Microsoft to retire the MCSE: Desktop Infrastructure credential in January 2016

November 3, 2015 at 9:19 am | Posted in Certification Paths, Microsoft, Vendor news | Leave a comment
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If you’ve been working toward your MCSE in Desktop Infrastructure, you will need to finish your exam cycle sooner rather than later. Microsoft has announced that the certification itself will be retired on January 31, 2016, along with two of its key exams.

The five exams in this certification sequence are:

  • 70-415: Implementing a Desktop Infrastructure – retires January 31, 2016
  • 70-416: Implementing Desktop Application Environments – retires January 31, 2016
  • 70-412: Configuring Advanced Windows Server 2012 Services R2
  • 70-411: Administering Windows Server 2012 R2
  • 70-410: Installing and Configuring Windows Server 2012 R2

The other three exams in the path – 70-410, 70-411, and 70-412 – are also key exams for other MCSA and MCSE certifications.  As of this writing, Microsoft has not announced a retirement date for those exams.

What happens when a certification retires? Even if an exam that is part of a certification you earned is retired, your certification is still valid. When an exam you passed is retired, the exam record remains on your transcript.

Ch-ch-ch-changes: Turn and face the change (to Windows Server 2012 R2 exams)

March 12, 2014 at 9:03 am | Posted in Microsoft, Study hints, Vendor news | 6 Comments
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The first song I ever heard by David Bowie was “Rebel, Rebel” and in the video, he had scarlet red hair, an eyepatch, and some stylin’ 70s pantaloons.  If you have followed the (not parallel, but similarly meteoric) careers of Windows Server and British rock star David Bowie, you will see one common thread. Can you guess what it is?


Mr. Bowie, like Windows Server, has gone through several significant changes of appearance since those early days. The first version of Window Server I ever used was Windows NT 3.1. Despite undergoing several version updates since then, some core functionalities have stayed the same.

WinServerVersions Now there is a new version on the market, Windows Server 2012 R2. Late last year Microsoft announced that they would modify the existing Window Server 2012 certification exams to cover  R2 (70-41070-411, and 70-412). The Windows Server 2012 R2 exam changes officially took effect in January 2014, although we saw staggered rollout in the field. So if you spent good money taking a Microsoft Official Curriculum (MOC) course on Server 2012, only to find yourself under pressure taking an exam that tested concepts from Server 2012 R2, you may be asking why Microsoft felt the need to update the exam content so soon. I have met several people at Microsoft. They are not mean people who pull the wings off of butterflies; they are actually really, really nice folk.  It’s simply that the exams needed to reflect the new features of Windows Server 2012 R2. David Bowie is not content to just live off his old tunes; he put out his 24th album in 2013.  In similar fashion, Microsoft is not content for certification candidates to know what might soon be a legacy operating systems. They want to ensure that candidates for their flagship MCSA and MCSE certifications are tested on the newest features deployed to the field.

Without further ado, here are the additions to the official exam objectives list for the  70-410, 70-411, and 70-412 exams. 70-410certChanges 70-411certChanges 70-412certChanges While you can purchase the latest album from David Bowie  and listen to it, you may not yet be able to find much training on the new R2 features.  The best way to prepare for this exam is to set up a couple of servers and work through each of the tasks listed in the exam objectives. You can get a free evaluation copy of Windows Server 2012 R2. There aren’t a lot of books on Windows Server 2012 R2 yet. I would use TechNet and other online resources to study the information on each sub-objective. I find that Microsoft generally pulls test questions from the examples in TechNet. I would ensure that I was 100% confident with each sub-objective listed on the prep guide before attempting the live exam. Reviewing information on a particular sub-objective will ensure that you will not see anything that you are not familiar with on the exam.

If you need extra hands-on experience but do not want to spend hours configuring a server, try using the FREE virtual labs at the following link: These labs allow you to have 90 minutes of practice lab time on a Windows Server for FREE.

