Official 70-341 and 70-342 Preparation Books

mcse-messagingFor those striving for Exchange certification, there is nothing like good written material to prepare you for the exam at hand. Of course, hands-on experience is invaluable, but it could be you don’t know where to start, and find TechNet contents great for reference but more written with the support audience in mind. In those cases, you may need more guidance through the exam subjects, as with a regular course.

In this situation, the following two recently released Microsoft Press titles may be of interest:

Both books are the official preparation material for the exams, and they written by authors with proper field experience. Also, both Bhargav and Reid teached on the Microsoft Certified Master (MCM/MCSM) program at Microsoft in Redmond. If getting certified for Exchange 2013 is on your personal roadmap, be sure to check out these titles.

On another note, fellow Exchange MVP’s Tony Redmond, Michael van Horenbeeck and Paul Cunningham, together Jeff Guillet in the role of technical editor, will self-publish an e-book-only title, called “Office 365 for Exchange Professionals”. Intention of self-publishing an e-book-only title is to be able to incorporate Office 365 service changes more often. They plan to have it ready before Microsoft Ignite in 2 weeks time.

If you are looking for titles on Exchange or Exchange-related subject such as PowerShell or Active Directory, be sure to check out my section of recommended titles here.

MCM/MCSM & MCA R.I.P. (Update)

mcsmlogo Still recovering from the announcement to retire TechNet, IT Professionals get dealt another blow by the announcement retirement of the Microsoft Certified Master (MCM), Microsoft Certified Solutions Master (MCSM) and Microsoft Certified Architect (MCA) programs:

“We are contacting you to let you know we are making a change to the Microsoft Certified Master, Microsoft Certified Solutions Master, and Microsoft Certified Architect certifications. As technology changes so do Microsoft certifications and as such, we are continuing to evolve the Microsoft certification program. Microsoft will no longer offer Masters and Architect level training rotations and will be retiring the Masters level certification exams as of October 1, 2013. The IT industry is changing rapidly and we will continue to evaluate the certification and training needs of the industry to determine if there’s a different certification needed for the pinnacle of our program.”
(For the complete e-mail, consult MSFT and MCSM:Messaging trainer Neil Johnson’s blog here).

This announcement is causing quite a stir in the community and those having or aspiring the certifications mentioned. The general response is – I’ll use a less stronger word here – disappointment over the decision and the impression is that, together with the cancellation of TechNet (and perhaps what still lies ahead), this is part of Microsoft’s grand scheme to push their cloud strategy upon us. I can only assume that angry IT professionals mob is considered collateral damage.the-spanish-inquisition-framed

What also seems to frustrate people is the timing and notice period. First, the e-mail (which is the only information available at the moment) was sent on Saturday morning (GMT+1, so still Friday in the US) with labor day coming up on Monday in the US (holiday). Second, rotations are no longer offered as of now and exams will retire per October 1st, 2013. I read some tweets of people set for a rotation in October, receiving a 1 month cancellation notice. It can be real painful if you went to a rotation but still need to take the exam. That seems impossible and is bad PR. That’ll be some interesting e-mail messages and phone calls on Tuesday for @MSLearning, I reckon.

Given the full certification program costs $18k and recertification nearly $14k, apart from pre-reading, study, time and travel invested, some joined – or got employers to send them to MCSM – achieving to become a skilled IT Professional certified at a level which can compete with high level certifications provided by vendors like Cisco, making IT professionals stand out of the crowd, at the price of triennial recertification.Some customers even put in MCSM/MCA certification as a requirement for certain projects; that’s how MCSM/MCA is valued.

Now that total investment is set to expire forever. In what looks like an attempt at downplaying the impact of this, current MCM, MCSM and MCA certified may now to keep their credential and are not required to recertify, which was a requirement of the MCSM program to stay certified. But to be honest, how is an “MCM:Exchange 2007” certification valued by customers in 2013 when there are products of 2 newer generations?

