Microsoft Emphasizes Cloud In Certification Program Overhaul

The changes generally put more emphasis on IT system planning and design rather than implementation and operation, said Don Field, Microsoft senior director of product management.

"We've increased the skill levels that individuals are required to demonstrate," Field said in an interview. The new certifications reflect "industry shifts that require a broader knowledge base and deeper skills across solutions that cloud computing requires."

And the move will mean changes to partner certifications in the Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) program. Becoming certified under MPN's "competencies" requires that solution providers have a number of sales and technical staffers who have passed certification exams in specific areas such as application integration, content management, and identity and security. But Field said the MPN competencies themselves are not changing.

The new Microsoft Certification Program has three skill levels: Associate, Expert and Master. The new Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate, currently the Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist, emphasizes skills in software and services implementation.

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Microsoft described the Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert level as its "flagship credential" because it is the level most will aspire to, according to the company. It's geared toward IT professionals and developers with capabilities in planning, design and infrastructure. Microsoft said the MCSE level particularly requires skills and experience working with public, private and hybrid cloud systems.

The new Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer is the expert-level certification specifically for developers. Requirements for the Master-level certification haven't been set.

MCSEs will need to be re-certified every three years while MCSD re-certification is required every two years, Field said. He added that Microsoft is "not at the point" whether it will offer some kind of alternative to exams for becoming re-certified.

Among the first exams to be offered will be the MCSE for Private Cloud and MCSE for SQL Server 2012. Also in the works are MCSA certifications for Windows Server 2008 and MCSE certifications for data platforms and business intelligence.