Microsoft and Novell set to repeal certifications

Companies may have to spend money they consider a waste and suffer lost worker time to recertify staff as a result of changes Novell Inc. and Microsoft Corp. have recently made to their certification programs.

Novell announced that all Certified Novell Engineers (CNE) will lose their certification unless they become trained on NetWare 5 by the end of August 2000. Microsoft will revoke the certification of its Certified Systems Engineers (MCSE) in December 2001 unless they recertify on Windows 2000.

The issue may prove particularly nettlesome in shops that have no foreseeable plans to move to Windows 2000 or NetWare 5. “Why should their staff need Windows 2000 certification to maintain their MCSE?” asked Dave Kinnaman, a network consultant in Seattle who also writes MCSE study guides. The same is true for NetWare, he says. At present, 90 per cent of Novell’s installations are NetWare 3 or 4, and Win 2000 won’t ship until February of next year.

“Saying MCSEs are no longer qualified for their work is a foolish marketing-based exaggeration,” Kinnaman said. “They are still quite qualified for the Windows NT 4.0 work in their companies.”

The cost of obtaining a MCSE is steep, running from US$5,000 to US$10,000 for six to seven weeks of classes. If a person elects to become certified through self-study, the investment can be as little as US$1,000.

While the certification changes are causing a fuss in some circles, other network managers see the changes – and the programs themselves – as much ado about nothing.

“It’s just a bunch of letters,” said Mark Labow, a network engineer at Skadden Arps, a large law firm in New York. Labow is certified by Microsoft, Novell and Cisco.

“When you interview a person, just because he has a certificate doesn’t mean he knows anything. It means he has certain base knowledge, but after a point you need to be sure he can apply it,” said Clarence Ng, network manager at the firm.

“Certification is an added plus, but we are more concerned with hands-on experience that can be proven through work history,” said Chuck Yoke, manager of technology architecture for Janus, a Denver-based mutual fund company.

IS managers also say that hiring network professionals has changed in the past few years. Now CNE and MCSE certifications don’t have the cachet they once had because almost everyone is getting them.

“Instead of being flooded with paper CNEs, now we have the same thing with paper MCSEs. They go to a boot camp for two weeks, cram and get their MCSE, and they come and sit down and have no idea how to really troubleshoot a file server,” Yoke said.

He would rather hire someone with Cisco certification or experience working with Cisco routers.

Cisco certification, according to Mike Prince, CIO at Burlington Coat Factory, is very broad-based training that requires knowledge of the multi-vendor network infrastructure. Prince is also looking into Linux certification for his staff.