force companies to migrate to Windows 2000. But others disagree saying it's a fair cop.

Under the new rules, people who hold Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) certification must pass exams on Windows 2000 by December 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. 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.

However, Jason Cook, director of Datawise Consulting and holder of MSCE certification, said Microsoft's and users' interests coincide with the forced migration to Windows 2000.

"Windows 2000 is a superior product, so upgrading is not a bad thing from a technical or managerial standpoint," he told Computerworld.

However, Cook added "it all comes down to dollars".

"If a company doesn't have the money to upgrade, [the forced certification] presents a problem."

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, 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 Windows 2000 than just chopping NT 4.0 training off altogether," said David Lichtenhan, a managing director at Charles Schwab & Co.

However, Steve Ross, general manager of Com Tech Education Services, points out 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 after December.

Ross cautioned potential candidates not to drag their feet in getting certified, as "it takes three to six months to do the Windows NT exams, so we are advising people that September is a realistic cut-off date".

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