Certifiably confused?

Summary:Love 'em or hate 'em, you can't live without certifications. You can argue until you're blue, but one fact remains: Many companies choose their technical partners by virtue of their certifications.

Just because a certification is old, however, doesn't mean that it automatically loses its value. Many shops still run NetWare 3.11, and Novell still awards CNE certifications to those specializing in that OS. (Admittedly, however, NetWare 3.11 CNEs can't expect to earn top dollar, because the certification is roughly a decade old).

But sometimes a company will seek to eliminate a certification in order to further its product agenda at the possible expense of integrators and customers.

One such case is Microsoft and its handling of NT certifications. Microsoft decided that, as of Dec. 31, 2000, it will stop giving NT-based MCSE certification tests. And Microsoft will stop recognizing the MCSE diploma at the end of 2001.

On the upside, that likely will inspire many certified NT engineers to get certified on Windows 2000—which is widely considered to be more stable than NT.

But on the downside, many MCSEs note that their hard-earned certifications will become worthless. Keith Weiskamp, CEO of The Coriolis Group, a major certification book publisher, has been widely quoted on the subject. He says Microsoft's Windows 2000 certification strategy is "counterproductive" because it alienates a dedicated community of professionals.

"Many MCSEs who feel that they have invested their careers with Microsoft now also feel that their investments are being seriously and negatively impacted," asserts Weiskamp.

Redmond's Response

Nevertheless, Microsoft stands by its decision. Donna Senko, Microsoft's director of certification and skills assessment, says the Windows 2000 initiative will keep the MCSE program "highly relevant and up-to-date."

Still, some MCSEs insist there's a clear demand for NT certification. Aiming to fill the void, Lanop, a certification training company, has started its own program, known as the NT Certified Independent Professional (NT-CIP). It's worth a look, if your customers plan to continue with NT. But remember one thing: NT-CIP doesn't have Microsoft's blessing.

Meanwhile, there's just as much confusion on the Linux front. Sure, the open-source operating system is hotter than a $49 pistol. But its various certification programs are confusing and incomplete.

For example, the Linux Professional Institute (LPI) certification program has the full support of such Linux powers as Caldera, IBM, Linuxcare, SuSE and Turbo Linux, but its certification program has been slow to come together. At this point, only one program, known as LPI-1, is available. According to the LPI, this level is more than what a help-desk assistant would require, but less than what's needed to administer a small network. In other words, it's worthless to top-notch solutions providers.

What's an aspiring Linux pro to do? One option is to give the Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE) program a look. Red Hat claims that the program can produce system-administrator-ready professionals. The subject matter is Red Hat-specific, but it's certainly more advanced than what LPI offers.

Other options abound, including niche Linux certifications from Sair Linux (with Corel's support) and Brainbench, a training company. There is also a proposed Linux certification from CompTIA.

Would Linux do better with a single, high-level certification? Most Linux integrators interviewed said yes. But without a single standard, unless you're wedded to Red Hat Linux, Linux certification remains a murky area.

Topics: Tech & Work


Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, aka sjvn, has been writing about technology and the business of technology since CP/M-80 was the cutting edge, PC operating system; 300bps was a fast Internet connection; WordStar was the state of the art word processor; and we liked it.His work has been published in everything from highly technical publications... Full Bio

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