We will be cranking out the Windows  Server 2012 R2 updates for the 70-412 Transcender practice exam in the next few weeks. (Drop a comment here to be added to our notification list.) And you better believe I’ll be listening to a little David Bowie while we do it.

You can check out the already updated R2 Transcender practice tests here:

  • 70-410, Installing and Configuring R2
  • 70-411, Administering R2
Until next time,
George Monsalvatge

Customer asks: Is now the time to study for Windows Server 2008 certification, or Server 2012?

September 27, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Posted in Certification Paths, Microsoft, Study hints | 40 Comments
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Editor’s note: Exam retirements are subject to change without notice. Please go to the official Microsoft Retired exams list to confirm or deny a specific test’s retirement date.

In response to a recent post, blog reader Zappy asked,

I am new to Windows Server certifications and I currently hold none. I am thinking of getting certified but I am not sure if I should begin with Windows Server 2008 or Windows Server 2012. I have a fair amount of experience in 2008. What would you suggest?

The knee-jerk response is “Forget 2008; study for the cert that will have the longest shelf life.” However, there are a few factors to consider before writing off a 2008 certification entirely. Those factors are:

  • the number of exams required to earn a certification
  • the desired time frame for earning a certification
  • the user’s level of experience with 2008 versus 2012
  • how soon the user can expect 2012 to be the standard in his or her particular industry

For the sake of demonstration, I’m going to look only at Windows Server certifications, and not specialties such as Lync, .NET, SharePoint, or Exchange. (You can find more information on those certification paths here.) I’m also going to stick with entry-level and mid-level certs, since you’d be earning those anyway as you blaze towards the MCSE or MCM.

(Remember: These recommendations are for someone who, as of late 2012, has not yet taken any Microsoft exam and needs to factor exam retirement dates into a certification strategy.)

Do it now: Be off like a shot

No matter which path you decide to pursue, do it now. The perfect time to buy your first Microsoft exam voucher is during the Second Shot promotion. That means that if you take an exam between now and May 30, 2013 and fail it, you can sit for a free retake. You can buy Second Shot assurance for a single exam or for a multi-exam voucher pack (which typically earns you a bulk discount on exam fees as well).

It only takes one

Remember that passing one certification exam, even if it’s part of a multi-exam certification track, earns you the Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) credential. As a member of the Microsoft Certification Program, you have access to MCP Flash emails from Microsoft, and you can share your transcript with others to show your progress towards a specific certification.

Single-exam certs: testing the Microsoft waters

In the “need a cert now” category, you can obtain a Microsoft certification with just one test — and it will count toward a higher-level certification, should you choose to pursue one. However, one-test certs are only offered for Windows Server 2008. The three server specializations are:

Remember that these exams include Windows Server 2008 R2 material, so you absolutely must be familiar with R2 before sitting an exam.

Our recommendation: if you’ve never sat for any Microsoft test and don’t know what to expect, combining Second Shot with a one-test cert might be the perfect low-stress entrance strategy, even if it “only” earns you an MCTS Server 2008 credential. If you go this route, choose either the 70-640 or the 70-642, since these also count toward the newly fledged MCSA in Server 2008 (more on that in the next section).

70-643 alone is not relevant to the MCSA 2008, so look at the exam’s objectives, and only choose it if you need this certification in your current job (and your boss is paying).

Three to five exams: not all middle-tier certs are created equal

Things get a bit murky as you move up the Server 2008 certification ladder. Having divided Generation 2008 certifications into five MCTS (entry level) and three MCITP (mid level) exam tracks, all covering different job roles and skills, Microsoft recently collapsed the varied tracks back into a revised MCSA, and added the upper-tier MCSE options. However, the MCITP tracks are still active. Depending on the track, each MCITP will either be phased out in July 2013 or rolled into the new generation of certifications.

You can obtain an MCITP in a Windows client or in Server 2008 R2 by taking three to five exams. The three server paths are Enterprise, Server Admin, and Virtualization Admin.