Some responses from the community; as you can see, it doesn’t only hurt the Exchange and Lync professionals:

What are your thoughts on the MCM/MCSM/MCA retirement? Let me know in the comments.

Someone from the SQL community opened up an item on Connect where you can vote to keep MCSM. When you disagree with the termination of MCSM/MCA, let your voice be heard there as well.

Update (30aug): Tim Sneath, Sr. Director at MS Learning, provided a response on the decision to retire MCM/MCSM and MCA certifications in the comments section here.

Update (7Sep): The Connect item has been removed due to “trolling” per request of the original poster, Jen Stirrup. So, you can’t vote anymore and the feedback from the community on the decision – including Tim Sneath’s response – is now unavailable. You can find a cached copy of the page here and a copy of Sneath’s integral response here.

Update (10Sep): Apparently there was a (250 capped!) conference call yesterday, where MS claimed the program wasn’t delivering up to expectations (of MS Learning). Going after the article, it was more of Tim Sneath monologue as MCM/MCSM/MCA weren’t allowed to put anything on the table. What was announced was the following:

  • Exam offerings are extended for addional 90 days (December);
  • Refunds for those who have taken courses in order to achieve MCM/MCSM/MCA certification;
  • Preservation of course material until 2016.

 

Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert: Messaging on Exchange Server 2013

mcse-messagingAfter several weeks (I took the beta exam in November) and after results were already visible through Prometric yesterday, today I finally received confirmation through e-mail and on the MCP site that I passed both Exchange 2013 related beta exams:

I already took 70-417 Upgrading Your Skills to MCSA Windows Server 2012, which is an upgrade exam much like the previous 70-649 exam (2003->2008) and 70-292/296 (2000->2003). With officially passing 70-341 and 70-342 in conjunction with MCSA: Windows Server 2012, I’m now officially a (deep breath) Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert: Messaging on Exchange Server 2013.

Certification_Path

Note that by passing 70-417 you’ll effectively complete the following exams:

If you don’t qualify for the 70-417 exam (details), e.g. you’re new to Microsoft certification or you’re an MCITP: Enterprise Messaging Administrator 2007, you either pass the exams required to qualify (e.g. 70-662 and 70-663, which will expire in 2013 by the way) or you take and pass each of the mentioned Windows Server 2012 exams.

Useful resources when you want to archieve MCSE: Messaging yourself:

Note that when applying for Microsoft Certified Solutions Master (MCSM): Messaging before end of this year, you need the become an MCSA: Windows Server 2012; Starting January 1st, 2014 you need to become an MCSE: Messaging (which includes MCSA: Windows Server 2012) .

Exchange 2010 SP2 features, MCM:Exchange 2010 exam-only

The first day of TechEd NA 2011 brought us much exciting and some less exciting news on the Exchange frontier.

First, the announcement of changes in Exchange 2010 Service Pack 2. Besides some 500 bug fixes, SP2 contains the following new features:

  • Address Book Policies (also known as GAL segmentation). ABPs are meant to segmentize the address book, giving users a certain view of the address book like Address List Segregation did for Exchange 2003/2007. ABPs were already announced back in January. I wonder how this affects for instance MailTips, as MailTips might report on organization-wide figures (sending mail to X users) while the end user may only see a small fragment of the population. Also, be advised that clients bypassing the CAS server for directory lookups, e.g. LDAP queries, don’t benefit from ABPs. Think Outlook for Mac but also multifunctionals, fax solutions etc.;
  • OWA mini. This will be a lightweight browser like OMA in the past, meant for simple browsers;
  • Hybrid Configuration. This wizard is to make the configuration of an on-premises Exchange and Office 365/Exchange Online more simple, reducing the steps required from 49 to 6;
  • OWA Cross-Site redirection. This will allow clients to be silently redirected to the proper site if they log on to a CAS server located in a site different than the site where their mailbox is hosted and externalURL has been specified there. This greatly increases the single sign-on experience.

