IS workers angry over phase-out of NT 4.0 exams

Some IS professionals are fuming over Microsoft Corp.’s plan to quickly phase out certification for Windows NT 4.0, a move critics say could make it harder for some companies to find qualified IT staff.

Microsoft has said its goal is to ensure enough trained IS workers are available to support Windows 2000, but some critics see the plan, announced late last year, as an aggressive attempt to force IS professionals to upgrade to its new OS.

“Reducing or eliminating support for older versions is a common way to ‘encourage’ customers to upgrade to the latest version of an operating system. Reducing the pool of qualified technical support is an effective way to do this,” said John Goodfriend, founder of Lanop Corp. in Jeffersonville, N.Y., which offers training in a variety of software platforms.

The Windows NT certification is part of the Microsoft Certification Program, in which IS workers attend classes at training centres and universities around the world, and then take a series of exams set by Microsoft in order to get their Microsoft Certified Solutions Engineer (MCSE) designation.

Late last year, Microsoft quietly informed those studying for the Windows NT 4.0 MCSE that they must complete their exams by Dec. 31, 2000, in order to become certified. Microsoft also said it would retire the NT 4.0 certification at the end of 2001, meaning engineers qualified in that operating system will need to upgrade to the Windows 2000 MCSE to remain certified.

Like other vendors, Microsoft has always phased out exams for older software as a way of encouraging the industry to adopt more current versions. But the plan to phase out the NT 4.0 MCSE – which was announced even before Windows 2000 was released in February – is more aggressive than anything attempted before, critics said. Exams for the Windows NT 3.51 MCSE, for example, were still being offered in June this year, five years after the software was released.

“It will leave MCSEs who’ve invested six months to a year of their time and thousands of dollars with a certificate that Microsoft says will be worthless,” Lanop’s Goodfriend said. In addition, any corporations still using Windows NT after Dec. 31, 2001, will find it harder to identify qualified IT professionals because the relevant certification will no longer exist, he said.

“They’ll have to believe what people write on their resum