Earning the MCITP: Server OR the MCITP: Enterprise automatically snags you an equivalent MCSA: Windows Server 2008. However, Server can be earned in only three exams, while Enterprise takes five. A MCSA: Server 2008 plus the 70-417 upgrade exam can then earn you the MCSA: Server 2012.

The MCITP: Virtualization also allows you to upgrade to MCSA: Server 2012 — but, confusingly, you can’t upgrade it to an MCSA: Server 2008. Microsoft has dropped it from this list of current MCITP tracks; also see this blog post.

Our recommendation: Continue Reading Customer asks: Is now the time to study for Windows Server 2008 certification, or Server 2012?…

What I Did On My Summer Vacation: My week at TechEd 2012

June 20, 2012 at 7:52 pm | Posted in Kaplan IT Training news, Microsoft, Vendor news | Leave a comment
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TechEd 2012 Orlando has come and gone. A great time was had by all. Now it’s time to go home and process the volumes of information, and hopefully share some of the highlights with you in the process. Windows 8 is the first one that comes to mind.

Microsoft featured Windows 8 in the keynote presentation. This operating system is a bit different from previous versions in that there is a heavily redesigned front-end, and it is designed with touch screens in mind. In fact, they had a DJ use a virtual mixing board using the Windows 8 platform to lay down a beat or two.

While the DJ demonstration did not really give me a clear sense of what Windows 8 can do beyond tablet integration, I will say the President of the Server Business at Microsoft gave a great overview of the future of Windows Server 2012. The keynote speeches gave attendees a quick look at the new operating systems and products and were a great kickoff to the week. You can view video recaps of the keynote speeches in the comfort of your own home:

Another TechEd favorite are the hands-on labs. These labs are, hands down, the most popular part of the program. If you could find an empty seat, then you could play around with the latest technology. My technology of choice this year was Server 2012, Windows 8, and SQL Server 2012.

Microsoft offered discounts on existing exams and the opportunity to take beta exams for attendees. There was a Prometric test center where you could take your exams. According to Prometric, the 70-246: Monitoring and Operating a Private Cloud with System Center 2012  and 70-247: Configuring and Deploying a Private Cloud with System Center 2012 exams were the most popular exams taken at TechEd.

I took the 70-687 Configuring Windows 8 and the 70-410 Installing and Configuring Windows Server 2012 beta exams. In past years, the test center was isolated and the whole exam process was effortless and very, very quiet. Not so much this year. The testing computers had some hardware issues, and the test center was about as quiet as a Widespread Panic concert on New Year’s Eve. Having said that, I’m sure the noise level was mostly due to the fact that people (read: fellow geeks) were very, very worked up about the new MCSE and MCSA certifications.

Which brings me to the newly announced certification tracks. Our good friends at TrainSignal Training filmed two great short clips of Don Field, Sr. Director of Product Management at Microsoft Learning, talking about the new MCSA and MCSE certifications as they relate to the new Windows Server 2012. Be sure to check these out if you missed the discussions at TechEd:

The workshop sessions for Server 2012 were also very popular. It seemed that every Server 2012 and System Center 2012 session that I attended jammed about 1,000 people into a space that should only hold 750. The SQL Server 2012 sessions were especially well attended, particularly those for the Business Intelligence tracks. Several of these great sessions are available online, so I recommend that you watch them while you can:

Windows Server 2012 Overview

The 12 Reasons to Love Microsoft SQL Server 2012 

Building Windows 8 Metro style UIs 

You can find the complete list of TechEd videos here on Channel 9.

Two years ago at TechEd 2010 in New Orleans, Microsoft made a big push for the Windows Phone. They gave out hats, shirts and had lots of presentations featuring the phone and its technology. Fast forward to TechEd 2012. I saw a lot of attendees carrying iPhones and I did not feel a lot of buzz for the Windows Phone. This year Microsoft gave out Windows Phone visors instead of hats. Where are all the Windows Phone fans?! I missed all that Windows Phone love!

