What you can really take away from Microsoft's latest certification

* Microsoft unveils 'elite' education program

Evidently there are way too many Microsoft Certified Professionals (MCP) in the world, because the company has just launched a new certification program which it claims is targeted for "professionals [who] have 10 or more years of experience, possess strong technical and leadership skills and form an elite community."  Well, depends on how you define "elite," doesn't it?

In this case, elite means about the same as "fraternal" - the procedure is similar to how you get into a fraternity.

The new certification is called Microsoft Certified Architect (MCA), and the only way to achieve this certification is to "... pass a rigorous review board with previously certified architects."

<aside> This begs the question of who approved the first certified architects, then, hmm? But that's probably embarrassing to ask. So we won't. </aside>

Now you probably think that as a network manager you can create the network architecture, so you'd be eligible for this certification, right? Well, here's how Microsoft describes the "target market" for the MCA:

"This certification is targeted to practicing solutions architects and infrastructure architects who have successfully applied frameworks and methodologies to create an architecture that serves the entire IT lifecycle. These architects can employ multiple technologies to solve business problems and provide business metrics and measurements to describe the success or failure of the projects they drive." (See http://www.microsoft.com/architecture/default.aspx?pid=share.certification&abver=E9A00024-3DC1-4B6A-BC20-22716E4D2FEA)

Check that language. It's obviously aimed at consultants, because only they could interpret that paragraph.

Still, the really nice thing about new certifications is that it drives the sponsor to create new educational materials. I've got nothing against learning and tools for learning, just the pompous language (and the secret handshakes) of the "elite" certification programs.

So if you head over to the Microsoft Architecture Resource Center (http://www.microsoft.com/architecture/default.aspx?pid=home&abver=E9A00024-3DC1-4B6A-BC20-22716E4D2FEA), you'll find lots of things that might actually help you to do your job more effectively or efficiently. The "Think Ahead" section, for example, is further divided into four areas:

1. Integrating Systems & Applications

2. Improving Design & IT Efficiency

3. Securing Enterprises & Applications

4. Increasing Business Flexibility

Each of these, in turn, is broken into three disciplines:

1. Enterprise Architecture

2. Infrastructure Architecture

3. Solution Architecture

And each of these disciplines contains white papers, case studies, tools and descriptions, and occasional tips and tricks to help you understand the architecture of your systems as well as to improve upon them.

I often poke fun at certification programs that serve, as far as I can tell, to reassure non-technical people that technical folks understand technology. But the tools and the educational materials that certification programs provide are a wonderful education for those who use them properly.

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