Be advised that Exchange Server 2010 Service Pack 2 will require schema changes to support the new features. SP2 is scheduled for the 2nd half of 2011.

Second, starting July 2011, Microsoft announced the exam-only Microsoft Certified Master: Exchange Server 2010 certification. This is for IT Professionals with 5 years of experience who think they can do the exams without the intensive 3 weeks training. Microsoft already did the same thing to the MCM: SQL Server 2008 program last year. The Exchange MCM exam is two-fold:

  1. MCM: Exchange Server 2010, Knowledge Exam. This exam will be offered by Prometric at select testing centers worldwide;
  2. MCM: Exchange Server 2010, Lab. This exam will be offered by Microsoft via direct remote proctoring at select Microsoft facilities worldwide.

I think while its great to have the option to take the exam in a facility in the region, but the absence of 3 week intensive training including meeting and being tutored by some people of the Exchange team and meeting Exchange fellows from all over the world seems a big miss. Also, how will the market respond to MCM’s who did the 3-week training versus MCM’s who didn’t; would the latter be considered inferior or less knowledgeable? If I had the choice, I’d go through the additional 3 weeks of training, extending your network and having a chance to ask your questions at the source.

Thanks to people like Dave Stork and Jeff Guillet for live reports through Twitter (#msteched).

You can watch a recording of Greg Taylor’s session on SP2 features here. The official related Exchange team blog is here. More information on the new Microsoft Certified Master: Exchange Server 2010 program here; the original announcement is here.

Besides all this, a recording of Scott Schnoll’s session on Exchange 2010 Tips & Tricks can be viewed here.

(Updated on May 17th with session links)

OCS 2007 R2 – UC Voice Specialization

In the Exchange UM area, it is good to know an exam is now available for Office Communications Server 2007 R2 in relation to Exchange Server 2007 Unified Messaging and Active Directory. This exam, 74-404 Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 R2 – U.C. Voice Specialization, covers the following topics:

  • Architecting and designing Microsoft Unified Communications Voice Solutions;
  • Administering users, clients;
  • Configuring servers and components, integration (e.g. Exchange UM);
  • Troubleshooting OCS 2007 R2 deployments.

You should also have experience with network infrastructure components supporting OCS 2007 R2.

Check out the prep guide here, you can register for the exam at Prometric.

Some numbers

After a post today from the Certified Master team I wondered, how does the number of Exchange MCA’s compare to the number of MCITP’s, MCTS’es etc. Finding any current information on the latter proves to be difficult. They used to be on this page of the Certification site, but now this redirects to the main portal. I don’t know why Microsoft doesn’t want to disclose this information since then.

I did find cached copies, someone who kept track of numbers until Augustus 2008 and a version on the Aussie pages of April 2nd, 2008; If someone has information about the blanks, contact me so I can update this information.

Certification Jan
2008
Mar
2008
Aug
2008
Jan
2010
MCA Messaging 2003 61 65 67
MCA Messaging 2007 17
MCM Exchange 2003 146
MCM Exchange 2007 131
MCITP: Enterprise Messaging Administrator 1468 2748
MCTS Microsoft Exchange Server 2007: Configuration 4729 9069
MCSE Messaging 2003 9116 9719 10632
MCSA Messaging 2003 57972 64162 78041

71-663 Beta Exam

Today I had a shot at the Microsoft Beta Exam 71-663, Designing and Deploying Messaging Solutions with Microsoft Exchange Server 2010. Largely on autopilot – the last time exam was in February – I went to the Exam Center of Global Knowledge only to find an half-empty building with new occupants; the company’s sign still was on the building. After some calls I discovered they relocated in March this year to the other side of Nieuwegein. Luckily I still was allowed to take the exam (normally you need to be there 30 mins in advance). Also, I am lucky my exam didn’t get cancelled. It turns out something went wrong with the application as it was uncapped and too much candidates could apply for 71-663 than was planned for. Shame.

Oh yeah, without going into too much details because of the NDA: the exam was ok.