There were a zillion (UN-official count by me as I walked the expo floor) people at TechEd this year. The show actually sold out which was surprising considering the stagnant economy. Here are some other interesting facts about TechEd:

  • Breakfast is prepared by 90 chefs and they serve 40,000 slices of bacon.
  • An attendee at TechEd will walk close to 30 miles over the duration of the conference. The Orlando Convention Center is a pretty big place.
  • You need to visit a vendor’s booth and ask where the after-party is. Apparently there are after-parties that require an invitation from the vendor to get in to. They are for great for networking and meeting new contacts.

If you didn’t see me jammed into the last seat in the back row of that SQL Server 2012 session, maybe you caught me at the Transcender booth. I love working a trade show booth. You get to visit with customers and hear feedback about your product. I hope you had the chance to stop by and say Hello. We gave away lots of swag, talked to plenty of friendly faces, and noted every last one of your requests for the new Server 2012, SQL Server 2012, and Windows 8 practice tests. I can assure you: we are definitely working on this.

Yours Truly is the second from the right. Josh Hester is the man in the green shirt.

After a long, long, long week, the Transcender gang hit Universal Studios for a chance to mingle with the conference attendees and various other characters.

The week was a lot of fun, but now it’s back to work.

(Of course, even if you weren’t among the elite attendees of TechEd, you can still run a pre-release copy of the new operating systems from their Springboard series. You just have to do the hard work of installation yourself, and no one will serve you bacon while you do it.)

Get Started with the Springboard Series for Windows 8

Download Windows Server 2012 Release Candidate (RC) 

Download Microsoft SQL Server 2012

Until next time,

–George Monsalvatge

Everything old is new again: the MCSE and MCSA are dead (long live the MCSE and MCSA)

May 14, 2012 at 8:15 am | Posted in Certification Paths, Microsoft, Vendor news | 39 Comments
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(ETA 10/01/12: Microsoft is still rolling out changes to these tracks. Be sure to check Microsoft Learning, Born To Learn, and our blog for the most current information on MCSA and MCSE. Because exam retirements are subject to change without notice, please go to the official Microsoft Retired exams list to confirm or deny a specific test’s retirement date, as it may have changed since this post was originally published.)

We also recommend you review our post on merging your MCITP with the MCSA: Customer asks: Is now the time to study for Windows Server 2008 certification, or Server 2012?

Yesterday a vendor called me on the phone and said that he had a great price on the latest MCSE classes. He went on to explain that these classes taught all the latest, hottest technologies. They were so virtualized, a team of physicists argued over their very existence. They were so far up in the cloud, you needed a telescope to find your exam. Once he’d wound down the hyperbole, I asked him what operating system was covered in the classes, and he proudly told me, “Windows Server 2003.”

I have news for you, buddy: Windows Server 2003 is nine years old. The problem is that MCSE, as a certification, became both the gold standard for HR staff and a synonym for the “brand” of Microsoft certification. When Microsoft retired those certifications in favor of the MCITP and MCPD and MCTS in 2005, they had problems selling the switch to die-hard certification holders. More importantly, it faced uneven adoption in the business realm. No one really jumped on the bandwagon. Human Resource managers and hiring managers still referred to MCSA and MCSE in job listings.  Vendors who called me on the phone only knew “MCSE” and “MCSA.” (Sales people in my own office still do not understand the differences between MCTS and MCITP, but at least they realized the MCSE was gone.) I’ve had students tell me they’ve applied for recent jobs that cited a MCSE as a requirement. I guess Microsoft felt the time was right to reanimate the dead MCSA and MCSE certifications. As I’m sure you’ve heard by now–that clueless vendor had it half-right. The MCSE and MCSA are back!

The new MCSE is not your Dad’s MCSE. First of all, MCSE now stands for Microsoft Certified SOLUTIONS EXPERT, not Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer.  If you attain the new and re-released MCSE, you are an expert in Microsoft solutions, not an engineer. (You are an engineer if you passed a lot of physics and calculus classes.) The new MCSA is now called Microsoft Certified SOLUTIONS ASSOCIATE, instead of  Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator. That also makes more sense. If you attain the MCSA you are certified in various Microsoft solutions, but not necessarily a sysadmin. The old MCSE made you pass several tests based on the Windows operating system plus an elective subject, like Exchange Server or SQL Server. The new MCSE currently offers certifications in MCSE – Private Cloud and MCSE SQL Server 2012. Going forward, Microsoft will offer more MCSE certifications as new versions of products are released. Look for the MCSE Data Platform certification to roll out tests in June 2012. The new MCSA is similar the old MCSA. Microsoft currently offers certifications in MCSA Windows Server 2008 and MCSA SQL Server 2012, but will offer more MCSA certifications as new versions of products are released. To get the MCSA: Windows Server 2008, you would have to pass the following:

  • Exam 70-640 – windows Server 2008 Active Directory, Configuring
  • Exam 70-642 – Windows Server 2008 Network Infrastructure, Configuring
  • Exam 70-646 – Windows Server 2008, Server Administrator

Hey, wait a minute. Wasn’t there already a certification for someone who passed the above tests? Yeah, it was called the MCITP: Server Administrator on Windows Server 2008. The good news is that if you’ve been studying toward these exams, you haven’t wasted your precious certification time. The Private Cloud certification requires that you pass the following:

  • Exam 70-640 – windows Server 2008 Active Directory, Configuring
  • Exam 70-642 – Windows Server 2008 Network Infrastructure, Configuring
  • Exam 70-646 – Windows Server 2008, Server Administrator
  • Exam 70-247 – Configuring & Deploying a Private Cloud with System Center 2012  OR  Exam 70-659 Windows Server 2008 R2 Virtualization
  • Exam 70-246 – Configuring Monitoring and Operating a Private Cloud with System Center 2012

The 70-246 and 70-247 exams should be released this summer. The SQL Server 2012 MCSE Server certification has two different platforms:  Data Platform or Business Intelligence. To get the MCSE: Data Platform, you have to pass the following:

  • Exam 70-461 – Querying Microsoft SQL Server 2012
  • Exam 70-462 – Administering a Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Database
  • Exam 70-463 – Implementing Data Warehouses with Microsoft SQL Server 2012
  • Exam 70-464 – Developing Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Databases
  • Exam 70-465 – Designing Database Solutions for SQL Server 2012

If you have a MCTIP: Database Developer 2008 certification or MCTIP: Database Administrator 2008 certification on SQL Server 2008, you can upgrade to the MCSE: Data Platform by passing the following:

  • Exam 70-457 – Transition your MCTS on SQL Server 2008 to MCSA: SQL Server 2012 Part 1
  • Exam 70-458 – Transition your MCTS on SQL Server 2008 to MCSA: SQL Server 2012 Part 2
  • Exam 70-459 – Transition your MCTIP to MCSE: Data Platform

To get the MCSE: Business Intelligence, you have to pass the following:

  • Exam 70-461 – Querying Microsoft SQL Server 2012
  • Exam 70-462 – Administering a Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Database
  • Exam 70-463 – Implementing Data Warehouses with Microsoft SQL Server 2012
  • Exam 70-466 – Implementing Data Models and Reports with Microsoft SQL Server 2012
  • Exam 70-467 – Designing Business Intelligence Solutions with Microsoft SQL Server 2012

If you have a MCTIP: Business Intelligence 2008 certification on SQL Server 2008, you can upgrade to the MCSE: Business Intelligence by passing the following:

  • Exam 70-457 – Transition your MCTS on SQL Server 2008 to MCSA: SQL Server 2012 Part 1
  • Exam 70-458 – Transition your MCTS on SQL Server 2008 to MCSA: SQL Server 2012 Part 2
  • Exam 70-460 – Transition your MCTIP: Business Intelligence 2008 to MCSE: Business Intelligence.

These exams should be released later this year. This would be an excellent time to answer some questions I’m sure you have.

What about your MCTS and MCTIP certifications?

Well, you will still have those, but as time goes by they will retire.

If I get a new MCSA or new MCSE certification, will I have to recertify?

You betcha, brothers and sisters. The MCSA and MCSE certification will probably last only about 3 years before you have to recertify.  What constitutes recertifying?  You will have to pass a test or series of tests. The MCTS and MCTIP will become  like a Cisco CCNA certification, the CompTIA A+, and other certifications where you will have to recertify every three years. Microsoft wants to keep the MCSE and MCSA certifications relevant.  You can read more about this policy on Microsoft’s site. If you’re still confused, I recommend these informative videos from the Born To Learn blog:

Microsoft Certified Trainers Explain MCSE

In my next blog post, I’ll go over the new “extended matching” item types being rolled out in Microsoft’s exams. Until then, keep your nose clean and your acronyms straight. –George Monsalvatge

Cloud bound? Grab your two-for-one exam voucher from Microsoft today!

April 30, 2012 at 8:59 am | Posted in Certification Paths, Microsoft | 1 Comment
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Have you been racing toward your Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP) or Microsoft Certified Professional Developer (MCPD) certification, only to worry that it might be redundant by the time you arrive? If so, act fast to take advantage of a FREE exam offer from Microsoft that will help convert your certification to the equivalent MCSE certification when it’s released.

To benefit from this offer, you must purchase and take any exam from one of these four technology paths by June 30, 2012:

  • Windows 7
  • Windows Server 8 /Private Cloud
  • SQL Server 2008
  • Visual Studio 2010

Next, you must request a free exam voucher from Microsoft:

Once the MCSE-level exam in your technology path is released, you have 90 days to use the voucher and take the exam for free. You can request up to 5 vouchers (keeping in mind you will have to pass the 5 current exams before the end of June).

Here’s a comprehensive list of the exams that you can CURRENTLY take, and receive a voucher for the corresponding 2012 or Server 8 version:

Exam 70-680 : TS: Windows 7, Configuring
Exam 70-686 : PRO: Windows 7, Enterprise Desktop Administrator
Exam 70-685 : PRO: Windows 7, Enterprise Desktop Support Technician
Exam 70-640 : Windows Server 2008 Active Directory, Configuring
Exam 70-642 : Windows Server 2008 Network Infrastructure, Configuring
Exam 70-646 : Windows Server 2008, Server Administrator
Exam 70-647 : PRO: Windows Server 2008, Enterprise Administrator
Exam 70-643 : TS: Windows Server 2008 Applications Infrastructure, Configuring
Exam 70-659 : TS: Windows Server 2008 R2, Server Virtualization
Exam 70-432 : TS: Microsoft SQL Server 2008, Installation and Maintenance
Exam 70-433 : TS: Microsoft SQL Server 2008, Database Development
Exam 70-448 : TS: Microsoft SQL Server 2008, Business Intelligence Development and Maintenance
Exam 70-450 : PRO: Designing, Optimizing and Maintaining a Database Server Infrastructure using Microsoft SQL Server 2008
Exam 70-451 : PRO: Designing Database Solutions and Data Access Using Microsoft SQL Server 2008
Exam 70-452 : PRO: Designing a Business Intelligence Infrastructure Using Microsoft SQL Server 2008
Exam 70-511 : TS: Windows Applications Development with Microsoft .NET Framework 4
Exam 70-513 : TS: Windows Communication Foundation Development with Microsoft .NET Framework 4
Exam 70-515 : TS: Web Applications Development with Microsoft .NET Framework 4
Exam 70-516 : TS: Accessing Data with Microsoft .NET Framework 4
Exam 70-518 : PRO: Designing and Developing Windows Applications Using Microsoft .NET Framework 4
Exam 70-519 : PRO: Designing and Developing Web Applications Using Microsoft .NET Framework 4

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